The Revue – Revued!

Caroline Gaunt lets the Revue tickle her funny bone.

Durham Revue Sketch Comedy

Considering their success at last term’s ComedyFest, and their impending run at the Edinburgh Fringe, I was excited to catch the Revue’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-it preview at the Assembly Rooms. However, I have to say I was underwhelmed, particularly as this show lacked the slickness which is normally so distinctive of Revue performances.


The performers just didn’t seem to have the same control over their material as they normally do, frequently missing cues and occasionally forgetting to enunciate. This is particularly disappointing with the Revue, whose razor-sharp timing is usually one of their most distinctive features. Furthermore, tech proved to be a hindrance where it is normally a considerable factor in contributing to the smoothness of Revue shows: the frequent early blackouts and music cues meant that some of the punchlines fell flat.

Now, whilst all of this can be attributed to the fact that it was late, that the Assembly Rooms is not used to coping with two full-length shows in one night, and that this was only supposed to be a preview of the Revue’s new material, this still doesn’t explain what I felt to be a general decline in the quality of the sketches. The opening sketch, clearly geared towards DST performers, although an effective ice-breaker, excluded a good number of audience members, something which I believe comedy should never aspire to. Elsewhere, although risk-taking is commendable, and so the Revue’s experimentation with meta-comedy is praise-worthy, I felt that the concept was over-exploited, particularly as it was often used to bring the weaker sketches to an abrupt end. Whilst the content of the majority of the sketches was strong, the comic impetus, instead of reaching a pinnacle, dwindled as it became apparent that the punchline had been sacrificed.

However, the performers themselves are still impressive, still managing to elucidate howls of laughter from the audience through their palpable on-stage chemistry and strong characterisation. Fergus Leatham is simply brilliant,: his faintly sardonic command of events, which gives a palpable suggestion of tongue-in-cheek, is a highlight, endearing him to the audience from the outset and allowing him to sail through any mistakes. David Knowles is also very impressive – in the six months since I last saw this year’s troupe perform, he has developed an incredibly natural control of the sketches, allowing him to improvise with ease where necessary. His performance in the war poets sketch was a highlight. The remaining performers all have their own moments of brilliance – I was delighted to see the return of Stefanie Jones’ magnificent Badger Cat sketch – although I did feel that without Jack Harris, the troupe lacked an energy and physicality which is normally a great factor in elevating the weaker or less overtly comic sketches.

Whilst I did find the performance hilarious, as I was hoping to, I couldn’t escape a niggling feeling that I wasn’t seeing the Revue at their best. Aspects which I normally take for granted were missing, lending the whole performance a slightly under-rehearsed and scrappy feel.

It’s a disappointing show – not because it’s bad (it isn’t), but because I know, and have seen, that the Revue can do much better.