Stepping into some pretty big comedy shoes, Cambridge Footlights have brought a fast-paced sketch and improv show to this year’s Fringe. With some new and amusing concepts in the show, the student performers entertain but don’t quite hit the big laughs enough to put them in the higher leagues of sketch groups at the festival this year.
There are many sketch shows at the Fringe this year which have this narrative arc, or at least running jokes or self-referential nods, and one can’t help but wonder why the young group haven’t upped their game.
The format of the show is a simple one, the sketches rarely involving any props or set up. While the show benefits from this as the pace is kept at full throttle for the majority of the performance, the skits do occasionally feel like they blend together, missing opportunities for the jokes to sink in. This Footlights’ strength is in their punchier sketches - tiny snippets of a spoon bender and the world’s best optometrist getting the biggest laughs of the show.
What this hour of sketch lacks is an overall direction. With no narrative drive or links between sketches the show tends to feel disjointed and ambling. There are many sketch shows at the Fringe this year which have this narrative arc, or at least running jokes or self-referential nods, and one can’t help but wonder why the young group haven’t upped their game. A couple of the longer sketches feel like great concepts which have then been half-realised, not being pulled through to their full comedic potential. A great set-up of Andy Serkis ruining a new film as he’s pipped to the post for lead actor and made to wear his usual motion capture suit is unfortunately drawn out in an improvised section which would have had more impact if it was half the length. However other moments such as the “Good Cop Bad Cop” sketch - where the two cops speak in unscripted unison - are well balanced in length and content and tickle the audience’s collective funnybone in just the right spot.
The stronger sketches and stand-out performances from James Bloor and Ben Pope carry the show through, with irreverent sketches involving a demented Mary Berry and an over-intimate chameleon hitting the mark. However, it feels like this year’s group have come up a little short.