Footlights Smoker

Sins are committed both on- and off-stage for BASIL FRANCIS this week.

ADC theatre Ahir Shah basil francis Comedy Footlights harry michell hisham ziauddeen lowell belfielf madeleine mccann Mick Campbell Phil Wang Smoker Theatre

ADC Theatre, 1st May, 11pm, £6-7

[rating: 3/5]

As we enter exam term, you don’t need a Tab critic telling you that it can get stressful at times. So it’s fortunate that the Cambridge Footlights – complete with a brand new committee – are still on top of things to soothe our revision-induced pain. And boy did they delivered a bumper-pack of comedy this week.

A couple of female audience members were intent on kicking the night off with a drunken bang. Phil Wang’s opening stand-up was helpfully garnished with general obnoxiousness. He did his best to soldier on, though not even a rally of ‘SHUT THE FUCK UP!’ from the audience could dissuade them. He managed to deliver the rest of his set, shaken but thankfully not stirred. A charming sketch about eggs also suffered an onslaught, but thankfully before long they seemed to either sober up or pass out.

The next disappointment of the night, however, was to come from stage. A sketch about newspapers playing ‘Never Have I Ever’ with one another broke its way unashamedly into the Madeleine McCann tragedy. There were some gasps from the audience as the attempt at black humour turned sour. It didn’t help that apparently they couldn’t tell between Portugal and Spain either. Not big and not funny, just wrong.

We were then treated to a healthy dose of pessimistic stand-up from Ahir Shah’s, with some brilliant on-the-spot moments. One wide-eyed ukulele parody later, we hit comedic gold. I am sure I need do nothing more than state that it involved the author of ‘Where’s Wally?’, an 800-page book about Tsarist peasants and a naked prisoner to communicate the hilarity of things.

Rising comedian Hisham Ziauddeen then delivered some brilliant stand-up. Having seen him perform in the past, it is a pleasure to note that he has since grown funnier and more confident. The audience were hanging on his every word. A sketch about the Pope contained some incredibly funny dialogue, and the very brief cameo from Phil Wang was one of the biggest laughs of the night.

The night simply wasn’t complete, of course, without Pierre Novellie. As usual, his warm and easygoing stage persona lent itself to the audience. The night came to an end with Lowell Belfield and Harry Michell previewing some juicy Edinburgh material a la Flight of the Conchords.

An overall enjoyable night with a few jarring factors, some of them onstage and some of them off. With the general form on show, however, I wouldn’t miss the stress-busting potential of the next smoker.