Footlights National Tour Show: The Preview Run

Macdaddy and the Tommy Guns 25 June 2009

ADC Theatre – Tuesday 9th- Saturday 20th June

Rated: 3/5

Every year the Footlights stage their impending tour show as a preview to the main event to be staged in Edinburgh and across the country. This two week run at ADC at the end of the Easter term heralds a series of performances by the best comedians Cambridge has to offer, which act as a training ground, a place to develop and experiment ideas on a sympathetic home crowd (at times willing to laugh at the lowering of the safety curtain) within the confines of the ADC before hitting the less accommodating or forgiving national road.

With exams barely over the team get jotting and hit the stage having just written the script. On the opening night technical hitches are inevitably abound, as performers rely on masterly improvisation, new quips and approaches, all in an effort to gauge audience reaction. As the run goes on ideas are inevitably expanded upon and improved. With this in mind the TCS team elected to conduct its own experiment, a fresh approach to reviewing and a first foray into the world of “Thespionage”: At the ADC bar Jade approached, she wanted them. Both of them. “Are you here for Footlights’ Wishful Thinking? It’s got the best comedic talent of the university”, she says, like a press release. Tom shrugs, flexing his arms. “Hey, great forearms”, she observes. Tom’s satisfied; his hard work is paying off.

Tom likes the first sketch; it’s about buying stuff from the store down the road, and Tom loves shopping. He’s comfortable; the actors have planted friends in the bottom-right corner, who let him know when to laugh. Led by them he barely registers the technical difficulties and conscious lack of punch lines.

In other sketches Tom notices he is aroused by the use of sex as the lone comedic hook, he looks over at Tom. He is too. Interval. “I don’t get it”, says Clayton, “I’ve seen these guys in other things, Keith, Al, Abi, the lot, and they were heaps better. They are all talented at what they do.” Tom recalled innumerable Howlers, smokers and stand up nights whilst the other Tom nodded inanely, Abi had indeed served him a Hoegaarden at the ADC bar last week and hadn’t spilt a drop. She had deserved that twenty pound tip. “It feels like a dress rehearsal”, says Chantelle to fill the silence, “but I’m sure it’ll get better before they play Edinburgh.”

The second instalment is dominated by three longer sketches which should allow freedom for the development of complex narrative arcs and a greater eventual comedic payload. Unfortunately it just results in the laughs being further apart. This didn’t worry Tarquin, “I’m going to, like, watch it next week, when they’ve ironed out the kinks and they, like, know what works.”I hear it’s a work in progress,” says Olivia. Tarquin snipes: “don’t you two mind being paying-guinea pigs, don’t you feel like fools?”

“No, this is what must be,” Tom pondered gravely, “Listen, let’s give them three stars for now, and we’ll come back next week when everything is gravy.”

At the time of print the show will be nigh on unrecognisable to that which was played nearly a fortnight ago on that opening night.

The ticket prices (unforgivably) remain the same for those who offer their support at the start of the improving run and for those at the end and hopefully this is something the ADC team will be able to address next year.

The show was already impressive at moments, with numerous stand out gems which eased the lack of consistency. Indeed, these occasional hilarious glimpses of comic inspiration fell short of that managed so successfully in the closing Smoker of the year which immediately followed, with all its notable farewell acts.

In short, the show will do just fine. Although the seeds of writing had only just been sown, the sprouting blooms of comic delivery were able to keep things inescapably humorous. Congratulations to all the performers, whether it stand out ‘Hardcock’ ladies man action from Alistair Roberts, copious ‘sore ball’ frolic from Keith Akushie , gratuitous ‘finger fun’ from Abi Tedder, animalistic charisma from Liam Williams or zookeeper top-hat madness from Tom Evans. With few preview performances still to come, it’s hard not to envy those that saved their attendance for the last and those lucky enough to catch the fully fledged piece in Edinburgh.

Macdaddy and the Tommy Guns