Reviewed: The Durham Revue

Caroline Gaunt reviews the Revue.

Durham Revue

Fresh from a hugely successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe, the Durham Revue are hosting their 33rd Annual Surprise Party, an hour-long show composed of both much-loved older sketches and new material, in the Assembly Halls. These were mostly outstanding – my particular favourites were the fabulously melodramatic Bronte sisters sketch and Tessa Coates’ incredible ballet mistress, who had the audience quite literally crying with laughter. You can’t help but single out Coates as the stand-out member of the ensemble. There isn’t a single sketch where she doesn’t commit totally to her character and watching her oscillate seamlessly from Yorkshire-accented Mrs Beaver (of Narnia fame) to incompetent breakfast TV presenter shows her to have not only an inherently brilliant sense of comic timing but also excellent characterisation skills.

This isn’t to say that the other members of the ensemble were weak in comparison: both David Head and Harry Bresslaw had some wonderful moments of physical comedy and Bresslaw in particular brings a manic energy to the stage which is absolutely hilarious to watch and brings renewed vigour to some of the weaker sketches, notably the unhinged museum curator, which I suspect without Bresslaw’s enthusiasm would have fallen flat.

The weaker sketches themselves were few and far between, but mainly suffered from being dragged out too long without enough comedy to carry them through. The ‘Hogwarts Brookes’ sketch garnered a few awkward silences from the audience and I’m not sure that the eventual punch line was really funny enough to warrant all the filler material. Likewise ‘Family Christmas’ seemed like a mish-mash of various concepts encapsulated into one sketch and consequently, although funny, felt a little clumsy. However, this is being very pedantic and taking into account that the Revue-ers had only had 24 hours rehearsal time before their show this evening, I think they can be forgiven a few minor weaknesses.

Any sketch show relies on slick scene changes to ensure the audience remains engaged and the Revue are clearly expert at making their scene changes as fast as possible, making further use of a hip (and relevant) soundtrack to smooth out proceedings. The very few technical glitches I noticed I’d attribute to ‘first night syndrome’ and, as they didn’t really impact on the performance at all, it actually seems unfair to point them out.

The Revue’s 33rd Annual Surprise Party is a fantastic start to a new theatrical year in Durham – an hour of non-stop hilarity from some of Durham’s most gifted comedians, many of whom performing for the last time at the Assembly Rooms. Definitely not a show to be missed and guaranteed to tickle your funny bone after a long week of lectures, catch them while you can!