Footlights Presents: Heaven & Hell Review

Tom Chandler 3 February 2022
Image Credit: ADC Theatre, Vidya Divakaran

What do the ghost of Michael Jackson, horny nuns and Albus Dumbledore doing Slam Poetry have in common? You can catch them all in this week’s ADC Late Show, ‘Footlights Presents: Heaven & Hell’! This was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, filled with sketch after sketch which just hit the mark each and every time. Every single performer had their time to shine, and you got a real sense that this was a group who enjoyed working together. I tend not to be a fan of ‘edgy’ comedy, but ‘Heaven & Hell’ really knew how to toe the line, and not once punched down, always up.

Image Credit: Claire Watt

The framing device of the piece, in which Jesus (Louisa Stuart-Smith), after having an argument with his dad, is given a tour of earth by Richard Dawkins (James Hazell) in an attempt to persuade Jesus to turn against God. The pair were gold and both were stand out performers in just about every scene they were in. Some wonderful highlights of the sketches included – a Slam Poetry night populated by philosophers (I think therefore I slam!), a sinners union in hell, and dogs being able to talk thanks to metaverse technology. By far the stand out sketch was Jacques D’Anges’ role as Martin Luther, advertising to us the benefits of the reformation – a direct line with god! No need to pay money to the church! And priests can have wives now instead of… As I said, they really do toe the line. I was truly amazed by the variety of topics they broached, and although I did feel at times they strayed just a tad too far from the theme, every sketch made me laugh.

Image Credit: Claire Watt

What really cinched it for me was a Mary and Joseph go on Jeremy Kyle sketch. I have certainly seen the premise done before – in fact I have flashbacks to doing it in year 8 drama class – and yet they still managed to do something new with it. If only Ella Scott could give the same level of limberness and almost seduction to the real Jeremy Kyle! Ben Mulley made a wonderful Joseph, and Louisa Stuart-Smith’s Mary really took the sketch over the line. This is the sign of a good comedy group, I feel – when they can take a pretty predictable premise and make something stunning out of it.

Each sketch was punctuated delightfully with some wonderful song choices (I was particularly thrilled to hear ‘Chaise Lounge’ by Wet Leg) and the lighting really effectively served the pieces. In the props department, I must admit whoever decided that the results of Jesus’ paternity test should be delivered on a plastic chicken must be a real genius.

Image Credit: Claire Watt

I did feel by the end that perhaps they had front-loaded their strongest sketches, and in the final third or so of the show there was a very slight drop in energy and polish, though the writing and concepts remained good throughout.

All in all, I would highly recommend you watch ‘Footlights Presents: Heaven & Hell’ for an evening’s entertainment of some of the best comedy I have seen so far in Cambridge!

4/5 Stars.