Science Revue 2018: Schroedinger’s Deal and No Deal is longer than your average game show. Much, much longer. It lasts more than three hours, and the time does not go quickly.
Science Revue is one of few revues which consistently has a throughline—a recurrent framing device loosely related to the title. This year, the throughline is uncompelling, has no forward momentum and does nothing to support or add to the rest of the show.
The exposition takes almost 15 minutes, and by the the time it wraps up, we’ve barely laughed or learned about the characters and the world they inhabit. Each time the throughline reappears it gets inexplicably darker, but no funnier—we titter at science jokes but little else. When finally the show concludes, it is with Schroedinger’s barely justified mental breakdown that sees him take actors hostage at gunpoint, threaten suicide and flee the stage pursued by police. At the final lights down, the audience are bewildered and definitely not laughing.
The sketches themselves are brilliantly set up, with clever tilts and mimed expositions leaving us in a state of tight anticipation: Ro Roberts and the pringle tin was masterful. However, many fizzle. The sketches are drawn, dragging out for longer than the premise or characters can support.They don’t escalate, and falter through wordy dialogue between characters who have unconvincing or uncomfortable relationships. Many would have been better as sharp blackouts or edited to provide variety in length, if nothing else. The punchlines are often unsatisfying—two sketches about Humpty Dumpty and Bear Grylls are particularly predictable, standing out in a band bunch.
The sketches that do work are a testament to brilliant characters with genuine chemistry. Lincoln Gidney and Jayce Carrano take us on the Uber journey of a lifetime and Elliot Ulm and Ruby Blinkhorn brought tears to my eyes as dogs home alone in New York.
There is also some exceptional writing. A number of rhyming sketches have both well-structured narratives and delightfully silly moments. I have never seen a sketch quite like the Sock Puppets and loved the emotional payout at the end of the Dark Web sketch.
The musical numbers are all interestingly arranged—no cut and paste covers here—and well balanced. To be fair, most of the songs are samesy reflections on quintessential university experiences, but this does not detract from their charm. The audience roared with laughter during the full-cast rendition of ‘Take a Shit’ to the tune of ‘Be Our Guest’ lead by Mendy Atencio as a toilet-paper swathed Lumiere. Some songs fail to progress past the joke of their premise, but are maintained by the skill of the singers and the choice to keep them concise.
The dances are well-choreographed enough, but don’t add much vitality to the show, except in the all-cast numbers. The spectacle of such a large ensemble is undeniable, in colourful and varied costumes that create a visually dazzling world full of energy throughout the show.
I loved the band. Everybody fucking loves the band. Musically, they aren’t as tight as some of the other revue bands this season, but their energy is unmatched. The 14 piece-stage band fills the show with catchy but unconventional song choices—a welcome change from the best hits highlight reel of most shows. In a growing Science Revue tradition, the band is also a comedic troupe of its own. They have three dedicated sketches, including the best of the night. One of the band members plays five instruments at once—see the show to find out how—and absolutely brings the house down.
The band could have been utilised more, to replace some of the recorded interludes which play between every sketch. Instead of creating atmosphere, these disrupt the flow of the performance and, more often than not, actors and audience alike are left awkwardly waiting for the song to end to get on with the show. This impatience and frustration only grows as the show drags on.
Science Revue didn’t need to be this way. There are a number of incredible actors in the cast and sketches have interesting premises, but these elements rarely collided.