REVIEW: Freshers’ Week Smoker
An excellent night, showcasing the wide range of talent to be found in Cambridge students.
Filled to the brim with cheap wine and an eager audience, Pembroke Cellars was ablaze with laughter during last night’s Freshers’ Week Smoker.
The colourful decor and Elliott Wright’s energetic, albeit madcap, compering set the tone for a night that was vastly enjoyable without taking itself too seriously. Like the weird uncle at a family Christmas, Wright united and energised the audience as a whole – only occasionally traumatising individuals.
First on the line-up was Mark Bittlestone, whose calm and sophisticated demeanour meant his “shit” jokes were received with hilarity, rather than distaste. Although the nerves of the first comedian of the night were occasionally on show, he ended well with a strong call back.
Carine Valarche and Patrick Wilson shone with extremely likeable stage presences. Valarce balanced out a start that was not quite as laugh-heavy as Wright’s or Bittlestone’s, but she picked up well and some of her jokes had the timing and delivery of a far more experienced comedian. More Valarche would certainly be appreciated on the comedy scene, as an audible “I like her” accompanied her off stage.
Patrick Wilson was undoubtedly the star of the evening. It was difficult to believe that this was only his second stand up appearance. His self-deprecating set was received at times with whoops and cheers, and at others with “awwwww”s. His “list”, and the delivery of it had the audience in pieces.
It was during Wilson’s set, however, that one of the few drawbacks of the night became clear. Many, if not all, of the comedians had a tendency to step away from the well lit central area. This meant that some lines were delivered with the face half in shadow. While not a massive deal, it would be a good thing for future Cellar’s performers to be aware of. In Stanley Thomas and Joe Spence’s sketch segment, it was almost impossible for audience members further back to see the action when the performers were sitting down.
Thomas and Spence delivered a short, but professional selection of sketches. Both performers are clearly accomplished actors as well as comedians. Although this was in the most part advantageous, some sketches, such as the gift one, seemed unnecessarily long-winded. Even these, however, received steady laughs, and by the end of the final sketch the audience were in hysterics.
Ruby Keane and Luisa Callander had the sketch segment of the second half, and delivered a reliably funny set. A favourite with audiences, it’s been reviewed before and could only have been improved by a louder delivery as some lines were missed.
Opening back up after the interval was Colin Rothwell. Clearly an experienced comedian, he was received with shouts and whistles and was in total control of the audience. The reading of the Aldi story was a well prepared highlight, setting the tone for a second half well stocked with funny “read aloud” segments. Will Hall was a particularly good example of this, showing a talent for creating hilarious characters albeit in unbelievable situations.
Emma Plowright somewhat lowered the energy of the room. Although creating genuine laughs, her delivery was a little too quiet and a valuable sense of self-awareness sometimes dropped into apology. Plowright deserves to be more confident on stage as her final jokes, the Royal Family one in particular, were very well received.
Confidence on stage is something that Christof Epaminondas has always, quite endearingly, seemed to lack. Here however, he punctuated his friendly awkwardness with some very funny, clever jokes, showing he has learnt well from previous Smoker appearances.
Haydn Jenkins brought energy back to the room and provided some of the more successful audience participation of the night. He’s a comedian clearly confident enough to mix up his range of delivery, and although that meant that there were varying levels of laughter his clever word play stayed consistent.
Will Dalrymple closed the show with a story. This was slick, hilarious and many were held spellbound (especially by Dalrymple’s masterful use of simile), demonstrating to the freshers the breadth of talent that can be found amongst Cambridge students. His set veered into “too much” for some of them, but genuinely informative – despite six years of compulsory Sex Ed behind me (ooh er), I learnt what rimming is at the Pembroke New Cellars.
The Freshers’ smoker seemed to have been designed perfectly to place the Pembroke Cellars as the home of student comedy. All seats were filled, creating a brilliant atmosphere, but also a fairly stuffy room. If they expect to sell to the same extent next time (and they deserve to), using their profits to invest in a fan or two might not go amiss.
(Although I’m already a fan) (It was great)