Posts tagged ‘oxford times’

2 September, 2010

Please, Not the Face

Please, Not the Face

Please, Not the Face. Image courtesy of Owen Hughes

Bar 50, 18 – 28 August 2010

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

Please, Not the Face is part of this year’s PBH’s Free Fringe, one of the two largest producers of free festival shows. The typical Free Fringe act takes place in a poky room at the back of a dingy pub, with dodgy sound and lighting equipment and a crowd who haven’t paid, and so feel no obligation to give the act an easy ride.

Twist-Head Productions — named after the sketch show they performed at the Fringe last year — are fortunate to have secured themselves an atypical Free Fringe venue. It is at the back of a bar, but an upmarket one, with ample comfortable seating and a sound system that works. This is just as well, because the show relies on sound effects and short snippets of recognisable tunes to clue the audience in on the setting of each new sketch.

The young company, which includes Headington-born writer-performer Owen Hughes, have mastered step one of performing Fringe comedy, which is to be shameless. Not one of the five performers appears bashful even when performing scatological or sexually explicit material (of which there is a glut in this show).

They’ve also dreamed up a good few promisingly absurd concepts, such as a Pied Piper who can’t connect with today’s youth and a surprise trading standards inspection of Sweeney Todd’s barbershop.

Disappointingly, the company fails to capitalise on these imaginative settings. They seem to assume that as long as the set-up is absurd enough, mere swear words and sexual references transform alchemically into punchlines.

The Free Fringe audience, many of whom have simply wandered in from the bar for lack of anything better to do, is not that easily pleased. What little laughter Please, Not the Face generates is not even audible over the hubbub of the Wednesday night bar crowd beyond the curtain.

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27 August, 2010

The Master and Margarita

David Ralf and Cassie Barraclough in The Master and Margarita

David Ralf and Cassie Barraclough in The Master and Margarita. Image by Amelia Peterson

C soco, 6 – 30 August 2010

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is a dense and complex novel, layered with parallel interconnected plotlines and saturated with theosophical intrigue; so as Rowena Purrett acknowledged in her review earlier this month, to pare it down to 90 minutes is an achievement. Somewhere between Oxford and the Fringe, OUDS have shaved their production down to an even more festival-friendly 80 minutes.

As well as paring down the content — the specific scenes, events and plotlines — OUDS boil down the whole work to a more manageable scale, in the process intensifying some flavours and losing others almost entirely. Where Bulgakov’s novel is a sweeping satire concerned with entire classes and communities, the OUDS production focuses closely on the individual characters: a more dramatic approach, but one that reduces the scope of the themes and ideas from a communal to a capital level.

It’s a shame to dampen the story’s potential for wide-ranging social commentary, especially as Bulgakov’s criticisms of Moscow’s atheist society still apply to ever- larger portions of the Western world; but on the stage, individuals are easier to engage with emotionally than whole societies.

What the production does communicate well is the bleak, decaying atmosphere of the benighted city. The performance space is part of a half-derelict building, all exposed brickwork, cold stone and cracked plaster; a boon for set designer Jessica Edwards. It’s also spacious as festival spaces go, but director Hoehn concentrates most scenes into as small an area as possible, highlighting the isolation of characters outcast for expressing their beliefs.

The performance is an odd mixture of styles. Brecht and Commedia dell’arte are both identifiable influences, and expressionistic movement and dance intrude on relatively naturalistic dialogue; though in a story about the invasion by the supernatural of a wilfully banal society, such intrusions feel thematically appropriate enough not to jar or distract in the least.

Adapted by Raymond Blankenhorn and Max Hoehn

Crew includes Max Hoehn (director), Jessica Edwards (set design), Anouska Lester (costume design), Rachel Beaconsfield Press (make-up design), Eli Keren (lighting designer), Stephen Poole (lighting design), Rosie Hore and Harriet Randall (choreographers)

Cast includes Cassie Barraclough (Margarita), Joe Bayley (Pilate), Raymond Blankenhorn (Ivan/Matthew/Baron Maigel), Ollo Clark (The Master), Bella Hammad (Babushka/Natasya/Praskovya/Natasha/Hella), Max Hoehn (Woland), Jonnie McAloon (Yeshua/Clown), Matthew Monghan (Behemoth), David Ralf (Koroviev/Berlioz/Bengalsky)

