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Intelligent and Genuinely Hilarious: STRAIGHT TO HELL, the 2015 Queer Revue

Bennett Sheldon isn’t afraid of the gays

Straight to hell

Queer Revue 2015: STRAIGHT TO HELL is very possibly the most well-rounded revue of 2015. The directorial team of William Edwards and assistant-directors Shevvi Barrett-Brown and Georgia Kriz fully embraced a concise sketch structure, allowing the premises of the sketches to play out and move on, as opposed to the longer scenes endemic of other shows this year which made a habit of overstaying their welcome. The effective sketch structures were supported by a rapid show structure in which scenes followed on in quick succession and structurally guided the audience through the show.

Edwards chose to use a smaller cast, a risky decision in regards to script production, but one which paid dividends by the time of the actual performance. The smaller ensemble not only allowed for consistently funny performers in sketches, but enabled the audience to build a connection with the recurring cast throughout the show; the associated familiarity and comfort facilitating an enjoyment which was more relaxed, and more invested. The cast size in turn meant a focus on sketch comedy rather than large song and dance numbers, which I personally loved (but can identify as a matter of taste) and empowered a consistent undertone of satire and social commentary rather than just ‘having a fun night’. The script production did not suffer.

Of course, not every premise delivered, there were flat sketches, like any revue, but the general quality was undeniably high by USYD revue standards, and there were some standout, laugh out loud moments. I’d personally single out the lampooning of empty political rhetoric through the lens of a child drawing on their parent’s wall, which could have been an easy, nothing-gag if written amateurishly, but was articulated and timed to perfection by Shevvi Barrett-Brown; an anticlimax scene between Ezra Miller and Rory Nolan which received thunderous applause carried by their impeccable senses of timing, and a genius (possibly unintended?) allusion to Murphy’s stage adaptation of the iconic queer text Holding the Man; and the cover of Frozen’s “Do You Want To Fuck A Transman” by Laurie Hopkins which could be a case study in managing the tonal balance between genuine social commentary that is able to confront an audience, and the general upbeat tone which is expected from, and facilitates, a revue.

The highlights were a reflection of the show as a whole. There were gems in every scene, as individual lines were delivered masterfully (and often sardonically) to create laughs independent of punchlines or premises. Similarly, the tone of the entire show was critique without sanctimony, baring teeth within sketches while independently delivering as a piece of comedy. I don’t have space to single out the cast and band, but together the ensemble created a work which requires no patronising praises reducing it to just queer theatre to stand out as one of the most intelligent, and genuinely hilarious, works of 2015