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Ungle-Bungle School Yearly Dramatacular: Reviewed

Peter Burrell-Sander loves sketch comedy

For the unaware, this week saw the opening of the annual USYD revue: a mashup of the best the 2015 revue season had to offer.

Drawing on 13 different revues from the last year, it should come as little surprise to anyone that that USYD Revue 2016 had a fair bit to offer. The sketches felt more polished, less rushed and better performed.

The timing in particular worked well, with the first half ending after what was in many ways the most poignant and heart-wrenching vignette of the night, starring Emily Greenberg as a tree in a performance to bring a tear to her parent’s eyes. Given a little bit of time for that to soak in, we were injected right back into the action with an adrenaline-packed, rap-fuelled, confetti-soaked shocker of a joke.

Victoria Zerbst, in yet another appearance on the USyd culture scene was singer for the night, keeping us well-entertained during the necessary minute or two some sketches mandate for proper preparation. The band backed up both her and most of the sketches, often achieving that most vaunted of goals for backing music, in my mind, which is contributing to the atmosphere of a sketch without drawing attention to itself, melting into the fondue of performance flawlessly.

That said, I can’t let the whole thing go unscathed. I would question how some sketches made it into a second revue. More than one sketch relied upon increasing the magnitude of the joke to the point of absurdity in place of any sort of satisfying pay-off, and there was the odd confusing moment or incongruity in plot. In a faculty or identity revue it’s pretty much expected that a few jokes will fall flat, a few things will be sub-par, especially because they’re so tied to one particular theme, reigned in by the need for every joke to relate to a particular topic, but I’d hoped that USyd revue could have weeded out all these minor flaws.
It’s worth noting, however, that USyd revue wasn’t able to benefit from the same sense of a coherent narrative a more standard revue might, but nonetheless it avoided seeming too much like a confused jumble.

Instead, it felt more like a colourful outfit of mismatched clothing – with pieces of all different styles and fashion, but nevertheless pleasant and enjoyable. That they managed to maintain a certain sense of relevance at all, with the idea of a school performance as the organising principle, is commendable.

I feel the revues are at their best when they’re big, bold and beautiful, if only because the nature of the large theatre and constraints of circumstance can lead to subtler sketches not being properly heard and/or seen. USyd revue, however, wasn’t lacking in either department. The bombastic blended brilliantly with the beautiful and the thought-provoking, by and large.

The dancing I’d like to single out as impressively choreographed without seeming unnecessary or excessive. Certainly, USyd revue fulfils its purpose as both a summary and refinement of the previous year’s offerings, a fine ribollita with a few new flavours to round things out.