Footlights Smoker

TADHGH BARWELL O’CONNOR wishes every Smoker could reach such comic heights…

Abi Tedder ADC Alexander Owen Ben Ashenden Emma sidi Footlights Joe Bannister Phil Wang Pierre Novellie Smoker Tadgh Barwell O'Connor

ADC Theatre, Tuesday 1st March, 11pm, £6-7

[Rating: 4/5]

A smoker is a complex mish-mash of different comedic styles, mixing experienced old hands with fresh and relatively untested talent. Tuesday night proved why this formula is such a crowd-pleaser. There is something to entertain all, even the pessimists amongst you; if you’re lusting for some poor brave soul to crash and burn into the stage, the echoes of the Coliseum have never really faded.

Opening with a quietly strong stand-up by Pierre Novelie, we were lulled into a mirthful mood and ready to take on the most brazen of Cambridge’s comedy minds. A stand out has to be Phil Wang’s Love Doctor, ably helped by an almost silent yet somehow tear-inducingly funny Abi Tedder (aka Boobs). His lisping Mexican, fake/wannabe physician hilariously dealt with typical gender stereotypes, with characterisation proving his great acting ability.

The duo of Alex Owen and Ben Ashenden made what could have otherwise been weak material enticingly witty by their range of physicality and impeccable timing, with their ‘cerazy Matthew’ sketch being a wonderfully simple deceit. Emma Sidi’s sex shop assistant interview was enjoyably crude, especially with cherub faced, butter wouldn’t melt Joe Bannister as her depraved applicant. Joe seemed to corner the pervert market on the night, also becoming the ever lauded Berlusconi – a role he settled into perhaps too easily…

A battle of the mimes has never been hotter; Theo Chester’s mime obsessed father trying to beat his son with an imaginary nail-studded cricket bat studded took on Pierre Novellie’s Alcoholics Anonymous first timer mime. Thanks to his ability to hold a (very pissed) audience of over 200 in rapt silence for at least 90 seconds, causing multiple re-enactments on Park Street after the show, the prize must go to Pierre – and his snazzy face paint was the crowning touch.

As ever, the less experienced of the performers stumbled most. Some potentially funny content was plagued by nervous shifting, erratic and overblown hand gestures and an inability to vocalize at anything other than fog horn volume. One charity collecting sketch showed good potential and was saved by the entrance of a zany girl proclaiming that finally they actually had saved all the children, but it was felt painfully slow, while a sex therapist gripped the chair he was rooted to, perhaps in the hope of securing an otherwise flailing performance. They did admirably well, but in comparison to the better rehearsed and more assured sketches were bound to pale. Yet their attempts bode well for the future.

No smoker is ever like any other, but I wish more could aspire to the comic heights this one reached, and with the teen sex adverts showcasing the skill of those behind the Spring Review, the bar has been set very high for next week.