Review – Chris Ramsey, 20/20 Tour, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 25th September 2021

Chris-Ramsey-StrictlyIt was a couple of weeks into the Strictly Come Dancing season of 2019 that Chris Ramsey announced his forthcoming tour and we thought “he seems a funny chap, let’s risk it”. Two years, and much anxiety, later, his tour is finally underway and he reached Northampton only ten months later than originally planned. Well, they say good things are worth waiting for, don’t they?

Shagged Married AnnoyedIn those intervening two years it’s become clear that Chris Ramsey has become a very different comedy commodity now from then. In those days, his and his wife Rosie’s Shagged Married Annoyed podcast was in its infancy, and I’d certainly never heard of it. Today it’s about as big as podcasts get, and we quickly realised that by far the majority of people in the audience were aficionados of the bickering bonhomie that takes place between him and his wife Rosie. As non-listeners to the podcast – to be honest I’m only just coming to terms with the loss of VHF – when any of the material strayed into his podcast material, we felt a little left out of the joke. Just something to be aware of. He and Rosie are conducting a separate tour of the podcast at the same time as he’s doing his own stand-up shows, so I guess it’s inevitable that there’d be some crossover.

Carl HutchinsonAnyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. First up we had Chris’s support act, Carl Hutchinson, and they’re obviously old mates as he features predominantly in the aforementioned podcast (see observation above). Carl’s a very likeable guy with a slightly laddish demeanour and a confident but never aggressive delivery. He explained that he had spent most of Lockdown playing FIFA against 14 year old boys, which is all very well until it comes to the inevitable post-match trolling. He did a very funny routine about drinking on aeroplanes which was something everyone could relate to. And he taught us the difference between a man’s barbecue and a couple’s barbecue and was spot on at every level. Very funny and very recognisable observations – he gave us about forty minutes and it flew by.

Chris RamseyAfter the interval, we returned for Chris Ramsey, who confesses that one of his worst decisions was to name his new show the 20/20 tour; and proceeded to start his part of the show with what he had written for the show the year ago – as if the intevening months had never happened. Whether his original introductory choice of material was true or not, it was a great idea and a hilarious opening. Chris has a wonderfully engaging personality, full of warmth and humour; the kind of guy you’d stay late at the pub without realising what time it was. Podcast material aside (see above), he has some terrific sequences of comic observations, including Alexa hearing his innermost secrets but not showing the discretion you’d expect from her, the tendency of small children to take inappropriate items with them on a day out, and the embarrassing description his youngest son has decided to give to his, i.e. Chris’s, erm, penis. And if anything ever seems less than classy, or less than efficient, or less than tasteful, well, that’s South Shields for you.

Chris Ramsey 1It’s always a delight to be in the presence of a comic master, and that’s definitely what Chris Ramsey is. A beautifully balanced show, with room for some audience participation, some unexpected callbacks, plus the occasional use of video screens which works really well. He ends the evening with a few observations about Strictly, which is rather where we came in two years ago. He has a simple, frank and refreshing sunniness about him that just fills the auditorium. One of those comics whom you could see again and again. Great work!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 24th September 2021

Screaming Blue MurderHallelujah for the return of Screaming Blue Murder, that brilliant value, top quality comedy night out that we’ve missed so much since the beginning of Lockdown 1.0. Ridiculous to think that the last time we saw Dan Evans bound onto the stage at the Underground was way back on 1st February 2020.  Since then, we’ve all got a little bit older and a little bit wiser (those of us who made it) but some things never change – like Screaming Blue. Dan still presents a top comedy show with three fabulous acts and two fantastic intervals.

