Review: The Footlights International Tour Show 2024: This Time We Have a Dog

This sketch comedy feels a bit sketchily comic

A comic duo made once a demonstration of a sketch, in the context of a workshop I attended. It was, they said, among their funniest ones; yet they confessed it had taken them years to really make it work. At the beginning they did not understand why they rarely could get people to laugh: it was a sketch they had just learned from an older comic duo, who bequeathed it to them after retiring, and in whose hands it had proven to be hilarious. Only later they realised, through practice and error, that their problem was a matter of timing. Doing an action with half a second of delay allowed the audience to foresee it, and hence lose the element of surprise. Doing it too early made it appear unnatural, like when you feel actors are reciting memorised lines rather than giving them life. One way or another, for a long time the comic duo performed that sketch without much success, although they knew it actually was good. Seeing The Footlights International Tour Show 2024: This Time we Have a Dog made me remember this story; let me explain why.

Image credits: Maddy Sanderson

From the beginning of the performance, a feeling of confusion invaded me. Things were happening hastily and without a context wherein to interpret them. I could hardly make sense of what was happening; until I finally understood, halfway through the show, that they were playing with a two-level structure: at its basis, a so-to-speak dramatic plot of a death and a politician’s ban on comedy, inside which the comic sketches are embedded. These sketches are first connected by a motive, namely, the six comedians remembering good moments they had with Lloyd the Dog. Later, however, this motive is used no more, and we just see a string of unrelated sketches following one another, after a moment of blackout.

To this structure, on paper, nothing to object. I found it a positive improvement, an intent to go beyond the classic form of sketch comedy. But in practice it seems to me this was not done in a fully clear way for the spectator, and caused misunderstandings. (Moreover so when at some point there is a sketch where the comedians themselves comment on the show ―is this supposed to be just a sketch, or part of the general plot?) It is difficult to find the humour when you feel out of context. Nevertheless, slight adjustments to the script should be enough to better guide the audience into this interesting two-level structure.

But I must say another fact was also unhelpful: light and sound were not always used in a clean manner ―blackouts were often too long, songs abruptly cut, actors at times not well illuminated. It is completely natural for there to be problems of coordination in a premiere; practice alone can fix them. Here, however, I believe it was a matter of decisions taken by the creative team which would need a small revision. While such details would be comprehensible in an amateur production, I mention them here because The Footlights International Tour Show seems to aspire to more professionalism, and consequently requires a higher critical standard.

Image credits: Maddy Sanderson

Despite these little issues, as the show progressed I was able to situate myself better and enjoy the sketches more. Several of them were witty and original, and brought much laughter among the audience. In others, I could see a good and funny idea that had sadly not been well enough delivered; and this, I think, is the main pending task of This Time we Have a Dog: actors have yet to find the right tone. Sometimes they were too expressive, sometimes not energetic enough; at moments too precipitate, at others not sufficiently swift. But my memory stays pleasantly with their instants of inspiration: Rhys Griffiths and Toria White nailing it as dog and (castrating) owner; Dom Andrew, Will Boyce and Diya Shah with very convincing and subtle performances as dubious customers in a restaurant; and Miranda Evans coming up with a surprising Texas accent. This all brings me back to the story of the comic duo with which I began: for I am confident that when this Footlights sextet cracks the difficult art of timing, their show will become a delight.


The Footlights International Tour Show 2024: This Time we Have a Dog is at the ADC Theatre from 18th to 22nd June. Book your tickets here.

Feature image credits: Michael Elizabeth

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