Review: Footlights Spring Revue 2019: Last Resort

Becky Grubb 5 March 2019
Image Credit: Footlights Spring Revue 2019: Last Resort via Facebook

★★★★

The Footlights Spring Revue showcases comedy of both new and recycled material from the Cambridge Footlight finalists. This year’s cast of evidently talented individuals have produced a show which demonstrates a colourful variety of comedic styles, hitting the mark most often through quality characterisation and the absurd.

The show kicks off in song. As an audience, the cast ensemble lead us to the entrance of ‘The Footlights Hotel’ – a Last Resort. The cast play on the idea of a dilapidated hotel as a reflection of the state of Footlights’ comedy. The hotel theme provides a very large narrative arc which leaps over the body of the show to appear again at the end. It becomes apparent that we are to enjoy the sketches as they come, without relation to the hotel theme. This incongruity, however, is forgiven because Emile Senior’s stage set is used so thoroughly and effectively throughout the show.

Will Bicknell-Found builds the audience’s trust at the beginning, through his deft facial expressions which portray how excruciating socially awkward situations can be. This is followed by a masterfully written, verbally entangling sketch featuring Comrie Saville-Ferguson as Sherlock Holmes and Alex Franklin as Holmes’ accomplice. Alex seems to relish the opportunity to make comedy out of error – adding wryly after he was accidently interrupted during one of his lines, ‘I wasn’t finished, was I?’. Saville-Ferguson’s physicality on stage stands out. He is utterly brilliant both as an overly lethargic Andy Murray and in his movement as bacchante-like worshipper of the ‘Badger King’.

Danny Baalbaki also shines in a sketch relying largely on physical comedy. He plays the role of an increasingly love-forlorn individual. Through his facial expressions, Baalbaki manages to manipulate the audience’s laughter at his expense, to comic pity. Baalbaki however, sometimes plays to the quick laugh, breaking character in moments which demand consistency and pace for the impact of a sketch as a whole.

Both Noah Geelan and Stanley Thomas bring an uplifting force to this show. Geelan’s fizzes with energy which is artfully channelled toward great comic timing and a creative expression of phrase. A stand out sketch for its polish and synchronicity features Geelan and Will Bicknell-Found as ‘Fun Dads’ who are football mad. Through their horse vocals, the cliché ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ ping-pongs between them and is reduced to a low grunt. If you don’t know what the parody of a ‘Fun Dad’ is exactly, they will make you come to understand. Stanley Thomas brings an emotional sincerity to his comedy, which may better be called acting. He is convincingly a guilty murderer in one sketch and in another manages to make light of the sheer thrill of scoring a goal or knocking down all ten bowling pins.

Emma Plowright delivers a standout monologue, reading out a pen pal letter which delicately delivers a series of comic gems. In one anecdote, someone is hospitalised for eating a spider – ‘it was a black widow, so now it will be in heaven with it’s husband’. Plowright plays on the charming delusion of our inner voice, exposing what the audience is led to believe to be young girl, as a woman. Plowright brings a natural grace to the stage which compliments the composure of Gabriel Barton-Singer in their sketches together. One sketch results in a couple eating their only child for dinner, since the father accidently ran over the child and decided not to waste the roadkill. It takes serious mastery of the sketch genre to make space for the script and not to overplay a role, however tempting. Barton-Singer stands out for consistently striking this balance.

The individuals who have worked behind the scenes do a marvellous job of making transactions between sketches snappy, in a battle against the length of the production. The staging brilliantly exercises the space, helping the cast to keep the show feeling fresh. George Jeffreys, as lighting and sound designer, noticeably adds elegance to the production, using a searching spotlight to pinpoint a sweaty-looking audience member for sketch participation.

Joy Hunter’s portrayal of a police office at a Dog station and an emotional child at a dinner table, further contributes to strong characterisation throughout sketches in the show. Isambard Dexter and Ania Magliano-Wright excel in their respective introverted and extroverted stage personas.

The show is just over two hours in length – rather too long for a sketch show of the finest quality, making weaker sketches more noticeably burdensome. It is evident some masterful script writing and many talented individuals have contributed to this diverse collection of sketch comedy. The Last Resort feels in want of more time for polish, to bring some of the good sketches to the calibre of the best. However, the energy this cast brings to the stage, combined with the peppering of wonderfully bizarre sketches, promise to keep the audience entertained throughout.