This wasn’t the first time we’d been back to the Underground since the pandemic, and as I mentioned when I wrote about seeing Myra Dubois a couple of weeks ago, the ventilation in the Underground is so much better now – not only safer, but so much more comfortable. Gone are the days of heavy sweating in a flimsy shirt in the height of winter – in the Underground, at least – and you definitely feel more Covidly secure in there nowadays. OK, we were still two of only about five people who masked up in the theatre on Friday, but that’s our choice and we’re sticking to it. I really like the new seating layout for Screaming Blue, with three rows of seats surrounding the stage on all sides, and then further rows of seats at the back of the room. It was a sell-out, but even so you still felt like there was plenty of personal space. We’ve changed our favourite position to furthest right near the side door, on the front row of the back block. You get a perfect view, beautifully ventilated, and you feel close enough to the action without putting yourself too much in the firing line for any comic who wants to chat with you (however – see Bennett Arron, below.)

Dan EvansIt was a joy to welcome Dan back, even if he has left his trademark pinstriped suit somewhere on some bedroom floor that he can’t remember. He had plenty of rapport to strike up with the front rows, which were largely occupied by an 18th birthday party night out, so he had his work cut out. He sets the tone for the evening perfectly with jokes old and new! And it wouldn’t be the same without him.

Mike CoxOur first act was Mike Cox, whom we’d only seen online till now in a couple of Comedy Crate/Rock the Atic shows that kept us going through the lean lockdown months. I liked him online, but in real life he was so much more – virtually a completely different person, with a brilliant set of engaging comic sequences, partly stemming from the last eighteen months of lockdown mayhem and partly from managing his unruly children as they run riot in Aldi. Full of recognisable observations, he was lively, funny and likeable. A great start to the evening.

Wendy WasonNext up, and someone we haven’t seen for four years, was Wendy Wason, another smart and engaging comic whose material in the past has been firmly bedded in sex (if I can put it that way) and today is much more concerned with her children, which I guess is an inevitable consequence of her earlier material. We just spent her whole half-hour laughing, which doesn’t need any analysis from me.

Bennett ArronOur headline act, and someone we haven’t seen for (gasp!) ten years, was Bennett Arron, who revealed that it was his first live gig in two years, but he took to it like the master he is. Confessing to the double whammy of being both Jewish and Welsh, he has a lovely self-deprecating air which he can turn into some killer finish lines. When he asked, I boldly admitted to being married for 33 years (thank you for the round of applause everyone) proving that you can be spotted from the back block of seats. Little did I know that our brief chat would result in a brilliant callback at the end of his routine. I’ve been to almost 300 comedy gigs in the last fifteen years and it’s the first time I’ve been a callback. Sincere thanks for that! A fabulous end to the night.

Next Screaming Blue Murder is on 22nd October. Want to come? Of course you do!

Review – The Comedy Crate at the Black Prince, Northampton, 16th September 2021

Comedy CrateA coincidence that the Last Night at the Black Prince for 2021 came the same week as The Last Night of the Proms? I think not. A double whammy for us all to contend with at this time of the year. And, to make it just that little bit more challenging, the pub organised a band gig in their back room to vie for our aural attention out in the garden – but we could easily ignore them as we enjoyed the company of a great line-up of comic talents.

Jamie AllertonOur host, new to us, was the enthusiastic powerhouse that is Liverpool’s Jamie Allerton; with his vocal projections the band had no chance of making an impact. He gave us a great mixture of MC welcome and interaction together with plenty of his own excellent material thrown in for good measure. He nicely played on his physical presence to ensure that none of us felt guilty about putting on a few pounds during lockdown. A lively, chatty host who made the show go with a great swing.

Brennan ReeceWe’d seen all the acts before, although first up, Brennan Reece, we’d only seen online at a Comedy Crate/Atic gig back in March. He’s a very likeable chap, who uses his camp-but-straight personality to great comic effect. He strikes up a great rapport with the audience and has some brilliant put-downs when some audience members get a little above themselves (yes Hetero John, we’re all looking at you). He reacts quickly and smartly to what goes on around him and never fears to leave behind his prepared material for a great comic opportunity, which is the mark of a great comedian.

Angela BarnesNext up was Angela Barnes, whom we saw at a Screaming Blue Murder nine years ago, since when her career has gone on a fully deserved upward trajectory. Exuding confidence and presence, she has a great attacking delivery, and her set was full of inventive new material. She’s recently married, which provides for some fun new observations; and she had a wonderful throwaway line about Prince Andrew, after which she had us all in the palm of her hand. Brilliantly funny.

