Review: Footlights Smoker (28th Nov)

Maria Tang 28 November 2013

At the latest Footlights Smoker, where, as Alex Mackeith in the penultimate sketch stated, “everything is legal on stage”, the hour certainly had a multitude of bizarre sketches and excellently terrible one-liners that could be liable for trial in a different environment. Eclectic and eccentric, this, another sold-out show, was a stream of snapshots of light-hearted fun, with mainly little disruptive content. Kazoos, bare chests, and the elegant consumption of suspicious white powder from the stage floor were all provided, along with much to laugh about.

The fired-up audience were eager to be stimulated from the start, but the beginning stand-up act held little charm. In fact, most of the stand-up comedy was not remarkable, though Matilda Wnek’s simplistic pessimistic look on life and poem about cabinet ministers was experienced and well-met.

Instead, the appeal came from some great original concepts like the American Catholic Confession Electronic Service, with a stereotypically American voiceover from Archie Henderson-Cleland in annoyingly cheerful tones giving a multiple-choice procedure, with options to select your sin and preferred repentance. In the first sketch of the night, the inconvenient naming in a family with the son called Dad, dad Uncle, mum who is Uncle’s sister and many more, also brought about amusement, and much incomprehensibility.

Indeed, throughout the night, there were many brief sketches that were so odd that it often felt like being in state of fast-paced passing hallucinations. Some finished before most of the audience realised what even happened, to somewhat confused lukewarm applause. Some simply induced laughter from the sheer weirdness of it all. Trying to construct descriptions of acts can produce arbitrary amalgamations of unconnected phrases, such as "the mystery shopper shoot-off", which are actually well-written and well-acted pieces of refined comedy. It was a pity that delayed blackouts often ruined the effect of the concluding punchline, something that also agitated the cast.

A particular enjoyment was the malleability of James Bloor’s acting, who clearly enjoys flamboyant roles. Bloor had the enthusiasm of Gollum when employing his son to search for the stone, a stone of a perfect weight, which induced much crazed tongue-licking and joint-flexing. His character of a hunchback ice cream seller similarly had many quirks, and with his long coat and cane and a cinematically eerie soundtrack, made the question “Who even sells ice cream in the winter?” very sinister indeed.

Anything Harry-Potter-related is an obvious hit amongst students, and so it could be predicted that the highlight was the fitting finale that was Severus Snape himself – Henderson-Cleland on keytar. In a wonderfully bulgy black wig, he drawled about the woes and perks of life as Snape, from the slimming benefits of wearing black to the trouble of the pronunciation of Hermi-one. In an interlude, the famous passage beginning “Mr Potter. Our new celebrity…” was recited in Snape’s sluggish tones, then the only possible ending followed: a rendition of Flo Rida’s Low, of course.

Overall, as one of an endless production line of Footlights smokers, yesterday’s effort was no showstopper, but certainly memorable, enjoyable and well worth a Wednesday night.