The Oxford Revue: The Best of the Fringe promised to leave me in stitches and, while my abdominal muscles are not in pain from excessive laughter this morning, I must commend each and every act for their flair, wit and ability to deliver fast-paced, fully-charged performances with so little onstage time to make the most of. Fresh from their run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, this cast of comedians, sketch-show enthusiasts, magicians and almost everything in-between provided the spice of life which is variety; the audience, kept on their toes for around one hour, appeared engrossed in each new snippet of the show and several performers were able to avoid the all-too-typical awkwardness of audience interaction by pre-arranging fortune cookies taped under certain seats and incorporating the audience into sketches rather than simply using them as a gap-filler.
Elaine Robertson might be described as the anchor of the show, an anchor who also provided much of the show’s comedy. In fact, I often found myself looking forward to her reappearance as her witty, low-key stand-up comedy felt natural, effortless and off-the-cuff.
First to take to the stage was comedian John Rayner, whose initial awkwardness soon evolved into endearing charm and eased the audience into their first taste of what was to come: a very understated stand-up act which was unapologetically personal. Although Rayner opened with a ‘ready-made’ gag about porn and the Chanel adverts, most of the laugh-out-loud moments were down to his impersonations which were, again, neither too rehearsed or too try-hard, but casual and thus unexpectedly poignant.
Verity Babbs’ sketch show followed and, while I enjoyed and admired her vigour, energy and quirkiness, I feel less could have been more in this particular part of the show. It seemed to delight in the absence of punchlines but in reality, left the audience slightly in the lurch, awkwardly left somewhere between wanting to laugh and not quite knowing why.
Magician extraordinaire Will Bearcroft really stole the show for me and not simply because of his ‘tricks’. At its core, his performance was sharp and the witty repartee between him and audience members proved his improvisation skills as he balanced the roles of comedian and magician.
Last to take to the stage was Olley Matthews who certainly appeared to be an audience favourite. His gentler, guitar-wielding approach to stand-up was original, charming and skilful even if it did tickle the audience’s funny bone rather than providing a laugh-a-minute.
Overall, The Oxford Revue: The Best of the Fringe was an entertaining evening that promised, and provided, ‘something for everyone’.