Footlights Spring Revue 2013: Dressing Down

ABI BENNETT is left feeling distinctly underwhelmed by a Spring Revue based almost solely on silly costumes.

Footlights mackeith michell Spring Revue Will Attenborough

ADC, 5th – 9th March at 7.45pm, 7th and 9th at 2.30pm
Tuesday, Wednesday and Mats £8/6, otherwise £10/8

If Dressing Down had been a normal sketch show, maybe an ADC late show, something you go to see when you’ve had a crap day and fancy a giggle, it would have been perfectly fine. But it’s not a late show; it’s the Footlights Spring Revue. And that’s a pretty big ‘but’. It wasn’t bad, sure, it was even pretty funny in parts, but I left feeling disappointed. It should have been so much better than just ‘fine’.

The premise was that the three performers were guardians of a wardrobe, which contained all clothes ever worn. At first I thought this was quite a promising set-up, but in reality it just led to a sketch show where silly costumes played a disproportionately large role. I’m not saying that the sketches they did were bad; in fact some were really quite funny. There was just a general lack of imagination and courage. The show could have been written at any time in the past 30 years; that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the whole thing felt a little tired, like we’d seen it all before.

There were some sketches that stood out. The bride who got to the altar without learning the groom’s name was great: simple, but clever, with assured performances from Michell and MacKeith. Similarly, the butterfly father with his fat caterpillar son were welcomed uproariously by the audience. However, this was mainly due to the cupboard door falling off halfway through, and whilst the performers reacted admirably, it says a lot that the loudest laugh of the night came from a set malfunction.

The performers were all very strong. Michell handled unwanted audience interaction brilliantly in his mermaid sketch, with his adlibbing drawing more laughter than his original lines. Attenborough as a friendly and chatty, if slightly dumb, horse was surprisingly funny, especially his riffs on the ‘clip clop’ rhyme. Aside from the scenes where he played the main character, MacKeith often stole scenes when playing smaller, peripheral roles. His ‘lad-in-heaven’ was excellent, even though he pranced across stage and barely had time to stand still.

Many of the sketches relied on a funny costume or a silly accent, without much substance to them beyond that. There were some that used props and silly accents imaginatively, like Giuseppe the bitter magician, but these were in the minority. Giuseppe worked not because of the accent and the silly costume, but because of MacKeith’s excellent characterisation, and the genuine substance beneath. Laughs came when the performers first appeared on stage dressed in some ridiculous costume, but soon petered out as the material wore thin. Ideas that might have been funny at first were stretched far further than they deserved; the idea of someone being followed by burlesque music when undressing was funny to begin with, but wasn’t strong enough to justify multiple sketches.

The Spring Revue is meant to showcase the best of Footlights talent. Three blokes dressing up in silly costumes surely can’t be the best the Footlights have to offer?