Ford takes centre stageMia Griso Dryer with permission for Varsity

Kitty Ford had already made a name for themselves in the Cambridge comedy scene long before their solo hour. Ford is a Footlight, and while many within Cambridge University don’t know the exact intricacies of this role, everyone seems to grasp that it’s a pretty big deal.

And yet, one of the issues I have with Cambridge Theatre (my dearly beloved) in general, is the self-flattery that is crafted around it. “Footlight”, “ADC Main”, “Varsity Review”... in the big wide world world none of these things actually matter at all. None of these words mean anything to anyone who doesn’t make the bizarre choice to live within a one-point-five mile radius of the Corpus Playroom for a good chunk of their precious youth, nor should they.

So when, for the first six minutes, Ford opened on a charismatic but extremely Cambridge-centric spiel. I sighed. Here we go again. Look at me, laugh at me. I hate Cambridge students.

“Sweeping the audience off their feet with crafty self-awareness and reassurance of the comedic form”

Yet, the script consistently allows the audience to assume the obvious to arise before sweeping them off their feet with crafty self-awareness and a comic reassurance. The audience is, throughout the set, presented with such a witty performance, that it is hard to believe all this skill is coming from one performer alone. We are treated to Shrek-inspired lip-syncs, sardonic yet reflective folk songs and an invitation by Kitty to come up and actually cut their hair off near the end. I couldn’t help myself with the last one. I don’t think that hairdressing is my calling.

The most effective component of this variety, however, is Ford’s autobiographical monologues that ease themselves throughout the show. Moments after I first settled into the acceptance that I was to watch a good, but only a good, show catered around gender-confusion in the most Cantabrian sense, Ford left the stage in a frenzy, and returned in a modestly unpretentious demeanour. The first of these monologues was delivered. Ford spoke of an oversized jacket they had had as a child - a piece of clothing that made them feel, truly, like themselves. Something very strange then happened. I began to cry.

It is a rare thing, for many, to feel seen in comedy. Laughter is one of the few near human universals, yet in both Cambridge and still the wider world, there is still an impression to outsiders of the scene that those onstage, especially in stand-up, are the traditional exclusive and elite. It is a brave thing that Ford has done in simply the title of this show, and I am so proud that they delivered.

“It is a rare thing, for many, to feel seen in comedy”

In the show’s autobiographical nature, Ford verbally at one point highlights the influence of the likes of Hannah Gadsby and Mae Martin, but Ford is in a league of their own entirely. The sheer propensity and variation available for the audience to lap up is astounding. I cried, but I also couldn’t stop laughing. There is an impressive disbandment of tradition not only in the blatant identity of the show, but in the thorough yet exciting structure and plethora of skill that is on display. Ford endears yet entertains. You cannot help but be on their side. And even if you aren’t, it’s hard to argue against the fact that they are bloody well funny.

It is exactly what people don’t expect to see from a Footlight, and it is exactly what the Footlights need. I recognised some fresher faces in the crowd. I hope that, as Ford approaches their graduation, the show has left a lasting legacy on Cambridge comedy and the understanding of comedians as to what they can individually achieve.

“I simply can’t, and won’t, shut up about this show anytime soon”

This is a show that needs to maintain a life outside of Cambridge and the Corpus walls. Kitty Ford understands an audience, and I think there is already an awareness that if the show were placed elsewhere, much of the content of the script would have to be altered. There were also some moments of sound design which felt too prescriptive and misaligned with the energy of the script, and took away from the capability of the performance. This being said, I encourage the future team behind the next iteration of the show to apply as much consideration to space as they have done in the often mitigating Playroom.


Mountain View

Emerging from the shadows of a dystopian world, Love Corporation comes to the Corpus Playroom

On a personal note, I want to say thank you to Kitty Ford. It is a rare thing, for a lot of people, to feel seen. Whilst the hour focuses on Ford’s psychologically grounding relationship of perception and conception of self, it does speak to the Queer AFAB experience, and I felt a connection to the curated autobiography that I have not yet felt to any story I have seen on a Cambridge stage. I simply can’t, and won’t, shut up about this show anytime soon.

I have a confession: I am both a “Varsity Hack” (another term that does not matter) and a frequenter of the ADC sphere. Yes, I confess, in a previous paragraph, I was but berating myself. In a similar self-deprecating and aware method as Ford, although not half as skilled, I’ll finish on another sentimental note.

There is a bright future for many who dedicate their hours alongside the strenuous Cambridge degree to creating passion projects in the venues the city has to offer students. It’s not all bad. At the very end of the hour, Ford doubts if there is a future in performance for them. If they are what the world wants to see. I don’t know everything, apart from what a PLX is, but I am pretty sure that there is. And if there isn’t, that’s the world’s loss.