Cambridge Footlights is something of an institution in the field of British comic theatre. Founded in the 1880s at Cambridge University, this ever-changing student group has become the most consistently fertile breeding ground for British comedians and comic actors.
Peter Cook, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Clive Anderson, Griff Rhys-Jones, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery, Emma Thompson, David Baddiel, Steve Punt, Hugh Dennis, Sue Perkins - all have passed through the Footlights. In 1981, the Footlights won the first ever Perrier Award for comedy at the Edinburgh Fringe. It also remains the only student group to undertaken an annual national tour, now in its 35th year.
This year's show, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, features a quintet of three graduating Footlights and two freshmen who jaunt merrily through the revue of comic sketches on their television set (phnarr, phnarr).
Alex Bonham, the group s single female, comes across as the most naturally gifted player, mimicking to perfection an upper class twit of a dame. Her arrogance as she declares 'I was mahvellous' and 'He adores me!' is delicious.
The comic crux of the evening, however, rests with first-year Matthew Green. This is not because he gets all the best lines or brandishes a biting wit, but simply because of his impossibly pre-pubescent body (flaunted often) and his willingness to have the piss taken out of him. The finale consists of makeshift fireworks exploding against a backdrop of hilarious Matthew baby photos. It seems a desperate laugh generator - but it works.
Not that the whole show does. For all the Footlights' heritage, this is still a student production - lots of rough with the smooth. Many jokes and some entire scenes are groanworthy, not least the one set in casualty where the thicko doctor declares the patient (puny Matthew of course) to be 'anoraxic', whipping the offending rain-gear from the patient's stomach as he does so.
Yes, it's terrible, but the troupe's enthusiasm still receives an equally enthusiastic round of applause. They're only students after all - and maybe the stars of the future.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place finishes its tour 17 October at Cambridge's ADC Theatre. Terri Paddock