The Cambridge Footlights International Tour Show 2016: Lagoon

Wed 3rd – Mon 29th August 2016

reviews

Dominic Leonard

at 10:14 on 13th Aug 2016

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The audience packing into the enormous Roxy Assembly is one of the most varied I’ve seen so far at a Fringe comedy show – the Cambridge Footlights (a sketch group famous for nursing the talents of Hugh Laurie, Richard Ayoade, David Mitchell et al) clearly have a reputation that is far-reaching, pulling in an audience of everyone from seemingly 13-year-olds and elderly folk. And whilst the reputation is well deserved and the rotating members this year continue the marker of quality that the group promises, delivering a series of funny and varied sketches, the show is not as outstanding as I had hoped it would be.

The small pieces of the show, ‘Lagoon’, vary in time from 10 seconds to 10 minutes, from topics such as guitars, skydiving, accents and avant-garde filmmaking. One particularly entertaining sketch, my personal favourite of the show, involves children talking at an 8-year-olds birthday party about things 8-year-olds talk about (random bouts of crying, the mystery that is a female, party bags) in the candid, straightforward manner that 20-somethings talk to one another at awkward parties. Another golden sketch contains an interview of two swimmers following a race, and the conceit is slowly revealed that the two swimmers are in fact 1st and 2nd place of the sperm's race to the ovum. In another impressive series, following a sketch in which the group play ABBA, they go on to criticise their own inability to perform Swedish accents, and take the time to try slipping between different accents, changing mid-sentence from Scouse to Spanish, Italian to Welsh, into slowly more abstract ‘accents’ such as Welsh to Pigeon and Elephant to Racecar.

But as is the case with most sketch shows, there are duds, and more than I think can be immediately forgivable. A few sketches do not quite land properly, and the laughs at points became infrequent or forced; I was sometimes laughing through a cringe, or laughing so as not to be silent around the laughing crowd. The show is a great crowd-pleaser – rarely does a moment go unappreciated by the room. The beginning is weak – opening introductions and the first few sketches began the show on something of a sour note, and it took a while to hit its stride properly. The first time I laughed genuinely was around the half-way point, but the laughs land more regularly following this.

Whilst the show has clever ideas and the occasional big laugh, in its entirety the moments of true comedy gold are too few and far between to make it a show to remember. The writing is intelligent but the performances lack the necessary spark to truly bowl me over as individuals – a group of clearly intelligent writers, but the brilliance that characterises the Footlights is missing this year. An enjoyable show, but not one to go out of your way for.

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Thomas Jordan

at 10:50 on 13th Aug 2016

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The Cambridge Footlights have produced some huge stars throughout their history: Hugh Laurie, David Mitchell, John Cleese – if I go on I’ll make the Oxford Revue cry. The point is, there’s rep, there’s expectation. And whilst the current crop are undoubtedly talented, they do not quite leap over that historical bar that has been set. Having said that, it is a bar that requires legendary comedic status, and falling a little short of that means only that the 2016 Footlights will give you a good night, rather than the best of your Fringe.

The five-person show is made up entirely of sketches, and as such the early scenes feel slightly over-scripted. The individual comedians are pretty indiscernible in style from each other, and without any completely natural dialogue with the audience it takes some time for a rapport to be built with those waiting to be consumed by genuinely involuntary cackles. An opening guitar shop sketch plays on obvious clichés (embarrassing mum, heavy metal dude…), whilst it occasionally feels as though it has been written only to allow a couple of members to show-off their guitar playing skills. The familiar tropes continue throughout the show: a surprise party, a sports interview, Andy and Jamie Murray, a midnight feast – I don’t want to give you the entire set list. As such, the sketches will always be at least reasonably funny; we can all chuckle from recognition. The most arousing are those with truly original twists: the swimming race interviewees are in fact sperm who have just competed in the race to the egg.

As the show continues, the energy picks up. The rowdiest laughter comes from a brilliant kids birthday party sketch in which the dialogue style is adult, but the content remains infantile. During a discussion about his misbehaving eight-year-old girlfriend, one child moans: “Yeah, she can be such a c***.” This loosens up the audience, who are treated to a much greater variation of length and form in the second half of the show. More clichéd laughs come from a nevertheless skilfully performed accent routine, whilst a 4D grand finale with audience participation is a little slapstick.

But by this stage no one cares about the writing – a nice connection has been built with their audience and the bar of expectation does not seem to matter anymore. You are never going to win comedy prizes by allowing audience members to smush cake into an (admittedly wonderful) beard, but that doesn’t stop the Footlights from giving an impressively large audience a fun time.

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