Review: Footlights Smoker

Rosalind Peters 13 June 2012

Footlights Smoker

ADC Lateshow, Tues 12th June, 11pm

Having spent the last eleventy weeks enclosed in one room with nothing to do but fill my head with knowledge (usefulness may vary, batteries not included), one might say I was more in need of light relief than the average theatregoer. However, one would then need to note that, in the case of the audience for the last Footlights Smoker of the year, the ‘average’ would be a suddenly recklessly free theatregoer, in desperate need of a laugh to expend that excess nervous energy. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that not a single act in the evening’s line-up fell flat. Or it could be testament to the consistently high quality of a stellar line-up. Or both. I’m going with both.

The evening’s entertainment quite literally got off to a flying start, as Jason Forbes scudded across the stage in a succession of comedy slips; certainly worth the bruises to assure the joy-deprived audience that their thirst for diversion was about to undergo some serious quenching. The show itself offered great variety: from dramatic sketches to one-liner skits; from real-life observation to Pythonesque surrealism; from stand-up to sit-down-and-try-not-to-corpse. Particularly striking was the sketch consisting of two actors swathed in bed sheets processing monastically across the stage, holding bananas for candles. It is no secret that in the land of chuckle-worthy fruit, the ripened banana is king. Whilst the sketch itself did extract generous giggles, the disaster threatened by the remnants of said banana smeared across the stage floor, deftly avoided by the talented Ahir Shah, was perhaps even more gratifying. Indeed, of all the highlights I could mention, it seems that inadvertent comedy is often the most memorable. Another sketch involved a particularly enthusiastic Pierre Novellie introducing himself as the personification of gluttony, and proceeding to stuff his mouth with chocolate cake – a sight which proved all too much for his fellow actors to bear. Several minutes of corpsing ensued: always a delight to an audience member, for whom the night suddenly feels less like a leeching of comic talent, and more like a night of utter hilarity shared with old friends.

However, sooner or later the time comes to wave goodbye to old friends. In this way, the evening’s entertainment was somewhat tinged with sadness, as many now familiar faces graced the Smoker stage for the last time: Phil Wang, Pierre Novellie, and Lowell Belfield, to name a few. Sad though this may be, it is something of a comfort to be assured that, although we may not see them in another Smoker; we may not again revel in their performance in an intimate setting such as the ADC; nor may we see them once more break it down Michael Flatley-style in what made an extremely surreal ending to the evening’s revelries – this is certainly not the last we’ve seen of this talented bunch. And they’re ours, Cambridge. They will always be ours. And if that doesn’t make you laugh for sheer joy, I don’t know what will.

Rosalind Peters