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Some History

Footlights’ inaugural performance took place in June 1883. For some months before the name “Footlights” was chosen, the group had performed to local audiences in the Cambridge area (once, with a cricket match included, at the “pauper lunatic asylum”). They wished to go wider than the University Amateur Dramatic Club (ADC), founded in 1855, with its membership drawn largely from Trinity College, and its theatre seating only 100. They were to perform every May Week at the Theatre Royal, the shows soon open to the public. A local paper commended the Club’s appeal to the “general public, the many different classes of which life in Cambridge is made up”.[1]

The club grew in prominence in the 1960s as a hotbed of comedy and satire. Having established a tradition of performing at the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the club entered the mainstream when its members formed half of Beyond the Fringe, the hugely popular stage revue which toured Britain and America in 1960. The 1963 revue then followed in the footsteps of Beyond the Fringe, appearing in Edinburgh and London’s West End, before travelling to New Zealand and the United States, where it made appearances on Broadway and The Ed Sullivan Show and received a full-page review in Time. Over the next decade, Footlights members came to dominate British comedy, creating and starring in shows such as I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again, At Last the 1948 Show and That Was The Week That Was, forming comedy groups such as Monty Python and The Goodies, and generally fuelling the satire boom.[2][3][4]

During the 1980s, Footlights reinforced its position at the heart of British comedy. The 1981 revue won the inaugural Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and spawned Fry and Laurie, the first in a long line of popular and successful double acts formed at the club.[5][6][7] Many of its former members have gone on to win Oscars, BAFTAs and other awards and enjoy success in the entertainment and media industry.[citation needed]