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27 August, 2010

The Night Heron

Jacob Lloyd, Kathryn Lewis and Rob Hoare Nairne in The Night Heron

Jacob Lloyd, Kathryn Lewis and Rob Hoare Nairne in The Night Heron. Image courtesy of the Bookstacks marketing and press team

theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, 18 – 28 August 2010

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

Wattmore is a nutcase who sees Satan in the eyes of Cub Scouts. Bolla is a nervy and intense ex-convict. Griffin is resourceful, proactive and loyal but none too bright. The Night Heron, by Jez Butterworth (writer of the recent West End smash Jerusalem), is a character-driven play, powered by the friction that occurs when personalities clash in a confined space. Accordingly, Rabid Monkey Productions concentrate hardest on producing convincing characterisation.

As Wattmore — once a Cambridge University gardener, now something of a pariah — Rob Hoare Nairne is stoop-shouldered: a tall, rangy man too used to making himself appear smaller and less threatening. At once hostile and mournful, he avoids nearly all eye contact — except when gripped by religious fervour.

As Bolla, or Fiona — the new lodger in Wattmore and Griffin’s shack on the marsh, who seems at first to be the answer to their prayers — Kathryn Lewin is in constant nervous motion, pawing at her tracksuit bottoms or flicking her nails against one another. Near the end of the production she takes this to a distracting extreme, contorting both her arms around and about, but for the most part hers is a subtle, focused performance.

As Griffin — who is constantly putting himself at risk to bail Wattmore out of trouble, not that it earns him much gratitude — Jacob Lloyd (pictured with Kathryn Lewin) is saddled with the lion’s share of Butterworth’s trademark quickfire dialogue, and handles it with apparent ease, rattling off lines at speed without ever tripping or becoming difficult to understand.

There’s just one disadvantage to this performance-focused approach to the play, which is that the big picture — the pacing, the arc of the plot — is neglected. The production putters along like a little two-stroke engine, moving at a decent enough pace to maintain our interest but never slowing down or speeding up, even for the climax, which sails by almost unmarked.

Written by Jez Butterworth

Crew includes Will Maynard (director) and Ellie Tranter (designer)

Cast includes James Corrigan (Royce), Alex Harding (Neddy/Jonathan), Rob Hoare Nairne (Wattmore), Kathryn Lewis (Bolla) and Jacob Lloyd (Griffin)

Need a second opinion?

27 August, 2010

Sparkleshark

Rafaella Marcus and Aumna Iqbal in Sparkleshark

Rafaella Marcus and Aumna Iqbal in Sparkleshark. Image courtesy of the Bookstacks marketing and press team

theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, 14 – 28 August 2010

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

Is the pen really mightier than the sword, or is that just a comfortable fiction dreamed up by the people wielding the pens?

In Philip Ridley’s Sparkleshark, a group of teenagers face up to their parents and popularity issues, and even tame the school bully, all through the power of spontaneous storytelling. While it’s important to demonstrate to young people facing similar challenges that the underdog can sometimes triumph, this production isn’t quite believable enough: it comes across as the underdog’s fantasy, rather than as something that could actually happen.

What Ridley’s script asks us to believe — what Bouncy Castle Productions need to make us believe — is that the bully, Russell, would willingly set aside his traditional persecution of shy, creative ‘geek’ Jake (Alex Harding) in order to help act out a fairy tale made up on the spot by Jake and his allies.

Ridley provides several layers of justification for Russell’s turnabout — Jake’s shrewd, subtle flattery; the opportunity to impress some girls; rebellion among his more easily distracted minions — but the performances don’t quite sell that story.

Jack Peters comically overplays Russell as a pantomime heart-throb in the Lord Flashheart mould; he struts, preens and forgets his lackeys’ names with a self-absorbed disregard for anyone’s feelings but his own. This helps establish his bully credentials early on, and partially explains his behaviour — he’s more interested in asserting his own superiority than in any specific grievance against Jake — but makes it difficult to buy into his redemptive arc.

