Review: Sheeps and You Have Sixty Minutes

MILO YIANNOPOULOS: ‘I’m happy to shake off what little remains of my journalistic integrity and declare myself completely besotted with Footlights.’

Abi Tedder ADC Comedy Footlights Theatre

Wednesday 22nd April and Thursday 23rd April, 11.00 at the ADC Theatre.

There’s something irresistible about Liam Williams. Maybe it’s the those crazy gypsy eyes, or their red, six-day bender, sunken sockets. Maybe the edgy, meticulously dishevelled ensembles. The Danny Dyer meets Nathan Barley diction. The lean smile.

Whatever it is, it cast Daran Johnson and Alastair Roberts into the shade on Wednesday night. That’s not so much an indictment of either – they’re funny boys – just an inevitable consequence of sharing the stage with such a charismatic performer. He really was mesmerising.

And yet, I didn’t think much of Sheeps. The writing wasn’t sharp enough for such a heavily scripted hour of comedy, the boys didn’t bounce off each other as I’d have liked (no laughing at the back, please) and I found myself checking my watch at least once. It was an alright show, almost deserving of the inordinate amount of hugging in the aisles, but it didn’t sparkle as each of these boys can on their own.

That’s not to say there weren’t a few laugh-out-loud moments. ADHD Whitney was a highlight, as was the reimagining of Oliver! and the bizarre time travel “paradox” sketch. The life coach fell flat, though, as did the reworking of Coronation Street (possibly because, judging by the accents, they confused it with Emmerdale).

Now, you might think it brave of me to criticise the Footlights posse twice in as many terms, given the reaction to my Smoker review in March. But I’m able to share my reservations with you about Sheeps only because the Club’s second outing this week, You Have 60 Minutes, was such an unmitigated triumph.

On the face of it, the show was a mess. The set for this hour-long mock quiz was unbelievably cluttered: it looked like the entire props cupboard had been vomited across the stage. Various people, including Liam, stood up and wandered around for no apparent reason while others delivered their punchlines. The adorable Dannish Babar was plonked down on the apron and forgotten about for most of the hour. The number of audience members invited on stage, or turned into comedy hooks, seemed to run into double figures. Then there was the "bolus" round.

But by God it was funny. This was the sort of comedy Footlights is best at: hilarious, spontaneous banter between half a dozen genuinely funny people. And I was totally won over.

Naturally this assessment has nothing to do with the fact that ten minutes into the show, I was hauled up on stage and forced to atone for my reviewing sins by writing a poem on the spot:

I’m sorry for being so cheeky,

To rush off and trash you was sneaky,

I promise to write,

Something more erudite,

Because tonight’s been really very enjoyable.

(I did say it was written on the spot.)

Nor has it anything to do with the wonderfully good-natured Abi Tedder, who, despite my singling her out in March for special “praise,” gave me a hug and offered to buy me a drink in the bar afterwards. In fact, those “lanky sycophants in skinny jeans, wanky cardigans and retro specs” were… well, they were thoroughly decent to a man, and remarkably forgiving.

So much so that I’m happy to shake off what little remains of my journalistic integrity and declare myself completely besotted with Footlights. After my churlish Smoker review, I deserved retribution. But instead, last night, I got love. (Well, sort of: I did get called a cunt and they did spring a “Milo’s one-minute comedy lecture” on me that I had to stutter and excuse my way out of.) With the reckless enthusiasm of a convert, I say: bravo, Footlights! That was the best night out I’ve had in weeks.

And not just because it was all about me.