"The Birmingham Footnotes Disagree"

Fri 2nd – Sun 11th August 2013

reviews

Shirley Halse

at 09:10 on 4th Aug 2013

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Competition is notably tough for sketch comedy groups at the fringe. It’s even harder to be successful if one member of your troupe is deliberately trying to undermine the show from within. The Birmingham Footnotes, however, certainly achieve comic success in spite of their failure of unity. At one point someone actually snorted with laughter, which is high praise as far as I’m concerned.

The first thing to note is that yes, this is sketch comedy, and furthermore, YES it has a story – a real live plot – not your regular hotchpotch of funny (or unfunny) little pieces divided by blackouts. It is certainly this element, which helps the Birmingham Footnotes to stand out from the competition. As the show starts, each of the performers are named in turn, giving a brief description of their character and their place within the group. The individuals were ultimately reduced to two opposing factions (each with their own internal rifts) except for Donny (Donovan Mike). He exploited both sides in order to enact a dark vengeance upon comedy.

It is truly very funny and this group are very much worth watching. Their comedy is clever and silly and light-hearted and dark, especially depending on what Donny – think Iago but more chiselled – has said to each side. So “he doesn’t think I can do silly?” from one team captain leads to the development of a sketch where a man is deeply in love with his own elbow. It is as amusing and ridiculous as it sounds.

Another highlight was a sketch about a man waking up in a porno - to be honest it’s probably worth going for this one alone. Jacob Lovick plays a man confused and unsettled by the situation, desperately trying to avoid unexpected amorous advances. The sketch abounds with awkward hilarity.

The group must be far more unified than the story suggests because it is clear that, together, this very smart group have developed a real comic gem.

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Costanza Bertoni

at 10:15 on 4th Aug 2013

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“Yet another student sketch show...” I hear you sigh, clicking away in hope of finding something different. Wait, stop there. The name may have the same ring as the endless listings of sketch companies; ‘Oxford Revue’, 'Durham Revue', ‘Cambridge Footlights’, the ‘Birmingham Footnotes’... but this time, there’s a catch. The latter may indeed be run and devised by students, it may involve sketch comedy, but this production is a blend of dark, slapstick, silly, stand-up comedy. You name it and they did it.

A sketch within a sketch is what the ‘Birmingham Footnotes’ performed, as supposedly their production company battled and schemed for the win of the best comedy sketches. What happens to your love life if you become a sim? If you get stuck in a porno? Or indeed, how wise actually were the three wise men? All questions that will be answered with pace, humour, often with a pleasantly unexpected spin.

The brush behind the sketches: the cast, were bouncy and vibrant and changed both physicality and voice excellently for each part they played. Actors of note were particularly Joe Belham, whose comic facial expressions were truly something, Jacob Larick with his flawless accents and ridiculous yet successful rendition of an elbow fetish, and Jack Robertson’s catchphrases all brought a great energetic drive and diversity to the show. However, I would stress that the cast in its entirety was very strong, and never over-stepped the mark with the excessive confidence that can often make comedy uncomfortable. All the differing comic styles blended well together, creating variegated humorous hues - the picture perfect technique for a quirky sketch show.

Perhaps a slightly clichéd beginning and plot, involving the ‘battle of the sketches’, a commonly adopted structure for most comedy. However, the show soon redeemed itself by quickly shifting between different types of comedy, and pleasantly finishing off with a musical finale, adding a further, pleasant brush stroke to the sketches.

Think that sketch shows can at times be a little repetitive? The ‘Birmingham Footnotes’ most definitely disagree. The Footnotes’ high notes are in fact the fantastic variety of comedy that they offer; in this way ensuring that their show definitely ends on a good note.

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