Commissioned by TCS who then refused to print his review, LAURIE COLDWELL feels his experience at the Medics Revue is one that needs to be shared.

Wednesday 24th – Saturday 27th, 11.00 at the ADC Theatre.  £4-5.

[rating:0.5/5]

Laurie Coldwell was sent to the Medics Revue by TCS.  They refused to publish the review he wrote.

I’m on the bridge now, the indifferent, dark and violent waters swirling beneath my feet. They tell me it’s a long way down, but I wouldn’t know yet. I’ve tied a sack of bricks round my waist and I really do hope it’s enough.

I thought I was doing alright. I thought I was coping, but now it’s clear I wasn’t. That was apparent when I got the call from my editor: I was to review the ‘Medics’ Revue’. My heart sank, my breathing quickened. How was I to review a show that left its apostrophe out of its own title? How was that show even going to make any – never mind grammatical – sense?

They sent me last year. I told them not to, but they did – no-one listens to me. Last year David Nicholson-Thomas’ lighting was exemplary. The lights went on, the lights went off, in perfect time and harmony, no matter what collapse of humour and threat to human evolution was taking place on stage. Perhaps he would be here this time, to hold my hand and illuminate the darkness. There was no such luck. There was just Sarah James, for whose sake, I hope had broken arms, for every scene faded slowly up and slowly down, no matter what the performers were doing on stage. There was enough screaming agony echoing through the impenetrable caverns of my mind for her not to prolong it.

It started with a video. It was confusing and it terrified me. I just couldn’t comprehend it. I couldn’t understand what it was for. Why were people laughing? It took me a while to realise. They were medics: they were recognising people in their lectures. “Look there’s Yang Chen doing a funny face. Ahahahahahaha. He’s in my lectures!” I made a mental note to never go to the doctors. How could I ever trust people that laugh when they recognise people? How was that right? Millions must die at school reunions each year.

But the laughter slowly died as the show went on. The novelty of recognition lost itself. Amidst poor projection, poor, lazy song parodies, poor performance and without the sympathy real poverty engenders, laughs only came from shock. I sank into my shell and started to count the sketches. Surely numbers would not mock me too. 6 sketches, 7 sketches – my strength grew in the security of discrete numbering. So secure, so safe and not at all awkward to watch. But then a roar of laughter came from the audience. Someone had said “What, you want to shit on my face?” Medics collapsed in the aisles, I think because faeces is a little bit medical and because swearing is a little bit naughty.

I didn’t, as it happens, want to shit on Jessie Ke’s face either, though I certainly felt she deserved some on there – I was distracted by the physical excellence of Andrew Melville. Adrift in a sea of bad writing, here was a medic I knew. Medics can be funny, clever people too – just like the ones I’d befriended in my lifetime. It was there in his eyes, just not in the words in his mouth.

And that’s what it was: lazy writing where respected Sir Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’ is turned into ‘Conkers’, where ‘The woman who swallowed a fly’ becomes a post-mortem and anything about sex is to be giggled about. Especially if it’s Tinky Winky talking about ‘Tubby Custard’. Amidst all this, if Andrew Melville, with that careful physical talent of his and that knowing look in his eye couldn’t save some laughter from the blundering of his fellow performers and the words in their mouths – if he couldn’t do that, what hope was there for any of us in this world?

I packed my stuff up during the S Club 7 finale. It was something stereotyped, but I had told my eyes and ears to not work in case my brain stopped working; there were tasks to do yet that I needed it for. I walked through the ADC bar, faces giddy from ‘The Merchant of Venice’, no doubt. How could they ever understand what had happened in that hour, with their happy faces? They couldn’t. They still had hope for the world.

I found some bricks on Thompson’s Lane, near Jesus Green. They were heavy – friendly, even. I’m on the bridge now, the indifferent, dark and violent waters swirling beneath my feet. They tell me it’s a long way down.

  • Anna

    but WHY wouldn't they publish your review? everyone said the medics [sic] review was terrible!

  • Name

    Fantastic. Well done to the Tab for not being a big wimpy, TCShit.

  • brilliant

    laurie, this is a fantastically well written review. tcs' loss is the tab's gain.

  • michael

    this is a thing of true beauty

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jackrivlin jackrivlin

    this is very very good

  • Good on TCS!

    Not knowing anything about journalism, I can't be sure why TCS didn't publish this review. But I could guess. Maybe it's because this review has single-handedly -and with brute force- dashed the effort, work, and (probably) confidence of the medics in this review. And it's not unique characteristic in Cambridge journalism, but it sure is an ugly one. This is an amateur, reviewing amateurs! It seems so often, and so easily, forgotten that we are all students, having fun, trying things out, giving things a shot. If they go terribly wrong, why do other students take such joy in pointing it out? Such lack of tolerance or graciousness, coupled with a reviewer's self-indulgence, is terrifically awful.
    This is particularly true of comedy (ICE, Smokers, the Medics Revue, you name it, the reviews hate it) where people have written their own material. This takes an enormous amount of time and effort, and puts one in an incredibly vulnerable situation, and they do so for the simple reason of wanting their audience to enjoy it. If you don't? Don't go again. Keep quiet. Come on Cambridge, where's the comradery?!

