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The Oxford Revue: A Room with Revue

I have a habit of steering away from live comedy. This is mostly out of a fear that it won’t be very good, and the excruciating awkwardness which would be the result. So it was only after intense encouragement from a number of sources that I agreed to see this year’s offering from the Oxford Revue. The production ran for two hours (including a short interval) – a great challenge, I thought, to be consistently funny for two hours. Yet they managed it admirably. This was a well executed barrel of laughs from start to finish.

A Room with Revue skillfully delivered a very modern approach to comedy. The production consisted of a series of sketches with no overriding theme or even links between them. In a similar way to the random streams of content which characterise today’s internet humour, the resulting chaos made the sketches themselves even funnier. Scripting was sharp, simple and often very clever, playing off highly relatable moments in everyday life like going shopping, watching adverts or asking for directions. The production also made hilarious use of a projected slideshow, including some sketches done entirely on video. It was this clever use of the varying themes, mediums and forms of sketches that meant the whole performance never got boring – you were always looking forward to whatever was coming next, and preparing to be surprised. It was lighthearted and very refreshing viewing.

Credit for this highly enjoyable show must be given in great part to the actors themselves. The cast seemed selected from a wide range of Oxford students with postgrads mixing with first-years in a huge variety of roles. The actors showed themselves highly capable of performing in this great range of characters and smoothly matched the production’s simple and quick-witted humour. The sketches worked best with multiple actors firing off of each other, and often stumbled the fewer people there were on stage – one-actor scenes tended to work less well. It also has to be admitted that there was a variation in funniness amongst the large cast, with some particularly standing out and dominating their scenes. But the general quality was very high, and there was nobody on stage who disappointed. Every actor was capable of generating many a laugh from the audience.

A special mention must go to the role of music in this production. A four-player band was on stage at all times and performed excellently. Their riffs and tunes were used throughout the production to introduce new scenes and to augment the humour of the sketches. The band was funny in their own right, and only got better in those instances where the cast themselves broke out into song – a risky ploy which can sometimes end badly, but played off to great success whenever it was used.
A Room with Revue was a simple and clever production which ranks as one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve seen all year. With sharp jokes, witty use of action, a solid cast and great musical backing, it rolled along hilariously for its two-hour course, and made me disappointed they hadn’t lengthened it to three. My fears and misconceptions about comedy definitively dispelled, I eagerly await the next offering from this impressive group.

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