Interview with the Revue – Desperate Liaisons

The Oxford Revue, composed of Emily Honey, David Meredith, Will Truefitt, Alex Fox, Rachel Watkeys-Dowie and George Mather, and directed by Barney Iley, are back with a bang this week with a show at the Keble O’Reilly which promises to be their “best one ever”.

Their show with the Cambridge Footlights and Durham Revue in 2nd Week at the Playhouse went swimmingly, with Will telling me they “yoked all the groups together in a much more coherent way” than previous shows. “A lot of that was down to Barney’s vision”. It was “tricky” because the Oxford Playhouse is geared towards everything except sketch comedy.

Their 6th week show is “all new material, mixed in with comedy acts from around Oxford.” The first act will be a different performer every night, handpicked by the Revue from numerous auditionees. The Revue is subsidizing them to go the Edinburgh Free Fringe (“the Fringe of the Fringe”, as Iley puts it) this summer. Their aim is to “turn the O’Reilly, which is usually a very cold theatrical space, into a comedy club for a week.” The show is providing the sketch acts with an opportunity for press releases and audience reactions before they go to the Free Fringe. The Free Fringe is “really avant-garde”, with pub venues, and an ideal place for new sketch shows to test their comedy, with a view to developing more student comedy within Oxford and beyond, and valuing these independent groups’ work.

This is the Revue’s challenge – it’s “more achievable with the O’Reilly than the Playhouse; making it an evening where people sit at tables, where we serve drinks.”

Something is on the rise in student comedy – “from our perspective it definitely is”. The Oxford Revue is facilitating and nurturing comedy around the university as well as maintaining a sense of difference.

Iley says it’s “not an uncontroversial stance that the Revue takes” – this stance being that comedy needs to constantly grow and groups must feed into each other rather than being separate and competitive. “People think there’s a strange monopoly on comedy”, says Fox. The Revue’s project hopes to change this kind of thinking.

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Their “deepest darkest secret” is that the material written for this show was written during a Revue getaway – they “felt privileged to be able to be in an environment where [they] could focus solely on the creative aspects of the Revue.” This is their first getaway and the Keble show will be the fruits of this week-long creative labour. Alex Fox adds “some would say we went stir-crazy and started to hate each other.” Hopefully this enmity will translate into dynamism on stage.

The Revue also promise “top-notch booze” at the Desperate Liaisons show next week. It starts at 9pm, you can have drinks with friends and “even if you’re in the middle of finals it’s not a hugely emotional weight, it’s a light-hearted show.” Fox assures me that “you can heckle as much as you like”. The table set-up at the O’Reilly opens the way for much more interactive comedy – Iley tells me they’re “trying to make the O’Reilly cosy.”

I ask them if they fit into specific stereotyped roles built up throughout the year. I am told Watkeys-Dowie generally plays the “hairy” roles, Honey plays the “surreal and terrifying” roles, but generally they are quite versatile.

The O’Reilly comedy club ‘Desperate Liaisons’ show not only promises to be hilarious, but also is the start of something new for Oxford student comedy – a collaborative effort to put original comedy shows on a new pedestal, in the university and in Edinburgh.