Alina Young

at 10:48 on 22nd Aug 2018

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It’s their “45th-ish” anniversary, and this year the Durham Revue wants to mark the occasion. Has much changed since Durham Revue began? In a humorously self-aware opening scene, involving a ‘discovered’ time-capsule, the joke’s on them: still an all-white, majority male troupe, again under a conservative government. They promise a “progressive” show to make up for it.

A loose basis for the beginning of the show, some of the first few sketches try a tongue-in-cheek approach to how hyper-liberal values can tie you in knots, and make fun of the white middle class. This shot, however, somewhat misses. You can almost see the writers thinking “what can we make fun of? What’s funny now?” and this would be the first, and not the best, answer. Naturally sketch comedy benefits from referencing contemporary life, but believable interactions between characters would have felt more original.

The Durham Revue are certainly at their best when they abandon this pseudo-theme, and give us quick, whacky content – scenes that throw some surprises and have a strong finish. The young ensemble are clearly talented, with a knack for comedic timing and over-the-top expressions that have the audience howling with laughter in the second half of the show. They have some brilliant concepts for scenes, including some hilarious bridesmaids, game shows and an angry Lidl farmer.

The ideas for the sketches overall are inspired; as scenes begin, they tantalise with where they could go. Despite excellent premises and great characters, several scenes just simply lack a punchline: either they get to a good punchline yet keep going, or end on a joke that isn’t clear. A shame, as many had fantastic potential. When they do finish well, however, the scenes are memorable and have the audience in stitches.

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Jessica Loram

at 11:21 on 22nd Aug 2018

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I arrived at Durham Revue’s ‘Zeitgeist’ with high hopes and, after an unexpectedly slow start, my expectations were not disappointed. At their best, the 2018 troupe are outrageous, energetic and intensely funny. By the end, I could have watched at least another hour of their wackiest sketches.

That said, it felt like the cast needed to warm up a little before finding their groove and reaching their fullest comedic potential. Along with their opening reference to their 45th-ish Fringe anniversary, a couple of the beginning sketches fell, disappointingly, a little flat. Depending on either political correctness or self-reference to the cast’s lack of diversity, these jokes felt unfunny and slightly stale. Fortunately, The Durham Revue swiftly moved past this complacency and broke through into fresh ground.

‘Zeitgeist’ sets the bar impressively high for student comedy by demonstrating just what is special about new and emerging talent. Their best sketches are quirky and unpredictable. My absolute favourite sketch was the bizarre Naughty Step moment. The show is worth attending just for that gem, in my opinion. I found that generally the troupe were at their strongest in their larger group sketches; a Toy Story inspired action doll scene is clever, and a musical dinner party shows how Durham Revue can move – whilst making us laugh – too. Interaction with the audience is ingenious and a “Young/Jung Freud” sketch is refreshingly silly.

The group’s veteran members Tristan Robinson and Luke Maskell exude confidence and have the audience in raptures over the darkest Peter and the Wolf storytelling I have ever heard. The less senior members of the group are no less beguiling, though, and I would have liked to see younger members Hamish Lloyd-Barnes and Lydia Cooke given more of a spotlight. A stand out member was Lily Edwards whose stellar performance made for a very amusing sketch on Lidl and ethical farming.

Between sketches, funky music blasts and the troupe dance as they transition to the next scene, making for a consistently high-spirited, vivacious performance. Fun and energetic, ‘Zeitgeist’ further cements The Durham Revue’s long-running, uproarious reputation. If you’re after comedy, don’t miss them.

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