No Strings

Not another student sketch show?! Bear with me, this one’s above the rest. Instead of attempting to reinvent the art of comedy, this quartet keep it simple by repackaging every inside joke of the 90s-baby generation you’ve ever heard and sending it right back at us.

The pace of the performance is relentless without being overwhelming, with a careful balance between one-liners, musical numbers and more lengthy sketches.

‘We’re at the centre of the earth’ Will Hislop declares at the beginning of the show and in the polytunnel like venue that is Just the Tonic at The Caves, he could well be right. Props and set remain minimal which reinforces the no-frills approach of the show, keeping the focus very much on the punchlines. The group replaces these frills with musical items and interludes which never feel disjointed from the performance and go to reinforce the ‘that 90s kid’ vibe they’ve got going.

It’s hard to summarise the highlights of the show without falling into the trap of ‘oh, well you had to be there,’ because the performance is so carefully held together by narrative positioning and group delivery. This was highlighted by some ‘incongruous poeticism’ from Georgia Bruce playing a Zooey Deschanel-type vocalist which was absolutely faultless. References to Boris Johnson downing a pint, the Bullingdon Club and the boundaries of sexuality also wouldn’t be done justice by a reviewer with no comic timing whatsoever but (along with the short guides to feminism, communism and capitalism), remain some of the most memorable highlights of any show I’ve seen this year.

The pace of the performance is relentless without being overwhelming, with a careful balance between one-liners, musical numbers and more lengthy sketches. Added to this is the (albeit rather loose) sense of an overall narrative arc, such as a recurring ‘friend zone’ joke between Bruce and Hislop, David Meredith’s (hopefully fictional) obsession with the Nazis and search for a catchphrase that culminates in ‘I’ve got an app for that’. This results in Meredith merely having to walk on stage to prompt a laugh by the end of the performance - an impressive feat indeed. The group as a whole are sickeningly talented in both music and comedy but the two are always tastefully combined, not just included to show off. Even though Meredith’s musical talent shines through in his duet with Hislop during a rendition of I See You Everywhere which features a saxophone solo that George Michael would be proud of, this doesn’t overwhelm the lyrics. Before I ruin every punchline for you, you’ve got to go and see No Strings, and by the looks of the sell-out crowd on Saturday night, you won’t be first in the queue. With ‘Beyonce on the recorder and Jay-Z on the sax’, it’s one heck of a show.

Reviews by Jack Chown

Gilded Balloon

The Sons of Pitches

★★★
C venues - C

The Oxford Gargoyles: Jazz a Cappella

★★★★
Just The Tonic at the Caves

No Strings

★★★★★
Just The Tonic at the Caves

Big Brass

★★★★
C venues - C

The Blues Brothers- Live

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

No Strings is a new sketch show comprising members of the Oxford Revue, past and present, that features one hour of fast-paced, rollicking comedy, ranging from an a capella Ant & Dec to a papal sitcom. The show turns around a central narrative about the performers themselves, as they grapple with jealousy, line-learning and unrequited love, culminating in a rousing finale that tackles injustice through the medium of musical theatre. Fresh from our last show in Oxford and a national tour of London, Cambridge and Durham, No Strings presents the best material from our last three sell-out productions.