“infectious energy…delightfully dark humour…leaving the audience in tears…enchantingly innovative…refreshing and creative”

As a fan of sketch comedy, going to see the highly anticipated ComedyFest at the Gala theatre was an experience that had us laughing from start to finish. Our hosts were the Revue writing team Teagan Booker and Jack Simmonds, who immediately put the audience at ease with their exchange of banter. While some of the jokes were a little cheesy, they were delivered with such charm that it was impossible not to be won over by the duo’s delightful back-and-forth.

The Leeds Tealights opened with a fantastically melodramatic scene about one man’s addiction to biscuits that set the tone for the rest of their performance, with another highlight being the intimacy training sketch for its amazing physical comedy and great punchline. However, the stand-out was a very meta scene featuring two Australian women chatting about how much they love getting their period, which then devolved into a fourth-wall breaking monologue about how unfunny and nonsensical the sketch was and the offensiveness of making fun of Australian accents. The joke was both clever and actually funny, and the fact that the troupe had built up such a rapport with the audience that they trusted us to sit through nonsense to get to a hilarious payoff is a testament to their comedic talent. If I had one minor criticism it would be that the actors occasionally talked over the audience’s laughter when they could have paused, but overall their performance was extremely enjoyable, and the group’s energy was infectious

The Cambridge Footlights followed, with their sketches following a police procedural theme, which for the most part tied their performance together nicely. One highlight was the ‘Scribbles the Puppet’ sketch, which was hilarious partly due to the ‘children’s’ impressively realistic acting. The Take Me Out-style suspect line-up skit was another favourite thanks to the presenter’s masterful delivery. However, the costume choices were slightly confusing, with the prison costumes making it hard to understand some of the scenes’ premises. In addition to this, there were a couple of awkward silences in some of the ensemble scenes that would’ve been alleviated if the actors’ reactions were more animated, both vocally and physically. Overall however, the group put on a solid performance with well-executed sketches that left the audience entertained.

The Durham Revue opened with a sketch starring Marc Twinn as a reluctant Superman who can’t be bothered to get up and save a children’s’ hospital. Twinn’s characterisation of Superman, rolling his eyes with his hands in his pockets, and then hilariously pretending to injure himself, was great in contrast to his worried wife, Lois. The delightfully dark humour that made this scene great was present throughout much of the show and brought a sense of life to the performance. I’d like to commend Tansy Adam for portraying a ‘straight man’ character with such great comedic delivery. Adam got her time to shine even more in the sketch immediately following, with her outrageous portrayal of a violent, cannibalistic Peppa Pig leaving the audience in tears.

Another highlight of the show featured Teilo Rees and Henry Gwilliam as the Chuckle Brothers, if they were also hitmen. While this was already an amazing premise, their impersonations of Paul and Barry Chuckle were next-level and completely made the scene what it was. Rees and Gwilliam were also both standouts when it came to physical comedy. Rees had the audience in stitches as ‘Mike the Mime’, while Gwilliam was remarkable in a sketch about a man’s relationship with his neglected houseplant, playing the houseplant with extremely impressive physical commitment. I would also like to applaud the writing team for the hilarious twist in this particular sketch’s punchline. 

Leah Pinter’s performance in the ‘Storytime with Janice’ sketch was very memorable. The sketch incorporated audience members in an enchantingly innovative way, and Pinter’s ability to improvise and interact with the audience in such a relaxed manner was particularly impressive. Another stand-out scene featured Freya Reynolds as Mary Poppins, if she was a youtuber. Reynolds’ diverse range of accents throughout the show never failed to make the audience smile, and the transatlantic accent and sweet, Mary Poppins-style mannerisms she employed for this scene worked excellently in contrast with the scene’s scandalous prop comedy and toilet humour. 

One aspect of the Revue’s performance that I particularly enjoyed was how they embraced that they could be seen in the blackouts between scenes. When the cast were onstage during scene transitions they were always in character – dancing and waving at the audience. It was a refreshing and creative approach to scene transitions that I haven’t seen done very often.

Overall, ComedyFest was an incredibly enjoyable evening, showcasing the impressive comedic talents of the three groups. Whether one is familiar with sketch comedy or not, ComedyFest will have definitely left them wanting more.

By Tabby Thompson

Photo Credits: Durham Revue