The Oxford Revue’s current touring show, performed for the first time last night, is a joy.
George Mather’s production was witty, sharp and fresh. The five cast members’ contrasting heights and diverse body shapes lent themselves to visual gags. The enthusiastic opener, with its football supporters’ religious fervour was terrific.
The use of laughter as a weapon to exclude was also well observed. The only girl, Phoebe Hames, had to fight harder for laughs, frequently against the grain of the sketches. She did well, even with compliments such as: ‘Your hair’s so lovely, it’s like a flock of tapeworm. Tapeworms are definitely the most sexy of the cestoda.’
The surreal and absurd elements were some of the strongest of the show. David Meredith’s three model grocery shops test for Barney Fishwick, who only popped in for a spirit level and the chance to deliver a killer line, was delivered with great comic timing. Meredith’s audition with Kieran Ahern for Byker Grove and their improvised song was marvellous. Ant and Dec in perfect harmony from first meeting.
Some ideas were short, but perfectly formed. Will Hislop’s Harry Potter sketch was beautifully mimed – with a great closing gag. In everything he did, Hislop brought a confidence, languour and wonderfully expressive face. His partnership with Fishwick in their Journey to the Centre of the Earth – to prove a point – was masterful. The fate of their team mate, Alan, was explored to great comic effect. Clearly, the ensemble can write to length, produce excellent material and execute it with aplomb.
More music and dance from the cast would have been even more entertaining, but the Chancellor’s response to a savage TV mauling was unexpected and joyous, when ‘whatever it takes’ requires a surreal, inspired - but ultimately evasive - response.
They were playing to a lively student audience, but the Revue’s jokes could still hit home, however long ago it was you submitted a piece of school work: ‘If you’d drawn a massive swastika on the front, that would not have been the worst part of this essay.’
More, of all of it, please.