Cambridge Arts Theatre with permission for Varsity

For just two nights in March, the Cambridge Footlights are teaming up with comedy troupes from other UK universities to each showcase a selective set of sketches for audiences at the Cambridge Arts Theatre.

The opening night performance on March 10th, hosted by the Footlights - or actually a very panicked man named Miles - featured performances from both the Leeds Tealights and the Oxford Revue. The Cambridge Arts website also lists the Durham Revue and Bristol Revunions as featured performers…presumably next weekend’s special guests?

With no overriding theme, or occasion (other than the obvious: celebrating Mother’s Day for Alice from Leeds’ Mum) the three comedy troupes put on a two-hour comedy selection that landed especially well for student audiences.

The Leeds Tealights

After host Miles’ introduction, the Leeds Tealights kicked off the evening with their outstanding abundance of energy (that frankly, outshone Oxford and Cambridge’s efforts combined). The smallest troupe of the three teams, the Tealights knew how to promptly and effectively land a punchline. Nearly every one of their sketches got laughs-- and so much of it was earned because of the cleanliness of their delivery. Their method was to be sharp-witted, short, and sweet, and it evidently paid off.

Their punchiness led the audience everywhere from a post-apocalyptic church preaching to the remaining religious text: Craig David’s 7 Days, to the world of Scooby Doo, and the parent-teacher meeting of Mrs. Freud herself.

However no matter how unusual the set up for the scene, the Tealights had structured their comedy with the audience in mind. Of their dozen or so scenes, very few fell flat or led to confused giggles from the back of the house… this unfortunately could not be said for all of our presenters that evening.

The Oxford Revue

Rivalries aside, the players in the Oxford Revue were not particularly convincing to the audience that they actually wanted to be in Cambridge. That is to say, to maintain the momentum of Leeds’ enthusiasm was not going to be an easy task, and while their ideas and scenarios were perhaps more creative and politically engaged, they were not always executed with the same precision or attention to timing and patience. Their teamwork too, felt at times, discombobulated.

Despite the fact that narrating a Hinge date as though it were a sports match is comedic in theory, it was somehow not nearly as funny as the 2-minute long Custard Cream advertisement featuring an earnest Father-Son duo.

Oxford’s strengths also seemed to come from comedifying everyday life; perhaps one of the best sketches in the three-part show involved the ridiculous personification of a self-checkout machine (and of course a lackadaisical shop employee with the magical, fix-it-all lanyard).

The Cambridge Footlights

The Footlights took the stage after the intermission to round out the evening with a well-curated assemblage of sketches. Like the Oxford Revue, their various comedic scenarios were perhaps as equally as outlandish and fun-- however one or two callback bits throughout the set really aided in a sense of cohesion, and earned them some extra laughs.

The Footlights’ greatest strengths were in their obscurities. A 16th century Shakespeare dweeb challenges a vaping schoolkid to a duel? Strange on paper, great on stage. This particularly was a sketch that did not get nearly as much appreciation as it deserved. It seems though, as if it might have had greater payoff with an all-student audience. Similarly, the absolutely absurd spoken word poem about coconuts (and war?) had a great amount of potential, that with even further commitment to the bit (and either more, or a lot less clarity), would have really shone.


Mountain View

This is the Big One is ‘way more than half bad’

While all three troupes had their ups and downs, they certainly worked together to put on an enjoyable, lighthearted evening… very much needed at this time in term! You’d be silly not to catch the second round of Footlights highlights, next Sunday March 17th at Cambridge Arts Theatre.