saints and sinners of the stage and screen
saints and sinners of the stage and screen
The Canal Café
11th July 2014
Photography provided by Chloé Nelkin Consulting
Sometimes a show is bigger than any one individual involved in it. That's certainly the case with NewsRevue, a comedy group which has been entertaining crowds in London and Edinburgh for 35 years. The players may come and go, making way for new talent each year, but the winning formula is never tampered with. Take four performers, a musical director and a piano, treat anything in the Metro as fair game, and you have a 60 minute romp through politics and current affairs.
This summer it's the turn of Mimi Edwards, Alice Marshall, Matt Lee-Steer and Will Mulvey to step into the rather large shoes of their past regenerations. NewsRevue 2014 is remarkably quick-fire, with around 40 sketches and plenty of throwaway one-liners, all penned by a large team of writers. The transitions between each sequence take place at lightening speed, with director Christopher Jefferies never letting the pace falter, and never wasting time when it could be used to try hitting us with another joke.
The majority does land well, but some of the shorter gags don't quite hit the spot. Thankfully the music covers any weaker material - it transpires you can ramp up the humour of just about anything merely by framing it with a song. Musical director Michael Riley may largely be out of sight tucked away at the back of the stage, but he's very much an integral part of the show. Some of the funniest sketches involve all four performers belting out a comedy number - a parody of The Black Eyed Peas' breakthrough hit Where is the Love? as sung by Labour MPs is particularly delicious.
Admittedly, the political satire may be tame, but it's without a doubt received very favourably by the audience. A recurring one-sided bromance between David Cameron (Lee-Steer) and Nick Clegg (Mulvey) gets everyone chuckling, and an impersonation of Tony Blair (Lee-Steer) is eerily accurate, down to every last little mannerism. Popstars are also on the receiving end, with Cheryl Cole (Marshall) mocked for her lack of empathy with ordinary people. Although dressed in the singer's distinctive Fight for this Love outfit, you don't really need the props to know straight away what Marshall is going for.
The problem is both Blair and Cole's most controversial battles took place over a decade ago - whilst still in modern memory, this isn't satire based on what's fresh off the press. I confess, I quite enjoyed the sketch mocking last Christmas's John Lewis advert, but we're now more than half a year on. The writing is consistently good throughout, but it's not as a reactive to current affairs as it could be.
More topical, but still a little old, is the group's attack on Gwyneth Paltrow (Mimi Edwards) and Chris Martin (Will Mulvey). I've always had a real soft spot for Coldplay's Fix You, and it's a song of great signficance for Paltrow as well, having been written for her following the death of her father. Instinctively it feels a little cruel to take a song with such personal sentiment and use it to mock Paltrow and Martin's decision to "consciously uncouple", but Mulvey and Edwards deliver their parody with so much vocal talent and fake earnestness that you can't help but find them amusing.
If the writing doesn't win you round on its own - and as sharp as it is, it could be more biting and fresher - the music will make a fan of you. This is definitely sketch comedy with a political slant, but it has a far wider appeal than that might suggest. You don't need to be completely up-to-date with the papers to appreciate it, you just need to have a basic sense of humour. The show is constantly being written and rewritten, and if the team manage to pack in some more topical jokes in time, they have every chance of picking up another star when they head up north for the Edinburgh Fringe.
NewsRevue began previews in London on 10th July and runs until 20th July 2014 at the Canal Café. It will run in Edinburgh from 30th July to 25th August 2014 at the Pleasance Courtyard, as part of the Edinburgh Fringe.
Nearest tube station: Warwick Avenue (Bakerloo)