Review – comedy at Revival Festival

Monday, July 16 2012

LiF reviewer Sarah Sharp is utterly enchanted by the decadent den set up by the Revival Festival in Marylebone, and picked up some Edinburgh tips along the way

Revival Festival at Marylebone Gardens

Well, the Edinburgh season is almost upon us and it’s all hands on deck for previews, sneak peeks, and last minute cobblings together before the bastard month of the comedy monster sinks its teeth in.

Coinciding with this period of relative panic on the London circuit is the arrival of the Revival Festival, an indoor bar and venue in Marylebone (apparently not too far from the original Marylebone Gardens of yore) that has been showcasing cabaret and comedy for the past few weeks.

Its comedy offering has been Edinburgh previews – and being previews they won't be formally reviewed on this website, but for a few flavour-giving teasers – and tonight it was the turn of Helen Arney (geekery, music), Gemma Arrowsmith (character) and Kate Smurthwaite (current affairs). Arney and Arrowsmith bounced through their routines with infectious enthusiasm, and Smurthwaite rounded it all off with a wry look at some of the delectable offerings from the Daily Mail of late. It was an evening that incorporated songs, sketches, science and satire, and to one and indeed all I would simply say – GO AND SEE THEM, EACH ONE.

As a line-up they complemented each other nicely. Arrowsmith’s sketches were silly, snide and tender in just the right mix – she’s a consummate performer, and showcases a wide command of accents, age ranges, and indeed species. A scathing flick through today’s TV entertainment was flanked by bits with a dog that got an audible heartbroken ‘Awww!’ from everyone in the audience (including the blokes on the front row pretending not to be bothered).

Arney’s crash course in all things geek had us singing a googol and revisiting GCSE maths – subjects that could so easily be abhorrent in a comedy show. (This science stuff has been infiltrating the comedy stage more and more lately, and this humanities maths-phobic grad isn’t sure how she feels about that – but Arney is so likable, and her songs so wonderful, that it really does make you want to pick up Pythagoras again, or at least steal a peek at a graph). If you are making your merry way to Edinburgh this summer, do try also to catch her lunchtime show with Rob Wells, Domestic Science (Free Fringe!).

The only real feminist-heavy thwack came from Smurthwaite at the end with extracts from her topical show The News at Kate. She handles weighty material without every getting preachy and owns the stage, but is never overbearing. And if her rapport with the lads on the front row was anything to go by, she deals deftly with a vociferous audience too.

The venue itself is utterly enchanting. It is underground, so it feels like a little den you've cleverly discovered, and the stage is flanked by a spiral staircase which just adds to the feeling that you're hiding out from the outside world. The bar is out of the way upstairs, which leaves the performance space nicely undisturbed. The stage is intimate but not poky, with three or four cushion-strewn rows, tables and chairs, various artefacts of Victorian furniture, and some actual pews down the side. Priceless. And perfect for this kind of varied set. The presence of chaise longues did encourage some raucous lounging from certain folk who imagined they were Roman diners being courted by dancing girls, rather than part of an audience watching comedy (again! Blokes at the FRONT!) – but the remedy is simple: get in early and bag ALL the chaise longues.

There’s another triple bill lined up for July 28, with more musical & character comedy shake up from Mae Martin and Alison Thea-Skot, as well as a reprise from the "angle"-voiced Arney. If you like your comedy with clever sprinkles on top and a light serving of whimsically worded strum-alongs, I suggest you go thither and nab yourself a longue or two.

Review written by Sarah Sharp


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