Review: Footlights International Tour Show: Canada

Ben Redwood 14 June 2013

Footlights International Tour Show: Canada

Tues 11th – Sat 22nd, ADC Theatre, 7.45pm, then touring

Fun fact: this show has been the first time in around 50 years that the Footlights International Tour Show has had more female members than male.

The show thrived on small-talk; it was often the delivery of minor lines in a quick and throwaway manner that brought the humour out in a sketch. In this regard Matty Bradley and Rosa Robson shone and delivered some great lines, mumbling under boxes and around samurai corpses. Matilda Wnek’s deadpan delivery, meanwhile, lent her roles a strong poise and charm.

Likewise, speedy cuts at the end of sketches made for the funniest moments, such as the Valhalla sketch, and being stranded on a boat. The show was remarkably co-ordinated, so much so that a brief stumble with a prop-heavy scene noticeably put the whole cast on edge.

Yet while its strength came from brevity, the show suffered from long stretches of exposition to set up sketches that petered out a little. Others strained a little too hard for a pun or prop gimmick and suffered duly.

The first half romped around geekdom, with magic rings and demons galore. While amusing, the prevalent humour was more giggle-inducing than full-on hilarious, and conjured the ASDF films of Youtube fame more than anything else (an association perhaps brought on by the blank white screens that formed the set design).

Towards the second half the humour took a turn for the more intellectual, revolving around some fascinating explorations of metatheatre that, if not always funny, were conceptually appreciable. But the constant problem with anything meta is that it can often become too self-conscious, and jokes often lost their effect when actually followed through, such as the “sketch for one”. On the other hand, a certain sketch explaining a sketch (#meta) was carried off surprisingly well by Emma Sidi, whose talent was probably the most memorable.

Brechtian elements abounded too, but these were less successful. A television, used to time the duration of sketches, became predictable, and only foregrounded time wasted. The sand witch sketch was especially predictable and drawn out, saved again by Robson’s phatic eloquence. Then again, perhaps all this metatheatre eventually made them so self-conscious that they gave the audience an opportunity to claim back wasted time. All I’ll say is that, if you have the nerve, you could really profit.

Indeed, audience interaction was the strong point of the evening. My favourite part was the use of reference cards: every turn the sketch took was newly ingenious. The second half also saw certain flat sketches from the first half received a breath of fresh air with second half revivals.

The international tour isn’t travelling to Canada during its trip across the pond, and aside from a passing reference, the country seemed a trivial choice for the title. My wager for why it’s there is that the show simply happens to embody the stereotypical spirit of Canada: America’s kookier, less efficient and somewhat hit-and-miss sibling…although if there was one thing the show wasn’t, then it’s stereotypical.

Ben Redwood