Meanwhile, Fen Greatley plays Shane, Russell’s right-hand man, as a shy and indecisive young poseur, instead of the moody and mysterious figure he’s built up to be before his entrance. When Shane decides to join in Jake’s game he is supposed to pull the more simple-minded Russell along in his wake, but the way Greatley plays him he seems like just the sort that Russell would absent-mindedly crush, not grudgingly follow.

When every member of the cast approaches their role with such enthusiasm, the production can’t help but produce some uplifting moments. When Russell does finally, reluctantly accept his role and settle into his “golden chariot” (a shopping trolley) for a spin around the stage, it’s impossible to resist a little smile.

The spaces between these heartwarming moments, however, are too far apart to hold the attention of the target audience. On the day of this review, there was just one member of the appropriate age group in the audience — and he was fidgeting by 15 minutes in.

Written by Philip Ridley

Crew includes Aumna Iqbal (director), Parisa Azimy (costume designer) and Simon Johnson (lighting designer)

Cast includes Fen Greatley (Shane), Alex Harding (Jake), Aumna Iqbal (Finn), Anna Lewis (Speed), Rafaella Marcus (Polly), Julia McLaren (Natasha), Jack Peters (Russell), Roz Stone (Carol) and Nai Webb (Buzz)

Need a second opinion?

16 August, 2010

The Oxford Revue is Going Places

The Oxford Revue in The Oxford Revue is Going Places

The Oxford Revue in The Oxford Revue is Going Places. Image courtesy of the Underbelly Press Office

Underbelly, 5 – 29 August 2010

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

If Horne and Corden are the Lidl of sketch comedy, and Fry and Laurie are the food court at Harrods, The Oxford Revue is the Waitrose: slightly higher than average quality and catering mostly to the middle class. That is, the majority of their sketches are either pitched at middle-class people, taking the mickey out of them, or both.

First there’s Neville Spank, a physical theatre practitioner in a black turtle-necked jumper, who incompetently purges his feelings about his partner’s infidelity through the medium of interpretative dance. Later, the idea of the “First World problem” is satirised through the hysterical reaction of some middle-class people to a shortage of balsamic vinegar. The Revue can’t even parody daytime chat show Jeremy Kyle without the help of Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx (though I’m sure the said philosophers would be mortified that I am associating them with the middle classes like this).

The closest the group come to actually satirising class boundaries, as opposed to merely sending them up, is in a perceptive and original sketch about the north–south divide. As more and more northerly towns benefit from regeneration, the divide gradually creeps further north, leaving in its wake whole communities of southerners that until recently were northerners. The Revue asks: is there some sort of induction for these new southerners?

The show also features a strong line-up of TV advertisements parodied or otherwise made strange: a shampoo ad as directed by a French arthouse film director, for instance. The best — and, not coincidentally, shortest — sketch in the show is one of these, pointing out that Hitler, while not exactly telegenic, is probably the best advert for contraception that ever lived.

Many of the sketches overshoot their punchlines, some by entire minutes, and the show ends on a very weak note. There are just about enough laughs for an hour-long show, but they are by no means of consistent quality.

16 August, 2010

The Oxford Imps

The Oxford Imps

The Oxford Imps. Image courtesy of the Gilded Balloon Press Office

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 4 – 30 August 2010

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

The Oxford Imps are more peppy by far than anyone has any right to be first thing in the afternoon at the Fringe, where venues routinely programme work well into the small hours of the morning. The success of their show — now a staple of the Festival — depends on it: improvised comedy relies on the contributions and collective goodwill of the audience. This year’s troupe have, therefore, made it their mission to perform so energetically that it motivates not only themselves, but an entire packed auditorium as well.

As always, the whole troupe disco dances with abandon between games. The games themselves are consistently cut short by compère Tom just as they peak, meaning that some skits end before they’ve given all they have to give, but ensuring that onstage energy maintains a relentless high.

Though he carries out this particular duty with a practised sense for pace and comic timing, Tom’s personal brand of enthusiasm quickly begins to grate. As if endeavouring to outdo every one of his colleagues in rousing the audience, he strides restlessly back and forth while introducing each game, jigs distractingly at the side of the stage while each game proceeds, and has a tendency to shout rather than project. Overall, his manner is manic rather than simply excitable, and exhausting rather than energising.

