Reviews //

Engineering Revue: Bad theatre, great night

Will Edwards drank at Manning… and also saw a show.

HBO’s Game of Thrones perplexes viewers by an ostensibly unending series of shocking twists and fantastically rich revelations about its characters and setting. Engineering Revue’s AGM of Thrones perplexed viewers by inebriating them beyond comprehension. (The USU encourages the responsible consumption of alcohol.) Yet #engorevue did more than that, for behind the façade of yet another revue lurked one of the best experiences to be found in Manning Bar.

Before anything else, I must be clear: #engorevue was bad theatre. The cast had mere days to learn the script and, to their credit, while not many lines seemed dropped, few viewers would’ve noticed if they had been, such was the quality of much of the writing. Weak humour paired with little practice had predictable results. Even the few genuinely funny sketches weren’t enough to redeem the rest of what occurred on stage.

One particular joke was misguidedly repeated throughout the show, much to the audience’s displeasure. On so many occasions that I lost count, men wore dresses. No clever message about gender was made, nor was anyone deserving of it satirised. Rather, someone in #engorevue thought a man in a dress is just inherently funny. It isn’t. While many believe members of one gender can dress as another gender for humour’s sake – drag queens and kings, for instance, are widely considered funny – doing so isn’t a joke in itself. Think of it this way: drag is a setup, not a punchline.

Having said all that, I thoroughly enjoyed the night. You see, #engorevue isn’t about the show, it’s about the experience. And what was wrong with the show was well compensated for elsewhere. Two things particularly stood out: the band, whose excellent playing was beyond appreciated, and the live Twitter feed on screens beside the stage.

The latter provided an outlet for a type of heckling that, in its erasure of the need to actually interrupt the performance, enabled even the most polite viewers to unleash their inner critics, and promoted considerable intra-audience interaction. While a weak punchline pains an individual, the collective #engorevue audience was beyond able to tweet the bright side on such occasions, prompting much – if not most – of the night’s laughter. That sense of community, equal parts amused and bemused, only grew throughout the night.

A show to laugh at rather than with, a quirky band, more drink than Hemingway could handle, and camaraderie Marx could only dream of: these were #engorevue 2014’s ingredients, and they worked.