Edinburgh Fringe 2016
Fast-paced comedy show with hilarious songs and sketches covering anything and everything that’s been in the news these past twelve months. Since they were here last year in fact.
NewsRevue is an institution. It’s now in its 37th year and long since claimed the Guinness World Record as the longest running live comedy show. And given the foot in mouth proclivity of almost anyone with claims to be a celebrity or who features on the world political stage, this show is likely to outlast even The Mousetrap.
The format remains refreshingly simple, marking it out as a standard setter amongst musical sketch shows. Just take two boys, two girls, a musical director and a large team of writers, throw them together for a few weeks and then deliver thirty or more quick-fire pieces of topical humour and a bunch of one-liners based on literally anything that has been in the news over the last twelve months, or before if you can still get a cheap laugh out of it.
Despite the dearth of material available to them in the last twelve months (LOL), they still managed to come up with an absolute humdinger of a show that left no reputation unshredded. What better way to start than an a cappella rendition of the Star Spangled Banner featuring the two Presidential candidates dissing just about everyone who possesses a vote in that fine, upstanding democracy. Mexicans, eat your hearts out. A quick sketch featuring a humble man referred to only as “Tony” showcased a new self-help group called “Liars For You” (consequences are, after all, for other people) which was quickly followed by another (in the interests of political balance) featuring a man referred to only as “Dave”, who was insistent on doing things “My Way”.
It would take too long to list all the sketches and, with so many coming so thick and fast it was inevitable that some missed the mark. And one or two caused a sharp intake of collective breath from the audience, suggesting the attempt at humour might have gone a bit too far. But most hit the bulls-eye, or close to it, including a series featuring HM Queen (like Fagin, reviewing her situation), Nicola Sturgeon as a would-be queen, the British Olympic team, Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Theresa May and a marvellous running gag about the anonymous leader of the Lib Dems, whose name escapes me for the moment. Brexit got several mentions, Game of Thrones and Pokemon got plugs and no NewsRevue would be complete without reference to that iconic Scot, one Andy Murray.
Impersonations were never less than believable and more often than not were uncanny as the quartet bounced from sketch to sketch with breath-taking speed with sharp, topical, satire being topped off with plenty of irony. Staging is suitably tight. Lights go to black after each sketch and, no more than two or three seconds later, inch-perfect spotting comes up to reveal the actors changed and ready to go again. Using a black base for their costumes, they add simple effects like hats, ties, some ludicrous wigs and scarves. It’s very professional, tightly scripted (not a word is wasted), involves split-second timing and contains an extremely broad range of characters, caricatures and accents for the actors to get their heads round.
This year’s performers included Jessica Brady, Naomi McDonald, Daniel Collard and one other and all are equally at ease with music, text or physical theatre. Adding to the mix this year is musical director Christopher Peake on piano, always in the background but a vital element in this hour of fast-paced, largely satirical comedy.
And it really is up to the minute stuff – witness a wise-cracking BoJo waxing lyrical about his new role as Foreign Secretary. Diplomacy, take a back seat, please. Professional, precise and pitch perfect. A great hour of high-energy entertainment.