Feminism is a loose theme running throughout this comedy show from The Durham Revue, epitomised by one of the performance’s early sketches; the company’s two women (Charlotte Whistlecroft and Abigail Weinstock) rehearse their lines for a future play, perfecting their delivery of important dialogue such as, “Here” and *Gasp*. This sets the scene for the next hour in which the company of five comedians combine newly written scenarios with parodies of well-known entertainment programmes. The likes of This Morning and Great British Bake Off are re-imagined along with musicals Billy Elliot and Oliver.
The group have a sound overall grasp of comic timing and many of the sketches have some cleverly written observational comedy about them. Women argue about being the first to be evacuated from a sinking Titanic (“what about me, I’m gender neutral?”) and Elizabeth Bennett titters with her female confidante about Mr Darcy’s raunchy letters (“He asked for me to sketch… my ankle”). But the men are not to be overlooked here – all of the performers are of an equal standard and are able to produce the laughs when needed. David Knowles in particular as a disgruntled Willy Wonka is dry and witty as he shows the children around his chocolate factory. “I’m not normally allowed around children” he mutters as Augustus Gloop drinks all of the chocolate, much to his disgust.
The writing of these sketches is also well thought out and intrinsically very funny. ‘I’d Do Anything’ from Oliver! and especially ‘Favourite Things’ from The Sound of Music are updated with negative references from the world today, but are delivered in an upbeat and tongue in cheek manner. Indeed the parody sketches fast become the audience favourites. Each sketch is punctuated by segue music that is appropriate to the subject material – when the Trappist monks break their vow of silence, ‘Shut Up’ by The Black Eyed Peas plays as the performers switch into their next characters.
The main downside to the show is the haphazard nature in which the sketches are thrown together. The whole show would fit together more effectively if there were some sort of overarching structure – the feminist performances are a loose theme, some of the sketches are briefly revisited but overall each showcase feels like an isolated performance. The audience are in essence watching several short shows instead of one conjoined performance. Some restructuring and adherence to a theme would propel this comedy to the next level.
Edinburgh Fringe Review: The Durham Revue: Cirque du Silly played Underbelly Cowgate (venue 61) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, see the Fringe website.