Smoking at the bar

Jen Neil 2 November 2007

Shamefully, I found myself in my third and final year as a ‘Smoker Virgin’.

Therefore I knew little of what to expect from Sunday night’s Bar Smoker. However, it was not only me relinquishing virgin status; many Footlights newcomers were in the process of losing their ‘L’ plates too. Though some performers showed potential, a few need a little more practice before they are let loose on the roads again. However, held together by the talent and wit of those regular comics surrounding them, my first ‘experience’ was altogether a deeply satisfying one.

Dave Ralfe got the evening off to a successfully smooth start: his relaxed mockery of Cambridge Freshers’ week and, well, fat people, went down favourably with the stone-cold sober audience, which was clearly the reason he was sent up to face them. However, one couldn’t help feeling that maybe he set the bar too high for many of those who initially followed him. The audience wasn’t quite sure where they were being taken with a sketch that began ‘so my grandmother died yesterday by choking on her own armpit hair’. It wasn’t the best journey of the night. A skit featuring a conversation between the statues of Hercules and Nelson Mandela had potential, but the script needed tightening and clarity was a problem.

The first half was always going to be a mixed bag as the newbies got into gear but Sam Sword’s dead pan humour and Alastair Roberts’ entertaining lyrics about ‘simulating the conception of a child’ kept the audience’s enthusiasm and energy running high. Also Adam Hollingworth the impeccable impressionist who morphed Rolf Harris, Sean Connery and Bill Clinton together in the same breath, comically sustained us until the interval drinks could be purchased.

One has to admit, as with any comedy show, easy access to the bar (as was advertised on the flyers) gave a head start to those performing after a boozy break in proceedings, but they didn’t even need it. Clearly filled with the regulars, most of the high points of the evening were concentrated in the second half. Ever wondered what a eulogy would sound like if the guy that died was actually just a ‘twat’? Lucien Young showed us in a hilarious monologue, with brilliant acting, faultless comic timing and apt costume. For the rest of the show I was in fits of giggles, and it should be noted that I’m not a ‘giggler’. However, the weaker links in the first half shouldn’t be too disheartened as it does becomes easier when audience members are on their second large glass of wine.

Variety was the spice of the day. Those who were good, were really good. Although everyone who performed at least evoked a smile, some would never be hired for a good abdominal work out, though all credit to them for being brave enough to get into the driving seat. I’m just happy to have lost my audience virginity and I will be enjoying the pleasures of Footlights as much as possible in the future.

Jen Neil