Oxford Revue: Prattle Royale

Thu 2nd – Sun 26th August 2012

reviews

Bridget Wynne Willson

at 23:41 on 5th Aug 2012

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The Oxford Revue’s current sketch show was unfortunately generic and bland when compared to the other university comedy on offer at this year’s Fringe Festival. In a noticeably short set, the Revue packed in a wide range of material, from an Australian chat show to one about a reading of Goldilocks. Quantity does not, however, equal quality and ‘Prattle Royale’ failed to hit the spot.

Shorter sketches provided some light relief throughout and the group performed best when focused on quick-firing jokes; the pithier the material, the greater the laugh. Cameron Cook provided some of the most entertaining moments, most likely due to his energy and acting abilities. Nick Davies’ musical numbers were also amongst the best bits of the show as he proved himself to be not only a talented musician but also charismatic - he had the audience in the palm of his hand with his witty lyrics. Imogen West-Knights delivered a solid performance, providing the rest of the cast with a much needed foundation. However, an uneven distribution of stage time – largely due to the length of the show – is ‘Prattle Royale’s greatest weakness. That is not to say that any member is talentless, but rather that many are deprived of the opportunity to let their wit shine through.

The main issue faced by the Revue is cast chemistry. At times the troupe appeared in tune, bouncing off one another to great effect – most notably the sketch about embryonic development as bickering colleagues - but at times seemed slightly awkward and not entirely at ease with one another. In addition, some sketches dragged on without enough comedy to sustain their long, poorly considered ideas.

Some jokes by the Revue fall flat (unaided by the painful fade-to-black at the end of longer sketches), whilst others receive well-earned laughs. The audience, however, seemed to go mad for the comedy sketches, an indicator that certain brands of humour will always appeal to someone.

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Laura Peatman

at 17:35 on 6th Aug 2012

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With such a big name and reputation as the Oxford Revue, drawing a crowd is never going be a problem. Keeping their loyalty might turn out to be a problem however, as even with some clear performing talent, the renowned troupe are let down by weak writing and a lack of originality.

More often than not sketches lacked a strong central joke or punchline: I found myself chuckling but not laughing outright, and all too often felt let down by an idea which did not progress or develop into anything beyond faint amusement. This was exemplified in scenes such as Imogen West-Knights and Nick Davies’ skit concerning a couple walking through a puddle; the premise had the potential for hilarity, but the final moments of the sketch disappointed. Unusually slow blackouts at the end of certain sketches did not improve matters, as performers were left awkwardly standing on stage as the lights gradually faded, without any significant waves of laughter to carry them.

There were some funny moments: the ‘Goldilocks’ sketch was a favourite of mine, and the ‘I Left My Baby at a Truckstop in Alabama’ song demonstrated the success of short, snappy sketches. It is in the more developed scenes – of which there were unfortunately many more – that the weakness of the writing was showcased. Cameron Cook’s monologue as Professor Hewitt demonstrated some great characterisation and face-pulling, but his script was simply not funny enough to make the act memorable. West-Knights and Davies made a charismatic duo in their scenes together, particularly in their contrast of straight acting and over-the-top campness, but once again deserved stronger material to display their talents.

The confusing thing for me, however, was the reaction of the audience: the reputation of the Oxford Revue once again drew a sizable crowd, and I could hear plenty of guffaws and giggles from around me. Assuming that the entire audience could not have been comprised of Oxonians, I began to wonder if I was missing something. But try as I might, I couldn’t muster the same enthusiasm for this troupe as for other university groups I have seen as they failed to generate anything fresh or impressive in this performance. Added to this was the shortness of the show: billed at an hour, the final curtain coming after about 45 minutes was something of a let-down, especially as they ended on a sketch (concerning the ideal ‘21st Century Man’) that left me baffled and far from entertained. Despite some moments of promise, overall the lack of strength in writing and, in some cases, stage presence made ‘Prattle Royale’ a disappointing offering from this year’s Oxford Revue.

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