Some say that quality is better than quantity. The Oxford Revue’s No Market for Old Men tries to defy this wisdom by rapidly firing jokes at the audience, going through roughly thirty original sketches in an hour! Over the course of the show, comics Alison Middleton, Evelyn Elgart, and Mati Warner poke fun at such pearls of wisdom. However, they do not quite succeed in turning this one on its head; while some sketches were spot on, others were too punchline-driven and could have done with more character development. That being said, the benefit of this approach is that there is something for everyone: the audience certainly enjoyed the show, as evidenced by their loud and frequent laughter.
The performers and their director, John Rayner, are to be applauded for coming up with so much original material, as well as for finding ways to connect seemingly unrelated scenes. The opening sketch features a young girl and two old men, who seem to glorify the present and the past respectively. These characters recur throughout the show and help to anchor it. Similarly, some actions are repeated in different sketches and give the audience a sense of deja-vu. At other times motives (e.g., weather conditions) help to connect otherwise unrelated scenes. The trio have great chemistry and work well together. For me, Alison Middleton stood out particularly, showing great range. Her physicality when impersonating old men was impressive. Evelyn Elgart, in turn, was very good in driving the story along with her energy, whereas Mati Warner was the best punchline deliverer. However, it was the Macintosh’s voice which stole the show for me, but I shall not reveal too much here.
The costumes, props, and set were minimal but well-designed. Sitting at the side of the stage, it was sometimes difficult to get a good view. Perhaps the positioning could be improved by moving the action as upstage as possible, so that audience members flanking the performance area can also have a full view. Short music interludes not only facilitated quick costume changes but also helped to reinforce the themes of the sketches, as well as aiding continuity.
To sum up, this show is a tour de force. It’s great to see so much original material in one evening, and a trio with such great chemistry on stage. Though the sheer number of sketches sometimes makes it hard to fully appreciate the nuances and critical humour of the show, it nonetheless demonstrates a wealth of talent and originality.