Theatre Review: Footlights National Tour Show ‘Wishful Thinking’
One of the best Footlights casts in years but the show relies too much on easy laughs.
Director: Rory Mullarkey.
ADC Theatre, Tues 9th – Sat 20th June (no performance Sun. 14th), 7:45pm.
The UK’s best student comedy group, an unprecedented two-week home run and the best crop of committee members in years: so why was every advance rumour about this show so negative? It’s true, the show was clearly under-rehearsed and the whole thing lacked polish, but the off-the-cuff style really suited the performers, allowing their natural talent for delivering a line, aided by a healthy dose of wry detachment, to shine through.
That said, they had much to be detached from. The script is funny, but it’s also incredibly lazy. Many sketches appeared to have been written using a ‘comedic’ formula where a standard social convention is turned inside out and presented for our amusement (‘Hey, guys, wouldn’t it be really funny if women thought monogamy was bad, instead of adultery?’). Whilst swearing and penises are self-evidently hilarious, the frequency with which they were used to support sketches hastily constructed on weak foundations suggested not just a lack of preparation, but a deficiency of imagination. The ‘technical cock-ups’ were so obviously scripted that even the performers appeared to find them painful. Whilst this show ticks all the boxes, you can’t help feeling that it’s been rather cynically prepared by a group of people who know they can do better, but reckon the moronic, Mitchell and Webb-loving audience can settle for second best.
The sketches are, however, set to change night-by-night, and I’m sure there will be less lazy reliance on ‘guaranteed laughs’ as this talented group begin to work as a unit. And what an excellent group they are. Abi Tedder’s inability to avoid laughing at her own jokes and her refreshingly insouciant attitude plays wonderfully against Keith Akushie’s paradoxically earnest and deadpan performance. These two, heading up the Footlights Committee next year, completely upstage the ‘old guard’ of last year’s committee, who often lapse into assuming anything ‘wacky’ will make us laugh. The vitality of both Tom Evans and Liam Williams rescues something for the oldies, but the show belongs to Tedder and Akushie, who dominate the stage throughout and seem to genuinely care that the audience are enjoying themselves.
The extreme length of the show’s run bodes well: director Rory Mullarkey has more than enough time to tighten up the script and lick his performers into shape before delivering an excellent May Week run. My verdict: see it, but not just yet.