Written by Alex Blanchard
There is perhaps nothing more pathetic than that sickly, lachrymose laughter that intersperses those mid-day replays of ‘Animals do the funniest things’. It’s as odious as it is patronising, and, as it turns out, wholly misguided – animals don’t do the funniest things. Luckily, the Birmingham Footnotes have found a cure to this abomination in the format ‘People dressed as Animals do the funniest things’.
Consisting of a series of animal-themed sketches, glued with a bizarre video narrative – and hence a wholly indiscernible plot – culminating in a dead horse and a husband that turns into a pig, the Birmingham Footnotes seem to have surpassed the absurdity of any of their past productions.
Chazz Redhead provided another storming performance as, amongst others, a blues alligator, delineating the differences between crocodiles and alligators with an impressively grated voice and a couple of cheesy chat-up lines. This cheesiness, the writhe-inducing puns and the slightly sordid innuendo, were, as it transpired, the very essence of these sketches.
Normally, such jokes would reek of an under-developed, puerile humour – yet all the sketches avoided this. And, undoubtedly, this was due to the self-awareness and considered self-deprecation that the cast displayed; humans highlighting the apparent inconsistency of the animal kingdom whilst the very animals through which they were doing this thrived on some sort of counter-mockery. Throughout, it was hard to tell whether these were people dressed as animals or animals pretending to be humans –it produced an absurd effect.
Another absurdity was Alice Kennedy’s break-dancing sloth. The juxtaposition between Bomfunk Mc’s Freestyler, and a sloth doing ‘the worm’ at achingly lethargic speeds was a butt-clenchingly audacious affront to the audience’s patience. Yet an affront that worked perfectly.
Another element which, at the very least, served to highlight the eclectic talents of the cast, were the musical performances. Songs about being a frog (Jack Toop) – containing the unfortunate line ‘it’s a froggy 9/11’ – and cider-guzzling, west-country badgers (Tyler Harding and Jack Toop) were sung with an excellent comic timing.
As can sometimes be the case with Birmingham Footnote productions – which occasionally make a Wagner Ring-Cycle look short – some sketches could drag a little, tailing off without a noticeable purpose.
Yet, on the whole, the sketches were snappy and full plaudits must surely be given to the Birmingham Footnotes for what is a consistent professionalism. Further, the audience were given a magnificent recompense for any prior lack of energy in the sombre, esoteric reading by Chazz Redhead of Stewart Lee’s ‘Pea Green Boat.’ Accompanied by oceanic noises and eerie recitals of Lear’s original, it was a reading that, throughout, exhibited the archetypical seriousness with which the members of Footnotes approach their art.