The Oxford Revue: Issues

Wed 26th – Mon 31st August 2015

reviews

Flo Layer

at 13:05 on 27th Aug 2015

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The quality of student sketch comedy at the Fringe is always variable, and expectations run high when booking tickets to see the renowned Oxford Revue. Thankfully, this year’s trio appear to live up to the hype, performing a clever, cohesive and at times hilarious sketch show.

The sketches came thick and fast and Will Hislop, Dave Meredith and Barney Fishwick performed with impressive comic alacrity and quick wit. None of the scenes were fumbled and even if there was minor audience feedback, the trio coped brilliantly.

Some of the funniest moments came in musical form. Poised at the keyboard centre stage, Meredith and Hislop performed a brilliant piece about composing the national anthem, switching between musical genres with hilarious effect and there was an excellent rendition of a new Eurovision song contest entry from Norway. A Beethoven’s Fur Elise inspired football chant is also one sketch that is bound to get you laughing.

The development of Dave’s terrible ‘Turtle’ joke became a focal point to the show, and it is testament to the group’s ability that they managed to make even the worst pun into a great sketch. Although it has to be noted that the biggest laugh, and I suspect the loudest response this joke has ever received, came from Dave’s accidental tumble as he entered onstage.

Some of the material felt a little weaker. There was a long World War Two scene that for some unknown reason has appeared in almost every student sketch show I have seen this year: maybe it’s the Blackadder influence, but the No Man’s Land football match jokes are wearing thin at the Fringe.

We are told fairly early on that the fourth member of the group is, of course, the audience. The occasional ‘live’ tweet to the group is included into the sketch, and while this does help to develop some of the recurring jokes throughout the piece, it feels a bit gimmicky. While the genuine use of a live response from the audience would have shifted this piece towards improv, the technique seemed unnecessary and cheap in a sketch show (and more than one audience member behind me sounded fairly disappointed that there wasn’t going to be live interaction).

The Oxford Revue have once again proved their ability to write clever sketches and perform with amazing confidence and comic timing; while you might not laugh your head off, you will certainly leave with a smile plastered on your face.

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Josie Finlay

at 19:06 on 27th Aug 2015

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Not one sketch falls flat in the Oxford Revues’ tight, intelligent, and extremely funny show, Issues. Will Hislop, David Meredith and Barney Fishwick use the world around them as their toolbox, selecting familiar, everyday elements of life and spinning them deftly into sequences that draw hysterical laughter from an audience rendered putty in the group’s hands. The national anthem, a trip to the newsagents, and the ten o’clock news all serve as material for a set of brilliant sketches, all with a unique spin.

Hislop, Meredith and Fishwick are clearly very clever with sharp powers of observation. They pick up on the weirdness of people, customs and the world in general, and exaggerate it to their advantage. Their skill at spotting the subtle nuances that contribute to this weirdness is most prominent in one of my favourite sketches, in which Meredith reads out his character’s summer holiday diary.

His language, tone and facial expressions perfectly embody a not-quite-cool early teenage boy yet to master the art of sarcasm. He recounts his family holiday with affected exasperation – “No sooner do we get off the plane than Mum starts wearing a hat from the 80s!” – accompanied by a tut and a pronounced eye roll.

The trio’s brand of humour is sometimes surreal, but not too far-fetched – the characters they create are largely, I think, oddball versions of themselves, meaning that each of their individual personalities clearly shines through.

Issues is a clean and simply structured show. Most of the sketches are standalone pieces with minimal audience interaction or improvisation, so each one is impeccably timed but remains fresh and doesn’t feel at all over-rehearsed. This sharpness is enhanced by the introduction of each sketch with a monochrome, usually one or two-word title projected onto the backdrop of the stage, which lends the show something of a traditional, old-fashioned flavour.

Hislop, Fishwick and particularly Meredith also spring on their audience outbursts of incredible musical talent at unexpected moments, proving adept at singing, the piano, and, most importantly, the kazoo. Is there anything the Oxford Revues can’t do?

Issues left me in utter hysterics. I was honestly devastated when the hour had to end.

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