This show seems to fall short of its potential Rob Eager

The Footlights International Tour: Pillow Talk received a mixed reception during its original run in Cambridge. However, by the end of its Edinburgh Fringe run, it had clearly made leaps and bounds. Perhaps the less forgiving audiences of the fringe have honed the show – it is now clean and slick, suiting a shorter run time.

Will Bicknell-Found, Meg Coslett, James Coward, Christian Hines and Ashleigh Weir bring a bucketload of slightly chaotic energy. They have a whale of a time and the audience enjoy that. Pillow Talk is in good hands with Molly Stacey and Daniel Emery, who allow the humour of the sketches to shine through with simplistic scene changes and clean direction.

The comic value of having a boner seems to be a tad juvenile for the audience

The integration of call-backs into a sketch was well done, although the self-referential jokes weren’t the strongest. The comic value of having a boner seems to be a tad juvenile for the audience, undermining the overall effect – by the third sketch it produces more of a giggle than howling from the rafters. This sketch, however, was managed far better than ‘horse-dad’, which drags on far too long and encourages some rather brutal heckles.

Some of the funniest moments were short and sweetDavid Swarbrick

Audience interaction provides many of the most amusing moments. One of the funniest aspects of the show is the persistent targeting of a single audience member, and the cast now seems to have found the right balance between good-natured teasing and bullying. A particular highlight was James Coward’s playful interaction with the audience as a bed and breakfast manager. It feels like the performers are at their best when improvising and interacting with their audience. The sketches with less audience involvement just don’t feel as fresh as these moments: but perhaps this is the result of a long fringe run.

The show seems to have forgotten that women’s place in comedy is not to simply be a supporting role

The show does suffer from sketches dragging. Despite the shorter running time, many of the sketches feel like they go on too long making punchlines which, delivered a minute earlier, would have been entertaining, predictable. Some of the funniest moments were short and sweet, such as Hines’ Spork sketch, and the team could really do with shortening the sketches that have comic potential and allowing punchlines to come when they are still unexpected.

Perhaps where the show does itself a major disservice, lies in the fact that men seem to dominate. This is not to negate the performances of Bicknell-Found, Coward and Hines, but in an hour-long show there was only one female-only sketch, yet many where only the men appeared. Where women were present, it was often only to play the “straight-man” (ironically) to others’ high jinks. In a year where the Footlights have come under fire for failures in terms of diversity, it feels a tad hypocritical and even more disappointing.


Mountain View

Footlights International Tour Show: Pillow Talk preview

What is more, the show certainly fails to take full advantage of the considerable talents of both Coslett and Weir. Weir in particular seems to be missing from the show - she doesn’t appear after the intro sketch for almost 15 minutes. These issues, combined with some over-long sketches, make it all feel a bit outdated and self-congratulatory. The show seems to have forgotten that women’s place in comedy is not to simply be a supporting role and one cannot help but feel this is a balance that must be redressed before the tour hits the States.

Pillow Talk is a show with more potential than it currently presents. A serious rewrite, reshuffle and trim of sketches would make it fly. At present, it is an enjoyable hour of comedy but one that is immensely frustrating as the talent of the entire creative team has been lost to some odd choices. Hopefully these will be rectified in time for its transfer to the US and the home run in Michaelmas.