One of the only qualities that can consistently be expected from one Audrey to another is variation. Audrey IX, the first in this year’s series of Revue-hosted get-togethers, was no different. The Wheatsheaf’s cosy upstairs room is the setting for this year’s raft of comics and sketch artists: male and female, students and townsfolk, and – most apparently – good and bad.
The Audreys aim to give Oxford’s comedy culture a kick-start, getting a constant flow of fresh faces under one roof – essentially, mimicking the Cambridge Footlights’ successul ‘Smokers’ formula, but with a greater emphasis on getting comedy novices in front of audiences.
Judging from the tightly packed, beery and boisterous audience of around 100 people, there’s a real appetite in Oxford for new stand-up; with no fewer than 10 acts, there was enough fresh meat to satisfy it. Overall, it was a good batch; best were the sketch and character actors, with David Meredith contributing a wild-eyed, enchanting and utterly surreal turn as mentally-unhinged salesperson “Sandra”, and Jack Chisnall a devilish, acutely well-observed satire on the Oxford fellow. There were some strong female performers, too, with Emma Levinkind’s slick and energetic slot standing out in particular. Unfortunately, though, the fact that Audreys are comparatively open to inexperienced acts means that some fall flat, even in this most convivial of atmospheres – Will Winlow’s affected, beer-swigging swagger was not redeemed by a series of hackneyed anecdotes about work and lectures.
Last on the bill was the highlight of the night: the special guest appearance of sketch trio The Awkward Silence. Ralph Jones, Vyvyan Almond and Alexander Fox put on a brilliant and bizarre 10 minutes of oddity, quirk, and Viggo Mortensen coming for tea. If the Oxford comedy scene can produce this bunch, the future’s bright for Audrey freshers. The Revue have got quantity, of both acts and audiences – and at this show we saw the start of some real quality.
Audreys are on at the Wheatsheaf pub every other Tuesday at 9pm. £3, non-ticketed.