Homecoming, the Melbourne Uni Law Revue’s 2016 edition, saw the student devised sketch comedy back on the stage where it first started, at the Union House Theatre. Written, devised, and performed by the cast, Homecoming’s sketches didn’t really have anything to do with the idea of a homecoming, apart from the opening rap. I expected the 80s prom theme to be something that all the sketches were centred around, but instead the show was a mixed bag of unrelated pieces. It wasn’t what I expected, but it worked so much better. The audience was thrown back and forth through time, topics, fantasy and reality. It made it easier to suspend disbelief, abandon real-world logic and let ourselves laugh.
The show’s comedic impact thrived on this variety; a bit of slapstick, comedy of errors, musical numbers, and satirical humour. The show worked best when it was clever – when each line was perfectly crafted, when it was controversial without being distasteful, and the socio-political messages were subtle but tangible – and the majority of it was. It was also clever in the sense that the sketches harnessed the actors’ strong suits. One highlight was a Beatles inspired sketch that had Michael Marinelli and Toby Woolley pulling off Liverpudlian accents as John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The six months of work that went into creating the show resulted in an ensemble with synergy and a definite sense of camaraderie on stage. Lines bounced off of one another with a timing that seemed just right, but still unscripted. Actors Toby Woolley and Ella Lawry stood out. Both brought a heightened energy and commitment to what they were doing every second on stage, giving their characters a larger than life quality.
As well as live sketches, there were quite a few short film clips interspersed through the two hours, which kept the audience engaged and opened up comedic pathways that just wouldn’t have worked on stage. There were, however, a few pieces that just missed the mark for me – one fantasy musical number that just had too much going on, a sketch about shoehorns that I think just went over my head, and a driving school clip that had so much potential, but fizzled out. Moments when the audience could relate were moments when the theatre erupted with laughs. These were also times when it was clear that the show fit a niche. It was a production made by young Melbourne University students, for just that crowd; with references to current pop-culture, as well as jabs at politics, religion, and social issues that worked for a liberal audience. This specific niche both helped and hindered the show, at least on this particular night. Quite a few audience members didn’t quite slot into the target demographic, and some of the humour was lost on them. A middle-aged woman in front of me asked, ‘What’s Pokémon?’ during one scene, and seemed at a loss during a sketch that referenced the increasing (and concerning) use of the word ‘bae’.
Although the ‘homecoming’ element of performing back at Union House seemed to be an important feature to the cast and crew, I think that a smaller space would have lent itself well to the show. If the audience was less conscious of the fact that they were in a theatre they might have let go of even more inhibition, embraced more fully the various worlds created for them, and laughed a little louder.
The Melbourne Uni Law Revue’s Homecoming ran from July 28th – 30th and August 5th – 6th in Union House Theatre.