Review: Footlights Spring Revue 2013: Dressing Down

Zephyr Penoyre 6 March 2013

Footlights Spring Revue 2013: Dressing Down

Tues 5th – Sat 9th March, ADC Theatre, 7.45pm

There were moments of disaster on the opening night of the Footlights’ Spring Revue and these were some of the best bits. When the wardrobe centre stage came, literally, unhinged, it became abundantly clear what these boys do best. Here, as in many other moments of the show, they improvised and bounced off each other and off the audience beautifully. It was at times like these that they were most charming, imaginative and just downright bloody funny.

The simple set comprised of a stage empty apart from the wardrobe in the middle, from which an unimaginable mix of characters emerge. Swapping fancy set dressing for just fancy dressing, costume after costume is donned, dropped and ripped off, a delightfully varied array of characters appear before us, from Garden Gnomes to

Uncle Sam, Lego Men and the Very Hungry Caterpillar. The changes are fast paced and well choreographed, with the odd pause between scenes met with anticipation rather than exasperation.

The concept is great: the costumes immediately set up the most basic ideas of character and narrative, often all that is needed in a sketch, and allow the three man cast to bring something new to each role. A few recurring jokes run throughout as well as returning characters, giving the show a sense of pace and allowing it to build up well to a finale, a trait that’s all too rare in sketch comedy. Unfortunately, as with any sketch show, the quality of sketches was mixed, and while, like a boxer whose just started using contact lenses, they score a surprising numbers of hits, the ending is somewhat of a disappointment.

Monologues and solely visual comedy pieces also suffer somewhat, feeling less fluid and dynamic than the ensemble work. While many contain some of the best writing, the chemistry between the players is sorely missed. In comparison, some of the most simple scenes involving the three work fantastically and the tone ranges from intellectual and complex to downright puerile, often in the same sketch and to great effect, while the timing and reactions to the lines are immaculate.

Our three comedians each bring their own set of delights to the table, Harry Michell puckishly playing to his audience throughout with his quick-fire and crass humour. Alex MacKeith, is the black sheep of the family, abstract in style, beguiling in mannerisms and with dead-pan delivery. Then we have Will Attenborough, who never looked so happy as when flitting around in butterfly wings, bringing with him real energy and enthusiasm, as well as exemplary versatility and great physical presence. Finally, the show is expertly held together by Jack Gamble’s sharp direction, which brings some order to the chaos but never more than is needed.

So, was this year’s spring review a sample of the best the Footlights have to offer? Quite possibly: the fast paced, devilishly clever comedy, coupled with a style that is big on concept and slim on unnecessary spectacle, is exactly what we’ve come to expect and love from Cambridge comedians. The cast understands what’s funny and laugh readily at themselves and each other, knowing what they do best and doing it pretty much throughout.

Zephyr Penoyre