Review: The Final Countdown
TOBY PARKER REES: ‘If a nine year old Michael Mcintyre… had been asked to do an assembly about Cambridge, this is what he would have created’.
Fitzpatrick Hall, Queens’ College, 9th – 13th February, 7.30pm, £5-8.
I should have known. It’s easy to say that afterwards, but when you look at a programme and there’s no director credited, you should know. There was a musical director, and a creative director, and a technical director. But no-one directing any of them, no one in charge of it being a play. It should not be surprising, I suppose, that the resultant thing was not a play. It was more like an assembly.
If a nine year old Michael Mcintyre, already imbued with the gift of inane observation but without the craft to make it seem like a joke to idiots, had been asked to do an assembly about Cambridge, this is what he would have created. He would not have visited Cambridge to check any details, like the fact that King’s chapel is not Catholic – he is only nine after all. And shit.
What we get is a set of observations a semi-literate Alaskan could probably make about life in Cambridge. Such as the fact that, in Cambridge, there are students who ride bikes. And there’s a Union. And only massive nerds wear short shorts. The play was nominally about the terror of the finalist at the prospect of the real world. This is a rich subject for black comedy – little finalities like the end of university are, after all, enactments of the big finality. It is a terrifying prospect to have finished one of the seven stages of man. But comedy doesn’t need to talk about that. Stefan Porter, who seems to have helped the nine year old Michael Macintyre write this assembly, claims that ‘the way in which we all behave in everyday situations is more often than not hilarious’. Nope. You have to do something with it – Seinfeld turns it into ridiculous rules, Peep Show writes boredom ad absurdum. You can’t just put the mundane onstage untempered. It’s a bit too mundane.
The performances were equally drab. I heard the first ever failure to do a nerd voice (everyone, especially people at Cambridge, can do a nerd voice) which sounded like Grandad from Only Fools & Horses entertaining the troops. And Jeff Carpenter, although trying hardest to wring some humour from his humourless lines, played the role of unrequited lover far too camp. It rang about as true as Kenneth Williams’ half-hearted ogles of Barbara Windsor. In the scene where he gets to kiss the girl he breaks away from her at the crucial moment to carry on singing Will Young.
Photos: Tim Johns – www.timjohns.co.uk
Yes, there are no original songs – that would have required at least rudimentary skill. Instead, the cast intersperse their listless conversations with listless interpretations of the ‘anthems’ that get played for the last grope at Cindies. The first song was ‘I would walk 500 miles (to Girton)’. That’s not a hilarious exaggeration of how ludicrously uninspired this production was. That’s exactly how ludicrously uninspired this production was. And around these wan songs some girls looking frighteningly underage gyrate with the cold dead eyes of underpaid pornstars. That was the best bit.
The amateurism of this production can be summed up by the fact that its most competent component, the full band playing perfectly adequate versions of these perfectly awful songs, were backstage. In one of the few theatres in Cambridge with the facility for an orchestra pit. And galleries on each side perfect for musicians to play from. But someone (I can’t blame the director, because there wasn’t one) thought it best to cramp them offstage and pipe their performance through the newborn wail of the Fitzpatrick soundsystem. Macintyre should be expelled.