History / Timeline

[Editor's note: This summary of the Group's history is principally a transcript of an article written by Keith Macdougall and/or Mike Day in 1986, for the tenth anniversary reunion show Ten.]


Like all good births, Revue Group's was of humble origin. A confused, chaotic meeting in a filthy Students' Union office, on January 28th 1976.

The group stumbled nervously to its first ever production, a show made up of sketches brought in by the first 20 or so members. Held in the Chaplaincy Centre on 9 and 10 March 1976, it was called Can We Have Our Money Back?. Fortunately, the audience didn't ask the question.

Beginning to have confidence and the sketches beginning to flow feely from members' pens, the group smartly followed the first revue up with a second, just two months later, again in the Chaplaincy Centre. It was called The Left Handed Screwdriver Show.

Revue Group then took on its bravest step to date, a move to the Nuffield Theatre for the first time for its third show, The Free Tenth Unit. Perhaps the group learnt from this that a large cast doesn't make for a slick production.


Then to 1977 - this time four revues. The first, When The Boot Goes In, was held in the Chaplaincy Centre and contained probably the group's funniest sketches thus far.

By this time the group had decided to go to the Edinburgh Fringe to stage a revue. By way of a build-up, the group put on a "Best Of" compilation at the Nuffield in May 1977 called Golden Mouldies, repeating some of the successful sketches from the group's first two years.

So to our first visit to Edinburgh - in August 1977. Haley's Vomit suffered the huge problems of being one amongst hundreds of Fringe shows and being in a poor location. It was a disappointment but good experience none the less.

Returning from Edinburgh, the group set about producing the autumn term show. Nuns And Lovers was the group's Dardanelles: a combination of lack of experience, material and time led to a less than satisfactory show.


Undeterred by N&L, we bounced back with Spar Wars. The scripts were written, the actors rehearsed and all was set to go ... but we had not counted on the manageress of Spar. She thought we would bring the shop into disrepute with jokes about Spar prices, vegetables and pre-packaged product. None the less the show was successful. [Editor's note: We actually had a very nice letter from one of Spar's directors, giving us specific permission to use their name in the show's title.]

Then came Edinburgh once more, a new team, filled with hope, was once again despatched to the Athena of the north. We had a somewhat difficult venue. It was a soft porn cinema. As you can imagine we got a rather different sort of audience. On the second night there was a murder in the toilets and a doorman was involved in a hit-and-run accident. But we had two successful nights with Lancashire Hot Pot. After a scathing newspaper review we started to outnumber the audience.

The next campus show, Fanfare For The Common Cold, restored flagging spirits, but for some reason we were left with only a few members, which led to a membership drive. This only yielded one person ... and he was a poet.


The group recovered sufficiently to put on The Road To Morecambe Pier, which again went down well.

It was at this time that the idea of the Kick The Squirrel Roadshow came into being. The idea was to give local campus societies, bands and individual performers the opportunity to perform anywhere, anytime, for anyone. It was started by Revue Group along with Community Action Group; the idea was also to give people as much experience as possible with every conceivable type of audience.

So for the next five summers KTS toured the north west, visiting kids' homes, pubs, clubs, streets and anywhere else that would have us. The highlight was probably the Illawalla Country Club in 1983, where we were paid to go off. KTS meant that we could only concentrate on one show a year.


In 1980 A Fistful Of Dossers became one of our most notable successes; it was the start of having running themes, something which later Revue members perfected to produce far more polished performances.


Dark Side Of The Lune was another watershed, performed with mostly new members. Some inspired acting and improvisation made up for a patchy show. Virtually the entire cast re-appeared in Rodrigo Borgia Invites (1982) and quite a few lasted into Shame (1983). In each of these the 'theme' was carried through a number of small sketches and fillers as well as the finales.


Postcard From Passchendaele strictly adhered to its 'War and Prejudice' theme without sacrificing entertainment value, and it had the highest proportion of last-minute additions of any of the later revues.


Rhapsody On Glue returned to a night-club format as tried in earlier years and included Revue Group's long-awaited attempt to deal with the shortage of sketches for women.


Revue To A Kill was a 'fresh' show, with most of the cast making their debut, in the Nuffield. This was the title used for the return of Revue Group to Edinburgh after an eight-year absence.

[Editor's note : The original article, written for the audience of Ten, naturally finishes at this point. The following additions have been made to round out the Group's history, based on current information. If you know more, please pass on your recollections.]

In September 1986, an assortment of former members, including several of the group's founders, gathered at that year's Graduate Weekend and performed a retrospective compilation in the Nuffield, appropriately entitled Ten. Despite having only a day to rehearse, the show went well.


This year's Nuffield show, Much Revue About Nothing, was followed in the summer by another visit to the Edinburgh Fringe with Fine Lines Rough Sketches. A contemporary report says that the Edinburgh critics were "very kind" and that the show was much the same as the Nuffield revue earlier in the year.


The next Nuffield show was called Where Beagles Dare. Interestingly, this was an unused candidate title for both Haley's Vomit and Nuns and Lovers, a decade earlier. Coincidence or good record keeping?!


The main campus show was again in the Nuffield, this time called The Fish They Couldn't Hang, followed by another trip to Edinburgh with the gloriously titled Socks and Violence. Mark Oswin recalls of the latter:

We shared the venue with Oxford Revue, who at that time included Stewart Lee, Richard Herring and Al Murray (all in their final year). We hung out with them a fair bit and this became the start of an informal relationship between Lancaster and Oxford, which culminated with Helên arranging an "exchange" the following year during Sheepy Sheep's Edinburgh run and going on to perform a show at Oxford Uni. The Oxford guys really liked one of our sketches called "Funny Hair", written by Jamie and performed by me and Helên. I met Al Murray at a table read many years later and as soon as I mentioned Lancaster Revue he shouted "Funny Hair!".


The turn of the decade saw a campus show called A Room With Revue at the Nuffield. According to the programme, this show featured a cast of just 8 people. A far cry from some of LURG's early shows, which featured enough people for two football teams, including substitutes!

Another Edinburgh show followed later in the year. This was the bizarrely titled The Friends of Sheepy Sheep, a reference to a full-sized model ovine of the same name which appeared in the show. This was one of three shows under the umbrella of the Lovely Plays Production Concern, put together to share the otherwise crippling costs. Remarkably, the show made a profit (a princely £13 each)! It got a favourable review in "The List" and was visited by Ken Campbell and Jack Dee. This appears to have been LURG's last visit to the Fringe.


Iota was this year's Nuffield show. The Nuffield programme described the show thus: "The year 1991 is special in two ways. Firstly, it is the year in which Lancaster University Revue Group put on their comedy show IOTA. Secondly '1991' written backwards is '1991'". Obviously, they had yet to discover the word palindrome.

Sadly, Iota appears to have been the final Nuffield show. News of LURG's demise was circulating among old hacks by March 1992, but the circumstances or reasons are currently shrouded in mystery.


While the disappearance of the original group was disappointing, comedy at Bailrigg lives on in the shape of the Lancaster University Comedy Institute. LUCI is LURG's spiritual successor at Lancaster and we wish them every success.

Do you have any additional information regarding LURG's history, particularly the later years?