If there's a theme to Free Footlights, a somewhat eclectic collection of stand up bits, monologues and comedy songs from members of the Cambridge Footlights, it's a streak of self-deprecation. Despite promotional material that often peddles the Footlights' connection to some of the biggest names in British comedy history, the current crop of Footlights know that their troupe's star-studded past doesn't guarantee a successful future. In fact, between gags about useless degrees and the questionable career move of pursuing stand up comedy at all, the future seems to be weighing heavily on the minds of these young comedians.
Based on this show, they needn't worry: the diversity of acts and the strength of depth on display in Free Footlights should have other student comedy groups green with envy. Phil Wang, the multiple award winning jewel in the Footlights' crown, sets the ball rolling with his slyly subversive race humour, playing off the audience's expected prejudices to hilarious and often embarrassing effect. From this conventional stand up the Footlights breeze through a variety of genres, with graph and prop humour from Zoe Tomalin that would do Demetri Martin proud and invective filled comedy tunes from Emerald Paston. Even compere Pierre Novellie, visibly squirming in a role that requires him, in his own words, to walk a 'tightrope of mediocrity' so as not to overshadow the main acts, is an absolute pleasure to watch, interacting jovially with a crowd immediately receptive to his self-effacing charms.
All that prevents me from recommending Free Footlights completely without reservation is that the line up on show changes each day. Who's to say if the endearingly down to earth 2012 Chortle Student Comedy Award finalist Kwame Asante, labelled a 'friend of the show' but not a member of the Cambridge Footlights, will feature on a regular basis? Still, if you're willing to gamble on the show's rolling line up, you could win big with Free Footlights.