Afew days ago I was outside a bright purple building, lining up to enter a room where I was to spend my next hour watching a bald man in complete darkness, shining a camper’s torch upon a plastic fish, calling it his horse, and telling jokes about tuna. Later that day I was to watch a brilliant Canadian stand-up tell a mesmerising joke about a pile of fancy hats. It was fair to say that my interaction with comedy during the first week of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival had been mixed.
In a flash of logic I decided that there was no better place to set the record straight than the basement of an Italian restaurant called Ciao Roma, which, by some coincidence, was also the very same place that the Exeter Revue were to perform their brand new sketch show, Sketchup. The company are gaining a fast growing reputation throughout Devon since their inception in 2013, with a host of successful sketch shows and evenings of stand-up. A reduced sized show of four comedians and one producer, however, was enough to conjure one of the funniest pieces of comedy I’ve seen come out of Exeter, and certainly the Revue’s best.
probably the best revue in exeter
It was student comedy like it’s never been seen before at Exeter. Not by me, anyway. But maybe that’s because I didn’t catch the preview in the M&D room earlier this March. It was quick witted and – at times – superbly written, toying with controversies and grey areas, teasing just as much colour out of them as possible without spoiling the canvas. Oli Gilford and Jack Edwards, who both awkwardly shone through as respective highlights of last term’s stand up sessions, are credited as the show’s primary writers. The two have a great comedic chemistry on stage, with each occupying different roles between the mad, awkward and exceedingly charismatic, bouncing so naturally off the other. Gilford is mischievous, with a grin that infectiously spreads across his face when nearing any punchline, and Edwards is sincere, acting passionately throughout varied characters. Both then come together in an assured alliance of pure comic awkwardness. The kind that draws you in and seems hilarious, rather than makes you feel uncomfortable.
Opposite roles are played by Fringe newcomers Rachel Tysch and Grace Tilley, the former rasping her way through various brilliant characters, the latter comically screeching at any silences left in between material. The quartet, under direction from Gilford and producer Grace Pilsbury, seamlessly skirt their way through a full hour of clever sketches from personal favourites such as auctioning emotions to government parodies where Tysch, married to an MP, is distraught to find out that he’s privatised the dish washing industry. The packed room can’t stop laughing while she recounts how on their wedding day, when asked if he’d take her as her lawfully wedded wife, he responded by thanking the vicar for his question and spurting out a few minutes of political meanderings, and doesn’t conclude to a “yes” or a “no”. The laughs infectiously continue throughout the following sketches and I’m delighted to join in.
“How dare you have the arrogance to bring strategy onto my show Clare?”
Jack Edwards provides the other main highlight, wonderfully performing a “crazy” Noel Edmonds, while brutally dissecting Deal or No Deal via the medium of an interior monologue to today’s contestant, Clare: “How dare you have the arrogance to bring strategy onto my show Clare?” A man still convinced in the legitimacy of his own game show, Edwards is quickly shouting every line in the sketch with an alarming sense of reality that maybe Noel isn’t too far away from the obscene after all.
Exeter Revue’s hour comes to an end with an abrasive comparison between coffee and Columbian men, and the applause rings in from a venue littered with as many people familiar with the Revue’s work as those who only found themselves in the Roman basement following an attractive flyer with a bottle of ketchup on it. A few times the material was slightly unoriginal, and a few times a sketch or two fell flat. But the content was clearly known well by the group, and for the most part was performed slickly, with wit and intensely good characterisation. As far as comedy ambassadors for the University go, Exeter is in very safe hands indeed, and despite a saddening lack of ketchup related humour, are something to relish.
The Exeter Revue perform every day as part of the Free Fringe in Ciao Roma at 2:10pm, and are probably the best Revue in Exeter.