The Oxford Revue has established itself as a major force for laughter in recent years and this offering shows no sign of letting that slip. For those who haven’t seen them in action before, their work consists of a rapid succession of individual sketches delivered by an ensemble cast who play a wide range of characters ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous; even God gets a mention although he is criticized for his greasy hair; ‘what’s this- the Richard Dawkins fan club?’ Is his response; not too bad by his standards. Even if you are familiar with the work of this band of wandering jesters you should not assume that there will be no surprises in the upcoming production: Renegade. This latest outing extends the scope and ambition of the comedy outfit to include music, technical wizardry and something approaching a full length production (the last few offerings have been criminally short). Success is always a difficult thing for any group to enjoy. We can all list our favourite bands that have struggled to live up to previous achievements and floundered when faced with the awkward dilemma of whether to change and grow, and risk alienating their existing fan base, or whether to stick to what they do best, and risk exasperating them. Good as The Oxford Revue are, I regret to announce that they have not found any new answers to this age old dilemma. Instead they seem to take a little from both philosophies: keeping the sketch format while increasing length and production values.
The resulting beast is somewhat clumsy but eminently loveable. There is a quirkiness that underlies their whole take on ‘comedy’ that makes any time spent in their company a curiously charming affair. I use the concept of ‘quirkiness’ not in the, ‘slap you in the nostril with a tea-bag’ sense of The Mighty Boosh: one does not feel the need to ingest hallucinogenic material in order to enjoy The Revue. Neither does it quite lapse into the whimsy of harmless and inoffensive remarks about genial fellows and their genial goings on: although this was threatened by an unusually flat scene concerning a teacher and his understanding of lab safety. The sketch format is its saving grace at the points where the energy of the production seems to lag- whenever a slight feeling of, not boredom but perhaps fatigue, creeps in there is always something bright, fresh and exciting to divert attention elsewhere. Renegade is a thoroughly enjoyable production which blends the old with the new- the result is not perfect harmony but, unquestionably, a fine piece of work.
Price £7 for students