Review – Katherine Ryan, Kathbum, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 27th February 2016

KathbumBuying tickets to see Katherine Ryan was yet another of these risky punts on a comedian whom we haven’t seen before. Well, that’s not strictly true – we’ve seen her a couple of times in HIGNFY, where I would identify her style as savagely jocund. I also knew she was Canadian, which is a bit like being an American, but just more balanced. That’s about the full extent of my pre-show knowledge.

Before the show we’d already enjoyed the relaxing experience of sampling ten different wines at the Wine Connection’s monthly tasting. Dinner was to be a late night Indian so we realised we would need something snacky to keep us going through the early part of the evening. So we went to a local pub for a pint of ale and a gin and tonic, and above all, two packets of crisps. We wouldn’t have had the beer if it wasn’t for the fact that we needed the crisps. Honest.

Katherine RyanThus restored, we wandered over to the theatre to order our interval drinks. We’d had more than enough to see us into the first part of the show, but I do like to plan in advance for my interval. We were close to the wire, time-wise. It’s always a danger to walk in to a comedy gig late and I was getting anxious. I finally got served about three minutes after the announcement that the show would start in one minute. And do you know what? They weren’t even taking interval orders because the interval would come just twenty minutes or so into the show. Huh? I never quite get the logic of that. I let out an irritated Grrrrrr. That’ll show them. They won’t do that again in a hurry.

If the interval comes just twenty minutes into the show, it can only mean one thing – a support act. If you’re not expecting a support act – and we weren’t – the sight of the wrong person ambling on to the stage to entertain you can be one of the most disappointing things to endure. We’ve seen plenty of support acts, and for the most part they’ve been ok but not really shaken any trees. It’s a psychological thing. As part of a Screaming Blue Murder line-up they’d be great; up against a big name, somehow they aren’t.

Stephen BaileyNot so with Mr Stephen Bailey. He strikes up an instant rapport with the audience, literally bringing gaiety to the stage. He’s like the lone male out on a hen party, pushing camp cheekiness to the limit and encouraging bad behaviour from the audience but still with top quality material. I think he was a little surprised that none of us in the audience used dating apps; either we had a coach party of Plymouth Brethren in, or some of us were lying. He has a hilarious sequence where he tries to pass himself off as straight – suffice to say, he’s not very good at it. Twenty minutes was not enough! His was one of the many acts we missed in Edinburgh last year; if he’s on at the fringe this year, we might well go and see him.

And so on to the main event – Katherine Ryan with her Kathbum show. Apparently Kathbum is a family nickname. It’s even her twitter handle. You might get the wrong impression that she makes a lot of bum jokes. She doesn’t. Bum jokes would be rather cosy in comparison with the kind of material Ms Ryan uses. She isn’t afraid to take on the most divisive and contentious subjects and go to town with them. She’s clearly highly intelligent; I reckon she could win any argument she chose. Her voice has a deceptively charming purity to it, and she delivers her material with calmness and clarity; if you just heard her voice you might think she was a rather nice infants’ school teacher, gently telling everyone to play nicely.

K RyanBut her material is acid. She out-Rivers Joan Rivers (indeed that was one of the subjects briefly touched upon). She goes straight for the jugular with other celebrities like Cheryl Cole and Peter Andre; a little of that went over our head as we don’t know much about celebrities in truth, but, if you do, you’ll find it funny. And then there’s all the Bill Cosby material – well, he deserves it. There’s a splendid story about a dead rabbit, side observations about small town Canada, and an insight into the hideous rivalry between her and her sister.

Killer deliveries, misleadingly sweet, and with material that sometimes makes you gasp at its daringness, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Mrs Chrisparkle laugh out loud quite so much for such a long period as she did in this show. It’s an extremely funny evening and I would definitely recommend you catch her tour! She’s all over the country (so to speak) until June.

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