This year’s selection of improvisation games tends heavily towards the musical. The Imps treat us to an improvised charity single based on an issue that slightly irritates the audience, a Motown-style ballad based around names shouted out by the audience, and the pièce de resistance, a 15-minute improvised musical.

Improvising in rhyme, to music, is a proven crowd-pleaser and, due to its challenging nature, something of a hallmark of prowess in improv comedy; but the Imps have little left to prove in that area, and a more balanced programme would be a better showcase of the ensemble’s talents.

16 August, 2010

Wait Until Dark

theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall, 7 – 28 August 2010

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

The original production of Wait Until Dark, the final play by Frederick ‘Dial M For Murder’ Knott, ran for 347 performances on Broadway. Its many revivals have featured such luminaries as Honor Blackman, Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Quentin Tarantino and Marisa Tomei. Horror maven Stephen King called the 1967 screen adaptation the scariest film of all time. So it’s safe to say that Oxford’s BlindSpot Productions are working with solid source material.

A student production, performed in a temporary theatre space, produced on a Fringe budget, can only dream of matching those star-studded forerunners, but BlindSpot shoot for those stars regardless, and their professionalism carries them a remarkable distance considering the means at their disposal.

High production values are in evidence from the outset. The set is a detailed, convincingly lived-in basement flat complete with functioning fridge: the plot demands this detail, but a less ambitious company might have balked at the technical requirements. The high quality of Rachel Beaconsfield Press’s design is marred only by the poor fit of some of the male cast members’ suits, which draws unfortunate attention to the age gap between the performers and their characters.

Wait Until Dark is a period piece, a good old-fashioned slow-burning mystery thriller, and like the script, BlindSpot’s production benefits from some good old-fashioned English understatement. Susy, the recently blinded resident of the flat, and Mike, the supposed friend of her husband who may or may not be her ally in the intricate plot, are both characters that do what must be done with the bare minimum of fuss. So, too, are Charlotte Mulliner (pictured) and Rhys Bevan, the relevant actors. Mulliner’s level-headed performance secures Susy’s role as a competent heroine, not a damsel in distress, while Peters’s efficient portrayal walks just the right line between ambiguous inscrutability and inconsistency.

Alex Jeffries and Matthew Monaghan — who play Croaker and Roat, a sinister pair with an unhealthy interest in Susy’s affairs — would both do well to observe a similar level of understatement. Monaghan over-enunciates, practically spitting his lines, and Jeffries wears a permanent sneer, unsubtly labelling both individuals as unsavoury: a fact that the audience ought to be allowed to realise gradually.

The production as a whole could do with tighter control of the pacing from director Griffith Rees. The cast tend to over-pause, sapping suspense from tense, but not quite heart-stopping, scenes — like the ingenious denouement, which, while demanding that the audience sit up and pay attention, doesn’t quite drag us to the edge of our seats.

Written by Frederick Knott

Crew includes Griffith Rees (director) and Rachel Beaconsfield Press (designer)

Cast includes Rhys Bevan (Mike), Alex Jeffries (Croaker), Agnes Meath Barker (Gloria), Matthew Monaghan (Roat), Charlotte Mulliner (Susy) and Jack Peters (Sam)

20 August, 2009

Big Mac

Sweet ECA, 17 – 23 August 2009

Reviewed for the Oxford Times

Updating Macbeth to modern-day Hollywood is a concept with promise. Celebrity is the new royalty, and defamation in the media is as good as death. Big Mac – developed and presented by pupils of two Oxford schools – delivers on very little of this promise.

The Macbeth figure in this adaptation is Jack Marlin (Charlie Littlewood), an up-and-coming actor overshadowed by his Duncan, Wellesian auteur Dan Cassel (Simon Devenport). Lady Macbeth is Jack’s unfulfilled girlfriend Kitty Parker (Maddy Maxwell), whose lust for fame and fortune is fed not by witches but by three clairvoyant casting agents (and this is where the believability of the update starts to corrode).

With the right execution, updating a Shakespeare play can refresh over-familiar material and demonstrate how its themes apply to modern life. But in this case the familiarity of the source simply makes Big Mac predictable.

Though at one point it seems the play might surprise us, by replacing Cassel’s anticipated murder with the shredding of his reputation by a media lynch mob, a scenario is soon engineered in which he can also be physically slain – because Cassel is Duncan, and Duncan must die.

