It was with a sense of de ja vu that I arrived at the Assembly Rooms to watch the 2013–14 Durham Revue group again as, almost exactly a year ago, I attended and wrote about the very same show.
So, with twelve months having passed, what has changed in this exhibition of sketch-comedy? On the face of it, not a lot – the content being almost identical to a year before – yet with a returners show people don’t want to be inundated with new material. They want the classics, and that’s what they got, albeit mingled with a healthy mix of successful new content that differed from that of this time last year.
Although it may seem absurd to have compiled a ‘best-of album’ after only a year’s work, the 2013–14 Revue somehow have, and to go with the proven material was an audience packed with familiar faces who I’m certain were at the last show, too – and not just to see their friends. With certain sketches the Revue have clearly tapped into a vein of comedy that a lot of people, me included, desperately wanted to see again. Indeed, the Assembly Rooms were close to capacity and the laughter was constant and infectious.
The sketches in question, each individually tightened and improved on from last year, were the laugh out loud ‘I’m a massive lad’ scene and the ridiculous yet somehow hilarious Tony the Tiger act of terrorism. The latter came to a climax where the force-feeding Tiger, portrayed by Sam Kennerly, poured box after box of Frosties onto the poor child (Simon Gallow) as the former shouted out of character ‘Come on! I’ve had this for 26 shows!’ In fairness, he looked as though he’d had enough Frosties in one sketch so as to never want to see them again, let alone over twenty more. This running joke, that clearly got more and more severe as the year’s performances went on, was perfected in the final musical number when Gallow hid a handful of the sugar-coated flakes in his hand which he then subtly poured into his gaping colleague’s mouth while he blared out his big note finish – a fitting end to the show and to a sketch that consciously ‘doesn’t really have an ending’.
Other scenes, such as the radio station flicking, still caused roaring laughter without being entirely original, but individuality is not where the Durham Revue excel, despite clear demonstrations that they can be to great degrees of success (The ‘I’m a doctor’ and subsequent ‘we need a doctor’ scenes not the least of them). Indeed, it is where Durham tap into this rich vein of timeless humour that they shine and often exceed their contemporaries the Cambridge Footlights and Oxford Revue who frequently try to be too unique, much to their own detriment.
On this occasion Elgan Alderman’s deadpan delivery and Sam Kennerly’s extravagance stole the show and, for the former who has done so much for the Revue, it was clearly an emotional farewell to the class of 13–14. Nothing needs to be taken away from the sheer energy of Simon Gallow, however, nor the wonderful expressions of David Knowles, the subtlety of Abigail Weinstock and the wit of Charlotte Whistlecroft who inherits a thriving and highly popular company that is sure to go from strength to strength in the coming year.
Durham Revue Auditions:
Tuesday 28th October 7:00pm-9:00pm ER A79
Thursday 30th October 7:00pm-9:00pm ER 204
Tuesday 4th November 6:30pm-9:00pm ER A79
Friday 7 November 6:30pm – 9:00pm ER A78