With the 2017/18 troupe returning for the final time, Durham Revue’s Zeitgeist could be tired, re-using much of the material we saw last year, but the troupe’s natural comedic personas keep it fresh.
There was a strong sense of self-awareness in the opening skit about the entire troupe being composed of middle-class white people. It did feel somewhat stale, almost like a give-in to the culture of what’s topical but it wasn’t exactly an original take, and the group generally does thrive with wackier sketches. Still though, it’s good to see they are thinking about the perception of their group. Over the coming years they will hopefully be acting on that knowledge rather than just making the audience know they are aware of it.
As sketches go, they were strong. They mostly consisted of an amalgamation of the sketches which seemed to be the most popular from last year, with very few new ones, and it guaranteed a funny performance. It did mean that for returning members of the audience though, the sketches had been seen before and had perhaps lost some of their comedic value. For me, it didn’t detract that much. It felt as if they had amped up some of the extravagance and over-the-top style the Revue does so well. Performers like Hamish Lloyd-Barnes (this year’s president) were allowed more of a chance to shine in their roles and to gain the audience’s favour, much like last year’s members did.
Although sketches such as ‘Guess Who’ fell a bit flat, others like ‘Patricia and the Wolf’ and the ‘Wedding Planning’ skit worked particularly well. These were sketches which were consistently funny throughout, rather than simply working up to a punchline and especially thrived off of performance. Luke Maskell and Tristan Robinson excelled here in their delivery. Even more so, sketches involving any cast member off stage with a microphone were cleverly done, with wordplay and again, delivery, providing much of the hilarity.
It was good to see Charlie Billingham and Lydia Cook had settled into their roles more. Often side-lined in previous shows, they were integrated into the skits and took over some of the main roles. Whereas last year it felt like they were finding their feet, here they were a lot more self-assured and held an element of ease they lacked before.
The absence of the leaving performers this year will surely be felt, but with remaining comedic personas to match, it’s exciting to see what the remaining members of the Revue will bring, hopefully with some fresh material as well.