The script is a litany of corny noir cliché, from “Don’t play dumb with me!” to “You’re making a big mistake!” Played for laughs, this could boldly satirise boilerplate Hollywood screenwriting, but played in earnest, it serves instead to venerate it.

Similarly, the staging – in which every prop is conspicuously labelled and a large pasteboard sign prompts applause – highlights the unreality both of theatre and of Hollywood, but also discourages the audience from engaging with the action.

Yes, the company are all still in their teens; yes, perhaps it is harsh to judge them by the same yardstick as professional productions at the Fringe. But their youth means they have all the time in the world to improve. Their concept is already sound; their execution needs work, that’s all.

Written by the company after William Shakespeare

Crew includes Atri Banerjee, Adam Smith and Jacob Trefethen (directors)

Cast includes Hana Clements (Marguerite), Simon Devenport (Dan Cassel), George Ferguson (Luke Duffy), Tom Gidman (Grain), Charlie Littlewood (Jack Marlin), Maddy Maxwell (Kitty Parker) and Lucy Prendergast (Vitelli)

Need a second opinion?

20 August, 2009

Musical battle of sexes

Written for the Oxford Times, 20 August 2009

There are just seven a cappella choirs listed among the 327 music acts in the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe programme, but almost half of those hail from Oxford. The presence of all-male Out of the Blue and all-female In the Pink in the same building, the main C Venue on Chambers Street, implies an undeclared battle of the sexes. Later in the festival the mixed-gender Oxford Gargoyles will provide relief for those who like their vocal harmonies without added gender politics.

Both Out of the Blue and In the Pink have an impressive festival pedigree. This is In the Pink’s fifth year performing at the Fringe (their fourth at C Venues), though Out of the Blue trump them with three consecutive sell-out years – and if ticket availability is anything to go by, that chain of successes won’t be broken this year. Out of the Blue have also won several awards and recorded an impressive seven CDs, compared to In the Pink’s two.

But none of this should suggest that the all-female group is in any way inferior to its all-male counterpart. The opening performance of In the Pink’s Festival run suffered from misplaced spotlights and unexpected blackouts, but even when plunged into darkness just before a crucial hook the group remained professional and held fast to the rhythm. Their vocal arrangements maintained a good deal of momentum in the basslines, in mellower numbers by Coldplay and Leonard Cohen as well as more upbeat tunes from Eurythmics and Girls Aloud. Certain soloists were almost drowned out by their colleagues, but prolonged and enthusiastic applause stamped the audience’s seal of approval on the run right from the first performance.

Also in C’s Chambers Street venue are the viscerally-named EatTheBaby Productions, with an equally visceral production of Anthony Burgess’s classic novel A Clockwork Orange (pictured). The same production has already enjoyed a sell-out run back home in Oxford, proving that Oxford’s theatregoers are unafraid of graphic violence on stage. The company’s practised and well-choreographed beatings, muggings, and sexual assaults disturbingly conjure up the unrelenting violence of the world in which the novel is set.

Some of the performances, however, are less real. The main character, Alex, has a superior expression, head on one side, which seems genuinely capable of driving authority figures to the extreme measures they employ to control him; but he is otherwise unthreatening.

The priest who provides the moral objection to the brainwashing Ludovico Technique is often too quiet to be heard from two rows back, and the characterisation of most of the minor roles is perfunctory at best.

The play seems populated not by people, but by types speaking lines, though this has little impact on the moral message of the show (that a person denied the right to choose freely between good and evil is no longer a person at all).

In unfortunate contrast, the flaws of the Oxford University Dramatic Society’s Doctor Faustus do obscure the play’s morals, as well as most of its plot. An apparent lack of consistent direction leaves the stage jumbled with images and tableaux, each one potentially profound, but isolated from any kind of overarching aesthetic; and Faustus, regendered to female with no discernible intent, has to be encouraged by a fellow in the front row to ‘speak up!’ Physical theatre company Idle Motion provide a welcome break from casual violence and Satanic bargains with their tender, ingenious look at life’s ironies and the importance of childhood, through the life of Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Borges and I (reviewed last week) is a highlight of Oxford’s contribution to the 2009 Festival Fringe.

