Cambridge Footlights: Canada

Sun 4th – Mon 26th August 2013


Megan Stodel

at 23:43 on 4th Aug 2013



The current members of the Cambridge Footlights must be feeling the pressure to live up to the reputation of the group in this, its 130th year of existence. With the likes of Hugh Laurie and John Cleese as alumni, past standards have been high and the packed venue is a testament to people’s expectations. They will not be disappointed; this year’s crop are confident and quirky, presenting a barrage of sketches that get it right far more often than not.

There are some truly brilliant sketches that use novel approaches to take the format beyond the expected. For example, each audience member was furnished with a sheet of numbered references to complement one of the sketches. The need to scan our pages to find the punch lines made them all the more satisfying, particularly when accompanied by jokes that worked with or without the reference card.

Varied ideas and structures serve to give the show a lot of energy. Some sketches are barely five seconds, whilst others are developed over minutes or reprise throughout. We see mime and costumes, hear accents and sound effects, meaning that the hour passes all too fast in a whir of activity.

All the performers have excellent comic timing and take on a range of characters with ease. I was excited to see that three of the four were women (Emma Sidi, Matilda Wnek and Rosa Robson), which is refreshing indeed in the world of sketch comedy; they are all fantastic, as demonstrated well in their piece that started with something of an eroticised dance-off, which earned one of the biggest rounds of applause of the hour.

Inevitably, not all sketches are of the same standard. Although I noted the skill involved as Rosa Robson mimed a scene around a long washing line, it wasn’t particularly amusing and I was disappointed that it was one of the longer sections. In addition, sometimes the cleverness of the idea behind a sketch didn’t translate into hilarity, particularly those that were reliant on audience participation.

However, the room was filled with laughter most of the time. Wit, precision and panache make ‘Cambridge Footlights: Canada’ well worth seeing; the performers do an excellent job of living up to their group’s reputation.


Anjali Joseph

at 09:35 on 5th Aug 2013



The perpetual buzz around the Cambridge Footlights is by no means misplaced. Although its title seems to have been pretty arbitrary, ‘Canada’ was slick, witty and silly, and had the audience roaring with laughter. From a sketch about a machine that shows you how you die, to one that required every member of the audience to have cue cards, going via the genres of mime and slapstick, the Footlights’ show pushed the boundaries of sketch comedy.

Along with writer Jon Bailey, the four actors, Emma Sidi, Rosa Robson, Matilda Wnek and Matty Bradley were also responsible for the script. It is a testament to the strength of the writing that frequently recurring jokes, such as the Death Machine sketch, remained funny with each subsequent incarnation. The shift throughout the show from standard sketch comedy to more unusual variations, ensured that this performance retained its freshness, and provided it with a sense of progress. The experimental approach of the show, by allowing some of its elements (such as in ‘The Audience Member’s Dilemma’, which preyed upon an unlucky individual’s sense of obligation to the crowd) to chance, raised this production above the usual sketch show tropes. Similarly, the incorporation of physical comedy proved that, even when pared back to nothing but one actor and a piece of string, the comic talent of these individuals is undeniable.

The pace and timing of the ensemble as a whole, but Rosa Robson’s in particular, was impeccable, and was complimented by deft musical and sound cues. The entire performance was orchestrated with a polish and professionalism that is rarely seen in student productions. The acting quartet were universally strong, with particularly impressive performances including Robson’s extended mime which provided, among other things, the first instance I’ve ever encountered of a successful Dead Baby joke. Robson’s facial contortions and range of physicalities made her completely enthralling to watch.

Matilda Wnek’s deadpan deliveries and Emma Sidi’s impersonation of an amorous Spaniard also demonstrated their comedic and dramatic chops, as did Matty Bradley’s open-mouthed date. At times absurd, often intelligent and always entertaining, the Cambridge Footlights very much lived up to their 130 years of accumulated hype.


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