Footlights Tour Show 2013: Canada

JONNY SINGER is left disappointed by the Footlights’ latest offering, which is not quite up to scratch.

ADC Canada. Emma sidi Footlights Jonny Singer Matty Bradley tour show

ADC Theatre, 7.45pm, Tuesday 11th – Sat 22nd June 2013, Tue, Wed & mats £8/£6, Thu-Sat £10/£8

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When the first ‘sketch’ of the night meets with total silence from the audience, you begin to worry.

This show, the International Tour, is meant to be the pinnacle of Cambridge Comedy. It shouldn’t be enough to be just ‘quite funny’ – it has to be great just to live up to expectations. Unfortunately, for the first half at least, it wasn’t even OK. Jokes were predictable in the extreme, a few sketches were too clever for their own good, and while a couple garnered titters, few got real laughs.

In fact, the first half was worse than anything else I’ve seen from the Footlights by some way – this was a real shame because the second half showed just how successfully this group can write.

You always expect a sketch show to be a bit hit and miss, but for the first half it was more “miss” or “slightly-less-awkward miss”. A couple of exceptions were the ‘3-D’ sketch, and a few one-liners about DVD titles, but I arrived at the interval thoroughly disappointed.

Someone needed to remind the writers that putting a timer on stage does not make a sketch funny. Nor does repeating it. Nor does repeating it. Nor does repeating it. See? It doesn’t work.

Cue a second-half salvage act which almost, but not quite, brought the show up to scratch. Rosa Robson began it with an incredible piece of mime, a genuine powerhouse of a performance, and the reference sheet novelty was also beautifully written and delivered, finally really getting the audience to laugh out loud.

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The three sketches with audience participation throughout the night were both clever and hilarious, but these were a rarity in a night which was often the former but rarely the latter.

There was enough in this to remind us how good footlights sketch-writing can be, yet the show as a whole was never quite able to recover from its poor start.

Despite that, all four performers acted superbly – Emma Sidi’s ‘meta-sketch’ was brilliantly done, Matty Bradley, whether as a ‘wandering minstrel guide’ or speaking secret code under-water, was consistently excellent and Matilda Wnek’s ‘floating corpse’ was as good a portrayal of an inanimate object as you’re likely to see (trust me, this is more complimentary than it sounds…).

But the emphasis on recurring jokes – some of which weren’t worth doing once, let alone several times – and a preference for clever over funny meant that even the much improved second act wasn’t quite as good as it could have been.

By the time this show gets onto the stage in Edinburgh and America (though not, rather confusingly, Canada) it will, presumably, have been cut down – which means that future performances, with most of the second act and, one hopes, very little of the first, will be well worth seeing. But, in its current form, this was unfortunately not up to the standard we’ve come to expect from the Footlights.