I signed up to review The Oxford Revue’s Newcomers Show, and only later found out that it is also being marketed as The Oxford Revue Presents Scrapped: A History of the World in 100 Rejects. This title gives more away about the show’s content, loosely based around the concept of failed inventions and technological blunders – but loosely is the operative word here.
The show quickly moves from sketch to sketch, the short black-outs in between filled with feel-good songs, which are often cleverly paired with the preceding sketch. It is a testament to these seven eponymous ‘newcomers’ that they’re able to keep up with the pace, donning and discarding props between scenes. The format works really well, as it keeps the audience’s attention engaged throughout; if there’s a skit you’re not so keen on, the next one will be more to your liking. It also constantly mixes up the actors on stage, who really come across as a good team. No single performer particularly stands out as better or worse than the rest, and all worked equally well with each other.
There is also a real self-awareness about the show that works very well and suits this relaxed format. You’re never quite sure how much is improvised, particularly as the actors are still getting ready when they walk on stage. They correct each other’s lines, criticise their own accents, and laugh on stage – but it doesn’t matter, because it makes you laugh and they never lose control of the show enough to make the audience feel awkward.
In fact, the audience, who are huddled so close around the actors in the Burton Taylor Studio, are handled well. The performers always include them in the sketches without directly pressuring them (so fear not if you dread being called upon in comedy shows, there’s no need to shy away from the front row). The script also manages to throw in a few inside jokes, aimed at the students, without dissolving into cliché or making the show inaccessible. The same goes for any references to popular culture.
Sure, the show isn’t as polished as it could be, with certain moments almost certainly going off-script and not every joke landing as it was intended to, but that’s only to be expected. There is also a slight uncertainty at the very start as the show gets going – but stick with it, because once it gets moving, you’ll be disappointed when it comes to an end. The Oxford Revue Presents Scrapped is a genuinely funny evening. Get your tickets while you can.