Student sketch comedy seems to follow a very precise formula: primary-coloured t-shirts, a pop-py dance opening, larger-than-life characters and a careful selection of blackout interlude songs. In all these respects, Oxford Revue: Switcheroo was no exception - with its relatively small cast of three (t-shirts, tick; dance opening, tick) taking us through various thirty-second sketches (larger-than-life characters, tick; blackout music, tick) over the course of the evening.
What was refreshing about Switcheroo was that it felt largely escapist. Politics undoubtedly makes excellent fodder for comedy, but student comedy tackling contemporary politics is all-too-often either exhausting and/or painfully edgy. Switcheroo avoided this altogether, mining into a far more varied selection of topics than the usual selection of re-hashed jokes about Brexit and so-called ‘PC culture’. In being relatively detached from the contemporary moment, much of Switcheroo took on a more absurdist slant (e.g. Hungry Hippos as a 1950s kitchen sink drama) - and these sketches were undoubtedly its strongest. In particular, the running gag (“X from the perspective of Y”, e.g. “Goldilocks and the Three Bears from the perspective of the oats”) was enjoyable and made it clear that the Oxford Revue are more than capable of writing clever comedy.
Holding Switcheroo back was perhaps its overreliance on overacting. Many of the sketches, in lieu of a punchline, seemed to go on for longer than needed, and generated comedy through a given performer being made to look slightly daft, more so than the ‘content proper’. It felt like, where Switcheroo needed to push concepts deeper, it simply pushed them further. That is, I wanted to see more comedy which let the situation get the laughs - which Switcheroo was so, so successful at doing at points - and not simply an audience laughing at a caricatured rendering of a given character.
The cast deserve major props for holding the space for an hour. Especially in a performance without an obvious arc, this is no mean feat and a real testament to the degree of skill on offer. I only wish the content had given more consistent scope for them to showcase their comedic capabilities.