Rob Eager

Look Alive opened with the five Footlights crammed into the Earth Exhibit, recreating the iconic still that has publicised the show. In the stillness, the emptiness of the stage is evident. There are no props, the lighting remains minimal throughout and the performers are uniform in costume. Despite the ostentation of the Christmas pantomime, this minimalism is not new to the Footlights – many of their sketch shows follow a similar reliance on the capabilities of script, direction and performers. However, Look Alive is the first time this decision has felt like a deliberate artistic choice.

The moment of stillness whilst the premise of the show is introduced is quickly broken, as the cast transition into Sophie Foote and Griffin Twemlow’s demanding choreography. Immediately, the cleanness of the performance is evident. Every detail and movement is polished and purposeful. There is a skilful balance of subtlety and exaggeration in action and reaction. Noah Geelan (director) and Patrick Wilson (assistant director) measure audience perception with unprecedented skill. The timing never falters; the black-outs that conclude each sketch drive the piece and heighten the comedy.

The dynamism of the show is impressive. It is as fast-paced as the smokers, yet remains consistent in quality and energy for the duration of the show. Comrie Saville-Ferguson and Lucia Revel-Chion executed a complex sound design that united and enhanced the collection of sketches. Internal monologues, pop music and sound effects all equally flowed throughout the show.

“There is a sense of unity and cohesion, yet clear characterisation and individual talent is never lost.”

It is clear that the directors know how to utilise their performers. Between the five Footlights, there is a sense of unity and cohesion, yet clear characterisation and individual talent is never lost. Jamie Bisping and Sasha Bobak demonstrated fantastic versatility as actors as they moved through a variety of characters and roles. Bisping was especially strong, whether alone or in a pair. His characterisations of Jesus and of the student, Ben, were entirely different but equally entertaining. During his mime piece, which relied heavily on audience-participation and quick wit, he commanded the stage. Bobak’s ability with accents allows her to naturally assume a variety of roles, transitioning between characters with ease. Harriet Fisher had an unbelievable and infectious energy that remained consistent throughout. Her movement is particularly impressive, the silent disco and gym sketches making use of her ability to enhance the sense of dynamism.

Angela Channell and Alex Franklin gave the most assured sense of character in their performances. The audience reacted particularly well to Channell’s character Observation Oliver, a highlight for those who saw her as Maurice in the pantomime last Michaelmas. It was impressive to see the way in which Alex Franklin’s original and iconic stand-up was embedded into a sketch show in a way that did not feel remotely forced. His literal-thinking, deadpan character was particularly effective in the Cluedo piece, prompting hilarity, and he featured prominently as Elon Musk, a characterisation that the audience thoroughly enjoyed.

The sketches themselves are original. Whilst audience participation often instils theatre-goers with fear, the Footlights created an atmosphere where it felt purposeful and fun. The members drawn from the audience helped to carry the sketch, demonstrating the power of the performers to manage the unpredictability of an audience member. Jamie Bisping particularly shone here in his ability to divert from the script. The babysitter sketch incorporated participation in a way that felt wonderfully fresh and clever.


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The writing itself is consistently strong. The content is skilfully selected from a variety of sources, reworking a Jeremy Kyle setup in a way that made it feel original and highlighting the capacity for comedy in the serious. While the topics remained accessible for all audience members, the humour marked the comedic intelligence that sets the Cambridge Footlights apart from your everyday sketch show. Metatheatrical moments particularly demonstrated this: the Political sketch was an outrageously funny take on a comment that the Footlights are not “political enough”. This encompassed everything that I loved about the show. There was no overbearing awareness that we were watching Cambridge students perform, but rather professional comedians who established an entirely fresh landscape in the Earth Exhibit. It is everything that comedy should be about: relief.

Having followed the Footlights’ performances for the past year, the international tour comes as a conclusion to a year of strong performances. While it is sad that we will not get to see this collection of Footlights perform as a unit again in Cambridge, I was left both excited for the next year and struck by why the Footlights remain the iconic output of Cambridge theatre.

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