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‘A masterclass in laugh-a-minute sketches’ – Review: The People vs. The Oxford Revue

Abbie Nott reviews the sketch comedy showcase The People vs The Oxford Revue.

In the sold-out Old Fire Station, I knew the performance would be one to remember when it began with a keyboard on stage – you can’t go wrong with a song, can you? The charismatic host, Jack McMinn, kicked things off with a laugh-out-loud ode to Pret a Manger, channeling Tim Minchin in his brilliant proof that ‘manger’ can rhyme a multitude of surprising words, including ‘longer’. After the Oxford Revue’s pandemic-related hiatus from live performances, it was certainly back with a bang. 

That bang continued in the first sketch, with a meta-theatrical musing on the subtleties of Chekhov’s gun… I eagerly anticipated its return. I was not disappointed when towards the end of Act 1 a Teletubbies dystopia culminated in the assassination of Tinky Winky. Never has ‘time for tubby bye bye’ been so disturbing, and the idea of the baby in the sun as the evil overlord was perfect.

Alfred Dry’s sexy salesperson was a hilarious returning feature of the show, marketing everything from Steve Jobs’ jobs to Bill Gates’ gates. The People vs The Oxford Revue was a masterclass in laugh-a-minute sketches that also managed to include jabs at capitalism and the government without seeming forced. There was even a cheese and wine joke in Act 2 – very topical! The most eminent and most noble Annalise Dodson led a sketch about the bumbling House of Lords. Other subjects that didn’t escape ridicule in the first half included the  noises made by tennis players and the ludicrous names of posh cocktails.

The second half was perhaps the stronger, with Jack McMinn declaring that it would get a bit more risqué before launching into a song condemning sex on the beach. Highlights from this half included Jake Dann’s mob boss holding hustings for a new mafia welfare officer, as well as a take on the last supper, featuring Deborah Acheampong’s charismatic Jesus, with a panto-villain Judas. However, the stand-out sketch featured Alison Hall and Alec Watson as a struggling married couple, only to find that they were living in The Sims. Hilarious to both those familiar with the computer game or not, they showed exactly why live comedy is needed, as not much is better than being in a room with so many people trying to contain their hysterics at the same thing.

Overall, the evening achieved a tone of hilarity mixed in with just enough social commentary. The final song was one that made me already nostalgic to have reached the end of the show; I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye to all of the wonderful characters who had graced the stage that evening. It is an amazing skill to have such a carousel of worlds and people played by the same few actors, and yet the show never felt disjointed; it was almost as if the tennis players, the teletubbies and the young Conservatives were all interconnected.

The students were all outstanding, and the effort that was put into the showcase was certainly rewarded by the laughs they were given in return by the audience – I can’t wait to watch what they do next!

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