Engineering Revue 2014 was the most groundbreaking piece of theatre I, renowned theatre critic Winston H Bernstein, have witnessed in my entire 40 year career of reviewing the art form.
The show was a bold inversion and perversion of all things that normally make a show what we call ‘entertaining’ – solid writing and comedic premises, good acting, lines being audible and tech that actually worked. This brilliant postmodern approach to structure and technique was severely underappreciated by the ridiculously alcohol-plastered plebeian student audience.
It was almost impossible to tell whether there was a throughline that tied this supposed Game of Thrones themed Revue. The first act seemed to be all about Game of Thrones, only to be completely abandoned in the second half. For the director to take such a show widely-known for being entertaining and strip it of any of the interesting aspects of the series is a bold ironic move that challenged the catatonically inebriated spectators.
The Revue doesn’t shy away from facing its dissenters either, with one memorable female performer making a sharp ad-libbed retort to a foolish audience heckle. With this multi directional heckling, the audience are immersed in the show – the audience becomes performer, the performer, the audience.
Men appeared half-naked in almost every sketch, this inclusion to the scene mostly not remarked upon or necessary to the comedic premise. The revue acutely understood their audience, drunk idiots who wished to shame the actors by making them submit to their will of revealing their precious privates. But in almost all cases, the genitalia remained obscured, an endless torture for the audience, reminiscent of Beckettesque absurdism. The Coveted Penis was Godot, and the blind-drunk audience were Vladimir and Estragon.
For the show, on the surface, to seem to be ‘bad’ actually is what makes it good – for the audience expects it to be bad, and it is, and therefore gives them what they want – making it good. Entertainment it is normally a simple submission of what the audience wants showing them what they want to see. Engineering Revue, however, manages to give its audience exactly what they don’t and do want, and never changes, year after year. If I could physically ejaculate pretentiousness, I would do it all over Engineering Revue’s pretty little face.