Rob Eager

What makes Earth worth studying? Perhaps it's the complexity of its ecosystems, milieu of technological advancements, or the various wonders of the world. Yet, when asking the Footlights, they’ll tell you: “table tennis, Abba, and red velvet cake.”

This year’s Footlights International Tour Show, Look Alive!, places our five Footlights— Jamie Bisping, Sasha Bobak, Angela Channell, Harriet Fisher, and Alex Franklin—  as humans in an “earth exhibit” in an ambiguous galactic museum. Tasked with explaining to extra-terrestrial spectators the quirks of our planet, they launch into a two-hour, high-octane choreographed chaos of a compilation of sketches and song, giving insight into what it means to live in this crazy world and to be human.

Directed by Noah Geelan and produced by Amelia Hill and Hannah Lyall, this annual production is a showcase of the finest of Cambridge comics (Footlights alumni including the likes of Stephen Fry, Olivia Coleman, and Emma Thompson). Following its two week run at the ADC, the show will be compressed from its current two hour iteration down to an hour and go on to the Fringe and then tour across the UK and the United States.

"The most successful of the sketches played on this juxtaposition of the familiar with the farcical"

The show’s opener, a remixed medley of various pop hits set to dance (composed by Comrie Saville-Ferguson and choreographed by Sophie Foote and Griffin Twemlow), was enthusiastically manic, providing for a viscerally stimulating, high-energy introduction to the quintet. The coalescence of the performers reacting to the omnipresent voice of a museum curator (that of Lyall), bouncing along to exuberant tunes, and interspersing jolts of sketches was paired alongside a showcase of polished, vibrant lighting designed by Lucia Revel Chion. The sequence was almost too crazed to be entirely coherent, but was marvelous fun to behold.

The cosmic framing device of the show is an eclectic joy – allowing for following sketches to be generally related to a plethora of parodied cultural touchstones and observationally comic calls to the human condition while still presenting as cohesive. There were cultural references aplenty, each imbued with a strain of absurdity: think Top Gear, but with toy cars, The Jeremy Kyle Show, but with Mary and Joseph as guests, or a performing duo of twins auditioning for the X Factor on the X Factor, but their relationship a bit, well, Cersei and Jamie-esque.

Peter Minnig

The most successful of the sketches played on this juxtaposition of the familiar with the farcical: pairing the inquisitive Sherlock Holmes with the bluntly expressionless “Observational Oliver,” reframing the debate on gun control to “gum” control (performers chanting ‘gum is a constitutional right!’), a divorcee photo shoot supplemented by a power point of their relationship’s lows, and a group of Welsh folk singers crooning about their newly adopted pup while strumming guitars and Franklin banging on a ukulele.  

Each of the performers are plainly exceptionally talented, each dually working effectively within the collective ensemble, yet shining in their respective moments of hilarious characterization: notably, Bisping as a poorly, petulant school “child”, Channell as the aforementioned deadpan “Observational Oliver”, Fisher as the warbling Welsh band leader, Franklin as a satirized Elon Musk, and Bobak as an overwhelmed babysitter.


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Multiple sketches did not present with the same finesse: passengers desperate to ride their plane’s “bouncy slide”, the Queen’s infatuation with Suits (the TV show), a Spanish test, and a “Cabin in the Woods” gone-right scenario seemed, like multiple others, to rush to the finish, lacking equitable comic punchlines to the humourous high notes reached throughout. However, this is just the beginning of a long string of performances at the ADC, the Fringe, and beyond: it’s safe to assume that after repeated performance, condensed to a more comfortable, sharp hour, the show will reach a more thorough hilarity from start to finish.

So, let the Footlights prove to you that the earth isn’t just a “dead husk moving towards an impending climate change disaster” – as despite its often overtly chaotic composition, Look Alive! remains to be an (inter)stellar showcase of cosmic, comic Cambridge talent.

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