Footlights Smoker

Tue 11th October 2011

reviews

Simon Pickstone

at 10:16 on 12th Oct 2011

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1disagrees

“This joke,” proclaimed one of the footlights cast, “is one for the lads,” gesticulating wildly at none other than your reviewer, who, kitted out in a suit following a formal hall mishap, was in no mood for laughing. But the Michaelmas term Footlights’ Review, while very much true to its male-orientated promises, did still manage to raise a smile from even this most grouchy of viewers. And after an hour of mixed gags, sketches and stand-up, he certainly left in a better mood than that with which he went in.

The Footlights’ Smokers provides an opportunity for the university’s aspiring comedians to make their mark on the Cambridge comedy scene, and this year’s show proved that there is plenty of talent out there. Of particular mention is Ahir Shah’s stand-up routine, which, although rather hit-and-miss, provided some of the biggest laughs of the evening, blending original, and at times unsettlingly accurate observational humour with some more wacky flights of fancy. Several other comics also shone through alone: Jason Forbes’ brief solo appearances were intelligently thought out, as well as being largely well-received by the maximum-capacity audience.

It was perhaps in some of the group-sketches that the performance lost some of its sheen. While there is no doubting the chemistry between the Footlights guys, (wonderfully illustrated by Forbes’ own stifled giggles at one of the show’s funnier moments), they perhaps lacked the time really to polish their delivery. Although they did their best to incorporate mistakes into the comedy, it was still clear that there is work to be done to improve the group’s general comic rapport.

In spite of these understandable weaknesses, the Footlights troupe provided a certain amount of genuinely funny material – much of it still underdeveloped – but which promises that we can expect more of them in the months to come.

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Duncan Montgomery

at 11:23 on 12th Oct 2011

1agrees

1disagrees

The moment at which the new Footlights recruits first confront their audience could, handled badly, have proved exceedingly awkward. Many of those gathered could be excused for having little idea what to expect. Luckily, the cast managed to pull off an opening scene which belied an occasionally noticeable awkwardness as an ensemble. Throughout, genuinely hilarious individual performances seemed to prop up a set of sketches which plumbed conventional Footlights sketch-show fare to diminishing returns. Jason Forbes' early solo turn set the show off to a strong start. His sharp and riddling humour, delivered with a winning confidence, served as a taster of a show in which standup comedy seemed to succeed where the more traditional Footlights sketch material flagged. One short, mainly silent and brilliant sketch (involving a perfectly timed attack of spontaneous vomiting) stood out from the rest, but for the most part the Footlights seemed more comfortable- and more funny- in a standup situation. Later solo efforts from Ahir Shah and Pierre Novellie won the approval of the crowd, the former displaying an engaging energy and stage-presence, the latter delivering a mildly disturbing poem in the style of Tim Key, with a well-gauged combination of stage awkwardness and confidence. Novellie's delivery combines reserve with an engaging charisma. One of the quietest and most stationary of the performers, he managed to contrast markedly with those Footlights who seem dedicated to a loud, almost painstakingly deliberate delivery. Ultimately, while they seem more comfortable telling one-liners than acting within the traditional dynamic of the sketch troupe, the Footlights did display considerable potential, and were in parts extremely funny. The outgoing members have, doubtless, set a high benchmark, yet we are dealing with the new recruits of a genuinely famous theatrical company. More is expected of them, but this Smoker displayed a diverse and talented set of performers, who seem well capable of fulfilling these expectations. All in all, I was whelmed.

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