You can find more comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe than you can find ants in an anthill, and it’s often difficult to know where to start. Do you go for improv? Stand-up? Sketches? Those among us who love to laugh are spoilt for choice. Therefore it’s testament to the reputation of the Bristol Revunions that the queue for their show stretches a good 10 minute walk up the cobbled alleyway outside the venue, and it’s not long before I can see why.
The Bristol Revunions clearly know what they’re doing – this is their seventh year the fringe, after all – and their chemistry is infectious. This is a comedy troupe that clearly enjoy performing with each other as much as we enjoy watching them, which always makes for easier viewing. While there’s no sense of anyone trying to steal the limelight, per-say, there are a few standout members who naturally shine – whether that be through comic timing or just though stage presence. But this is only natural in a relatively large cast of comedians, and there is certainly no weak link among them.
It’s pretty standard comedy formatting with Cream. This is classic sketch comedy: short fire scenes with a drop of audience involvement, and everything seems to flash before our eyes before we even realise it’s happened. Therefore with no clear narrative, Cream has an air of being slightly bitty. It’s remniscent of a TV sketch show in the way that we rapidly flicker from sketch to sketch, meeting an assortment of quirky characters – for example the captain of the Titanic’s iceberg, from one of the funnier sketches. It’s a structure that works well. But this is a live performance, and throughout Cream I begun to feel that the audience wasn’t played to enough. Every audience will respond different to everything, and this is something that many comedy shows capitalise on, for the basic reason that involving us makes everything funnier. Cream did include audience involvement but only in small doses. For the most part it felt like it was weirdly straddling the line between being purely for our viewing entertainment or something that we needed to be actively involved in, and ready to jump onstage at any point.
Some consistency between the sketches would have been more desirable, but they’re funny enough on their own that the Bristol Revunions get away with not having any clear through-line. But some sort of narrative could have elevated Cream from being funny to being hilarious. Most of the sketches feel like drawn out jokes – i.e., we laugh (or groan) most at the end when the punchline has been delivered, usually in pun-form or when we actually realise what’s happening in the sketch. That’s something that the Bristol Revunions seem to do best – pun-related and outlandish humour. Not the best if you’re looking for sophisticated and intellectual joviality, but witty and entertaining nonetheless.
Bristol Revunions: Cream played Just the Tonic at The Caves (Venue 88) from August 6th-29th. For more information, visit the Fringe website.