It’s a wet Tuesday night, and the small crowd is sat gathered around the stage in the intimate seating arrangements of Oxford’s Burton Taylor Studio. The show’s host (Chloe Jacobs) opened by asking how everyone was, then delighting in the fact that instead of whooping and cheering, most of the crowd responded by saying that they were fine. She might have misjudged the mood slightly, trying to make an impromptu joke by asking which teams one couple in the crowd played archery for (only to be disappointed when they replied with their respective universities). However, she was cheerful, candid, and confident, and managed to keep the show moving – and made everyone laugh too, by reading a section of her teenage-written fan-fiction. It was a combined effort, from the host and the individual acts, that made the show run smoothly (finishing right on time).
The first act (Joel Stanley) admitted his own nerves, but held them nonetheless. While someone who has only ever performed stand-up comedy once before seemed an odd choice for ‘The Best of the Fringe’, he handled the audience well, and made his nervousness part of his charming candour. He shared his hilarious first experience of the Burton Taylor Studio (you’ll have to go and watch to find out what it is), and told some good jokes about his experiences with race – no mean feat.
The second act (Alison Middleton) was someone I have seen perform stand-up before (at the EmpowerHerVoice Comedy Festival, which I also reviewed for Oxford Opening Night). Her style is short, even sententious, which made a nice variation from the story-telling style of the first act, but much of her material was repeated from the last time I saw her perform – a shame, because I enjoyed the few additions she had made (in particular, listen out for her LinkedIn bio).
The third act (Will Bearcroft) was my personal favourite, combining comedy and stage magic. His style was endearing, and he mixed the magic and comedy well, making his entire act a delight. He reworked classic magic tricks – think handkerchiefs, decks of cards, and mind-reading – with fresh humour, and he was also appropriately self-deprecating about being a magician.
The fourth and final act (Bill Freeman) saw a complete shift in tone, as the performer adopted a distinct persona. His humour was darker than the previous acts, and will be appreciated by the pun-lovers amongst you (of whom, I am sure, there is no shortage in Oxford). His comedic timing was excellent, as was the way he stayed in character throughout.
The first act pointed out that ‘The Best of the Fringe’ is a difficult name to live up to, and instead joked that we think of the show simply as ‘Of the Fringe’. Thought of as ‘The Best of the Fringe’, Oxford Revue’s show was perhaps a little disappointing, but thought of simply as ‘Of the Fringe’, it was definitely the best way I could have spent my Tuesday night.