Comprehensive Understanding in actionMiranda Evan with permission for Varsity

A Comprehensive Understanding provides an entertaining hour of sketches written and performed by the creative talent of an entirely state-educated cast. Sketches depicting familiar, and at times absurd, school scenarios made up the bulk of this show and the observations were skilfully handled by this enthusiastic and competent cast.

Not that this show is only for a state-educated audience – but any Eton alumni in the audience would have wanted to keep a very low profile. While the private school jibes came thick and fast, there was a self-awareness that this was a state-educated show at Cambridge University. The show starts with a mocking of Cambridge slang and the single word opening was powerful and almost tear-jerking: ‘Plodge’. It was clear that the audience were on the performers’ side from the start: ready to laugh at themselves, the familiar yet refreshingly reinvented school scenes, and the state of the conservative government.

“There was a self-awareness that this was a state-educated show at Cambridge University”

The cast contained many actors on their first venture into Cambridge comedy. My hunch: watch this space. Their cool confidence meant that the fun that they were clearly having on stage was infectious. Under the supervision of some comedy regulars the cast thrived, and I was surprised to find out just how many were stepping out for the first time. In particular, I commend Nia Morris who commanded the stage and the audience with her physicality and in her performance as ‘The Devil’s Advocate’. She had the audience in stitches with each shake of her pointed tail. Sanaer Madden also had a natural ability for character acting and consistently drew the audience’s attention. And, although not a first-timer, I cannot leave out Isaac Tompkinson’s performance of the sexual confessions of Matt Hancock via slam poetry. It was something I didn’t know I needed to see.

“The fun that they were clearly having on stage was infectious”

Director Kitty Ford handles the performers well. The show is pacy with an interesting variety in types and lengths of sketches. It was in its inventive, well curated variety that this show thrived. From a David Attenborough voice-over of Year Sevens in the lunch queue to a violently GCSE drama-style horror, the audience were kept engaged and kept laughing. This was undermined only slightly when sometimes after the joke had been made, it did not progress but was spelled out and repeated to the audience (Niamh Howat’s almost too cringeworthy and painstaking sex-ed speech comes to mind). What is more, where the show seemed to be firmly linked in its themes of school and the government impact on education, there were a few rogue sketches that might have been better suited in a different showcase and left the audience a bit confused. For example, a sketch where two doctors perform a ‘trans-plant’ on a potted plant. If they wanted to include less topic-specific moments like this, then perhaps they should not have held on so tightly to its school-themed framing.


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A Comprehensive Understanding is a feel-good uniting of students, a varied and impressive showcase, and an undeniably satisfying opportunity to laugh at the privileged many that too often take centre stage.

A Comprehensive Understanding is showing at the ADC from Wed 25 - Friday 27 October.