Edinburgh Fringe 2014
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 34th year and claiming 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 has plenty of legs left in it yet.
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.
We started with a selection from Cabaret, loosely based around the NSA, GCHQ and the spying scandal. Cue a cross-dressed Merkel and several references to the ability of a curly ginger-haired newspaper editor to get off serious charges scot-free. 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 the luckless Nick Clegg, a feature on the indecisiveness of Ed Milliband, some digs at UKIP and Farage in particular and, of course, in this momentous year for the Scots, a number of skits on the issue of whether to stay or go.
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, scarves and, for Andy Murray conversing with his Mummy, a tennis racquet. 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, Mimi Edwards, Matt Lee-Steer, Will Mulvey and the irrepressible Alice Marshall are equally at ease with music, text or physical theatre and no-one escapes their quick witted lyrics. Adding to the mix is musical director Michael Riley 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 crack that ran along the lines of “police searching Cliff Richard’s home have found something awful – plans for a new Christmas album” – that’s a story that has broken since these guys went on air at the beginning of the month.
Professional, precise and pitch perfect. A great hour of high-energy entertainment.