Each year, the Cambridge Footlights runs a competition for a new one hour comedy show. This year the Harry Porter prize was judged by Frog Stone, Footlights alumna and creator of the BBC4 comedy Bucket. The winner was Spoiler Alert by Charlotte Cromie.
Cromie's offering is a story about a couple, Maddie (Anna Wright) and Jim (Alex Franklin), who are having problems as Maddie has just become prophetic. We follow Maddie through her journey of discovering the prophetic community, Prophetics Anonymous, and Prophetic Pride. Perhaps it is a lean year for Footlights as this script leaves you unsatisfied. Spoiler Alert was not funny enough to be a comedy, and not engaging enough to be a drama. There were few 'laugh out loud' moments and most of those came from people involved with the production of the show.
Overall, the cast performed well; although it fell short of the perfect comedic delivery that we are used to in Smokers. There were parts where the actors were a little too 'shouty'. The standout performance was from Ben Martineau who double rolled as a fellow prophetic, Rob and Steve, the failed actor. Martineau played both roles superbly.
The script features some witty observations on 'communities', labels, and over-priced products for women/prophetics. There is potential to push this further. There are points were the extent of Maddie's powers are a little confusing - one minute she is able to predict everything including every single word Alex is about to say. Then she is surprised by a threesome, which was clearly shoehorned into the script for comedic effect.
It was inspiring to see Footlights achieve gender balance in a show. Spoiler Alert actually has more female actors, and a female writer and director; a fantastic celebration of female talent around International Women's Day. Furthermore, this is important in light of Footlights' recent spat with Wolfson Howlers, over the lack of female performers in its latest comedy night. However, the female characters were littered with negative tropes. Rosie, played by Issy Snape, was the typical femme fatale, an over-sexualised temptress trying to steal another woman's man. Mrs Pope (Lottie Elton) was a stuffy head teacher, who possibly murdered her husband, playing into the Victorian paranoia of the murderous wife. Amber, also played by Snape, was a well observed character and provided a witty satire on smug do-gooders who attach themselves to minorities and good causes. The writing was let down as Snape played the two roles almost identically. The only reason it was evident that Rosie and Amber were different characters was the name and costume change.
The lead, Maddie, is a school teacher who is in love with a guy that cannot even remember her name. This may have been funnier in an awkward 'he doesn't even know who I am' storyline; however Maddie had been living with this man for three years. This relationship was supposed to be at the centre of the narrative. Maddie's core motivation is to save it. However, as even her boyfriend is not invested in the relationship, it is difficult for the audience to care about it. The fact that Alex could not remember his girlfriend's name was supposed to be comic relief, but in undermined the seriousness of their relationship, to which the story is anchored.
Spoiler Alert missed the mark a little. Despite this, it is clear that at its heart is a good idea; with some work, it is easy to imagine it as a sitcom.
Spoiler Alert will run at the ADC until Saturday 10 March 2018.
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