Having somehow reached my third year at Oxford without watching a single performance by the Oxford Revue, I was completely in the dark as to what I should expect from the Oxford Revue Newcomers’ Show, Scrapped, which premiered last night at the Burton Taylor Studio. What the show promised was intriguing, albeit vague – a brand new sketch comedy performed by a cast of ‘7 hand-selected comedy virgins’, who had been ‘trained up by an experienced team of Revue old-hands’.
I now realise that no description, no plot summary can do justice to this highly eclectic and wonderfully unpredictable piece of theatre. Beginning with a parody of Dragon’s den, the show takes its audience through a whistle-stop series of disconnected skits – skits which are partly ridiculous, partly witty, and completely hilarious. Our protagonist and aspiring inventor, Maurice, having faced the contempt of Deborah Meaden (distinguished by her garish blonde wig), seeks inspiration from the curator of the ‘Museum of Worst Inventions’. The curator takes Maurice on a tour of the museum’s artefacts, offering a ‘History of the World in 100 rejects’
– and thus the framework for the rest of the show is constructed.
From a useless dating service, to the 16th annual session of the ‘Bird UN’ (in which a group of birds bicker and end up going to Nando’s), to the ancient Roman ‘dick pic’ (Verginius, with the help of a messenger, sends sculptures of his penis to the women of Rome), to a Barbie which comes to life (she turns out to be an AI government spy), and to a pregnant cave woman who wants to give her baby the unconventional name ‘Gregory’, the show leaves no stone unturned in its quest to showcase the most outrageous scenarios in the most amusing way possible. Indeed, the audience’s raucous laughter rarely subsided, proving that the Newcomers’ Show had succeeded in its attempt.
Due to the sheer variety and number of the skits, as well as the innumerable jokes and gags throughout, it would be impossible to offer a detailed analysis of the show in a single review; nevertheless, I do feel that some aspects of the show in particular demand individual praise and comment. In terms of skits, the Greggs ‘Pasty Emporium’ stood out to me as one of the most amusing. Zach Burns plays a French pasty expert who greets a baffled customer with a passionate declaration of his craft. It turns out, in the final punchline of the skit, that he is actually from Bradford and has a strange tendency to adopt this hilarious persona. Though Burns occasionally broke out of character in this skit (and who can blame him), this did not diminish audience’s reaction to this particularly ridiculous sketch.
Whilst the Greggs skit delivered hilarity, at times some skits did not have the same impact. Though the rapidity of the sketches is an attractive feature of the show, one sketch near the end of the performance was so short and swift that I’m still not sure what it was about. Furthermore, in a couple of others, I felt the jokes fell flat due to poor delivery of punchlines from the actors, such as in a skit where Prince Albert is being photographed. In terms of the structure and themes of the show, I enjoyed the contrast of randomness and continuity – though the show is essentially an amalgamation of random hilarious scenarios (including a surprise musical number at the very end), the ring composition of the performance (we return to Dragon’s den at the end, with Deborah Meaden making an investment), as well as the running penis motif throughout, brought the entire performance together.
Ultimately, The Oxford Revue Newcomers’ Show, Scrapped, delivers a healthy dose of slapstick and puerile comedy, puns and dry humour. No prior knowledge is assumed or expected, and the brilliance of the show lies in its accessibility – I dare anyone to watch this show and not crack a smile. That the actors were ‘newcomers’ was barely perceptible and I commend them for delivering quality entertainment.