With their new show hitting the ADC this month before an international tour, Nicola Foley catches up with Cambridge Footlights
The world’s most famous student comedy troupe, Cambridge Footlights has launched the careers of some of this country’s most revered stars. From John Cleese and fellow Python Eric Idle, to Olivia Colman, Stephen Fry and Peep Show stars David Mitchell and Robert Webb, the group has served as a finishing school for the very cream of British comedy.
Little wonder, then, that it’s an intimidating prospect for a wet-behind-the-ears undergraduate with hopes of treading the boards. “The pressure of filling the shoes of previous alumni is something you have to kind of block out, otherwise I think it would be too much pressure,” laughs current writer and performer, Harriet Fisher. “Audiences come with a certain expectation given the history of Footlights, so I think using that nervous energy and pressure is great, but also remembering we’re doing our own show.”
Putting together a show can be a daunting prospect
From writing to choreographing to casting, every element of Footlights productions is the work of students, toiled over in snatched hours between essays and exams. “Putting together a show, especially one that will tour so extensively, can be a rather daunting prospect,” comments tour manager, Hannah Lyall.
“While we focus on the practical side of things, we have entrusted the production of the funny stuff to the wonderful people we’re working with! Over the course of our writing week in the Easter holiday, the cast worked hard to produce lots and lots of sketch content. Since then, it has been a case of editing and finessing, casting and blocking, and most recently choreographing and rehearsing some exciting musical numbers. Things have really started falling into place and I am very excited to see it all come together.”
You can see the fruits of their labour this month, when Footlights bring their trademark blend of skits, stand-up and songs at the ADC for their annual International Tour Show. Entitled Look Alive!, it features two hours of eclectic comedy performed by a talented cast, based around a museum of Earth itself.
“You enter ‘The Earth Exhibit’ and join five human beings as they take you on a whirlwind tour of their bizarre little planet, seen from the outside for the very first time!” enthuses Amelia Hill, tour manager. “Forget everything you think you know and learn it all again in this spectacular, sketch-shaped trip through the kinks and quirks of life on Earth. With musical numbers, choreography and non-stop laughs, it’s a fantastic way to spend a summer evening.”
After the ADC run, it’s traditional for the show to embark on a UK tour, which this time will visit Manchester, Chester, London and Dorset. From there, it’s up to the Edinburgh Fringe, followed by a hop over to New York, LA and Philadelphia, among others. The final flourish, once the cast have returned back to Cambridge, is a second home run in October.
“This year, we’re running workshops with schools in every location we visit,” adds Amelia. “This is something that’s just been started in the last few years. It’s exciting to perform in members of the company’s hometowns and to bring comedy workshops to students who might not know about the range of opportunities comedy performance offers. So, we’ve got an busy and exhilarating time ahead of us!”
Look Alive! runs at the ADC Theatre from 11 to 22 June, with tickets available from £9.