'Finally, a sketch show for the people!'Oliver Baldock

The hottest new civic sketch show hitting the Corpus Playroom this term, Welcome to Little Heswing is about a “decrepit, bizarre old town” in which three unlikely heroes played by Kate Collins, Emmeline Downie and Bella Hull, are tasked with saving it from being demoted to a village, or, worse still: a hamlet.

The town is under threat because the County Council are under the impression that, quote Emmeline, “bugger all goes on and nobody wants to go there”. The Tourist Information Office have sacked it off, so it’s down to Dianne, a cantankerous middle aged woman (played by Hull), Nigel, the awkward teenage boy (Downie) and the boisterous Lord Heswing (Collins) to come to its defence.

“Another crucial inspiration for the whole show is just the need for a bit more “reckless silliness” in our lives”

What ensues is a series of promotional clips, in the form of sketch comedy, to show just why they think Little Heswing should be saved and at the end YOU, the audience, get to vote on it. I know what you’re thinking: FINALLY! A democratic sketch show! Finally, a sketch show for the people! Finally, a sketch show for the many and not the few!

But really, the idea for the show came about, as Collins says, because they had “seen so many sketch shows in which the narrative felt superimposed” and like it had been “thrown in without really adding anything”. To this end, the team set out to write something where the narrative was the focus and, all being excellent character comedians, an opportunity for them to properly “get into the psyche of some peculiar people”.

Bella tells me that “the benefit of having characters that recur is you get to watch them develop, so that by the end we hope you’ll really be rooting for them and feel properly invested in their fate”. And who doesn’t love a good underdog story?

The town is under threat because the County Council are under the impression that, quote Emmeline, 'bugger all goes on and nobody wants to go there'Oliver Baldock

Collins, Downie and Hull plan to set the scene largely through the use of sound, and although the setting is very much atemporal, the show has a kind of 70s soundscape, evocative of a small town time warp feel. Also adding to the story-telling quality of the show is the omniscient narrative, played by the inimitable John Tothill, a disembodied voice playing between the sketches and breaking down that fourth wall.

But another crucial inspiration for the whole show is just the need for a bit more “reckless silliness” in our lives. “Because I don’t think people are silly enough anymore!” Kate confesses, ’Especially at Cambridge where you feel you have to take everything so seriously and comedy has to make you ‘think’.” Downie promises the antidote: you can expect to have “literally zero to no thought” throughout this entire show except possibly, “What the sweet hell is going on?”

But despite the eccentric character comedy, the crew tell me that it is hugely important not to make comedy at anybody’s expense. Director, Jasmine Rees, has to rush off so when asked what the most important thing to say was, she replied: “Well, they’re just the most wonderful people in the world.”

“You can expect to have “literally zero to no thought” throughout this entire show”

This is evident not only in conversation with them but in the way they approach and write comedy as a celebration of silliness and the oddities in people without being in any way judgemental of them. She also wanted to emphasise they’re an all-female sketch group, in fact in both cast and crew, which does make a difference to the vibe. The whole process has been really collaborative, each feeling comfortable to contribute their own ideas, and backing each other, which makes them the dream team to work with.

So really, the aim for the show, as Bella says, is just to be “playful” with it, particularly in presenting the “naffness” of British culture, recognisable to most people, even if you’re not from a small town.


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And then there’s the feeling of inclusivity that they hope to generate, with the audience participation and narrative thread, and if my experience chatting to them in the Newnham JCR is anything to go by then I’m certain they’ll be able to achieve that. Effectively, they want the audience to have an evening of wholesome fun and take a well-earned break from the fast-pace of Cambridge life.

So I highly recommend you exercise your democratic right this week at the Corpus Playroom: leave all your worries at the door and be transported to Little Heswing, where you won’t need to bring anything with you other than, possibly, a loose knowledge of James Morrison songs

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