The Oxford Revue have once again taken up residency at the Burton Taylor Studio, delivering another dose of laughter with their new show Heavy Petting. Heavy Petting offers a stripped-down, back-to-basics approach to the sketch show. There’s no narrative arc or clever framing device; this is just an hour of straight sterling comedy that will have you bursting with laughter on more than one occasion.
The line-up this time around features Chesca Forristal, Alexander Fox, Dom O’Keefe, and Revue Co-President Jack Chisnall. Georgia Bruce, the Revue’s other Co-President, doesn’t make an appearance on stage but is instead firmly placed in the director’s chair. Bruce and the Revue have created a lucid collection of short sketches, linked together by a funky original score by Xavier Pike. Describing the sketches in too much detail runs the risk of ruining their payoff, but rest assured that the Revue take you on a wacky, sketch-based tour that includes alien abduction, gameshows, will.i.am’s stalker, and creepy ol’ Bono (who, if you weren’t already aware, emerges from the woodwork to haunt you if you speak a certain lie). The scope is large, and everything from London’s absurd rental market to the drawn-out, flip-flopping of X Factor’s results announcements fall victim to the Revue’s wit.
Audience expectations are constantly undermined in amusing ways as the Revue execute each sketch with confidence and slick timing. Highlights include Alexander Fox’s audience-interactive auction, and Chisnall and Forristal in a sketch that sees J.K. Rowling in an early editorial meeting discussing the absurd oddities in Harry Potter’s first draft. O’Keefe’s comic voice work shines in a confusingly funny Scandinavian reboot of Skins, and his Danny Dyer sketch was roaringly funny, seeing him pitch his new bestseller ‘Danny Diaries’ to his literary agent. There were moments where stumbling delivery hindered some of the show’s jokes, and some skits (particularly the ones about revision lies and Austen characters’ dirty letters) were weaker, but there was seldom a sketch that didn’t contain some moment of brilliance. These shows are testing grounds for the Revue’s material before they take it to the Fringe and elsewhere, so it’s to be expected that not all of the sketches are equally successful, but at its best Heavy Petting gives you some blisteringly funny performances and enviously clever comic writing.
Since most of the sketches are discrete and callbacks to previous jokes are minimal, the show has limited structure, and it feels slightly lacking in a final payoff. Though its many elements are incredibly entertaining, the show unfortunately limits itself to being only the sum of its parts. It’s a slight shame, but Heavy Petting ultimately succeeds in what it wants to be: a clear, no-frills sketch show that will have you laughing consistently for an hour. Definitely worth watching.