The Cambridge University Light Entertainment Society (CULES) has come back from a recent hiatus with a brand-new radio show, Nothing To See Here (get it?).
CULES’ aim is to raise money for charity and provide light-hearted entertainment to people who otherwise struggle to access theatres, and as such, the timing of their comeback seems very fitting, considering that theatres currently seem like something of the distant past. That said, in the interests of light-heartedness, the current circumstances were avoided, aside from the word ‘unprecedented’ being said a cheeky number of times in the first few minutes.
The range of sketches was varied and random; while this carried the occasional risk of being reduced to white noise, the show just about achieved a sense of continuity through a few characters who popped up multiple times, such as the postman who kept having to rescue a mysterious man from tight corners, or the clueless man staying in a haunted hotel. A strength of the show is that it’s impossible to see which way a sketch will go: a sketch that started with a salesman selling a hoover became a failed attempt to chat someone up; in another sketch, a robbery took an unexpected twist when it was revealed that the fruit were being used as weapons.
The voice acting was, on the whole, done very well, with multiple different styles and regional accents being used, with the main issue being that some lines did not quite come through clearly. The presenter of the show was a prime example of vocal creativity, completely changing his manner to mimic a stereotypical horror story narrator for about four transitions between sketches. This is one way that the cast of the show delivered some cutting parodies of known genres: for example, deliberately heavy-handed music and thunderclaps were used during the horror section, and clipped, RP voices created the sense of a twentieth-century middle-class polite dinner party – until, of course, the party members decided to start playing Russian Roulette.
Music was also used inventively, if it wasn’t always easy on the ear. The sketch show jingle at the start was alarmingly dissonant, but again, it brilliantly subverted our expectations of a bright, cheerful comedy show jingle. Musical interludes continued to be slightly odd throughout, but my favourite was the final one, in which the CULES choir, for once sounding cheerful, sang glibly of how they were, in effect, imprisoned by the director and forced to participate.
The show offered something off the beaten track, delighting in its own weirdness and unpredictability, and delivered with a great amount of energy and fun.