Stephen BaileyOur headline act was Stephen Bailey, whom we first saw five years ago as the support act for Katherine Ryan, and his comic presence is as immaculate and perfectly presented as his good self. In the bizarre setting of the Black Prince garden, he found himself competing for lighting with the next door municipal car park, but he quickly found his stride with his trademark cheeky gayness, taking the whole event as one big hen party. Stephen is now partnered up with lawyer Rich, whose main attraction appears to be that he has a house. His set was full of brilliant comic observations, including a very nice routine about “straight pride”. A great way to end the evening.

That was indeed the last of the Comedy Crate nights at the Black Prince for this year, but their programme continues with loads of excellent acts at the Charles Bradlaugh, the Picturedrome and other local venues – all the information is here!

Review – Myra Dubois, Dead Funny, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 10th September 2021

Dead FunnyOn reflection, it was a bit odd that this was first time we had seen Myra Dubois, as it coincided with her (alleged) death and conducting her own funeral in person; but as she said, it wasn’t the first time someone had died on stage in Northampton (and I suspect she says that in every town she visits!) Yes, Yorkshire’s Rose has passed away, and Radio Rotherham laments this fact as we enter the auditorium to a series of amusingly inappropriate tracks in expectation for the show.

Frank LavenderAs a warm-up for the main event of the evening, we meet Frank Lavender. Who he? He’s Myra’s brother-in-law, a bluff and gruff Yorkshireman who enjoys ill-health and sports a hairstyle to rival William Gladstone. Frank’s a lugubrious but strangely likeable presence, someone who has taken to the stage even though they have none of the attributes required to be any form of entertainer. As Myra says, she only has him on as her support act so that people are ready for a laugh by the time she appears. Of course, it’s also a way for Myra, through a miraculous stage osmosis, to meet some of the audience before she takes to the stage. Frank sets himself a target to achieve about 30 laughs during his set, and Julie in the front row had to take an official tally. Julie had an amazing infectious laugh, by the way, that really helped the show bed in. He met his target, with a few groans to spare.

Myra DuboisAfter a longer than usual interval – required for Frank to transform himself into Myra – Rotherham’s favourite glamour puss arrived on stage in a scintillating white shroud, and the process of sending her to her eternal rest could get underway. It’s a funny pretext for an hour or so in Myra’s catty company, jibing with the audience with some occasionally very personal observations, getting away with some extremely iffy material because it was delivered with such panache as well as fabulous timing – as well as being extremely funny. We are treated to her glorious voice for a few numbers, in which the audience are welcome to join. There’s a marvellous sequence where audience members assist in delivering the service; it’s based on a ludicrous amount of repetition which can be a recipe for disaster in a comedy act and which some people (yes, I’m looking at you Stewart Lee) can’t get away with anymore; but this was hysterical. Myra traded banter with a few of what she calls the Acronym Community; our friend David in the second row took it all in very good heart.

Myra and EdnaNot having seen the act before, I was struck by the similarity between Frank Lavender/Myra Dubois and Les Patterson/Edna Everage. Both sets of characters are somewhere on the grotesque spectrum, with remarkable abilities to interact (in other words get away with murder) with the audience and set up great callbacks that you can’t see coming. Additionally, facially, Myra and Edna share that same heavily-lipsticked gurning pout of disgust; and both have – shall we say – heightened opinions of their own vocal range. But it’s far from a copycat act, and Myra is her own delightfully caustic comic creation. I don’t think I’m revealing any spoilers when I say that news of her own passing is revealed to be premature come the end of the show, and I’m sure Myra will be back on stage dispensing her South Yorkshire pearls of wisdom again soon. Great fun!

