Pick Me Up
PHIL LIEBMAN thinks that Pick Me Up is clever, but in a good way.
ADC Theatre, 25th–28th January, 11.00pm, £4-6
Directed by Ahir Shah
There are few things that make me as apprehensive of a piece of comedy as the epithet “clever”. Clever usually means “not as funny as I’d hoped” or “tried a bit too hard”. Clever usually means three stars. Pick Me Up is clever in exactly none of those ways. Instead what is on offer is one of the most well-thought-out and unique pieces of student theatre that I’ve seen at the ADC. Oh, and it made me laugh. A lot.
Straddling the boundary between sketch show and play, the show began aboard a train, moving down the carriages with a series of amusing snapshots of the same moment. This was a strong indication of what was to come; well formed jokes, a cleverly integrated narrative and a dark sense of humour that stayed just the right side of tasteful.
Crucially, despite this carefully developed story arc, the show wasn’t light on individually funny sketches. Simple ideas such as a photography sketch were pulled off in style and occasional jaunts into surrealism managed to avoid becoming “pythonesque”. My personal highlight, a sketch about Mario, managed to combine a stream of gags about everyone’s favourite Italian plumber with an impressive display of slapstick comedy. Not only was it very funny, it also served to show off the broad range of both writing and performance.
As you would expect from a Footlights-heavy cast, the performances were excellent throughout. Lowell Belfield does a great line in wonderfully strange men – in one sketch managing to get a sustained laugh from odd movements and groaning alone. Jason Forbes and Ryan O’Sullivan both displayed perfect comic timing as well as an ability to play the straight man. However, it was George Potts who stole the show, carefully gauging every sound and movement for maximum comic effect whilst avoiding ever becoming too silly. It was refreshing to see a Cambridge sketch show without a single moment of do-a-silly-face-and-wave-arms-crazily.
Other than an ADC audience a little too willing to laugh at absolutely everything and the two grinning morons behind me who tried to ruin everyone’s night by drunkenly chatting throughout, there was very little to criticise. Maybe the inclusion of a story arc sometimes became a little contrived. But every time I felt myself thinking this I was met by a brilliant punchline and all the bad things went away. Maybe this wasn’t quite as belly-laugh-inducingly funny as other sketch shows I’ve seen in Cambridge. But that’s not really the point. Maybe the dark edge to the comedy sometimes got a little too much. But now I’m just being picky.
Pick Me Up is a carefully crafted, intelligently conceived and brilliantly executed piece of comedy which nevertheless didn’t lose sight of the fact that sketch shows are supposed to be funny. Book tickets now to avoid disappointment. Just don’t go if you’re drunk.