Love Handles

Tue 9th – Sat 13th June 2015

reviews

Jack McNichol

at 11:23 on 10th Jun 2015

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Full Disclosure: When I turned up at the ADC for the Footlights Tour Show with only a couple of minutes to spare, I was a little on the drunk side, having rushed over from a wine-heavy end of year event. I didn’t want anything I was going to have to think too hard about; anything too ponderous or mellow would definitely have resulted in an unplanned, embarrassingly public napping session. Fortunately, this show really delivered in fast, loud and silly comedy, with strange walks and bizarre voices never in short supply, making it an entertaining, if unambitious, outing for the much lauded comedy troupe.

The unifying narrative for this series of sketches, presented in creepy and foreboding voiceover by Adrian Gray, is that the audience’s car has broken down in Pudgley (received spelling unknown), an English town with the most bizarre of inhabitants. As these characters are revealed on by one, it quickly becomes clear that the general scheme for the show is ‘surreal’. Whilst this strangeness was frequently amusing, when sketches were reduced right down to the basic structure of an unusual juxtaposition, I often found myself frowning rather than laughing during a scene transition– ‘was that the whole joke?’

I particularly enjoyed the numerous sketches with a distinct student focus – something I wasn’t expecting from a tour show. An exam-anxiety dream is brought to life, and a mention of those infamous CGP study guides was lapped up by the swot-heavy audience. Olivia Le Anderson’s boring lecturer forced to enliven her delivery with slapstick comedy was a real highlight. There was also a nod to political satire, Ed Miliband and Michael Gove characters were made use of, although one suspects that Gray’s Gove was predominantly a vehicle for some left-over puns of which he was particularly pleased.

Attending the first night of a long run meant inevitably the witnessing of a few hiccups which are sure to be ironed out. One particular recurring joke fell completely flat, and the performers were not always fully synchronised with tech. The show itself was formally conservative, and therefore I felt as though the cast were rather playing it safe with their songs, characters and scenarios. Maybe I’ve been spoilt by Cambridge’s vibrant comedy scene, but I’ve come to expect a few original or intriguing moments in a full length show, which this production didn’t really provide. There was only one sustained use of audience interaction, however this was perhaps the highlight of the show, certainly gaining the most laughs. I wouldn’t advice a front row seat if you’re not willing to run the risk of being straddled and ordered about by Luke Sumner as Pudgley’s hilarious local chiropractor.

Any criticism of this production will of course bounce off its inevitable popularity. The Footlights name alone will fill venues, and bring the amusingly distorted world of Pudgley to audiences far and wide. And those audiences, looking for a thoroughly entertaining show, will not be disappointed.

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Elizabeth Crowdy

at 17:48 on 10th Jun 2015

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The first performance of Footlights international tour 2015 was patchy, and fell somewhat short of my high expectations. Many of the sketches didn’t quite come off as intended, and there was a disappointing reliance on crude humour and penis jokes. Much of the material didn't appear to be particularly developed, and some of the sketches were more confusing than anything. However, ‘Love Handles’ is shaping up to be a great show, and with some development and comic honing it will be a successful international tour.

The performers in this show all demonstrated their talent strongly and in individual ways, making for a constantly vibrant show. Archie Henderson demonstrated a glorious physicality, and Eleanor Colville had some great moments of Monty Python style weirdness. Olivia Le Anderson, Luke Sumner and Adrian Gray all used accents to great effect, and this range of voices made the show aurally dynamic. The audience participation was successful, as was the inclusion of a mock stand-up routine to break up the stream of sketches.

The second half was slicker than the first, with the musical opening and ending giving a new aspect to the comedy. There were a number of references to previous sketches woven in, giving a narrative to the whole performance, often hard to achieve in sketch shows which can appear disjointed. This narrative also helped to counterbalance the bizarre nature of the writing which often took a supernatural or unexpected turn, part of the delight of the performance.

The lighting was subtle and the set was simple, allowing the sketches to take centre stage. The props were well thought through so that transitions between sketches were never clunky, and the whole piece flowed without interruption.

The repetition of material in the first half disappointed me: I had seen one of the sketches (involving a shower) in a previous Footlights performance. However, this was an isolated incident, and the writing was largely fresh and engaging. With some polishing, the sketches will come together and the show will be even more entertaining.

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