Review: Footlights Smoker

Pippa Smith 25 November 2016

Facing a packed audience, the Footlights' smorgasbord of sketches and stand up didn’t fail to entertain. In the current world climate there’s certainly plenty of material to draw on for comedic purposes, but it was telling that performers avoided the Trump card and still gleaned much hilarity.

Particularly shrewdly observational sketches came from the caterpillars steeped in ‘lad’ culture and the séance conducted in the style of a tinder pick-up. The parody song ‘An ode to feminists’ was also bitingly comical and perfectly caricatured. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been to a smoker with such consistently funny sketches for a long time. Admittedly, as is the way with this experimental mix of writing, some moments did fall a little flat. But not only was the majority of the offering funny, a great proportion of it created a level of hilarity that was impressively sustained throughout the show.

A favourite moment of mine was the quick quip: “Check your privilege? – well I don’t have all day do I?” which wittily tapped into the Cambridge stereotypes we all love to tease. A countdown of most awkward moments by another stand-up performer, Enrico, was perhaps a little less successful, but nonetheless amusing. A surreally delightful moment also came from Samuel Pepys’ observations on the Great Fire of London, as well as his nether regions, which was delivered with at an indulgently slow pace and a quivering voice, serving to heighten the comedic ending of the routine in which Pepys, on the search for sudocream, lamented “The bloody superdug had burnt down in the fire!”

Some of the material in the show I recognised as recycled from other productions. Then again, the scenes worked well clipped out of their respective shows and bookended by completely new sketches – and most audience members probably wouldn’t have picked up on this being slightly less exposed to Cambridge comedy than a theatre editor! There were, unfortunately, several technical glitches, which stilted the progression of the smoker a little, and left some awkward anti-climaxes.

Nonetheless, this performance certainly lived up to the eager buzz that always surrounds a Footlights Smoker. Christmas-themed sketches added a nice touch. Mark Bittlestone’s portrayal of the director’s desire for a ‘realisitc’ Mary was one of the funniest moments of the night and the final sketch on the modernisation of Church hymns had a joyful silliness that characterised exactly what Footlights should be all about. It would be all too easy for these evenings to fall short of expectation but in fact, this offering greatly exceeded mine and was truly hilarious.