EFR - Reviews of The Oxford Revue: Group Work

The Oxford Revue: Group Work

Sat 4th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Siobhan Stack-Maddox

at 12:52 on 13th Aug 2018

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This is my first time seeing The Oxford Revue, and as the show's flyer reminds us, the group's reputation precedes them. I was, however, pleasantly surprised by the very informal and unfinished quality of 'Group Work'. The three stand-up acts were unpretentious and likeable, with their frequent asides to the audience sometimes being funnier than the actual punchlines of their sketches.

Elaine Robertson did a great job of warming the audience up with her infectiously bubbly and warm personality and use of audience engagement. Taking her Geordie accent as a springboard, her piece gave a self-aware and very amusing commentary on growing up in her native County Durham, also known as "the hinterland", and the north-south divide. Having lived in the North East for a few years myself, I found this exploration of southerners' responses to the "feral" northeastern twang especially hilarious. The final section of her piece neatly tied this together with the other main element of her sketch, which consisted of anecdotes from her job as children's princess party entertainer, while also showcasing her sweet singing voice. Her song about wanting "to be where the cultural are", to the tune of 'Part of Your World' from 'The Little Mermaid', was fantastic and the line "bet you the lasses won't glass us" made me laugh out loud.

"People say I'm awkward" declared John Rayner, the show's second act, fixing his gaze firmly above the audience's head and waving oddly. This awkwardness was the motif for his piece and, although it was initially funny, it sometimes went a bit too far, making the audience feel on merely on edge rather than amused. Nonetheless, I admired his honesty in exploring attitudes to camp behaviour and homosexuality, and the self-deprecating humour of his sketch about blundering his way through a job interview earned a chuckle. The "Stories" sketch had potential but needed work, with the first story taking a little too long to reach the punchline and the second being abruptly short.

'Group Work' definitely saved the best till last, though. Olley Matthews, described on the flyer as 'the audience's favourite', brilliantly combined observational humour, quick wit and musical talent. His opening parody of an Ed Sheeran song was right on the mark, and the comparison of his music to "a chef who only makes cereal but makes you eat it with a teaspoon" (the teaspoon representing Sheeran's rapping) was ingenious. Unfortunately, when Matthews himself rapped, he was sometimes a bit too quick and too close to the microphone, which meant that some of the lyrics couldn't be heard.

Although this show is far from perfect, it is the best comedy I've seen at the Fringe so far, making me genuinely laugh out loud throughout. 'Group Work' showcases was some brilliant wit and real comedic talent and I think this show could be just a bit of polish away from being comedy gold.

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Andrew Jameson

at 16:19 on 13th Aug 2018

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'The Oxford Revue: Group Work' features Elaine Robertson, John Rayner and Olley Matthews, who each present an amusing segment of stories, jokes and songs – and sometimes all three at once. Between stories of French speaking tests and awkward interview transcripts, the show skips along with great energy.

There's a lively and entertaining atmosphere throughout the whole piece, which is great fun to experience. It has a relaxed feeling, with quirky asides making the show feel a lot more personal. The use of audience participation is also handled skillfully and did not feel at all awkward.

‘Group Work’ was full of colourful humour. The sight of Bruce learning how to become a Disney princess was a joy to behold, and I particularly liked Olley's reinvention of the simple action of flicking a bug from your clothes (which must be a miraculous event from the bug's point of view). His transformation of this then into a story of loss and love on an insect-level was very amusing.

The clever use of songs throughout the show featured as some of my personal highlights. Elaine's Disney princess rendition of her 'life' in Consett was a brilliant way of tying together her scene, while Olley's Cluedo song brought up some very valid queries about the logic of the game.

'Group Work' seems a particularly apt title for a show which is unified by the consistent strength of all three performers. Each brought a unique style and voice to their segment, creating an interesting blend while maintaining a high standard throughout. I also thought the ordering worked well: Elaine kicks the show off with a lively enthusiasm which is then contrasted by John's more awkward style.

There were occasional moments when the otherwise sparkling humour stalled, and sometimes the show could feel a little disorganised or scattered. This weakened the pace a little, but these faults were rare enough not to spoil the experience.

The venue was a strange space – it was warm, a bright light blinded the performers, and sirens seemed to pass by every few minutes. However this was used by the performers, with Olley asking if it would be weird to put his face in front of the fan for five minutes (he quickly concluded it probably would be) and John's reassurance that at least we're all sharing the pain of the heat.

Nevertheless, 'Group Work' remains a very fun way to spend an evening. And the relaxed and inclusive tone creates a brilliant atmosphere, making it all the more enjoyable.

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