Helen Brookes with permission for Varsity

“What show is this?” Upon entering the Corpus Playroom, I was asked this by someone I assumed was a confused audience member. Perhaps, unlike me, not everyone meticulously plans out their theatre trips at the start of term, and instead experiences Cambridge productions by wandering into a venue in the hope that something good is on. However, the questions continued as the audience found their seats. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a noise?” was soon followed by “red or green?” and then “excuse me, can I get to that seat?” (although that last one may have been genuine).

“The questions continued as the audience found their seats”

Eureka!, which brands itself as a “question-themed sketch comedy” certainly opened with the promised confusion. After a slightly shaky start to introduce the theme, featuring head writer Helen Brookes’ desperate, off-key scream-singing of “hey, what’s going on?”, the chaos truly began, as the show began to pull cast members from the their seats in the audience, argue over Margaret Saunderson’s failure to prepare music to fill the gaps between scenes, and, in a particularly memorable moment, involve the unsuspecting viewers in a game of pass-the-parcel. The high-energy absurdity was maintained for the entire show, culminating in Brookes echoing everyone’s thoughts as she shouts to the audience “what the fuck?”

“The high-energy absurdity was maintained for the entire show, culminating in Brookes echoing everyone’s thoughts as she shouts to the audience “what the fuck?””

The sketches themselves were a mixed bag. In some cases, the writers found a strong, amusingly befuddling concept, but failed to flesh it out with enough punchlines. When an emergency meeting is called because the cloud will lose its data when it rains (like the Cloud, geddit?), the initially amusing idea soon becomes tired when the fourth consecutive joke yet again relies on a misunderstanding of cloud storage technology. The opening sketch, where the four main performers (Brookes, along with Sebastian Burrowes-Davila, Toby Trusted and Sophie Petrie) discuss the meaning of ‘Eureka’, was similarly reliant on a single joke. While the brief allusion to Horrid Henry was amusing, the eventual reliance on shouting ‘Nerd Alert! ’ for some semblance of a joke felt tired and juvenile.


Mountain View

Blackboard: Rhyme, rhythm and reasoning in the age of identity

However, other sketches took their already-strong concept and ran with it, and the stronger writing, combined with exceptional performances, created the highlights of the show. Trusted gave a Hamlet performance to rival Kenneth Branagh’s as his soliloquy questioned whether “to push or to pull” a door, before finally making the wrong decision and accidentally tearing off the handle (actually an image taped to the door, adding to the total absurdity of the show). During an English language speaking exam, it was painfully relatable to hear “I go to the cinema at the weekend because it is fun and exciting” spoken in a slightly monotone voice by a sullen student (we’ve all been there), before the shock reveal that she actually spoke fluent English, and was disguising her fluency in the hope of getting a higher grade.

Although it resulted in the occasional giggle from the performers on stage, what shone through in the production was how much fun they were having. Whether it was employing an impressively consistent Russian accent for psychological analysis that would have made Freud proud, or descending into panic in a world where everyone has forgotten how babies are made, the cast bounced off each other, maintaining their energy until the final, nonsensical scene. Even if a couple of sketches didn’t quite land, the overall aim was definitely achieved: everyone left the theatre questioning “what on earth just happened?”