ROSIE ROBSON recounts an unusually homogeneous bag of comic fun.
ADC Theatre, 3rd May, 11pm, £6-7
The next time someone claims to be a pianist, ask them to play mid-air whilst working on a rubix cube. According to this smoker, it’s the mark of a true musician. Last night was a wonderful example of why the Footlights deserve their infamous repute. The glittering variety of perfectly timed skits mixed with music pieces and the occasional stand-up made for a trinket-box of delights.
Some of the stronger scenes told effectively relevant jokes. We meet two straight-up farmers relaxing in easy-chairs, casually pondering the estate of their mysterious neighbours – the Bin Laden household. The performance is deliciously sarcastic, titillating the audience with progressively more cutting lines. It takes extremely tactful wit to pull off such politically delicate humour, and the risk was certainly worth it.
The slapstick scenes were physically ambitious and relied upon sheer energy and precision. In one scene, a father is interrogated by two inspectors about his missing daughter while he dazzles them with hand-puppets and mime- the hallmarks of a hopelessly gibbering comedian. This bombastic, mad-eyed manner of course points fun at pitfalls of comedy, and more subtly recalls the trope of an embarrassingly over-enthused parent trying painfully hard to entertain.
There are a few frighteningly convincing characters. A quiet, tame children’s author for example, softly reads out their draft of a new book. The bedtime story is riddled with fantastically ‘un-subliminal’ messaging describing the political adventures of a tank engine. It is unremittingly hilarious and an ingenious showcase of writing talent, including sharp lines such as ‘don’t gather in numbers of more than twenty!’ recalling the recognisable inanity of children’s literature.
Likewise, the portrayal of your average lives-down-the-road, always-wears-the-same-jumper type man, describes his rather normal life wed to a giant Spider. The marriage is nonchalantly discussed as he casually polishes a shoe. The creepy ‘normalness’ of his general behaviour, flavoured with moments of emotional eccentricity, feels wonderfully unsettling.
We’ve all endured the infuriating inefficiency of pitifully hopeless bureaucracy at some point or another. The Footlights deliver their version of a sweetly earnest but ultimately useless Careers Office. The characterisation is excellently endearing. Ben Ashenden plays an awkward, bumbling advisor straining to come-across with a degree of competence. His string of unhelpful advice offers a hilarious take on the rigmarole of official matters. The role is adorably pathetic; he also coolly slips into the characters of his students, all of whom exemplify a disastrous array of hopeless cases. The range and believability of personalities demonstrate Ashenden’s extreme skill and keeps the scene at a refreshingly choppy pace. The skit draws to a touching close with the recital of what promises to be a suitably awful poem. It is however, surprisingly poignant and creates a perfect
mix of comic and sincere tones.
The collection of acts in general is strong. It could perhaps benefit from a closer edit, however the audience never suffer the strains of tedium. The Footlights are simply very funny, unfortunately at points attested by the odd tickling smile among performers. As a set, the scenes cohered well and were met appreciatively by rolling guffaws of laughter.