Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 22nd November 2019

Sally Anne HaywardAnother packed house at the Underground for our last Screaming Blue Murder of the year. Instead of our usual host, Dan, in the hot seat was Sally-Anne Hayward, whom we’ve seen many times before but never as an MC – and damn fine she was too. I loved her material about the whining office victim, which may seem cruel at first but then develops into a brilliant analysis of that kind of person. As she probed the audience for their interesting facts and jobs, she struck gold by first approaching Jasmine, with whom we all played a guessing game as to what she did for a living. You’d never guess it in a million years, btw. Her boyfriend, Winner, was also an easy target for some audience-ribbing.

Brendan DempseyIn what was always going to be a sensational line-up, our first act was the fantastic Brendan Dempsey, whom we last saw at Screaming Blue five years ago. He has such a commanding manner with the audience, so full of authority yet subtle and engaging. He has a brilliant sequence where he explains the reason why he and his wife can’t have children; plus some delightfully tasteless but extremely funny material on the benefits of having a disabled child. With his polite and well-mannered delivery, he’s able to sneak in some very challenging and often ludicrous material en route, and the act works brilliantly well.

Diane SpencerIn a change from the advertised programme, next was a welcome return to Diane Spencer, another comic whom we’ve seen several times and who surprises the audience with a delicious balance of posh Sloaney performer and some hard-hitting X-rated material to great comic effect. She offers some insights into the art of keeping stepchildren, and she goes into blow-jobs in great detail (apologies if you’re eating). I really enjoy her style and her unpredictability, and she went down very well with the audience.

Russell Hicks Headlining the evening was the magnificent Russell Hicks, who only has to come on to deliver a few lines, then allow himself to be sidetracked by whatever the audience throws at him – which usually results in comedy gold. This time we had a lady called Jo from Canada who had got steadily more inebriated as the evening wore on; and the audible plea from her friend during Mr Hicks’ set – “no, don’t get your tits out, Jo” – was all he needed. Added to this, there was an extraordinary tale from another (rather posh) lady who recounted the tale of her flashing her bosoms at a passing Virgin express train from a canal boat at Watford Gap. No one can weave such bizarre extras into their Screaming Blue Murderact like Mr Hicks, and he gave us half an hour of full-on belly laughs, so much so that we were still laughing (and hurting with it) the next morning.

In a word, classic. Screaming Blue Murders resume on January 10th with a superb line-up; we’ll be there, and so should you.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, 10th October 2014

Screaming Blue MurderThere was quite a turnout from the Chrisparkle contingent at last Friday’s Screaming Blue Murder – my good lady wife and I were not only accompanied by Lady Duncansby and the Duchess of Dallington, but also we had a return visit from Lord Liverpool and the Countess of Cockfosters. I can’t think why Tatler weren’t in attendance.

Dan EvansOur genial host was the one and only Dan Evans, terrific as always at getting everyone loosened up and ready for the fray, although he failed yet again to get some seats in the front few rows filled by the cowards who slunk to the back. Well done Dan for keeping the new material coming, us regulars really do appreciate it! Unfortunately Dan had a bit of a (hope you’re not eating) phlegm problem on Friday, resulting in every so often his turning round and having a really good hack at his throat, like Bob Fleming in The Fast Show. As part of Dan’s interaction with the crowd, we loved his chats with the mysterious Scouser and his daughter the Fraud Investigator, including deciding on the merits and the risks of replying to a letter promising a huge haul of cash from Nigeria.

Peter WhiteFirst of our three acts was Peter White, new to us, and a very funny chap from Canada. He has good attack and forms a nice rapport with the audience, but for some reason decided to pick on me because of the size of my head. It’s true – I do have a very big head. But for some reason Mr White seemed to find it rather scary, which is something no one has ever said to me before. I enjoyed his observation about how at home he’s regular sized but get off the plane in the UK and he’s instantly fat. Made me think I could go to Toronto and enjoy an instant crash diet. Great material about how sex is the only fun you can have where there’s always the risky possibility of a baby being born. We all enjoyed him very much.

Meryl O'RourkeSecond on, and in a change to the advertised programme, it was the return of Meryl O’Rourke. We’ve seen her three times before, twice as an act and once as the host. She’s always really funny with her jokes about sex and motherhood – but mainly sex; and I also liked her material about finding role models for girls. She had a bizarrely funny line about how a posh lady might be affronted by her jokes (“I hope she doesn’t say ‘vagina’, I’m wearing a pashmina”) which we repeated to ourselves all weekend.

Brendan DempseyOur last comic, and again new to us, was Brendan Dempsey. What a sterling delivery this chap has! His luxurious Irish accent made the Duchess go slightly doolally at the knees. One of those comics who takes it all precisely at his own pace and with such authority that you just go with it, loving the pauses. He had some fantastic sequences: does long term romance ever blossom from a building site wolf-whistle (that had us in hysterics); how to cope with the legal firm constantly pestering you on the phone when you’ve had an accident; and what goes through a child’s mind when it gets on board an aeroplane. One of the best comics I’ve seen in a very long time – really top quality.

Come on Northampton, get your act together! The numbers attending were still only average – but this is your best value comedy by far! Unmissable fun.