The Birmingham Footnotes Have A Plan

Thu 31st July – Thu 14th August 2014

reviews

Tom Gellatly

at 23:27 on 9th Aug 2014

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There are a LOT of skits in The Birmingham Footnotes Have A Plan, and I am still at a loss as to whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. The show's framing device, which is the Footnotes' need to put on a sketch show to raise money to restore an old barn which burned down, feels somewhat unnecessary and consequently a bit weak. This does not set the best tone for the numerous skits which follow.

The show is practically the perfect example of 'hit and miss' comedy. A fair few of the sketches are more puzzling than funny, such as a bizarre interview where every word rhymes with 'seal' or an advert for Virgin Broadband with an inexplicable ending. A lot of these stranger sketches felt misguided and confused about their direction, and it was quite hard to get into them. On a purely plot level they were difficult to follow, which is an especially obfuscatory flaw in a comedy show.

There were, scattered throughout, some genuinely hilarious moments - one skit about a guy who thinks he is a mantelpiece was one of the funniest segments in any comedy show I've ever seen, and had the audience in absolute stitches as the troupe pushed the joke to its limits. The problem with the Footnotes' production is that these moments are memorable largely because of their paucity in the show as a whole, not necessarily because of their quality.

There are some ticklingly funny one-liners and throwaway comments in some of the more traditional sketches. But some skits - for instance one in which a libertarian tries to impress his political views on some kids he is teaching fire safety to - are virtually devoid of any genuinely funny moments, and often seem devoid of any sense, too.

Overall, The Birmingham Footnotes Have A Plan is a comedy show that suffers, largely, from a lack of many comedic moments, the dearth of which becomes more and more apparent as its fifty minute-long running time progresses. The odd few jokes that do take off are absolutely hilarious, but these are so rare that the overall impression the production gives is not, unfortunately, a humorous one. Let's just hope they have a plan B.

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Claire Murgatroyd

at 00:33 on 10th Aug 2014

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The Birmingham Footnotes are clearly a bright and vibrant group of students, who were genuinely excited about what they were doing. What was a shame however, is that neither their enthusiasm nor their sharp wits came through at all in this disappointing sketch show.

The overall concept of ‘The Birmingham Footnotes Have a Plan’ was that a group of slightly unfortunate philanthropists try to save a derelict old mill by performing a charity sketch show – a very metatheatrical and somewhat over-complicated plot that really was not needed to frame the sketches that formed the bulk of the performance.

While having some kind of overarching idea behind a sketch show was a valiant attempt at providing some kind of unity and slickness to a series of fundamentally erratic and random skits, it was fundamentally a weak addition. This attention to detail and self-consciousness began to grate more and more as the show progressed, in fact proving to be the undoing of the Footnotes’ show. Over-rehearsed and over-thought, what did not help were ‘knowing’ glances and winks at the audience, which appeared less self-deprecating and likable, and much more smug than I’m sure they intended.

There was one sketch that did draw a laugh from me, an excellent embodiment of a ‘Doctor Doctor’ joke. The reason that this was so successful though was because a few things went wrong and props fell over, which prompted a far more convincing reaction than anything else in this otherwise fairly disengaged show. Aloof as the cast often seemed, it does not seem fair to completely condemn this performance, as a few members of the audience seemed to genuinely find a lot of the show truly hilarious. However, overall, I left feeling thoroughly unamused, and desperately hoping that today’s performance was a one-off blip on a slightly less sorry run at the Fringe.

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