Myra draped over coffinP. S. A word on Covid-Care in the Underground Studio at the Royal and Derngate. We had been reticent about coming to see shows here in these pandemic times, because the studio always has been essentially an airless box, usually packed with laughing, drinking, carefree comedy punters. However, I can report that the new ventilation system, which brings fresh air in from outside, and well-spaced seating made the venue feel much safer than expected. We wore masks, most didn’t; but this made no difference to the banter and interaction between the stage and the audience. So if you’re concerned about coming to the Underground at the moment, I’d say that they’ve made every effort to make it as safe as possible.

Review – Comedy Crate in the back garden of the Black Prince, Northampton, 19th August 2021

Comedy CrateWhilst Mrs Chrisparkle and I are still wary about going into comedy clubs with neither social distancing nor decent ventilation, it’s great to have the opportunity to see live comedy in the extensive gardens of the Black Prince; really, it’s what picnic tables were made for. We were joined by Lord and Lady Prosecco, and Prinz Mark von Köln, heir to the Prosecco estate, for an evening of 100% top bankable comedy – there wasn’t a down moment to be had all evening.

Javier JarquinOur MC was the brilliant Javier Jarquin, whom we’ve seen at Screaming Blue Murder and also doing his excellent Card Ninja show in Edinburgh – I was wondering if he’d get the cards out, but it probably wasn’t the right occasion. He has a terrific rapport with the audience which lasted all the way through the evening. He gets lots of great material out of the juxtaposition between his appearance and his accent, being a Chinese/Latino Kiwi. I loved his explanation of the difference between the Aussie and Kiwi accents, and what it must have been like the first time the All Blacks started a game with a haka. It’s always worth booking when Mr J is on the bill.

Rory O'HanlonOur first act was Dublin’s Rory O’Hanlon, whom we’ve seen once before as a guest on a Spank! in the halcyon pre-pandemic days. His act is packed with very funny, very relatable material; also peppered with some excellent accents! I loved the idea of getting your vaccine at Lidl and the perils of taking a flight home from Australia with Ryanair. He also has some excellent material about moving back in with your first girlfriend. Full of attack, great timing – just a very funny act.

Tadiwa MahlungeNext up, and new to us, was Tadiwa Mahlunge, the only member of his family to be saddled with a traditional name, much to his annoyance, which provides him with lots of excellent material, including the downsides of his name Tad sounding like Dad, which gets him into a lot of trouble. A quieter approach from the other acts in the show last night, which makes him stand out as maybe more thoughtful and with material that comes genuinely from his own experiences. I must admit, I didn’t get all his references, but then I am quite old. Very enjoyable!

Anna MannOur headline act, and also new to us, was the alter ego of Colin Hoult, Anna Mann. Star of low budget cult films and plays that nobody has seen, she takes us through some reminiscences of her thespian days, including a hilarious re-invention of The Tempest, how she was in the sequel of Much Ado, side mentions of ex- and late-husbands, and her continued quest to Stop the Fascists in material she freely admits hasn’t changed in four years. We all knew Lesley the Yoga Teacher would turn out to be a Fascist. It’s a remarkable act, incredibly funny, totally convincing, with just the right amount of knowing looks and audience asides to convey that it is all make believe yet still you lap up every word of her experiences as though they were gospel. Absolutely brilliant, and we’d definitely love to see her again.

There’s another gloriously outdoors Comedy Crate gig at the Black Prince on September 16th – we’re going, are you?

Review – The Comedy Crate at the Black Prince Pub, Northampton, 15th July 2021

Comedy CrateThose lovely comedy lovers at the Comedy Crate had already resumed residence in the back garden of the Black Prince a few weeks ago, but this was the first show that we’d been able to catch – and my first non-Zoom comedy gig since their show last October. Such are the ways of the pandemic. The line-up had unavoidably changed a bit between being first announced and the show on the night, but that’s often the way with live gigs!

Jenny CollierOur MC for the night was Jenny Collier, whom we last saw on one of the Comedy Crate’s online gigs earlier this year. She’s a sparky presence, with her charming appearance and cut-glass accent acting as a great juxtaposition to some ribald language. She’s been working as a GP receptionist for some of these Covid times, which was a source of some excellent material. However, I most enjoyed her account of giving a – I can’t dress this up in any other way – stool sample for the medics to explore. We were an occasionally unruly crowd, so she had a lot on her plate for the evening, but she was great fun and kept the show going at a great pace.

