A little too tame

10 April 2008

Snippets: the Footlights Spring Revue, ADC Theatre, 4-8 March, 19:45

Three Stars

Reviewer Rhiannon Easterbrook

Cambridge students: gosh, we’re just so scholarly, aren’t we? Not only do we sit in lectures and libraries all day, we go to the theatre in the evening and watch a show about history! However, if there is any learning to be done here, it is that history is another way of writing the present and that the authors are the victors. You see, like Tom Hensby’s Anthropology, this bears all the hallmarks of being written by those bastions of everything – white, western males – by virtue of the fact that it concentrated on the history of the white, western male. This probably explains why the talented Lucy Evans was so underused.

In fact, though, there’s little history here at all: the writers have produced a variety of amusing sketches that we know are sometimes in the past because a pad of paper on the shed informs us so. This isn’t to say that they fail to touch on some important subjects; they mention death, the Holocaust, terrorism, incest and slavery at least once. There was no attempt to challenge or satirise.

Still, plenty of fun was to be had, not least because the energetic and skilled performances, particularly from Riley and Walker, alchemised competent writing into real laughs. The internet forum scene in particular was a showcase for Riley’s talents, while the rapping disciples allowed each cast member to shine. Encouraged by a packed audience, the cast dealt admirably with the various technical problems, including a defective projector. It became clear that, with a few tweaks to the script, this and the pad of paper could have been excised.

There was room for pruning elsewhere too. Ironically for a show that started with the Big Bang, too many sketches ended with a whimper, as they just lost energy and petered out, most disappointingly of all in the final “snippet”, which saw a combination of corpsing and canned laughter end the revue. The assassins scenes basically replayed the “you shot me right in the arm!” bit from Austin Powers but nonetheless they were an enjoyable use of the marvellously Heath-Robinson shed.

Footlights have long since been part of the comedy Establishment, which Snippets seems to embrace. It is indeed a very funny show but in the most conservative possible way. This history is farce rather than tragedy and mostly for the right reasons. What a shame it couldn’t have broadened our intellectual horizons as well.