For the avid thespian, the idea of student-produced theatre often conjures up one thought over anything else: trash. Sure it’s great fun for friends, family, and those who only go to the theatre on the odd occasion (for the first 20 minutes at least), but for those in the community who’ve seen more shows than they care to remember, it’s usually a better idea to do almost anything else. Admittedly it’s not entirely the fault of full-time university students – who juggle work, study, and social lives as well as theatre – but, unfortunately, there’s no one else to blame.
That issue, that boulder of Sisyphean proportions, is what we are again tasked with pushing up an endless hill in Sydney University’s 2019 Revue: The Void. Thankfully, only rarely do we find ourselves giving in to the immense weight.
The 90-minute show, jam-packed with the (alleged) best sketches from the 2018 Revue season, is on a holistic level a better revue than most others put on at this university. Cruising at the rough rate of one sketch every 4 minutes (if my long-forgotten high school maths skills still serve correctly), there should hopefully be something for every audience member to appreciate. Although one will likely find the opening number ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’ underwhelming – the result of an overbearing backstage band and a cast we can’t quite fully hear – the show does improve, evidenced by an impressive display of rapping skill from Haydn Hickson and Jayce Carrano soon after this in ‘Eat the Rich’. We see Carrano in another of the revue’s highlights later on, where he plays an Uber driver to an alien (played by Patrick Sutherland) with incredible characterisation and comedic timing. Though it’s hard to identify specific sketches that will stand out on performance nights, one should keenly anticipate ‘Where’s My Spleen’, in which Kate Wilkins’ Cartman-esque character solidifies her as a standout of the cast; ‘Family Condom’, featuring Rachel Colquhoun-Fairweather, Sophia Morrison, and a creatively used condom; and ‘Shoes for Hands’, where Elliot Ulm, if you didn’t already guess it, has shoes for hands.
Yet, for all its strengths, there are a few moments the show could do without. On a minor level, those include intense brightness of an occasionally-appearing upstage blue light and a few hard-to-hear sketches akin to ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’. Sketch-wise, pieces including a woman pretending to be magic (‘Patricia’, mainly featuring Sophie Strykowski), a family salmon business (‘Something Fishy’, featuring Lyndon Carney and Brandon De Moraes), a cancer diagnosis (‘You Have Cancer’, featuring Ulm and Colquhon-Fairweather) and the revue’s encore (‘New York Dog’, featuring Ulm and Ruby Blinkhorn) could easily be done away with, detracting from the revue’s more humorous sketches. Directorially, while it is obvious why Kate Walder needs to force the concept of ‘The Void’ into the show, it results in the development of a weak and unnecessary plotline that, lost amongst the numerous skits, only really manifests itself towards the end of the night – long after we’ve discarded the notion of expecting a narrative (if we ever expected one at all).
Ultimately, against all my expectations, this university show was not trash. For once, if you’re not a friend or family member, this revue could actually be worth going to. We do slip down the Sisyphean hill at times, but more often than not the push doesn’t seem as hard as it usually is.
Sydney Uni Revue shows at the Seymour Centre at 7:30 pm on Thursday 28 March and Friday 29 March.
Article has been amended.