    • Giulia G

      No one doubts the good intentions of the Medics in question, and the time they invested in putting on this show – surely this is true for pretty much every piece of theatre. Sometimes the resultant show will be good – I have seen plenty of drama in Cambridge that transcends the 'amateur' context you refer to – but sometimes, despite effort that went into making it, it will be really, really bad. As a reviewer, you have a duty to reflect this. You can't commend someone simply for having written some stuff, learnt it, and stood onstage saying it; it would be incredibly patronising to do so. All artistic endeavours should be open to criticism, and benefit from it. I appreciate that getting a bad review is heartbreaking for writers and performers, but it should ultimately be an opportunity to learn and improve. I think it is disappointing that TCS took this review down – it may be contentious, but it also constructive and well-written, which, surely, is what theatre criticism should be all about.

      • Hmm..

        There is very little (if anything) constructive about this review. As for 'well-written', it might have all the apostrophes in the right places but the snidey tone ruins it for me.

        I understand reviewers are there to tell the truth and be honest about what they see (this isn't a debate about the admittedly questionable role they have in Cambridge – how exactly do we choose who is qualified to have the judgments they pass on others venerated in such upstanding publications as this?).

        My gripe, and it's one I think I share with 'Good on TCS', and maybe also with the TCS theatre editor, is the nasty way this article has been written – it's patronising to those who were laughing in the audience, as well as throughly unconstructive, condescending and mean-spirited towards the writers/performers (I didn't see the Medics' review, but i think the idea of 'the old woman who swallowed a fly' as an autopsy is pretty funny).

    • Mungo Bannister

      What is a 'tolerant' review?

      'You're shit, but I respect you.'

  • baz

    yeah, but alcock improv and smokers are usually funny. this was just wank. amatuer it may be, but people paying £5 to see a show still expact a basic level of competency. keep quiet?! what do you expect? this isn't north korea. great review, sign this guy up permanently.

  • Charlie Ashford

    I wrote a response to this review, which TCS also refused to publish. Here it is…

    A review of a “review” of a revue by Charlie Ashford

    Much like Laurie Coldwell, I found myself in a state of depression last week, and for the same reason – his appointment as reviewer of “The Medics Revue” at the ADC. However, where his suicidal tendencies apparently stemmed from contemplating watching the show, I was more concerned with the output he would produce in response. My concern was not without cause – Coldwell reviewed the show last year too, with awful consequences.

    However, as I surveyed his article (since removed) on TCS's website, I realised that I simply had not set my expectations low enough. Laurie Coldwell has obviously changed in the past year, and not for the better. Whereas the Coldwell of yesteryear contented himself with snide remarks and sweeping generalisations along the lines of “only medics found it funny” (something that puzzled me, being an economist), this year his review consists of a string of bizarre personal attacks on cast, crew, and anyone who looked at him in a funny way.

    I'm getting ahead of myself here. His opening remarks about suicide dispensed with, Coldwell strangely chose to begin his criticism with a bit of grammar-Nazism – apparently “Medics Revue” should have an apostrophe in it (no word yet on whether the decades-old Footlights Revue will also have to change its name because Laurie says so). Continuing onwards, Coldwell's next target is the lighting technician, whose “broken arms” were apparently the cause of the lights going up and down a bit slower than he would have liked them to. I half-expected the next paragraph to criticise the comfiness of his chair, or complain that there wasn't enough ice in his gin and tonic. Boo-hoo Laurie, boo-hoo.

    But no, half-way down the page Coldwell finally remembers that there's a show he's supposed to be reviewing. Unfortunately, the nitpicking and abuse have hardly begun. I thought the opening video was a brilliant take on “home-made” horror movies like The Blair Witch Project, which carefully trod the fine parodic line between believability and farce. According to Coldwell, I was laughing because I recognised my friend in the cast.

    The review continues in a similar vein – laughs were due merely to the thrill of recognising fellow students in the cast, or because of obscure medical references, or because of “naughty” language. Meanwhile, the parody of “Bonkers” (which became “Conkers”) was apparently unacceptable because Dizzee Rascal is “respected”. “Some people pay for thrills/I get mine from a tree” was one of my favourite lines of the show, but apparently I mustn't laugh, because Mr. Rascal must be taken seriously.

    Coldwell's only praise, which (rightly) congratulated Andrew Melville on his performance, bizarrely comes straight after a lengthy rant about a sketch written and performed in by Melville. Let me help you out here Laurie, since you were obviously already too busy venting spleen onto paper to even pay attention by this point. The “roar of laughter” in response to the sketch had nothing to do with the line “What, you want to shit on my face?” but from Melville's sublimely delivered response 10 seconds later, possibly the funniest use of the word “yes” I've ever heard (honestly, you had to be there – and Coldwell obviously wasn't).

    The lowest point of the review, though, comes when Coldwell decides that he hasn't quite scraped the bottom of the barrel yet, and declares that one cast member really does deserve shit on her face. No mention of the laughs she produced throughout the show. No mention of the wonderful singing voice which she revealed towards the end. No – Laurie Coldwell wants excrement smeared on her face.

    Of course the show wasn't perfect. Of course not all of the jokes were to everyone's tastes. But for Coldwell to decry the reaction of every member of the audience except himself as somehow due to ignorance or immaturity is colossally arrogant. I'll be the first to admit that attacking someone in print is enjoyable, and from the current reaction of my housemate I'm guessing it's fun to read too, but that's no excuse for the torrent of abuse which Laurie Coldwell seems to think constitutes a review. To take a leaf out of your book Laurie – I don't know why you seem to have such a vendetta against medics, but I sincerely hope that it's due to some awful childhood experience at the hands of a doctor, you absolute cunt.

  • Angry Economist

    What is your vendetta against shit Laurie? Did a bad sketch comic touch you inappropriately as a child?

  • Joe

    No I think Laurie exactly didn't what shit on her face, or did you get so excited by that image that you stopped reading?