Review: Footlights’ Freshers Smoker

Charlotte Waygood 6 November 2019

Fast-paced, witty and energetic, the Footlights Playroom Smoker returned on 4th November with a new group of students trying their hand at Cambridge Comedy.

Camdram advertised it as a hilarious and entertaining evening, and the Smoker did not disappoint: offering short sketches to stand-up to physical theatre, the evening was filled with rapidly-changing styles and moods of comedy.

Highlights included a sketch of a hand’s audition to act potato-peeler advert, in which the casting directors instructed the hand – without the rest of the body – to act out more and more ridiculous scenarios; the hand had an impressive ability to portray an extremely wide range of emotions. There was also a completely silent performance depicting clearly and funnily someone’s struggles with bubblegum as it got stuck in his throat, became, surreally, an astronaut’s helmet, and then popped in his face. Meanwhile, Saul Barrett’s stand-up skilfully combined jokes about sex with a solemn discussion of loneliness and an odd exploration of his vivid dreams.

As this was a freshers’ Playroom Smoker, the performers (Oscar Wilson, Amy Lever, Dixie McDevitt, Tri Tu, Gregory Tsverik, Flora Thurston, Anna McDonald, Jack Medlin, Saul Barrett, Ido Rosen, Keir Bradwell, Gregory Miller, Tyler Ashman, Fintan Quinn, Katie Duggan, Ethan MacDonald, Jake Stewart, and Iona Rogan) were all completely new to Cambridge Comedy. With this in mind, the performances were very impressive. A few of them did make some mistakes, facing only in one direction, for example, which does not suit the Corpus Playroom, but this sort of thing will naturally improve with time. There were also signs that the comedians were still experimenting with which topics work with audiences, sometimes sharing overly intimate details of their private lives, or tales of life events that weren’t particularly interesting. However, many of the more personal topics definitely paid off, such as an extremely funny stand-up about men and women on Tinder.

In terms of sound, the Smoker only used a microphone, music in between acts and, in one sketch, a pre-recorded track to represent a film soundtrack.

This was fraught with problems: the music between acts was far too loud, the microphone often didn’t work, and nor did the pre-recorded track, meaning that one of the technicians had to read out the words himself. These did unfortunately feel like mistakes that could have been spotted in a quick run-through beforehand. The performers, however, seemed unintimidated by unexpected technical issues, quickly improvising around them.

Despite some hiccups, the freshers’ Playroom Smoker was an enjoyable evening which showcased some talented and energetic students. They all maintained an easy-going atmosphere, played to their strengths and interacted with audience members on occasion. Not one of the many acts failed to make me laugh; it was an evening well worth seeing, and I am excited to see how their Cambridge comedic careers develop.

3.5 stars.