As far as sketch comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe goes, The Durham Revue have a reputation for being a safe bet among the ocean of young groups and troupes. Performing in their curious middle-of-the-day timeslot, the comedy octet safely fill the majority of their rather large Underbelly venue. In many ways, The Durham Revue are the mainstream student sketch comedy, and in their new show, Laugh Actually, it shines through.
Let me explain what I mean by that. The Durham Revue undoubtedly have a knack for creating comedy which consistently hits home. Their hour long show is bursting with sketches, ranging from ten seconds to five minutes, exploring topics from feminine stereotypes to communist schoolchildren, and yet not one falls flat. Every single sketch draws laughter and as the comedy builds and builds, the troupe prove achingly funny. A particular stand-out sketch was a recurring S Club 7 parody which took silliness to obscene heights, but became absurdly funny in the process. Popularity aside, the Durham Revue have an established style and formula which allows them to achieve tear-jerking hysterics throughout Laugh Actually.
“an hour of rib-tickling absurdity”
Although, this established style does perhaps limit them from taking risks. At times the group’s trademark absurdity does become a little repetitive. The core of Laugh Actually is, ultimately, utter silliness. And I don’t mean that in a particularly negative way, silly comedy is by no means easy to craft or perform and it remains universally hysterical. However, it would perhaps be nice to see the group try their hand at more subtle, freeform styles as many professional sketch groups are moving towards, with stream-of-consciousness sketch comedy becoming more and more popular. But, this is not a glaring fault in Laugh Actually. Rather a small constructive suggestion to take The Durham Revue from great student comedy, to great professional-standard comedy.
Laugh Actually is an hour of rib-tickling absurdity and this eight-piece troupe prove that their impressive reputation and popularity are thoroughly deserved.
Image: Durham Student Theatre