“Durham Drama Festival 2023’s opening night was full of laughter and fun, showcasing a huge breadth of comedic talent, across the university”

The task of a great opening night to any event is to provide a warm and joyous experience for its audiences, raise their spirits, and build excitement for what’s to come. Needless to say Durham Drama Festival 2023’s opening night did just that – with a collection of talented comedians that had us all in stitches.

First came the Durham Revue, with a delightful collection of whacky-yet-relatable sketches, covering anywhere between talking YouTube adverts, a cannibalistic Peppa Pig and a mime at a funeral. All the sketches were incredibly original, with well timed, engaging performances from all the team. Highlights included a short yet brilliant “I am Spartacus” joke and a hysterical sketch named “Storytime with Darla” in which Leah Pinter played the ukulele and had the audience contributing to a rendition of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” the lyrics escalating into wilder territory with every verse.

Next was Tom Cain, the first of three acts from the Stand Society. Tom entered the stage with a totally relaxed demeanour and was on fire from the moment he poked fun at the sound manager. Tom’s content and delivery were superb, with an especially high talent for audience interaction and quick responses to events in the room. He also had some brilliant digs at members of the university – a favourite being the insistence that philosophy students would inevitably end up unemployed following graduation. 

Next was Sus Hirst, who absolutely nailed their repertoire of honest, occasionally meta, often hilariously dark humour. Sus had an excellent ability to deliver their jokes with a faux-awkward tone and brutal transparency that gave a refreshingly unique style to the whole performance. Their joke about Princess Anne being their celebrity crush undoubtedly received the biggest laugh of the night and I’m sure the audience was just as excited as I am to see Sus’s future performances.

The third act from the Stand Society was Tom Page, who emerged onto the stage with a fiery confidence that lasted throughout his time. Tom’s jokes were full of intelligent comparative humour and digs at southerners, with a consistently witty and playful tone. He provided a cracking end to the first half of opening night and had us all elated and wanting more.

After a brief interval came Shellshock!, with an eclectic collection of games centred around improvised comedy. Every member of the crew had an astounding ability to let go of any inhibitions and completely embrace the hilarious chaos of the audience’s suggestions. All their acts had great set ups, such as the brilliant “Sex with Me is Like…” where each member of the team had to finish the sentence with suggestions from the audience and follow what they said with a reason why, leading to countless innuendos and creative responses to what should have been impossible set ups (see if you can finish the sentence “sex with me is like two pinecones because…”).

Ending the night was KEITH, who lit up the room with their Hawaiian shirts and bonkers outside-the-box sketches. From a bar that only served Guinness to a cowboy that claimed to kill people with a single shot, Keith used music, props and unbridled energy to provide a spectacular end to a night of fun. 

And of course no opening night would be complete without a good host. Jess Harris did an excellent job of warming up the audience, hyping up each act, and keeping the jokes rolling from sketch to sketch, leaving us smiling at the end of the night and excited for DDF’s upcoming performances.

In summary, Durham Drama Festival 2023’s opening night was full of laughter and fun, showcasing a huge breadth of comedic talent, across the university. The audience was completely buzzing, and we can’t wait to see what the rest of the week has in store.

By Harry Threapleton

Photo Credits: Durham Student Theatre