Josh Dolphin, George McGoldrick and Will Rees make up the 3 constituent parts of the Oxford Revue’s Triptych, their so-called ‘Show with Sound’. So named, and walking into a darkened room with a laptop placed center stage, I was almost expecting to see a parody of a Ruskin student’s installation. But then, as I listened to Rees earnestly reciting from the notebook held in his hand, it felt as if the Revue had transported me to a slightly cringey poetry reading. Judging too by the intense choral music playing before the start of the show, nothing really screamed ‘sketch show’. But this was entirely the point: the comedy thrives off of incongruity, often discussing hilariously mundane subject matters with the most sincere and dramatic of deliveries (where Rees in particular excels). The music, an interesting and effective device throughout the show, made the most of this. It becomes the main premise of the sketch a few times – a catastrophic blunder in an orchestral performance or the gritty hip-hop track that accompanies a cutesy rap about George and Helen having domestic – but otherwise plays underneath scenes, slightly out of place, to create a strange but funny vibe.
Triptych isn’t glittered up at all, no bright lights or sickening levels of energy, churning out one joke after another. This we know from the beginning: instead of bounding Jimmy Carr-style onto the stage the performers walk calmy from their cluster at the back of the stage to take their seats silently, though the entrance music swells up to some incongruous climax. Indeed, it’s not a show that will have you laughing each and every second but this in itself is incredibly effective – there are periods of silence when it’s not clear where the joke is going to come from. But it is always sure to, and during the one scene in which the penny never dropped for me, I still found myself laughing just at Dolphin’s absurd use of physicality.
The performances were rather impressive, and the trio really play to their strengths; it’s easy to spot where a background in theatre acting or music comes through, for instance. Just when I start to make up my mind that theirs is rather wordy comedy, one sound effect becomes the premise of a sketch and, later, a sole digestive biscuit steals the show in a hilariously simple scene. Generally props were few, but used to good effect, and it was nice to see Josh Dolphin’s trademark ‘tinnies’ have a part to play. I sometimes felt that McGoldrick worked better by himself than as part of the joint sketches, but this was only because his solo material was so truly hysterical (anyone unfortunate enough to have missed his show Woodchurch last term should see this if only for the couple of scenes borrowed from it).
It was a shame, as both myself and the group of girls to my right pondered afterwards, that there hadn’t been more of an audience, obviously a huge factor in any comedy show. Yet strangely the relatively sparse audience worked to the show’s credit, in one sense at least. It contributed to the sense that us audience members had awkwardly found ourselves witness to something (again reminiscent of an art show or social experiment), slightly out of our comfort zones, which worked well with the style of the comedy.
The ending was perhaps the most understated moment of all, and a little abrupt; the trio slipped almost apologetically out of their stage personas to mumble some words of thanks and let us out of the theatre. Their humility is endearing, but it didn’t help the audience to leave on a high, something which the quality of the show itself really merited. Nonetheless, Triptych is undeniably a really funny show (with sound), with unique set-ups and a rather unconventional atmosphere.
Image // George McGoldrick