The face of Oxford at this year’s festival is youthful, professional, accomplished, even progressive or innovative in some cases – but also almost exclusively white.

With the possible exception of the Lincoln Players, Corpus Christi organ scholar Dorothea Harris and jazz tribute band Miles Ahead, all of whom have yet to begin performing, Oxford appears to have sent only one or two non-white performers to the Fringe.

While this realisation shouldn’t in any way devalue the performers’ considerable achievements, it also shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed.

This year, Oxford’s creatives have proven themselves capable and, above all, enthusiastic.

Perhaps next year they can go one better, and prove themselves diverse and inclusive as well.

13 August, 2009

Students go for laughs

Written for the Oxford Times, 13 August 2009

For one month every year, representatives from across the international arts community converge on Edinburgh for the biggest cultural festival in the world. Edinburgh Festival (which actually comprises a number of simultaneous festivals, from the International Book Festival to the mighty Festival Fringe) provides a chance to gauge the state of the arts the world over, without travelling beyond the city limits.

This means that for one month every year, Oxford’s cultural life is under the microscope in front of the whole world. So who are Oxford’s cultural ambassadors this August, and what kind of face do they present to the world?

The short answer is a young and highly educated one. In fact, an outsider could be forgiven for thinking Oxford was populated exclusively by students. Almost all of the city’s contributions to the Festival Fringe appear to be affiliated to Oxford University.

Between them, the acts showcase three distinct sides of the Oxford performing arts scene: straight theatre, music, and comedy.

Representing straight theatre are Keble College’s EatTheBaby Productions, with their adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange; Oxford University Dramatic Society with their version of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus; and the Lincoln Players, performing Alan Ayckbourn’s The Norman Conquests.

The musical contingent is composed mostly of a cappella choirs. All-male group Out of the Blue are once again a strident presence on the Royal Mile. The gender balance is redressed by all-female group In the Pink and mixed-gender, cross-college choir The Oxford Gargoyles. A recital by Corpus Christi organ scholar Dorothea Harris and a tribute to jazz legend Miles Davis provide a contrast to all that vocal harmonising.

Finally, the Oxford Revue are performing a sketch-based comedy show entitled Etch-a-Sketch, and the Oxford Imps return after six consecutive sell-out runs to reprise their Whose Line Is It Anyway?-style improvised comedy show. These two acts are the world’s window into Oxford’s sense of humour, and it would appear the people of Oxford are especially ticklish in the language centres: puns are a pivotal element of both shows.

One entire round of the Imps’ show is given over to rapid-fire punning on a theme suggested by the audience. The troupe’s wordplay becomes increasingly elaborate as the immediately obvious options are exhausted, and players are eliminated based on the volume of the audience’s groans.

One of the Oxford Revue’s best sketches is actually little more than a flurry of painful yet hilarious alphabet-based gags, based around a vowels-only party crashed by the letter Y.

Puns are all very well, but rely on them too heavily and your sense of humour begins to appear excessively cerebral and detached from the world beyond the footlights. Like most improvisational comedy acts, the Oxford Imps allow the audience’s contributions to shape the action, so that people leave with a feeling of having participated in something, rather than simply watched. Beyond that, however, the show never claims to offer more than a silly hour of laughs, which it delivers.

Meanwhile, the Oxford Revue flirt with satire. One sketch portrays Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as a petulant teenager who doesn’t want to share. Another takes the form of a lecture, explaining the concept of political correctness through extreme examples of how not to do it. These sketches rely more heavily on absurdism than satire to get laughs, as do their send-ups of Australian soap Neighbours and Danny Boyle film Slumdog Millionaire.

The Revue really shine when they combine send-up and satire, in a Harry Potter parody that compares Hogwarts School’s exclusive entry requirements to those of the public school system – and villain Lord Voldemort, who wants the privileged wizards to rule over the non-magical Muggles, to David Cameron.

Oxford’s student comedy acts prove beyond doubt that they are capable not only of making their peers laugh in the safe environment of the college, but also of making total strangers laugh in the highly competitive environment of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Not only that, but they present a positive, rounded image of the city – unabashedly intellectual, yet politically aware, and happy to accept input from others – for the whole world to see.