Dressing Down

Wed 31st July – Mon 26th August 2013

reviews

Eliza Plowden

at 00:11 on 10th Aug 2013

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‘Dressing Down’, is an energetic, witty and thoroughly entertaining sketch show from the writers of the Cambridge Footlights Spring Revue 2013. The premise is “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, without two of the concepts"; Alex, Ben and Harry lose control of their magic wardrobe, travelling through space and time and finding themselves forced into various outfits.

The Haggard Group keeps its audience entertained with the sheer pace of the show; each sketch is original, and completely different to the last. The sight of three Cambridge lads dressed up in tutus, underwear and sometimes even nothing at all is entertaining enough; however, the most impressive comedy comes from the show’s ingenious script. The sketches touch on a variety of contemporary topics, from gay rights to the Royal baby; the gags about Scottish Independence and Andy Murray were certainly very popular. Some of the subjects are more offensive than others, such as the brief scene involving a priest and a schoolboy, although these are only ever alluded to. The boys’ comic timing is skilful, with brief pauses after particularly suggestive comments, allowing the audience to make their own interpretations.

‘Dressing Down’ is one of those shows that frequently takes its humour from the unfunny, and many of the puns leave you cringing in your seat while the actors revel in the awkward silence. Additionally, some of the sketches are perhaps a little too intellectual, leaving you wondering if you’re missing the bigger joke. However, this is never really an issue as it is easy to let the highbrow quips go over your head while you laugh along at the ingenious costumes and physical comedy.

As director, Jack Gamble deserves a lot of credit for the show’s success. Although there are a few glitches, as is inevitable with such rapid costume changes, ‘Dressing Down’ is smooth and well executed. Further praise must be given to ‘Costumer Extraordinaire’, Emily Dean; the well-stocked wardrobe is clearly crucial for the show’s success. However, it is the talent of Alex Mackeith, Harry Michell and Ben Pope that fuels the show and has us in stitches throughout. A cohesive ensemble, there is clear chemistry between the boys, and you can tell from their faces that they enjoy this just as much as the audience does.

Watching ‘Dressing Down’, you can see why the Cambridge Footlights are so well respected; Harry, Alex and Ben certainly have bright futures ahead of them. If you’re looking for an intelligent, lively and rather silly show that is guaranteed to make your cheeks hurt from laughter, then head to the Gilded Balloon for some top quality afternoon entertainment.

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Matthew Davies

at 14:57 on 10th Aug 2013

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‘Dressing Down,’ a sketch show performed by members of the Cambridge Footlights, was billed as ‘a real highlight of this Fringe’s comedy line-up’. This hype may not have entirely been justified: not all of the sketches really hit their mark, and the group often resorted to gimmicks and more lazy forms of humour. However, one or two innovative ideas and some hilarious running gags make the show a fairly safe bet for comedy junkies at the Fringe.

The central theme of ‘Dressing Down’ is, well, dressing. The ‘plot’ which loosely ties the sketches together is that a magic wardrobe is malfunctioning, forcing the three characters to undergo a non-stop roulette of costume changes and identities. That this isn nonsense doesn’t really matter in itself – but every moment the cast spend on clunky exposition is a moment which could have been spent on quick-fire gags and lengthier sketches.

The costume motif isn’t bad, by any means, but it is largely superfluous, especially when you consider what can be achieved through solid writing alone. The show’s best sketches are therefore those which actually take advantage of costume changes, rather than just using them as an inessential garnish.

The best example of this is one which features two of the cast members wearing one costume on their right side, and one on their left, and rapidly switching between the two.

It’s writing like this which makes ‘Dressing Down’ worthy of your time. For every phoned-in pop culture reference (‘it’s like 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', only without the first two’), there’s a piece of biting satire or an improvised section involving audience interaction. None of this would come together without an impressive cast, but fortunately the three cast members – Alex Mackeith, Harry Michell, and Ben Pope – are charismatic as they play various larger-than-life characters. With a more tightly-written, cohesive show, these three could go far, but as it stands ‘Dressing Down’ is rather too inconsistent to truly allow their comedy talents to shine. In other words, while ‘Dressing Down’ didn’t exactly blow me away, it’s nonetheless a solid if not spectacular sketch show.

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