The sketch show promises classic irreverent Footlights humourJacob Gaskell

The Footlights’ new sketch show, themed around religion, heaven and hell is currently playing at the ADC. You should absolutely go and watch it – and not because “going to see the Footlights is part of the Cambridge experience” or because “you might spot the next Emma Thompson and be able to tell your kids about it” – it’s just a really, really funny show.

Admittedly, the overarching concept is a little fuzzy – the idea seems to be that Richard Dawkins (James Hazell) takes Jesus (Louisa Stuart-Smith) on a journey on his flying ship (the HMS Reason and Logic) and shows Him the horrible, blasphemous things that the Footlights are saying about Him and His divine dad in their sketch show in order to make Him believe that humankind aren’t worth saving. Phew, meta or what? To be honest, this aspect of the show feels a bit clever-clever, although it is somewhat redeemed by both Hazell’s performance as Dawkins and the inexplicably hilarious sound effects of his magic ship.

“Somebody had far too much fun picking out the incidental music, each piece of which relates – admittedly very nicely – to the previous sketch”

As a whole, the ‘heaven and hell’ theme works rather nicely, allowing for sketches of all premises and styles while remaining coherent as a show. Having said this, towards the end of the night, they do sneak in quite a few sketches which have absolutely nothing to do with the theme. Not that I’m really complaining, as it allows for skits such as the one in which a student named Algernon Beaufort von Twinklecock (Algie to his friends) played by Barnaby Evans complains to the Dean of his college (Flora O’Neill) about the ‘infestation’ of women in his accommodation. Personally, I’d love to have seen more sketches like this which play off the collective experience of the audience as primarily Cambridge students, but I suppose we can’t have everything.

Costumes, props and scenery are sparingly used and charmingly rough-and-ready. Dawkins’s flying ship consists of two wheelie chairs not even remotely joined together: just as any vehicle in a student sketch show should be. Arguably, the transitions between sketches could be a little slicker, seeming to stretch on for far longer than is strictly necessary for someone to pop backstage and stick on a funny beard, or to remove a single plastic chair from the stage. Possibly this was simply the result of opening-night teething pains, although I have a sneaking suspicion that somebody had far too much fun picking out the incidental music, each piece of which relates – admittedly very nicely – to the previous sketch.

“Two YouTube ghost hunters investigate the Neverland Ranch, which is haunted by the ‘HE-HE’-ing ghost of its former resident”

For me, the standout routines were invariably the simplest ones. The first round of applause of the night was won by Jacques D’Anges’s flawless monologue in the character of Martin ‘But What If He Was An Aggressively Alpha-Male Protein Supplement Salesman?’ Luther as he promotes his new product, ‘Reformation Inc.’ Another highlight is the ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’ spoof featuring a man called Joseph (Ben Mulley) who has a few questions about his wife’s sudden pregnancy. While this might not sound like a sparklingly original concept, it is made divine by Ella Scott’s hilarious impression of the eponymous host and the varied vocabulary of crouches that she brings to the role. Scott appears again alongside Jyothi Cross in one of the show’s edgier skits as two YouTube ghost hunters investigating the Neverland Ranch, which is haunted by the ‘HE-HE’-ing ghost of its former resident. I’m pretty sure that the process of writing this sketch consisted of 1) finding out that a member of the cast could do a fantastically creepy Michael Jackson impression and 2) working back from there, but if anything this only added to my enjoyment.


Mountain View

Slaughterhouse Blues is fantastically fresh and deliciously dark

There is no denying the fact that some of these sketches are considerably funnier than others. But then, as former Footlights Mitchell and Webb once observed, sketch shows have to be hit and miss or else people would have to think of something else to say about them. The best that both performers and audience can hope for is that the hits will prove to be more memorable than the misses, and tonight it is safe to say that all our prayers were answered.

Footlights Presents: Heaven and Hell is playing at the ADC until the 5th of February.