This play doesn’t quite fly with JAMES STANIFORTH, but could take off with a little more thrust.

Adam Lawrence airplane Ben Pope ben rowse Comedy Corpus Playroom Dominic Biddle James Staniforth new writing pilot student writing Theatre

Corpus Playroom, 21st-25th February, 9.30pm, £5-6

Written and directed by Ben Rowse

[rating: 3/5]

A farce which attests to the potential talents of the Cambridge comedy circuit, Pilot is simultaneously a frustrating and amusing experience for the audience. An uneven play delivering hits and misses in near equal quantity, Pilot is certainly funny, but lacks a crucial sense of direction.

The opening scene presents the play’s strongest material, which is carried exclusively by the Pilot (Adam Lawrence). It is a significant accolade to suggest that this phase of the performance approached the achievements of Airplane in terms of pure, comedic consistency. The introduction to Pilot in fact exceeds the joke-a-minute standard, Lawrence alone hilariously recreating the aeronautical fantasy in which we all suspect every airplane captain must be engaged.

One can’t help feeling, however, that Lawrence should have more confidence in his material. The quality of the monologue demands that the actor perform with swagger; instead, everything seemed slightly nervous and rushed. The passage nonetheless drew genuine laughter from the audience consistently for almost ten minutes. It is necessary to emphasise how rare and enjoyable an occurrence this is in Cambridge; alone, it’s a scene worth seeing.

Unfortunately, this nigh immaculate standard could not be matched by the following acts, and the play slipped into unevenness. The Co-pilot (Ben Pope) and the ‘Work Experience Guy’ (Dominic Biddle) gave equally energetic and indeed more controlled performances, but the quality of the writing suffered. The play descended into generating isolated jokes or puns which were essentially interchangeable. Frankly, the midsection was lax and confused. With a trio of talented actors, the missed opportunity to exploit the chemistry instead of blurting out one-liners was painfully evident.

Things did pick up a little towards the end. New exciting themes (terrorism! nationalism!) made an appearance, albeit quietly and unobtrusively. Rowse again seems to have missed a ripe opportunity to grapple with current issues.  Instead, his comical references to the daily world were tentative and almost shy. There was the potential in this production for relevant, funny, contemporary commentary, which was avoided. I don’t know why.

There is some potential here for some truly great comedy. All this production needs to take off (pun intended) is confidence, which I hope it will gain a little of during its run. I hope, as well, to see something more ballsy from Rowse in future. So I implore you: be that audience to give this show the lift it needs, and have yourself a thoroughly enjoyable evening in the deal.