Laugh Actually

Thu 3rd – Sun 27th August 2017

reviews

Jessica Lord

at 11:27 on 12th Aug 2017

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I was super excited to see this show, as I had both heard and read excellent things. I am therefore incredibly pleased to say, that all the hype is accurate, and that the folks from Durham can put on one hell of a show.

‘Laugh Actually’ was a truly eclectic collection of sketches, which fully exhibited the brilliant talents of all those who were involved. Every single cast member was impressive in their own way, and the ingenuity and freshness of each sketch was almost difficult to keep up with, given that I was still laughing at the previous one.

As I was reading through my notes whilst writing up this review, one word is scribbled across pretty much every page - energy. This show leaves you feeling so excited, buzzing and happy, because the enthusiasm of the actors is totally infectious.

We were treated to the story of Titanic, yet from the perspective of the iceberg (hilariously bizarre), watched as a blind man received an eye test, and enjoyed some light acapella as the cast awaited at an imaginary bus stop. A brilliant selection of music held the piece together, and I loved the addition of S Club 7. S Club 7 makes everything better.

My absolute favourite sketch had to be the one about the ‘Bag for Life’, I’ve never seen anything that was quite so simple, yet hysterical. It was just so effortlessly funny. I don’t know which individual dreamt up that idea, but I’d like to know, so I can personally congratulate and thank them. Ingenious stuff.

My only criticism is that at times, some speech was a little muffled, and the position of the audience was a tad frustrating. As I was quite far back, it was difficult to see exactly what was going on in some scenes, particularly when actors were sat or lying down. That being said, the group did use the limited space they were given very effectively, utilising the aisle in between the audience during several sketches.

I’d like to give a special mention to actor Andrew Shires. As I’ve already said, I absolutely loved the ‘Bag for Life’ sketch, but the piece in which he played an inconveniently keen audience member, was an absolutely stellar piece of comedy. The line: ‘I am the Captain now’, was excellently delivered, and had me in stiches. Definitely one to watch.

‘Laugh Actually’ is a comedic triumph. It’s hard to believe it’s an amateur production, and even harder to believe that it’s all designed, written, directed, produced, and created by students - who are also in the midst of degree level studies. So impressive, and I’ll definitely be recommending it whilst I’m out and about on the Mile.

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Elena Casale

at 12:24 on 12th Aug 2017

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'Laugh Actually' – that you will. The Durham Revue have truly outdone themselves in this joyful, haphazard series of sketches. Each member has a starring role in a highly intelligent show that’s clever without flaunting it, where vivid characterisations, striking innovations, and a cast that radiated charisma resulted in a portrayal of normal life as hilarious and extraordinary. 'Laugh Actually' is an immensely likeable show.

With remarkable dexterity, each cast member flitted between diverse characters to great effect, adapting to their idiosyncrasies, body language and accent in the time it took to switch on the light. The chemistry between them was infectious, and highlighted an incredible ability to read each other’s comic cues and play to their collective strengths. The Durham Revue still manages to lend a sense of spontaneity to the show; something that can be so often lost after a few performances.

Stand-outs were Ambika Mod and Andrew Shires, whose energy and nuanced expressivity lent perfect credibility to their characters. Acting was only elevated by the professional sound and lighting direction, and voice-overs were executed seamlessly even in some of the more intricate sketches. Structurally, it was very simple: each sketch ended with a sudden black out and pop-music that sustained the ludic atmosphere. On the whole this worked well, however some scene changes were distinctly long and added to sense of urgency that made the performance seem occasionally rushed.

Standout scenes included ‘Bag for Life’, the fanciful love story of a man with a bag he is presented with at the supermarket performed to the soundtrack of ‘UP’, or the rather too literal take on S Club 7’s ‘Don’t stop movin'’, which returned and was developed intermittently throughout the performance. Other topics ranged from Narnia to Halloween, and a constellation of current political themes were approached with originality and verve.

Several scenes were meta-comedic. The punchline for one sketch in an Aquarium, for instance, is purposely cheesy: ‘If I wanted to see fish I’d go to a Fisharium!’, after which the two cast members turn, grimacing at the audience, in apparent self-mockery. Similarly, cast members would intermittently walk across the stage in apparent surprise, purposely breaking the illusion. The Durham Revue's sketches about the act of sketch writing were another highlight, and a parody on improvisation shows has Andrew Shires sitting in the audience pretending to offer 'improvised' suggestions to the cast.

It's original, it's quick and it's feel-good comedy at its best. 'Laugh Actually' is an undoubted hit.

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