Olaf Falafel Our first act, and one of my all-time favourite comedians, was Olaf Falafel, whom we’ve seen many times in Edinburgh. In his trademark stripy blue sailor’s shirt, which makes him look like an extra from There is Nothing Like a Dame, he attacked us with some brilliant material, playing off the crowd beautifully, and ending up with his famous biscuitology routine. His comedy is a wonderful mixture of the absurd and the childish, but with lots of devastatingly clever observations and woefully funny puns. Great to see him again.

Toussaint DouglassNext up, and new to us, was Toussaint Douglass; a naturally funny guy with a very relaxed style but with some strong punchy material full of surprises, including some challenging stuff about race. A very likeable personality, with some nice self-deprecating observations, he struck up an excellent rapport with the audience. Very enjoyable, and someone to look forward to seeing again!

Tony LawFor our headline act we had the rather wacky and unpredictable Tony Law, whom we’ve seen a few times before and sometimes he goes down a storm, and sometimes he doesn’t! I very much liked his use of accents in his act, and he’s supremely confident with dealing with the crowd; you either “get” his flights of fancy or you don’t and, personally, on the whole, I don’t! But the majority of the audience did, so I admit it’s my problem not his!

There’s another Comedy Crate in the garden of the Black Prince on Thursday 19th August. We’re going, are you?

Theatre memories, you say? All right then! January to April 2007

  1. Omid Djalili – Oxford Playhouse, 17th January 2007

Omid DjaliliOne of the very first stand-up comedy shows we ever saw, Omid Djalili was beginning to break through on TV comedy shows and I have to say that, live, he is sensational. A great night’s comedy.

  1. Cabaret – Lyric Theatre, London, 27th January 2007

Rufus Norris’ amazing production of Kander and Ebb’s brilliant musical, that continues to tour and to influence other productions to this day. Anna Maxwell Martin proved her versatility as Miss Sally Bowles, and a very affectionate coupling of Sheila Hancock as Fraulein Schneider and Geoffrey Hutchings as Herr Schultz. James Dreyfus played Emcee and I expect he was terrific, but the night we saw it, his understudy was playing and I regret I have no note as to who that was. An excellent production.

  1. Hay Fever – Oxford Playhouse, 24th February 2007

I had always wanted to see a production of one of Noel Coward’s earlier sparkling comedies, but sadly I have hardly any memories of this show, starring Christopher Timothy and Stephanie Beacham as the heads of the theatrical Bliss family. I’m sure it was good though!

  1. Spiegel – Ultima Vez/Wim Vandekeybus at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 2nd March 2007

This show could have been called Wim Vandekeybus’ Greatest Hits, with excerpts from several of his previous shows forming a new work as a whole. Again, very few memories of this show, I’m afraid.

  1. Guys and Dolls – Milton Keynes Theatre, 7th March 2007

Breaking my usual rule about not including shows I’ve seen before in these blogs, this was a very brash production of Guys and Dolls by Michael Grandage, but my memory is that it was a little underwhelming. The four big roles were played by Alex Ferns, Samantha Janus, Norman Bowman and Louise Dearman.

  1. Equus – Gielgud Theatre, London, 17th March 2007

A really big ticket at the time – Richard Griffiths as Martin Dysart with Daniel Radcliffe as Alan Strang; and Jenny Agutter as Hesther. A terrific coupling of two amazing actors, one slowly reaching the end of his career, one blossoming at the start of his – and both known for their work on Harry Potter. Young Mr Radcliffe was still only 17 when he took on this brave role. And it was every bit the riveting show that you would imagine.

  1. Madama Butterfly – Welsh National Opera at the Milton Keynes Theatre, March 2007

A beautiful, strong and sensitive production of Puccini’s opera – but mainly notable for me as it was the last time we took the Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle to the theatre, before her dementia sadly took over. I’m delighted to say that she loved it.

