The Cambridge Footlights International Tour Show 2015: Love Handles

Mon 10th – Sun 30th August 2015


Poppy McLean

at 10:29 on 15th Aug 2015



Reviewing a Footlights tour show is like frying ants with a magnifying glass: undeniably life-affirming and great fun, but tinged inevitably with the stale scent of cliché. I’d love to reveal that this year the sketch group made some fatal error in their script - or simply fell over a few times – but to my simultaneous joy and chagrin Love Handles was consistently and predictably brilliant. Despite occasionally bold choices (one sketch had the audience peer in on a showering woman with increasingly gung-ho shaving tactics: hysterical – but mostly female – laughter ensued) no sketch fell flat, or continued beyond the point of freshness. The skits were silly and diverse, effortlessly mixing in a well-flowing combination of wordplay, ‘meta’ jokes, impressions, physical gags and songs without wasting a single line. A few moments occasionally felt perhaps slightly student-y for the predominantly adult audience (an explosive round of “Turn Down For What” springs to mind), and one sketch about horny OAPs may have been particularly memorable for the venue’s front row of senior citizens.

The cast list carried no dead weight; one of the show’s delights was the constant discovery of new talent and brilliant character-comedy from all members of the confident and talented team. Their onstage chemistry was fantastic, but often the best sketches were the ones with one clearly dominant persona. Impressions were a real strength: Adrian Gray’s wide-eyed Michael Gove and lovelorn Brian Cox were fantastic, and the Ed Miliband duo of Luke Sumner and Archie Henderson was frighteningly accurate (a cliché, yes, but see how you feel when confronted unexpectedly by Milibean squared). Shake almost any sketch and out of it would fall a brilliant, larger than life character who could easily have entertained an audience for a good twenty minutes, all fuelled by the tremendous energy the performers invested in their every contribution. Aside from a slightly confused opening, one potentially jarring aspect of the show was the group’s decision to string together their pieces around the impending meteoric fate of ‘Pudgely’; the occasional announcements from the town’s local radio between sketches often came as a surprise, and added little but a prompt for the crowd to reluctantly recall the artifice of the bare stage before them. It felt almost like in those intermissions the cast were making excuses for moving to a different setting, to an audience who was already all too keen to see what new scene would burst into life before them next.

Nevertheless, Love Handles is undeniably a rib-ticklingly wonderful show. If laughter is the best medicine then the Footlights are amongst the finest doctors – do not miss your appointment this summer.


Rowena Henley

at 11:43 on 15th Aug 2015



Cambridge Footlight’s comedy sketch compilation Love Handles was a show of tremendous highs and disappointing lows. Despite the fact that this was a performance backed by true comedic intelligence and performed with inexhaustible energy, it also was one with fundamental flaws.

The legacy of Footlights (having famously been host to the likes of Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and Emma Thompson) is both a blessing and a curse, and is one difficult to detach from any present-day performance. Expectations are high, but vindication is also. Love Handles had a fair few scenes which failed to deliver, but the lack of laughter didn’t have that same excruciating sense of awkwardness and pity that you so often come across at other comedy sketch shows because… well, it’s Footlights. I got the feeling that people were concerned that we were the ones underperforming.

Love Handles began with a rather confusing recreation of a newsroom, which (I could just about work out) was reporting the story of a meteor heading towards earth. However, performer’s projection was too weak and the commentary too rushed to clearly convey what the group was trying to put across, and what was (I eventually figured out) the foundation of the entire show. Their overarching theme about the town of Pudgely’s impending doom felt a bit shoddy and didn’t quite glue the show together in any coherent or comical way.

Having said this, the vast majority of sketches within Love Handle’s unsuccessful umbrella topic were ingeniously funny. One scene depicting a rather somber clown at a birthday party had the audience near tears with laughter, whilst a sketch involving the impersonation of Labour’s Ed Miliband was done to Rory Bremner-esque perfection. The shorter scenes were also mercilessly funny and intelligently crafted, with an in-shower shaving scene and a rather risqué dance routine standing out as two highlights.

This troupe’s pacing, variety and professionalism is truly remarkable. Cambridge Footlights have even perfected the art of corpsing, breaking down the ‘fourth wall’ and allowing the audience in on the joke when the moment called for it.

Each scene transition and use of sound or lighting was polished and precise. However, one could argue that this troupe had the staging and resources which others do not. A lot of this show’s success relied upon the talent of its technical team. Nonetheless, the slickness of dance routines and song writing can only be down to the performers themselves.

Some scenes, however, were undeniably substandard. Jokes about burning nuns and GCSE geography simply didn’t have the finesse of the surrounding sketches and let the performance down hugely.

Love Handles is a show well worth your time. However, whether it’s worth the expensive price tag, I am not so sure.


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