Footlights Smoker

Tue 1st May 2012

reviews

Jemima Hodkinson

at 09:49 on 2nd May 2012

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Easter term is underway; the milestone of Caeasarean Sunday – abandon all hope ye who enter here – just days away. At this stage in the year, we are most in need of laughs. I smiled more often than I chortled at this smoker, but it was nevertheless a great Easter term tonic.

Half of the audience would probably disagree with me here – the half which seemed to have either come from formal or a long session in the ADC bar, rather than the library (yours truly). They were wetting themselves. Anyway, the strength of the smoker formal is its variety – all human comedy was here, from quickfire one-liners to surreal snippets via musical numbers.

As you’d expect, the strongest stand-up came from old-salt footlights Phil Wang, Pierre Novellie and Ahir Shah: Lowell Bellfield also had some great ideas, but the ADC stage (and boozy audience) felt better suited to the confident delivery of Shah et al than to Bellfield’s calculated shy-awkward routine. However, possibly my favourite act of the night – unfortunately I didn’t catch their name – was an utterly contrasting style. It was a clinically poised routine, dark but acutely observational and delivered with the ‘unflappable calm’ of a psychiatrist.

The balance between stand-up, sketches and shorts was fairly even, but generally the sketches felt a little flabbier than the stand-up. This is despite some stand-out moments – a sketch involving a Palinesque, provincial-accented pope was well-written and drew some belly laughs, as did a witty two-hander about Where’s Wally. Even in what felt like the more hastily-written material, there was lots of individual talent on show. Some of the simplest, and silliest, ideas were the best: who’d have thought a man lying on the floor with spaghetti in his mouth could be so funny? This brilliant snippet surfaced in various guises throughout the evening, building in laughs each time.

There were only two musical numbers on the bill, both very different, but both shining examples of polished wit amidst funny-but-underrehearsed sketches. A ukulele-based Adele pastiche was beautifully sung, brilliantly worded, and flawlessly delivered with a wry twist at the end. Harry Michell and Lowell Bellfield closed the show with a two-handed keyboard-rap fusion about being metrosexuals – again, a fine piece of writing, and in this situation the sweetly gawky Bellfield fitted well with Michell’s more forthright delivery.

Setting aside the variability you expect from a smoker, this was a good show. I’ll be back in two weeks for my next 11pm post-library pick-me-up.

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