  1. Boeing Boeing – Comedy Theatre, London, 6th April 2007

Marc Camoletti’s wonderful comedy from 1962 was given a completely fresh make-over and bounded back to life in this brilliant revival by Matthew Warchus. A dream team of a cast, with Roger Allam as the Lothario Bernard, Mark Rylance as his bemused friend Robert, Frances de la Tour as the bolshie maid Bertha, and Tamzin Outhwaite, Daisy Beaumont and Michelle Gomez as the three air hostesses whom Bernard is controlling through close following of the Boeing timetables. Incredibly funny, full of beautiful period detail, and a total joy.

  1. The Sound of Music – London Palladium, 9th April 2007

The production that followed Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV search for a new Maria – Connie Fisher – this was a tremendous show that at times transformed the innocent Palladium into a Nazi conference with swastikas all over the auditorium – very scary and extremely effective. We went on the one night of the week that Connie Fisher didn’t perform – it was the only night that tickets were readily available – but Sophie Bould, who normally played Liesl, played Maria and she was absolutely brilliant. All this plus Lesley Garrett as the Mother Superior and Alexander Hanson as von Trapp.

  1. Can-Can – Lost Musicals at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, London, 15th April 2007

Another of Ian Marshall Fisher’s delvings into the back catalogue of Lost Musicals, Can Can is an old Cole Porter show brought to life in the round by the usual crowd, including James Vaughan, Stewart Permutt, Myra Sands and Valerie Cutko. Great fun as always.

More theatre memories? OK but they’re mainly dance! September 2000 to May 2001

  1. BBC Proms in the Park – Hyde Park, London, 9th September 2000

I wasn’t sure if I should add this or not, but then if I’m including Proms inside the Albert Hall, why not include Proms in the Park outside the Albert Hall! The perfect alternative to getting those hotly contested last night tickets, we enjoyed a beautiful day in the sunshine with picnic and champers, plus great entertainment from Bjorn Again, The Chieftains, Georgie Fame, Julian Lloyd Webber, Willard White and Angela Gheorghiu. All topped off by the BBC Concert Orchestra, and hosted (of course) by Terry Wogan. Fantastic!

  1. Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo – Milton Keynes Theatre, 12th September 2000

Every show by the Trocks is different, even if they do the same dances as before! This programme started with Les Sylphides; then after an interval, Cross Currents, Go for Barocco and The Dying Swan, finally ending up with Paquita. All as skilful and stunning as they are hilarious. The terminal fowl was executed, as usual in those days, by Ida Nevasayneva. Nothing more to say!

  1. Defending the Caveman – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 15th September 2000

Rob Becker’s beautifully written one-man play was toured the world over by Australian Mark Little, at the time best known for his appearances in the TV soap Neighbours. Defending the Caveman is a really clever show that highlights the differences between men and women, presented from a man’s point of view, but always respectful and entertaining. Great stuff!

  1. Rambert Dance Company Autumn & Winter Tour – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 6th October 2000

Back again for another helping of Rambert, with a slightly unusual programme of two longer dance pieces: Mats Ek’s She was Black and Christopher Bruce’s Sergeant Early’s Dream. Dream was performed to live music from the Sergeant Early Band. The fantastic (slightly smaller than usual) group of dancers included favourites Hope Muir, Glenn Wilkinson, Vincent Redmon, and Simon Cooper.

  1. Graham Norton – Lively – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 8th October 2000

After seeing Victoria Wood a few years earlier, this was our second foray into the world of stand-up comedy on stage, and Graham Norton’s comedy gig was absolutely excellent. He had the also excellent Jo Caulfield as his support act. At the time he was just gathering success with his So Graham Norton TV show – little did we know how he would grow to dominate the TV and radio for decades!

