Helena Snider is impressed by the sketch comedy offerings of three Northern universities.
Being as admired in Durham as the Revue, with fans returning for multiple performances throughout the year, it is important to keep things exciting and new. Last time it was through collaboration with the Oxbridge comedy troupes, and this time it was with the Leeds Tealights and the St. Andrews Revue. The result was a spectacularly funny show, with the audience laughing throughout. The electric atmosphere in the room was palpable even before we sat down; The Assembly Rooms was entirely packed.
First up were the Tealights, who had a vast range of sketches from ‘A French Lesson’ to a skit about North Korea. The entertainment from them was incredibly varied, and of a different style to what we see from the Durham Revue’s sketches.They didn’t think outside the box, rather the box was nowhere to be seen, and they played heavily with the idea of breaking the fourth wall. The standout skit was one in which three schoolchildren were asked to read out the poems they’d written. After two false starts – one of the children had wet himself, the other read out a poem about cats – the third got up and did an unexpected elaborate rap-style poem about the woes of friendship betrayal in the school playground.
Next we had the St. Andrews Revue. As they came onstage, I was slightly concerned, since there were only three of them. Luckily, what they lacked in numbers they made up for in humour. They set themselves up very well by referring to themselves as Oxbridge’s ‘weird drunk uncle’ who insists that he ‘really is related to you’. The chemistry among the three was evident as they quickly delved into a variety of utterly different types of comedy.
After two such successful troupes, I had high hopes for the Durham Revue. Unfortunately, whilst still impressive, I felt disappointed. Having seen the Revue before, I felt that I already knew at least half of the skits – I understand why: the skit about J K Rowling’s claims to ‘wokeness’ and the waiter’s cheese-grating are comedy gold, but considerably less funny when seen for a second time. Perhaps it is unfair to compare the Durham Revue to the Tealights or the St. Andrews Revue on this basis, as I have no idea how frequently the others regurgitate material, but the show did feel slightly let down by the Revue. To be fair to them, however, the audience seemed to be lapping their sketches up.
The night took an unexpected turn when all three troupes came onstage and battled in a Game of Thrones style war. Overall, all three troupes were incredibly funny, and even though some of Durham’s sketches felt a little stale, they still came off as energetic, clever and amusing.