Leave the Biscuit present Rabbits in the Footlights

Tue 15th – Sat 19th November 2011

reviews

James Fennemore

at 00:18 on 16th Nov 2011

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Ah, student comedy, how I do love thee – with your roguish humour, your unassailable energy, your hordes of enthusiastic groupies, eagerly egging on your every move. ‘Rabbits in the Footlights’ has all the hallmarks of that most beloved of university entertainment. But at its best, Leave the Biscuit’s offering surpasses the expectations of its genre. I’d even watch some of it on telly.

The format is simple and well-tested: four men present a series of multifarious sketches, each dipping in and out of the action, playing various roles and portraying different comic situations. The transitions between scenes are punchy and often entertaining in themselves, emblematic of the chaotic style of the performers. Leave the Biscuit’s best sketches are those in which close attention to detail has been paid to language; an early highlight is the verbal sparring between two delightfully cavalier duellers, each contorting the words of the other in a frenetic battle of tongues. Another is a wonderful scene in which a judge, played with great aplomb by Jordan Waller, tries a defendant (Rhys Bevan) who has the impediment of placing stress on the wrong word in his sentences when nervous. Indeed, it is Jordan and Rhys who consistently excel throughout the entire set, each displaying a superb control of timing and comic physicality.

Praise must be given to the sheer variety of the material presented. It is evident that a great deal of work has gone into creating a programme that avoids tedious repetition, instead offering meticulously devised sketches ranging from a mishap in the confession box, to a spoof HSBC advertisement.

‘Rabbits in the Footlights’ is an excellent opening foray into the world of sketch comedy. It is not, however, without fault. Whilst the best material is short and hard-hitting, many scenes go on for longer than is either necessary or effective. In one scene, Rhys, Jamie, Jordan and Alex each play representatives of major television channels having a programme allocation meeting. It contains some of the funniest moments of the night. But some of the comic potential is lost by the sheer length of what feels like repetitious padding between laugh-out-loud gags. This same fault occurs in several other scenes. With a running time of a touch over the advertised hour, ‘Rabbits in the Footlights’ is markedly longer than the performances of the prestigious group from the Other Place to which their title self-consciously refers. There is plenty of scope for cutting. Director Ollo Clark should take heed.

Funny? Undoubtedly. A refined art? Not yet. This, however, is an exciting beginning for a promising new sketch troupe.

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J M

at 03:18 on 16th Nov 2011

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“Leave the Biscuit”. “Rabbits in the Footlights”. Two plays on colloquialisms and we haven't even got past the poster yet - this is one for fans of thorough but calculated wit and wordplay. (Interestingly, this style seems to be in vogue in student comedy recently and, in its current form, it's a comedic safe zone, as good puns demonstrate a scrupulous wit and bad puns can be laughed off as being tongue in cheek). The formula here is fairly simple: throw a relentless barrage of puns at the audience until something tickles them. However, this is easier said than done, as anything in this vein will inevitably draw comparisons to The Two Ronnies, whose pioneering of the technique has yet to be bettered by their modern successors. Still, Leave the Biscuit have a decent crack at it, and the results are consistently entertaining.

This is the maiden voyage for the four-strong sketch group, and it's one they can be satisfied with. A brief prologue to the show served as an introduction, and I got the impression of an extremely tight and well-rehearsed troop, accompanied with a striking minimalism of design. In fact, whilst there's a brief use of hats and some (unfortunately malfunctioning) facial hair, the only extant prop is a table, which becomes a setting for the wide spectrum of scenes. However, I found myself wishing some of the group were as versatile as the table, as only a slim breadth of characters was portrayed (a trap every small sketch group is in danger of falling into). As good as it was, the writing in some parts became predictable, and this could have been offset by a stronger extremity of character. The only real sense of this came from the ever-reliable and talented Jordan Waller, who convincingly ranged from a meek nurse to a capricious high court judge. It was a good move, then, to leave most of the punnery to him, as I fear that in the hands of the others this material may have elicited groans rather than guffaws. This arrangement went down very well in one of the best sketches, a film noir style account of the deaths of Mr Men characters, which Waller narrates and the rest of the cast mime.

The ensemble were obviously enjoying themselves and this helped draw the audience into the humour. This was seen especially in the amusing changeovers between sketches, but these were sadly abandoned in the second half. All in all, it was a solid performance with a couple of undoubtedly brilliant sketches, from the lightning-fast Shakespearean trash talk at the beginning to a hilarious meeting between the personifications of television channels at the end. I would also have been laughing uncontrollably at a sketch about Chinese proverbs were it not for the incongruous elderly Chinese couple seated next to me (apologies). At just over 70 minutes long, Leave the Biscuit can certainly afford to prune some of the filler to make these sketches stand out even more. Combine this with a bit of measured over-acting and this good show could be great.

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