  1. Richard Alston Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 24th October 2000

Our third trip to see Richard Alston’s annual tour, the programme featured a selection of Alston’s pieces set to classical musical. Waltzes in Disorder, with music by Brahms, was followed by Tremor, with music by Shostakovich, and finally The Signal of a Shake, set to music by Handel. The line up of dancers included Martin Lawrance, David McCormick and Diana Loosmore.

  1. Mark Baldwin Dance Company – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 14th February 2001

A four month gap till our next show, a Valentine’s night trip to the Wycombe Swan to see the Mark Baldwin Dance Company in a programme of works all choreographed by Baldwin: Danses Concertantes, The Bird Sings with its Fingers, and The State. This show was a collaboration with the full scale orchestra, Sinfonia 21. Among the dancers was Laurent Cavanna, whose work we had admired when he danced with Rambert.

 

 

  1. Jekyll and Hyde – Northern Ballet Theatre at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 30th March 2001

Another trip to see strong modern ballet with the contemporary twist of the Northern Ballet, in a dance version of the famous story choreographed  by Massimo Moricone. Jekyll was danced by Hironao Takahashi and Hyde by the late Jonathan Ollivier. I confess I don’t have too many memories of this.

  1. Moscow City Ballet perform Swan Lake – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 1st May 2001

Classical ballet on a grand scale, the Moscow City Ballet’s production of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece had all the little touches you would expect from this company that brings the atmosphere of the true Russian ballet on its regular tours.

  1. Nederlands Dans Theater 2 – Swan Theatre, High Wycombe, 20th May 2001

Another visit to see NDT2 touring, at the time one of favourite dance companies – the youth department of the NDT. The programme started with Dream Play, choreographed by Johan Inger, to music from Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring; then Said and Done, a new dance from Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon to the music of Bach; and finally crowd pleaser Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, set to fun 1950s tunes. A brilliant and memorable night’s dance.

 

Review – The Final Sunday Online Comedy Zoom Gig by The Comedy Crate and the Atic – 28th March 2021

Comedy CrateAll good things have to come to an end. And even though it’s not a good thing, let’s hope the pandemic is one of them. But before that, Sunday night saw the last (allegedly) of the excellent online comedy gigs hosted by The Atic and The Comedy Crate through the unbelievably helpful Zoom. Ryan MoldOnce again our host was Ryan Mold, getting to know some of the online attendees, including part-time actor and recycling expert David, who may have to instruct our new local council in all things Green Bin – important work! Ryan also shared some of his new material relating to the pleasures of Facebook Marketplace, which is funnier than it sounds!

Laura LexxFive acts for our entertainment again, and first up was Laura Lexx, with a very sparky and confident approach to the world of zoom comedy, looking back on all the most dreadful moments of the lockdowns, including home haircuts and the unashamed purchase of a pricey dog. She also had some great material contrasting natural feminism with the need to be in comfy clothes. Very engaging and funny!

Philip SimonNext up, and new to us, was Philip Simon, who used a very showbiz backdrop to make us feel we really were at a comedy club. By contrast he has a rather gentle delivery, and enjoys clever wordplay in his material, giving rise to excellent observations about Geordie sheep-shaggers, withdrawal agreements, and how to make a man happy. He also had some entertaining material about home-schooling, which is something a lot of people can relate to!

ANick Pagefter Ryan was concerned about one of the audience members who had gone off – only to discover he was doing the washing-up (such is the dynamic of a zoom gig), our third act was Nick Page, also new to us, who has a very wry and dour persona; the kind of comic that makes you laugh even though he himself never breaks into a smile once. I really enjoyed his material about posh relatives, and the joys of becoming a father at the age of 50. He communicated a lot with individual audience members which integrated really well into his act – that can be a risky strategy online, but his natural authority meant no one wouldn’t dare co-operate! Very entertaining, and someone we would like to see again when the world gets back to normal.

