New year, old tricks

Lucy Peters 13 October 2007

A poorly-postured academic approaches a room-full of students, brandishing a formidable volume, and his audience immediately erupt in gales of hysterical laughter. Not, sadly, your first Cambridge supervision, but, for the panting freshers squashed into the packed auditorium, their initial experience of the sublime and ridiculous work of Footlights, perhaps Cambridge’s most popular export. Well, after science. To the freshers giggling into their pints, a Smoker is, as yet, Rory Mullarkey having an argument with his comedy conscience over the tannoy system and a man throwing prawns at a book, but to the more jaded members of the audience (read, those of us who have already had several chances to fall out of a punt) this Smoker is especially worthy of our (admittedly, by now over-analytical) attention. This evening’s performance is the first of term and as such featured the Footlight’s committee in their shiny new formation sans the funnymen and women of yesteryear. And the bouncy joke-monkeys are faced with an additional challenge tonight, being required to restrict themselves to last-year’s hits in this particular attempt to lure us closer to the bars of the cage.

On this occasion, the committee’s selection of sketches was generally greeted by a somewhat muted reaction from the audience, which, however, did little to dim the comedic enthusiasm of the performers. Hits included Tom Ovens’ account of his mate’s drunken encounter with a combine harvester, Jack Gordon Brown’s musical tribute to Chris Martin’s face, and Rory Mullarkey’s attempt to share a stage with Sam Sword in order to instruct us on the evils of drink-driving. Sadly, Sam’s imaginary driving underwent such improvement over the course of the sketch that he refused to take directions and ended up in the aisle. Rory and Sam teamed up with Alastair Roberts to demonstrate further artistic differences in a re-imagination of the writing processes of a certain high-pitched seventies band. . Then again, the highlight of the evening was Tom Evan’s infamous dictionary sketch, and it was with something of a relieved sigh that the audience heard his perky announcement near the show’s conclusion, “Don’t worry, I’m still here.”

Lucy Peters