Review: The JCR

Henry Day 23 November 2018

★★★★

The JCR takes the question of college politics into the hands of parody and breathes life into a series of university stereotypes which fulfil the show’s promise of a night of sharp satire. The show mixes genres to great effect and places the central sketch-style narrative within the framework of a mockumentary. The audience is first met with a series of interviews with real Cambridge students, asked questions about their JCR. The combination of theatre with this format of neatly edited clips brings a freshness often lacking in student-satire. Rather than seeming like a second-rate rendition of shows like “the Thick of it”, the mockumentary backdrop perfectly brings out the hilarity of students who truly believe their college council to be on a par with the United Nations.

A special mention must go to Archie Williams’ stage-filling performance as the vice-president. With each line, the audience could rely on another stomach-clenching dig at the upper-class, privately educated snob he so convincingly embodied.  Williams’ ability to read the audience and leave enough time after each joke for us to laugh before continuing with the next line really set him out from the rest of the cast. The ongoing reference of an obsession with military history never failed to get a laugh, and the play of words between Abba songs and famous battles brought a level of subtly to what at other points could be called a broad-strokes, high-volume comedy. In my eyes, the show’s humour peaked during Williams’ megalomaniacal confession of his ‘set the hounds on them’ plan to commandeer the JCR.

Yet, William’s excellence perhaps came at a cost to the jokes surrounding his line of humour. Rather than bringing the best out of other recurring jokes, I found myself waiting for this creepy vice-president to start talking again. Be it a result of the quality of the writing or of execution in performance, as much as I wanted to laugh at the satire of Social Justice Warriors and hedonistic Ents Officers, these lines of humour never seemed to be able to truly find their feet and often evoked a damp response from the audience. That being said, equal hilarity among all members of the cast is not a prerequisite for an enjoyable, generally well-executed performance, and I would not deny that the cast achieved an energetic and tight outcome.

If you’re looking for an hour of laughter, and often find your JCR to take itself a bit too seriously, then I can whole-heartedly recommend this show.