If there’s one thing to take away from Second to None: A Comedy Show, it’s that you don’t need to visit Cambridge’s main stages to find real gems of entertainment.
The McCrum Lecture Theatre’s cramped interior and uncomfortable seating (along with a delay to the show caused by technical issues) would not have put anyone in a particularly optimistic mind-set for the hour to come. Such a minimalist show lives or dies by the strength of its performers – but luckily, Second to None was helmed by two students who soon had their audience crying out with laughter.
Over the next hour, Noah Geelan and Will Bicknell-Found offered a series of hilarious monologues and sketches loosely tied by the conceit of an awards show. Switching briskly from speech to speech and passing around the same tacky plastic trophy, it gave the opportunity for both to take on a range of memorably absurd characters. With huge emphasis placed on a constant switching between accents and physicality, this is a show which could not have worked in the hands of two lesser performers. Geelan and Bicknell-Found have the rare mix of charisma and likeability which instantly brought the audience on their side – they are remarkably talented performers with a natural on-stage chemistry that never settles into tired double-act clichés of straight-man and clown. Both were given ample opportunities to shine, with highlights including Geelan’s interpretation of himself as a thirteen-year old footballer (“Then there was the golden age when we played with the big rock – it got banned when Daryl broke his shin and couldn’t do his SATS”) and Bicknell-Found’s performance as a conceited Anthony Horowitz peddling his latest book (“The Tiny Boy who was a Tiny Spy”) .
Alongside some of the most gleefully silly sketches I’ve seen in Cambridge theatre (including a ludicrous running gag involving the Bradley Cooper film ‘Limitless’) were perfectly scattered moments of grim comedy. A father collecting a trophy on behalf of his son became wonderfully uncomfortable as his gloating made way for a revelation that he’d killed the child for the prize, while a man with prize-winning marrow led to a similarly bleak twist (“My marrow is ripe, my marrow is strong. It’s a shame to give it up, but my brother needs it – they say he’ll die without the transplant.”)
Clunky segways and technical malfunctions couldn’t halt what was a brilliant hour-long set – the mostly unnecessary addition of a projection screen caused more hassle than it was worth, with the text being partially blocked by the McCrum’s poor lighting. With these performers’ strengths they could have easily pared back the technical gimmicks to better display the strengths of their writing and performances. As it was, they presented an energetic show which knocked its audience down without outstaying its welcome.