Edinburgh Fringe 2021
Fast-paced, musical sketch show covering anything and everything that’s been in the news in recent memory.
Not even a pandemic could knock NewsRevue off its perch as the standard bearer for musical sketch show comedy. Deprived of a 40th anniversary celebration by the cancellation of last year’s Fringe, it simply waited in the wings and watched the foot in mouth proclivity of almost anyone with claims to be a celebrity or who features on the world political stage to feed them material for a show that could have outlasted a Wagnerian opera.
With the Pleasance pushing the boat out and staging the show in the aircraft hanger of a venue that is the EICC (albeit a sumptuously appointed one), the socially distanced sell out audience was treated to an hour long masterclass of fast-paced comedy that hit the mark, hard and often.
The format remains as refreshingly simple as ever – take two boys, two girls, a musical director and a large team of writers, throw them together (after Freedom Day, naturally) for a short time and create 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.
This year’s fresh, energetic and tightly choregraphed quartet hit the ground running with a pastiche of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” that managed to convey a bucket load of dry humour on the Covid driven absence of physical contact that’s blighted many people’s lives over the past eighteen months. Pithy as well as on the money.
And it wasn’t long before the Covid capers of two of the UK’s most calamitous comics – Messrs Hancock and Johnson – got a NewsRevue going over. Given the gaffes these two have managed recently, it wasn’t surprising that they featured so prominently in this show, with latter dressed fittingly throughout in a bright blue bike helmet augmented with a fiercely blond wig.
Johnson was one of many excellent impersonations delivered across the piece, each a beautifully formed caricature. Others included Greta Thunberg, Chris Whitty, Priti Patel, Dom Cummings and even the Queen – both of them of course, Nicola and Her Majesty.
Sketches and songs tumbled around us as the hotel quarantine system, the current Labour leader’s apparent lack of any policy, climate change, the demise of the high street and the perils of the Zoom quiz got the treatment. There was even time for a lament about Brexit – how long before that’s completely off the agenda, I wonder?
It’s like watching an extended episode of Have I Got News For You set to music as the quartet bounced from sketch to sketch with breath-taking speed. Staging is tight, choreography crisp, 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.
Special credit is due to the pianist this year who got through an entire hour’s performance that must have involved around thirty sketches and any number of short segues with nothing other than a running order for company – musical genius.
This slick and very professional show leaves no reputation unshredded. Highly recommended for all lovers of satire and high-energy entertainment.