The Durham Revue keep laughing through lockdown

Charlie Billingham
Durham Revue comedy

The Durham Revue is the university’s longest running sketch comedy group. Established in 1974, The Revue has been the breeding ground for many comedians including Ed Gamble (Mock The Week, The Off Menu Podcast), Nish Kumar (The Mash Report), Stevie Martin (Massive Dad, The Emily Atack Show), Alex Macqueen (The Inbetweeners) and Jeremy Vine (not a comedian, but he’s doing pretty well for himself with his radio endeavours).

The Lockdown Revue.

It’s been an incredibly strange year for everyone, especially for those involved in comedy and the arts. Comedians have been forced to adapt what they do to different formats, and The Durham Revue has been no different. Previously the group has only performed live gigs, however this year has given us the chance to experiment with different ways of producing material.  For the first time in my three years as part of the Durham Revue, we have written and filmed an online series called ERROR 404, which, I have to say, has been a lot of fun

Online vs Live Comedy

It’s been a great experience making our online sketch show. We’ve been able to explore different aspects of our writing and performance that wouldn’t usually be suited to the stage, being able to mine jokes from setting, costume (no braces in sight) and visual effects. Producing comedy for an online platform also has the benefit that it’s possible to write something, film it, edit it, watch it back, and then chuck it away if it doesn’t work rather than having the risk of a joke not landing at a live show. We have tried to take full advantage of having our material online, and it’s allowed us to share our comedy more widely, even having our sketches played on BBC Radio.

I know I’m writing as though I didn’t realise it was possible to film stuff and put it on the internet until this year, but it hasn’t previously been a focus of the Revue. I became a fan of sketch comedy from watching TV, rather than seeing live sketch shows, and so it has certainly been fun writing and performing for a format that I’ve loved for years. The reaction to the videos has been great and hopefully our ventures into online content will encourage more people to come along to our live shows when everything’s back to normal again.

It has to be said that we all miss the live shows and can’t wait until we’re in a position to perform to everyone again. The filming’s been a lot of fun but it doesn’t match the instant reaction from an audience. In an ideal world, I would be able to share the online content and then watch people watching it. Sadly, no one else is keen on this.

Such a huge aspect of The Durham Revue’s calendar are our shows alongside other university sketch groups in Cambridge, Bristol, Oxford, Leeds and London and our month-long run at the Edinburgh Fringe. Our fingers are firmly crossed that we’ll get a chance to perform alongside our friends around the country at some point next year.

Exciting times ahead…

We were lucky enough to be able to hold our auditions at the beginning of the year and have recruited two incredible new writer/performers in George Sutton and Thomas Mullan to join the current group of Lydia Cook, Ben Lycett, Daisy Hargreaves, Charlie Nicholson, Lily Britton, Will Allen and myself. We’ve been writing over the last few weeks for online and stage projects next term and it’s been a very exciting, albeit strange, Zoom based process. Hopefully we’ll be able to perform live again next term; we can’t wait to show you all what we have in store!

See more from The Durham Review, check out their Instagram at The Durham Revue (@thedurhamrevue) • Instagram photos and videos

Charlie Billingham

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