Pretty Little Panic

TALIA RICHARD-CARVAJAL dissects the Footlights’ latest tour show to pretty little pieces, with a little help from her internal monologue.

Alex Owen Ben Ashenden Footlights Footlights Tour Show Mark Fiddaman Preview Talia Richard-Carvajal

ADC Theatre, 14th-25th June, 8pm, £5-8

Directed by James Moran and Keith Akushie


Oh, was it slick. The Footlights’ four-man troupe was all about the slick. Their new tour show, Pretty Little Panic, did not miss a beat. Each scene slid into the next with the smoothest of transitions: end scene-BOOM…where are we now? ‘Let us show you…’ Fiddaman, Ashenden, Owen and Lawrence would whisper.

However, credit for its seamless fluidity must go to the tech team and this level of professionalism does deserve praise. They should be showered in Maoam and marshmallows for delivering a show so tight it could fit into Ben Ashenden’s skinny, skinny jeans.

But it is a little depressing for a reviewer when the links between sketches provide your greatest lasting impression. In their attempt to create a well-oiled machine of beautiful men making beautiful comedy, they sort of forgot… well, the comedy.

A scene would slide open like the patio door of possibility, and I would think: ‘Oh yes, this is an interesting idea, where will it go?’ The answer was almost consistently, ‘Oh. There. Well, I suppose that’s a nice place. Oh wait, we’re still going? Another punch line…? No. Right, then when are we getting another one of those nice transitions?’

The more-than-apparent formula of several of the sketches didn’t help matters. Not only could I picture the group huddled over their MacBooks in the writing room, I could probably script their conversation, too.

Pretty Largely Predictable

Time and time again, a glimmer of hope would appear in the form of an inventive and enticing set-up, only to be shattered when it consisted of the same twists and turns. This was not due to the failings of the formula: it works well, but invariably the audience picked up on the repeated construction and could predict the punchline 30 seconds before it was delivered. This undermined what were often clever and, well, very funny jokes.

In fairness, the boys delivered their material well. Their confidence, timing and excellent physicality make the show if not revelatory then at least thoroughly entertaining. Adam Lawrence deserves particular commendation for his wonderful appendage manipulation. Even if they lost points for predictability mid-scene, there were still some great scenes with instant and brilliant set-ups, such as the chess game, which zoomed in to follow the pieces locked in battle to the Mortal Combat theme tune.

But somehow we’ve seen all this before. Alex Owen’s explain-the-joke jokes and Ben Ashenden’s craaazy voice are brilliant to watch, but are rapidly becoming trademarks. It felt at points as if they didn’t venture out of their comfort zones, particularly in light of The Pin, which managed to use its dynamism to compliment the content rather where here it overshadowed it.

A consistently funny show from talented performers, whose past shows have set expectations very high. I smiled, I laughed, but at no point was I hit by the glitter-cannon of surprise. Now seriously, someone get tech some Tangfastics, stat.