The Footlights Present... - Free

Fri 5th – Sun 28th August 2011

reviews

Madeleine Morley

at 11:26 on 18th Aug 2011

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The real test for any Cambridge Footlights event or stand-up show seems to be whether or not it can hold its own when taken out of the cozy and forgiving atmosphere of Cambridge where members become the equivalent of national treasures. Can it stand out against the bustling, exuberant, energetic and ruthless atmosphere of Edinburgh, where they become another bunch of kids desperately shoving their flyers at uninterested passers-by on the Royal Mile? It's a move from being the big fish in a tiny pond to being the tiny fish in the bigger, scarier, unforgiving pond that is the Edinburgh Fringe. As a student at Cambridge I start to wonder, is it just the name and its connotations that make Footlights so special? Do the Footlights make as much of an impression when you take them out of their context and comfort zone? Are they really just as funny as we think they are or are we just stunned by their intimidating collection of previous members and historical, momentous contribution to comedy?

Watching the Footlights stand-up in Edinburgh I decided that yes, they are just as funny as we think they are, maybe even funnier, because by the end of a few terms at Cambridge the jokes and characters are very familiar. But seeing them perform in a new atmosphere where audience members have no idea what to expect, they do shine out against the huge, messy, almost incomprehensible mass of comedy listings that are around. Seeing them elsewhere rekindled my admiration of the group. It no doubt is the name and reputation that brings in the audience, and a huge queue stretches outside the Ciao Roma of which only half will be able to fit into the little room of a capacity of maybe 60. They have a lot to live up to.

On this particular afternoon we were treated to a few brief, at times edgy at other times sweet, glimpses into the characters of a few of the groups finest members. Leading the show was the strange and endearing ramblings of MC Dannish Babar, whose structure for the event seemed to be making small talk with a baby audience member whose baffled responses seemed to be just as hilariously convoluted as the show itself. Each day there is a difference set of members doing stand-up, so it stands as a good opportunity to intimately get to know a small, random assortment. Standing out particularly is the imaginative, disconcerting, deeply creepy and deeply dark monologues of Emma Sidi. Not to miss is the intense and absurd comedy of Ahir Shah, but if you do miss him in a 'Footlights Presents…' show, you can always catch him at the Underbelly for his one-man show 'Astrology'. I suppose this is a taster show, a getting to know session with a few of the strangest and wittiest, maybe through a song with Rob Carter, or through the awkward babble of Matt Lim.

Plus its free, and it's the Footlights doing what they do best, and when you're at the Fringe why not see big fish be little fish becoming bigger fish and wonder who amongst them will become the biggest fish.

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Ellen Marsh

at 16:58 on 18th Aug 2011

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The Cambridge Footlights have a fantastic reputation, meaning many more people came to see their free show than could fit in the small venue on Nicolson Street (note: Ciao Roma not Iman’s). Though some were turned away, those that were lucky enough to get in found themselves packed together on the floor and standing in any space available to see the group do their stand-up. This is indicative of the level of professionalism and comedy expected of them.

The compère is natural, witty and has a great rapport with the audience, especially a baby called Daisy. The spontaneity of this material demonstrates his skill as a comic, and made me wish there had been more of him in this set.

As usual with stand-up cabaret-type shows, quality and comic genre varies, as does audience reaction to each performer. I did not find Emma Sidi’s monologue from a crack-addict particularly funny, but many other members of the audience were rolling about laughing. Hit and miss are not necessarily the same for everyone.

The final act, musical comedian Rob Carter, was enjoyed by most members of the audience. His lyrics to the ‘Planet of Love’ song reminded me of Flight of the Conchords, with lyrics involving words such as ‘astronaughty’. I hope there’s more from him in their sketch show.

The stand-ups featured in Footlights Present… rotate show by show, but though the individual talents on show may change, what is consistently demonstrated is the wealth of comic ability this group have. Footlights Present… is a wonderful way to check that you like their humour, and to decide whether or not to pay to see their scripted sketch show (I definitely will). The venue was completely packed out, so it’s very important to get there early if you want a seat.

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