Review: Spring Revue

LOTTIE UNWIN says you should go and see this. Oh wait, it’s sold out. Shame that.

ADC theatre Alex Owen Ben Ashenden Footlights James Moran

Tuesday 2nd – Saturday 6th, 7.45 at The ADC Theatre.  £6-8 on 2nd-3rd and £8-10 on 4-6th.

Directed by Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen.

I have to unprofessionally confess that before tonight I was a Footlights Virgin, so no Smokers, nor a taster in Edinburgh last year (I was on a beach sipping cocktails, literally thousands of miles from any impact of Cambridge culture).  Though there are days I wish I was a virgin to sex and smoking, the prospect that my Drama Queen status is unfounded, is unequivocally embarrassing.

I arrived nervous that I wouldn’t like it and that, soon, someone involved would accidentally pull one of those huge milk bottles down onto my head in Sainsbury’s in a bitter act of revenge for a review.  The Footlights bunch is scary, writing their het up comments under pseudonyms and turning all reviewers skin to elephantine thickness.

Luckily, it was brilliant.  Short and snappy moments of witty writing were interspersed with scenes that developed hilariously, the punch line always worth the wait.  A plot unfolded with as little of the feeling of stunted convention as is possible in a sketch show.  Basically, although to elaborate would be tricky, People Watching tells the story of a man who has to watch humanity on tape, noting down all the out of character things they do.   Then, he is told God has decided to call the Appocalypse and the second half sees the final 24 hours unfold.

If Footlights produce the big names I would put my money on the writers being the ones to watch.  A welsh girl coming down the stairs behind me on the way out remarked ‘I didn’t find it funny, but then I don’t have a sense of humour’, delighting me that even she realized everyone else had seen moments of brilliance.  When jokes were repeated it was sparingly or self-referentially, literally wheeling on an existing character, Uncle Malevolence, in a sketch about recycling.

The actors made what was written down funny, though with one hundred and one parts to play they couldn’t help coming across as themselves occasionally.  Their enthusiasm and sheer love for taking part blurred over moments of weakness, for example in James Moran’s sketch as an on screen scientist where awkward moments couldn’t stop me laughing, a lot.   There was a division between the big performers and James Moran and Rachel Scrivener’s more realistic approaches, which is not to fault either clan but just to say that sadly a cohesive whole never emerged.  Having seen Will Seaward a few times it was great to see his huge talent and huge voice perfectly cast in a part where it was finally fitting for him to steal the show.

The set, with its television screens and post-it perfect office of God’s assistant was brilliant and the costumes clever, though please can someone lend Rachel Scrivener a hair band so we can see her face not just her fringe.  The single best thing about the evening was the music.  If that chirpy tune was my alarm clock I would get so much done – getting ready everyday in fast motion and leaving accommodation with a stupid smile slapped across my face.

The flaws? People Watching could have been a bit shorter so we were left wanting more, and Mr. Untz, Will Seaward’s second role, was categorically not funny, just uncomfortably bizzare.   Though his appearance in a rubber fish head-dress and not much else, to take part in the sketch about a sexed up Norwegian cod-fishing documentary, was absolutely brilliant, sometimes it felt like we were being asked to laugh at his larger than life figure – hardly high level humour.

Kiran Millwood-Hargrave explains, a little preposterously, in her review for Varsity, ‘I am writing as a critic, not an audience member.  I laughed quite a lot.’  There is no magic in being 'a critic'; the job description is simply to propose whether someone should go see it or not, and why.  I too laughed a lot, so I am going to say it was good and you should go.  Why?  Because though it’s not perfect, the Spring Revue is fun and exciting.  But, it has sold out, and though it’s not constructive or consolatory, all I can say is that I am very pleased I had a ticket.