Lining up for some fresh comedyBecca Nicholls

Freshers’ plays have become an integral part of the overwhelming world of Cambridge theatre over the past few years, and for good reason. Taking away the element of competition with older, more experienced actors renders drama far more accessible to those who perhaps haven’t had as much experience, giving them valuable opportunities to improve their skills and familiarise themselves with the chaos of putting together a show in as little as three weeks. The notable lack of comedy organised exclusively for freshers, however, as well as recent controversy over the diversity of the Footlights committee, suggest that perhaps comedy is less open to welcoming new talent.

The cast and crew of Queue, a brand-new freshers’ sketch show, are very aware of how difficult it is to get into comedy without experience, and they aim to fight this perception. Cast member Izzy Lewis, who has never participated in a sketch show before this point, explains to me what she terms the ‘paradoxical circle’ of Cambridge comedy. I’m alerted to the fact that auditions for sketch shows require pitching material of a high quality, yet Lewis has discovered that the best way to improve one’s writing is, ironically, to take part in a sketch show. I am told that the Queue auditions, however, were held in a different way. “We weren’t looking for the people who knew the most”, says cast member Will Owen. “We made our choices based on natural writing ability and having a comedic sense.”

The atmosphere is welcoming and friendly, encouraging cast members to improvise freely

In the spirit of its name, Queue is quintessentially British; some of the references I hear thrown around in rehearsal include the Great British Bake Off and “that is so classic GCSE drama.” It is, in essence, a “queue” of short sketches ranging from witty to silly to frankly bizarre – a charismatic, relatable, and hilariously awkward patchwork of scenes which show devised theatre in best possible light. The concept of a literal queue is used as a loose but effective through-line. “There can be all sorts of characters in a queue”, says Owen. “We thought of it because it’s a setting which brings out the good and the bad in people, with loads of comedic potential.”

The rehearsal I have the pleasure of attending is a mixture of group writing, devising, and performance. All the sketches at this stage are very much work in progress, but the atmosphere is welcoming and friendly, encouraging cast members to improvise freely and try things out in a low-pressure environment. Squawks of loud, supportive laughter as well as “I’m sorry, guys, that wasn’t very funny” are heard in equal measure throughout the rehearsal and received with equal gratitude by performers. Even I, a stranger to the close-knit friendships that had been built up over the rehearsal process, can feel that this is a safe space, where cast members can put forward their ideas without fear of being judged.

The nature of Queue is that it is very much a collaborative effort – as cast member Harriet Fisher tells me, it is “the ultimate group project”. Every cast member is both a writer and a performer. This is why I felt that the best way to get to know the show was by talking to everyone in the room, rather than just the director. I am told about group writing sessions, in which cast members bounce ideas off one another and help each other form their initial thoughts into concrete skits. Director Joe Foye came into the process at a later stage, and I had already gotten the impression from the rehearsal that in some senses the whole cast takes part in directing the show. Foye seconds this, telling me that unlike his experience in directing plays, his job here “feels more like curating an exhibition than directing – I’m just trying to put all the sketches together in the best way possible.” Nevertheless, Foye’s role is clearly vital; as a steadying hand, he guides the rehearsal, keeping the particularly outlandish sketches under control and providing constructive feedback.


Mountain View

Mitchell and Webb meet in Cambridge

Queue is awkward, ridiculous, and relatable all at the same time. The cast have great energy, and the show has the potential to be a burst of fresh air in the Cambridge comedy scene. 

Queue is on at the Corpus Playroom 8-10 May

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