S.C.O.F.F!: The Comeback Tour

Wed 4th – Sat 7th February 2015

reviews

Joshua Peters

at 01:04 on 5th Feb 2015

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S.C.O.F.F!: The Comeback Tour is a surprisingly difficult piece to review. Often utterly brilliant, and certainly not lacking in ambition, the show's few stumbles are all the more disappointing when juxtaposed against its tremendous peaks.

The main cast fully commit to their roles as the washed up former members of a once successful comedy troupe. From Eleanor Colville's nervous twitch, to Raphael Wakefield's over enthusiastic clapping, body language is employed to expert effect, and when combined with witty dialogue and hilarious visuals, the show is faultless. I challenge anyone to make it through Sasha Brooks’ incessant wailing to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, or the antics of David Matthews' ludicrous Citrus themed superhero, without gasping for air laughing.

Yet, whilst the majority of sketches are consistently funny, there were times when the punchline failed to deliver on the build up. The cast continually play on awkward scenarios and it is occasionally disappointing when audience investment in these scenes isn’t rewarded with a strong finish. In saying this, these moments are few, and only serve to highlight how strong the rest of the material is.

To complicate matters, the typical sketch show set up only constitutes approximately half of the performance. Whilst last term’s excellent sketch show, Boobie, briefly alluded to its title with occasional references to an 'assimilation' and a climatic visual gag, S.C.O.F.F! invests far more time in its premise. A faux-documentary, projected onto the screen, breaks apart the live-action sections, and the cast frequently interrupt their own sketch scenes with humorous asides. The sections dealing with the decline of S.C.O.F.F! are well acted and consistently funny, though, save for Colville’s control freak Olive relentlessly bullying Brooks’ sweet-natured Sally, the laughs were never as big as the traditional skits. At times, it felt like too much time was dedicated to these sections, which, though cleverly written and well executed, could have perhaps been better served by being interspersed with a couple more sketches.

In saying this, as S.C.O.F.F! enters the final third of its run time, and the comeback tour begins to fall apart at the seams, with the groups' bickering permeating the sketches themselves; the show achieves a new level of brilliance. A timely sketch on UKIP may well have raised laughs, but it speaks volumes about the confidence of the writers that, rather than opting for the obvious route, the focus of this scene transcends expectation and instead shifts to an increasingly hysterical backstage argument.

Additionally, the venom with which Colville and Wakefield attack one another, and Matthews’ and Brooks’ palpable desperation as they attempt to hold the team together ensure that in addition to raising laughs, Olive, Colin, Sally and Fergus succeed as three-dimensional characters, rather than mere vessels whose sole purpose is to loosely frame random scenes together.

It is worth noting that both staging and sound were handled well and there were no issues in either of these areas. The directors and writers should also be praised for having the confidence and patience to attempt sketches that required a little more time before the payoff. A Sims related scene generated a considerable amount of confusion in its early moments, making the later realisation of the true nature of what was going on all the more entertaining. Executed differently, a scene like that could easily have failed.

In many ways, S.C.O.F.F! is a minor victim of its own success. Its sketches are of such a standard that when it diverts, even for a moment, to develop it’s well laid out story, this reviewer was left wanting for more big laughs. Its overarching story is refreshingly different, but may surprise those expecting traditional sketch-show fare. Though a few weaker punch lines, and a slight overemphasis on a humorous, but not uproarious documentary set-up, prevent S.C.O.F.F! from being labelled as outstanding, overall strong writing and direction, and splendid performances from the four very talented leads make the show well worth your time.

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Ruari Bride

at 03:02 on 5th Feb 2015

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The Cambridge Footlights are long established as the benchmark for student comedy, and their latest venture did not fail to live up to the star-studded history. While essentially a sketch show, S.C.O.F.F.S used the premise of a once famous comedy-troop setting out on a reunion tour as a vehicle for their cleverly written skits. The staging was minimal, which although at first came across as disappointingly low budget, meant that there was no distraction from the four excellent lead performances. Special mention must go Eleanor Colville for her portrayal of Olive, the bitter and unstable bully of the group, which at times was reminiscent of a young Julie Walters, due to its ability to be both absurd yet worryingly believable.

All members of the cast carried off their dysfunctional characters and maintained the facade of their washed-up showbiz troop with aplomb, but I feel the show would have benefitted quite simply from a few more sketches. The best reactions from the audience came almost universally from these set pieces, and although generally amusing, the linking scenes involving strained interactions between members of the group as they apologised for the increasingly error ridden act often fell slightly flat. However, there was no shortage of laughs in a performance filled with the intelligent yet often surreal and very silly humour that has become the hallmark of the Footlights.

Highlights included the awkward chat before an pre-arranged sex orgy, the discovery of sliced bread, and Dappy and Tulisa from N-Dubz doing voicover for famous scenes in Titanic. For me, and by the sheer volume of the audience's hysterics, clearly for everyone else, the evening's crowning glory was David Matthew's "Super-Satsuma" vigilante, who aggressively helps children to differentiate between types of citrus fruit. This sketch was the perfect example of the energetic acting and quirky writing from this talented band of young comics, and more than made up for the occasional damp squib elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the finale seemed to divide the audience. "Teatime in Tiananmen Square", built up as the fictional group's most famous sketch (clearly lampooning Monty Python's legendary Dead Parrot sketch), through a series of mockumentary style pre-recorded interviews with S.C.O.F.F.S' fans and friends, was conceptually brilliant. However, a chaotic dialogue and very apparent lack of a punch line made for an unworthy end to what was otherwise a very successful revue.

While it was perhaps carried by four or five key sketches, this is a lively and clever show packed with pop-culture satire and the delivery of experienced comic performers.

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