Look Alive! is a relentless, noisy hour from excitable bright young things. And while Cambridge Footlights’ heritage creates an almost impossible benchmark, this show meets it in energy, commitment and performance. Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t in jokes.
The premise is that the group are an Earth exhibit coming alive in the future to represent what life was like on this planet. An opening dance medley features seamless shifts from Jesus, to dinosaurs, to Shania Twain.
It’s finely choreographed, rhythmic, relentless, ultra-smooth, but not particularly funny. Nor – with a randomness that becomes thematic – is this ‘history of time’ in chronological order. It’s merely an excuse to perform an admittedly impressive dance routine. Likewise, an impromptu barbershop quartet performance at a urinal is incredibly honed and harmonised. Just not especially amusing.
What follows is a series of sketches in which the performance far outstrips the writing. From a gameshow on which the contestant must defecate, to a Team GB bobsleigh training session to Jesus guesting on Jeremy Kyle. All these sketches lack purpose, meaning or subtext.
A ‘sports team of weathers’ – wind, sun, rain and snow being lambasted by their coach is pointless in premise and execution, offering no laughs whatsoever. The show would be better without it.
But there are highlights. A sketch depicting a nervous gym first-timer with a self-doubting inner monologue is one of Harriet Fisher’s several fantastic physical performances – simultaneously running, drinking, choking, posing and eyeing up a gym bunny. Her later silent disco dancing also deserves mention.
It’s clear these performers have humour within, especially when addressing the audience during a mime segment and a chaotic babysitting sketch. Jamie Bisping displays the embryonic stages of an ad-libbing stand-up, and natural communicator Sasha Bobak is a thoroughly convincing actor with wonderful audience command and rapport.
The crowd audibly appreciate the group’s absurdist extremism being applied to more relevant scenarios – the gym, babysitting and discos. A train-buffet-trolley-pusher’s pedantry has snappy pacing, but as all too often tonight, the jokes are relatively mild.
Many sketches feature elongated setups not being given relevant payoffs, instead diverting into random, semi-funny observational non-sequiturs, before the scene’s sudden end.
Something else requiring individual mention is the overabundance of bellowing melodrama. There’s shouting and screaming at every turn, without exception. It becomes painful, irksome and betrays how often exaggerated noise is used as a punchline-proxy. They’d have been deafening even without the microphones.
Closing with a return to their ‘Earth Exhibit’ concept helps to frame and contextualise a relentless hour from this group who have rhythm, timing, energy and conviction. They just don’t, yet, have the jokes.
Review date: 4 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Alex Bruce