Flirting with funnymen at the ADC

15 February 2008

Smoker, ADC Theatre, 12th February, 23:00

3.5 stars

Reviewer Charlotte Bearn

In the lead up to Valentine’s Day, a number of my friends have been pondering the eternal conundrum: where have all the eligible men of Cambridge gone? It seems, after watching the latest Smoker, that they’ve all been hiding in the ADC engaging in homosocial behaviour of an unusual kind – devising sketches on dead cats and the unsavoury perils of love and discussing amongst themselves which men they’d happily “go gay” for (Crick but not Watston and themselves in the mirror, apparently).

Pretty boys aside, the Footlights’ Smoker consistently sells out, and last night’s performance offered a good indication of why. It was sharper and more mature than previous shows have been and without the lazy Cambridge-based humour which always poses a risk. This was not, however, at the expense of the rough, unpolished charm and underlying silliness which makes Smokers so popular and accessible.

Jack Gordon-Brown and Sam Sword’s performances were as solid as ever but other highlights included Tom Ovens who is rapidly gaining a reputation as one of Cambridge’s finest home-grown comics. His first monologue erred on (just) the right side of bad taste, with an apologetic poem that began with the confession “I’m sorry I ate your cat… I shouldn’t have done that”, and swiftly degenerated into the increasingly bizarre, “yes, I drank your Grandma’s ashes in an urn.”

Meanwhile, a surprise success came in the form of Alex Clatworthy, whose endearingly sincere ditty about spending thirteen years in a coma was gently comic and thoroughly sweet, despite the unlikely subject matter and possible (unfortunate) associations with Morrissey.

Music was generally well-incorporated and offered a nice touch to the show, with musicians Ssegawa Kiwanuka and Mike Coxhead performing live songs between sketches and remaining onstage throughout, allowing for some rapport and interplay with the acts.

There were inevitably a few disappointments, notably an uninspiring dating sketch (which did, however, have the merit of being blissfully brief) and another in which the punchline, “there is nothing funny about dancing penguins” was unfortunately apt. But aside from these minor aberrations, the show was generally very funny, featuring some very talented and charismatic performances. And girls, with Valentine’s Day tomorrow and Smoker rehearsals now over, perhaps it’s time to take a leaf out of Alice Fraser’s “stalker song” and hunt down one of these budding young comics for yourselves.