“Raising and Giving” is the tagline of the annual RAG week, which sees universities across the country selling cake and dignity for noble causes. Feeling I should be involved in one way or another, I decided to go along to one of the raunchier events on offer: St Andrews Take Me Out. Having arrived and sat down, I took pleasure in how the RAG committee had really taken advantage of the space offered by the Union stage. The audience were left on tenterhooks as an array of lighting effects illuminated and dimmed the stage, drawing focus as the event began.
It was here that the show fell into its first trap: using three presenters. The use of one enigmatic Graham Norton or, indeed, Paddy McGuinness, works because they can build an uninterrupted relationship with the audience. The use of two, such as Ant and Dec, works because they can play off one another and, by making a fool of themselves, actually shift focus over to the contestants, who the show is really about. Three presenters in this kind of scenario rarely works, with Top Gear being a notable exception that is helped by splitting off into solo side stories.
Sadly, Take Me Out’s presenters didn’t have such ways of splitting up the limelight. Inevitably, despite them being good individual presenters, this led to them talking over one another, and handing the audience over to one another when they weren’t ready. Improvisation is fine, but the continual prompting that had to occur meant the show quickly lost fluidity and left my friend and I eager for the contestants to come on.
At this point, the ladies of St Andrews arrived and re-invigorated the show, bringing witty putdowns and some quirky answers to questions as they quickly laid out their separate personalities, readying the audience for the first William to find his Kate. A slight delay on stage left us with a seemingly tipsy Chemistry student from second year, a delight for any dating show surely.
This was not the case. After taking turns making jokes, the presenters offered him the chance to speak to the ladies, whereupon he kept his back to the audience the entire time and exchanged lacklustre banter with a slightly bemused group of girls. Our next male caused controversy with his viewpoint on vegans, which caused a few of his prospective dates to buzz out before he’d been on two minutes. The third and final of the selection aroused far more interest, enticing with his promise of cooked food instead of Dervish. Frustratingly, however, it became quickly obvious that the third contestant was a very good friend of the presenters and, as they continued to joke at each other and chat, the show itself started to lose focus.
As the lights rose again and we all rose to leave, I mulled over the event. The presenters had made a few blunders, and the contestants hadn’t always played to the format of the show.
And yet, does it really matter? All night I had seen groups of friends giggling up and down the stands as their friends asked and answered awkward questions about what dish they would be at Dervish (including one girl saying she was cheesy chips because she was “a bit cheesy”). All night the audience had given cheers and blown kisses as the gift card for a cheese and tomato pizza at the hallowed takeaway in question was awarded. And all night, money was raised for the amazing Childreach International, which performs amazing work for some of the most marginalised and abused children.
Sure, the show had its faults, but that definitely doesn’t make me not celebrate its existence, and it certainly won’t stop me from watching out for it next year.