Laughing for Days: STRAIGHT TO HELL, the 2015 Queer Revue

Julia Clark can’t breathe

Every year Queer Revue comes up against some stiff competition with the more experienced, well-established faculty revues. Their theatre, cast, and production are smaller and often suffer for the difference. This year, though, Director William Edwards pulled something strange and beautiful out of trying circumstances for our viewing pleasure.

The cast was a proper powerhouse, bringing energy and commitment to every sketch. Set-ups and premises were weird and wonderful, something unique that really staunched the flow of hyper-politicisation and sexualisation that permeates the revue season. I sat through the vast majority of the production with a bemused grin on my face, desperately trying to find sense in sketch after sketch. Shevvi Barrett-Brown played a clever child looking to excuse her misbehaviour with double-speak, Harry Winsome made-out with a squid, and Laurie Hopkins wonderfully parodied ‘Do You Want to Build a Snowman?’ with ‘Do You Want to Fuck a Transman?’ The cast’s story-telling was solid and was easily engaging. The show fell down, though, in the cast and crew’s inexperience with revue and sketch comedy. Most sketches, while enjoyable, lacked a punchline or, after it hit its main joke, meandered into a slow fade. This made many sketches seem lack-lustre or poorly structured and impacted on the flow of the show.

But let’s dedicate some time now to the best sketch performance I have seen on stage this year. Ezra Vashti and Rory Nolan absolutely nailed their ‘Two People Stand on a Stage’ sketch. The premise was absurd, the conversations and characters were absurd, and it was comedy gold. There is a fine line between absurdism and silliness that was beautifully navigated in this sketch where two people lament their surroundings, each other, and how one does pronounce the word vase. The two performers mastered silence to build and break down tension like few can do with such control. It was the kind of combination of brilliant writing and brilliant performance that directors and audiences dream of. I’ve been laughing for days.

While lack of experience and technical skill poked through, the positive and inclusive energy of Queer Revue was palpable and easily made it the most enjoyable production of the season.