Review: Footlights Lady Smoker

Image credit: Hannah Taylor

There is not a whole lot to be said about the 2017 Footlights Lady Smoker. It was funny. It was meant to be funny. It had the best and most varied collection of sketch and stand-up material seen in Cambridge this year. This review is going to be simple. If you want elaborate cynicism, look somewhere else.

It was both comforting and exciting to see simple ideas done really well. The physical comedy was exceptional: moments such as the slow motion chocolate brownie stand-off, the magnetic clothing and the Britney Spears coffee skit will stick in the memory. There’s something very brave about trusting the body and not giving yourself the safety-net, as a performer, of a snide remark or self-deprecating facial expression. When it goes right, physical comedy makes the audience feel like anything can be funny. Audiences feel like they can laugh at anything; and then laugh at the idea that they can laugh at anything; and then laugh at the idea that they have made a funny bodily movement into a meta-comedic experience. As you can tell, I found it pretty intense.

To pull out highlights would be unfair but I will do it anyway because I need to use up some words. I liked the Met-office witches, the cow of inspirational oratory, and the seedy cruise-ship entertainment comperes. The character pieces we were treated to were outrageously good. Rhiannon Shaw’s Scottish author Elsie McClutchey will see sales of her book sky-rocket after a storming performance last night in a motorway services. Eve Delaney was once again the most perceptive actor in the universe as she juggled her 7 kids under the age of 14. Extra marks go to her babies who were very well behaved during the Smoker and didn’t cry once. There were slight weak points in the evening, but it was a smoker: if there were not, the audience would demand their money back.

Special mention goes to Isa Bonachera who may have done the best stand-up I have ever seen live. We need to see more of this excruciatingly funny performer. Though my ribs would perhaps disagree.

Can we take a step-back to think of how much we appreciate it when sketches are tactful about how long they go on? Often, a funny set-up could have explored a bit longer. Even more frequently, how many times have you seen a good idea slowly peter out 5 minutes after it was first funny? The Lady Smoker knew how to start and when to end. I’ll learn from them.


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