Last weekend The Birmingham Footnotes presented a new sketch show directed by Will Jackson and assistant directed and produced by Laurs Oakley. The sketch show Level Up was centered on the theme of video games. This was perfectly complemented by an electronic soundtrack. The six performers (or ‘players’) were really strong and it was encouraging to see a female heavy cast with lots of freshers. A bit of word play was even used in the cast list with the cast being called players, which could refer to players of a video game or Jacobean actors.
Some of my favourite sketches included The Great British Bake Off, which became The Great Yiddish Bake Off and then The Great Quidditch Bake Off. The cast came on stage removing the icing from the top of cupcakes and wiping it on to each other’s faces. This meant that they had icing all over their faces while they impersonated GBBO’s Mel and Sue. Another amusing sketch was a recurring scene of Mathilda “The Blonde Bombshell” Blythe deciding to do stupid things and then Paul “The Silver Fox” Kerr would run on wearing a cardboard sign saying ‘Brain’ looking distressed, as Mathilda had forgotten to use him. The moment that got the most laughs from this sketch was when Paul the Brain ran on after Mathilda decided not to use a condom.
Mathilda was excellent throughout the show, her facial expressions are very amusing and she is thoroughly entertaining to watch. Hats off to her for eating sellotape for a disgustingly long time and then moving on to paper later on in the show. Taylor Hebert was also brilliant. She shone in her portrayals of Kate Bush and the puberty fairy (don’t ask, you had to be there). Jack “Mysty” Beresford also had some great moments, for instance, in the zombie sketch where someone asked ‘did anyone get bitten?’ and he replied ‘I bit my tongue!’
There were several references to pie charts, which seemed a bit random and got lost on most of the audience who presumably weren’t in on them. There were a few other sketches that went completely over my head including one where bricks were placed on the floor, and the diving sketch, which seemed to fall flat.
Will Jackson’s directorial presence was certainly felt, with the lip-syncing, dancing, and silly string reminiscent of his recent production of Anthony Neilson’s The Wonderful World of Dissocia with 3Bugs Fringe Theatre. The Queen of Pie Charts scene was rather similar to the Oathtaker scene in Dissocia and other sections of the play.
This was the longest sketch show I have ever watched, and the cast looked pretty exhausted by the end. I can’t fault any of their performances and would love to see some of freshers try stand-up as well. Unfortunately, the writing was mixed, and I really wished that I found the show funnier overall. The sketches that stood out were ones that the cast kept returning to throughout the performance, which brought the random mix of scenes together.