Eshaan AkbarThen came Eshaan Akbar, whom we’ve seen a few times now and always mixes great observational comedy with food for thought. I really enjoyed his sequence about getting annoyed that people don’t pronounce his name properly – which has a nice sting in the tail, his struggle to get the attention and affection of his father, and why the Covid vaccine is the perfect Empire product. He always delivers his material with great fluidity and pinpoint accuracy, and I look forward to seeing him again sometime soon too.

paul-mccaffreyOur headline act was Paul McCaffrey, who had appeared on one of the other gigs earlier this spring. He also has great style and attack, and I loved all his stuff about marketing clothes through what celebrities wear, and also his observations about Twitter. He did repeat some of his material from his previous gig – but, if you hadn’t heard it before, it was very funny!

So this has been described as the last of these zoom gigs as we start to emerge from the blur of lockdown – but I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see more online comedy from this team in the future!

Review – The Penultimate Sunday Night Comedy Zoom Gig with the Comedy Crate and the Atic – 21st March 2021

Comedy CrateIf it’s Sunday at 6pm then it’s time for the next comedy zoom gig courtesy of those nice people at the Comedy Crate and the Atic. For this show, usual host Ryan Mold handed the reins over to the excellent Rich Wilson, whom we saw MC’ing one of their shows in the garden of Northampton’s Black Prince last year. Rich WilsonHe treated the show very much as he would have a real live show, starting off by chatting individually with a lot of the audience to warm us up for what was to come. This isn’t always easy on a zoom gig but he committed to it perfectly! Amongst his introductory gems were the pros and cons of TikTok and why you never see ghosts in the nude. He’s truly a dab hand at this game, and he kept the pace going nicely throughout the entire show.

president_obonjoApart from Mr W, all the comics in the line up were new to us, and it’s been many a year since I’ve been able to say that! First up was President Obonjo, the alter ego of comedian Benjamin Bello, who seized control of the Lafta Republic by means of an “election”. It’s a wonderful comic creation, with so much scope for the boot’s on the other foot comparisons between first and third world countries – especially post-Brexit. I loved the idea of a new Live-Aid; and the Good President’s address turned into an advert for tourism to his unfortunate nation. Very funny, and I’d love to see him in more natural surroundings sometime soon.

Gareth BerlinerNext we had Gareth Berliner, clearly a naturally funny guy, whose cam angle made it look as though he was begging us for mercy from somewhere down below. No need to beg, as he had some lovely observations about life in lockdown. He conjured up a nice image – whilst missing real gigs, his wife MC’s him into the lounge to make him feel at home. I loved his alternative idea to being clinically vulnerable, and how he befriends burglars, just for company. There’s also a very funny visual punchline with his tattoo of Sweden – don’t ask. Very enjoyable.

Rachel JacksonThird up was Rachel Jackson – definitely not the Prime Minister’s sister as I originally feared – who risked her ten minutes on their being horror fans in the audience – which elicited just one voice of support! Nevertheless she strode courageously on with some material about the film Saw, (which we never did) – but a lot of people had, so at least they got the jokes! Despite our not getting some of the references, she’s a gifted deliverer of material, with a lively madcap persona and bundles of enthusiasm; and we also really enjoyed the idea of her sexting the government. Oh, and if you’re a fat guy – you’re in. Cue all the fat guys preening to cam.

Gianmarco SoresiOur fourth act came to us all the way from New York City – Gianmarco Soresi. What a brilliant comic he is! A breath of fresh air from the start, he had us in hysterics from the word go, with hilarious and effortless observations, all delivered with a truly adroit turn of phrase. Among his superb nuggets was the wonderful insight into why Catholic jokes never get old, his dating experiences with masks, and how you can date en famille. His humour has an element of self-deprecation (actually more of self-creepery if such a thing exists) and works incredibly well. I do hope we get to see him perform live in the UK, as he could be The Next Best Thing.

Brennan ReeceOur headline act was Brennan Reece, a very engaging chap who tells wayward and meandering tales, where the fun is more in the getting there than in reaching the final destination. There were some excellent sequences including the door to door vaccine salesman and the depressed dog, but the joy of his performance was more in the throwaway side observations and turns of phrase. He’s another naturally very funny guy, and a great way to end the show.

Only one more of these Sunday night gigs to come. Will you be there? We will!