Review: The Durham Review: Laugh Actually, Underbelly Cowgate

The Durham Revue’s show is called Laugh Actually. The university sketch comedy group are quick to tell us that their act has nothing to do with Love Actually. This isn’t strictly true, as it does contain an excellent spoof of the soppy Heathrow Airport scene. With great energy and timing, these sketch comedians rival the Footlights in their inventiveness and delivery.

The cast give committed and skilled performances with many standout moments, such as the scene in which the two female members of the troupe lampoon the topics female comedians stereotypically focus on. But lanky, wide-eyed Andrew Shires does tend to steal the show. In the hilarious Bag for Life sketch, he is asked by a Co-op checkout clerk whether he’d prefer a 5p bag or a Bag for Life and then launches into a glorious routine straight out of the opening of Pixar movie Up, miming a life-long relationship with the bag. In another sketch, he sits among us to play that one annoying audience member who wants to give all the suggestions for an improv scene.

The Durham Revue’s comedy is very relatable because it points out and parodies many everyday things the audience will be familiar with, from getting an eye test to being made to feel guilty by charity adverts. They even make fun of people who put on Fringe shows – in that inspired sketch, a few Revue members play performers discussing their pretentious one-man shows, occasionally stepping away to speak lines from those same shows.

The venue, a long, thin room in Underbelly Cowgate with unraked seating, is perhaps not ideal, as it puts a lot of the audience quite far away from the small stage. However, the Revue manage to keep the whole audience engaged with their enthusiasm and the energetic transitions between scenes. During these, they blast loud pop music and dance along to it in the dark, snapping into place when the lights turn on and the next sketch begins.

Refreshing in its largely non-political content and willingness to be silly, the Durham Revue’s sketch show is guaranteed to entertain. I recommend it to anyone looking for something light-hearted, clever and slightly absurd.

The Durham Review: Laugh Actually played at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Beatrix Swanson Scott

Beatrix grew up in Germany with American parents and caught the theatre bug when she went to see Wicked at age 13. She now studies Liberal Arts at King's College London. Most of the time, she can be found rehearsing for the next musical, opera, play or choir concert or in meetings at the National Gallery, where she is a Young Producer. And of course, she spends every free evening at the theatre.