Gags: the Oxford Revue

Sat 2nd – Sun 3rd February 2013


Nathan Ellis

at 00:10 on 3rd Feb 2013



It’s hard to review comedy. It’s always subjective and you can’t just say ‘it was/wasn’t funny’. You have to find some way of fairly reviewing a show that other people might feel completely differently about depending on what makes them tick. I don’t want to seem like I’m complaining, however, because sketch comedy is a much trickier business. This is what I came away thinking after the Oxford Revue’s ‘Gags’ at the Old Fire Station - but in a good way.

The overall impression of this show (put on by the Revue to try out the material they are taking on their ‘extensive two-city tour of Cambridge and Durham’) was one of an excellently written and performed show, where the ideas were often ingenious. There were wonderfully inventive sketches about the contrived language of French oral exams, perverted photobooths, community support officers that speak in rhymes, Marx (and the man that history forced into parentheses, Engels), deranged David Attenborough fans, and ‘Fire rangers’ that come in the colours red, yellow, blue, purple, and beige. Particularly brilliant was the new, devised drama piece ‘Truthmouth’, which opened the second half. I can’t quite explain why it was so funny: it might have been the excellent characterisation, the polished performance or R-Kelly’s coining of the word ‘beautifit’ but I can’t be sure.

However, as is always the way with sketch shows, whenever a sketch is not quite up to par, one is painfully reminded how fine the balance is between laughter and uncomfortable silence. Thankfully, these moments were few and brief in the one and a half hour show. Some sketches didn’t move as fast as one might have wanted and lacked bite and changeovers between sketches were sometimes clumsily handled. Occasionally, one sensed that the group was replete with ideas but had not developed them enough: reviving bad jokes and malevolent parking metres are good ideas that could have done more.

Witty, well thought out, silly, and terribly clever, the show delivered consistent laughter.


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