Review: University Challenged

Arthur Tan 12 May 2018

University Challenged is a brilliant mixture of fun and (quite literally) games as two teams battle it out over a series of rounds to answer impossible questions and win points. The audience could not contain their laughter as the comedians made the most of any opportunity to crack a joke or provide a hilariously inappropriate answer.

The whole concept of this comedy was commendable for its originality and light-hearted comedy. Comrie Saville-Ferguson, writer and co-host of University Challenged, has done an excellent job with the script, centring the quiz gameshow around different rounds (such as music, art, mime, ‘Corpus Lecture’, and ‘Roast Dan’) which were all creative platforms to allow the comedians to express their personalities and steal the limelight with some improvisation.  The humour of University Challenged drew from the ignorance of the contestants regarding specialist fields (their introductions at the start of the show set the bar high for the rest of the gameshow) as well as the ridiculous and difficult nature of the questions. In particular, the co-hosts Comrie and Dan Allum-Gruselle were naturally entertaining, playing off from both the contestants and audience members for their jokes. It was great to see their engagement with the audience, allowing for the comedians to go ‘off script’ – the show was at its best in these moments since the improvising was natural and received many laughs from the audience.

Corpus Playroom was absolutely packed out last night which aided the comedy by creating an atmosphere of excitement. Even as the audience members walked in, there was an air of energy with upbeat music playing and the comedians ran onto stage, dancing on their chairs and hi-fiving each other. This was a great way to start University Challenged on an upbeat tone and pave the way for an hour of comedy.

It must be noted that the tech crew (Deasil Waltho on Lighting and Imi Phillips on Sound) were the unsung heroes of the quiz gameshow because so many elements of the show and, indeed, its comedic aspects relied on sound (including the contestants’ buzzers) and visual effects. This is when it was obvious that much time had gone into the production and rehearsal stages of University Challenged. The audio-visual interludes from ‘our sponsors’ were another hilarious addition to the gameshow, mimicking the BBC promotional adverts on the original quiz-show. Here again, the imaginative creativity of the production team shone through as ‘GoggleRoom’, ‘Match of the Day’, and a Mary Beard documentary were re-casted to strike comedic gold.

In addition to the unpredictability of improv-style University Challenged, the audience were pleasantly surprised to see a guest star join the comedians stage: Cambridge’s very own BNOC mathmo Bobby Seagull from the 2017 series of University Challenge. Bobby himself was a star of the show and added lots of comedic interludes throughout the night, much of which was based on his experience on University Challenge.

However, whilst some comedians (and Bobby) naturally took to centre stage, others were left hiding in the shadows and away from the spotlight. Whether this was due to the script or simply that big personalities stole the limelight, it would have been more enjoyable to see every single comedian participate fully and add their unique style of comedy to the gameshow.

All in all, University Challenged is a guaranteed night of laughter as well as unexpected twists and turns in the gameshow. For a night of genuine entertainment, book your tickets and head to Corpus Playroom – it’s a shame that it’s only running for two nights, so hurry down!