Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 3rd November 2017

Screaming Blue MurderSometimes you think you can predict how a Screaming Blue Murder will go, and sometimes you’re way off the mark… Surprise No 1 last Friday was that they’d changed the stage layout (such as it is) so that it straddled a corner of the room rather than the traditional square to the edge of the room – and I think that different perspective really worked. They’d also studded the backdrop with little lights which looked very jolly and gave the whole thing more of a sense of showbizzy occasion. I hope they keep it that way!

Dan EvansThe audience were quite a weird bunch on Friday night. The front two rows were exclusively taken up by one group of people, celebrating Mark’s 50th birthday (Congratulations Mark). Unfortunately, it meant they were all constantly laughing at things other members of the party were saying, which didn’t mean anything to the rest of us, so there was a feeling of being left out. Mark, you didn’t look 50, but your explanation about your accent went on a bit. The good thing was that our genial host Dan Evans was on cracking form and played off those first two rows beautifully, comparing the comedic value of one man’s heckles against another, and going where angels fear to tread with a lady in a white jumper that looked like she had her finger in the electric light socket.

OlaOur first act was Ola, whom we’ve seen twice before in 2012 and 2013 and I remember him being an absolute hoot. He still is; with his understated and deliberate delivery, slowly setting up situations for him to rip down at his leisure. He used the concept of telling people “it’s your fault” in many different and clever ways, which was much funnier than it sounds. Some lovely observations about race, swingers on wi-fi, and a new definition of a hard Brexit. A real master of his art, and constantly surprising. A great opener.

Joey PageNext up was Joey Page, whom we’d also seen before, back in 2015. He was great that time, so I was expecting something similar – but, unpredictably, somehow he just failed to get into gear. He still has his made-up facts, which are still very funny, and he still comes across as an engaging character but the material just never quite hit the mark. He got a guy from the front row up on stage to assist him in one routine, but this chap was sadly a bit dull. Ah well, it happens sometimes.

Paul ThorneOur headline act was Paul Thorne, who was new to us, and he was pure class right from the start. As he was developing a thread, again unpredictably, somewhere from the back of the room came the sound of a huge wet chunder. Imagine the sound of loudly pouring a full kettle of water onto rubber matting – I know, sorry to be so disgusting. The rather inebriated source of the vomit was quickly ushered out, presumably to spend the rest of the evening on the toilet. Although more than gobsmacked at the interruption, this was a fantastic opportunity for Mr Thorne to guide him through the rest of his set; it’s startling how many ways there are to weave vomit into your comic material. Just brilliant. Additionally, I loved his material about why Theresa May was no good at the Home Office, and his observations on a Taliban Gap Year were genius.

So, all in all, an unusual Screaming Blue, but still extremely funny. There’s one more left in this season, in two weeks’ time – sadly we’re otherwise engaged, so I’ll look forward to seeing more next year!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground, Derngate, Northampton, 20th September 2013

Screaming Blue MurderAutumn must be here if Screaming Blue Murder has returned to the Derngate. The last season was a huge success with nearly every night a sellout. Obviously not so many people realised the season has started again as it was a fairly quiet night, which was a shame as they missed out on some top comedy.

Dan EvansDan Evans returns as our host and proves himself to be the compère beyond compare. As always he gets a great rapport going with the front row audience, which this week had a few minefields, with a group of guys minding a mate fresh out of prison (apparently) and another guy on a first date with a girl who had got absolutely sloshed by the first interval. Nevertheless he safely steered us through choppy waters to a comedy safe harbour.

James SherwoodOur first act was James Sherwood, who has a very quiet and reflective style and an amusing sense of slightly pompous self-satisfaction. The majority of his act was stationed at the keyboard, pointing out some ridiculous aspects of pop song lyrics. It was very clever and funny material; some of it sustained laugh out loud stuff, some a more contented chuckle, but all very enjoyable.

Maureen YoungerSecond was the very different Maureen Younger, full of attack and not afraid to grapple with the bawdier aspects of life. She’s a naturally funny person, with very good material and a nice sense of self-deprecation. She built up a great relationship with the audience and her ebullience created an excellent contrast with the quiet introversion of the first act.

OlaLast up was Ola, a late change of performer I think, and the only one of the three whom we had seen before. Again a very different kind of performer who delivers his material with supreme confidence at a deliberately slow and thoughtful pace; he builds up an air of being slightly arrogant and dismissive of fools – but then pricks his own balloon with subtle punch lines. He’s one of those comedians where his presence is totally engrossing all the way through; part one-act one-man comedy play, part rapid-reacting comic ping-pong with the audience. Terrific stuff.

A really well structured evening of comedy, and you can’t get better chuckle-value for your £12.50. On again in two weeks time – sadly we can’t make that one, why don’t you go and let me know how it went?

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 7th September 2012

Screaming Blue MurderHurrah for the return of the Screaming Blue Murder autumn season, from the hot and sweaty depths of the Underground in the Royal and Derngate – but at least it doesn’t smell of damp anymore. Not going to criticise it though, as it’s a perfect venue for this kind of comedy club.

Dan EvansA good crowd – which featured not only Mrs Chrisparkle and myself, but also My Lady Duncansby, the Baron von Badby and the Duchess of Duston – saw Dan Evans introduce the usual line up of three super comics and two lovely intervals. Dan was on very good form – effortless in his interaction with the front rows, and dispensing lots of new material (phew! Good stuff!) even if the one old joke he told was the one that got the biggest laugh.

OlaFirst up was Ola; Olawale Gbaja-Biamila according to Chortle, or Olathecomedian according to Twitter. New to us, it was stimulating to have some intelligent, thoughtful observations to start the evening off, and I admired how he was absolutely in control of the pace of his set, carrying us all along with him, dropping in the funny lines and quirky ideas exactly when he wanted. Lots of pauses, but I had complete confidence in him to see out each thread to its intended outcome. I liked the use of “urban charm” – you’ll have to watch his act to see how that gets included – and also he had a nice form of self-deprecation – one where he allows us to get humour out of his (apparent) slight bigheadedness. When he said he was a Christian you could hear a pin drop – superb timing.

Pierre HollinsThe other two acts we had seen before. Pierre Hollins was next, and I remember him as being full of attack, with lots of hard-hitting material, and he was just the same this time – if slightly better. He’s very good at presenting you with situations as experienced by an ordinary bloke (whatever that is) and I certainly found myself recognising a lot of the funny observations he made. A bit coarse, but in a friendly way. A couple of bizarre songs on the guitar at the end weren’t as strong as the rest of his material, so it didn’t quite finish on a high, but he probably got the loudest applause of the night anyway.

Tony LawThe headline act was Tony Law, who we thought also had improved a lot from the last time he was here. He has a very surreal act; he instantly launches into another world populated by his imagination, which to me only partly makes sense and even less makes for humour. I can’t describe his world – I’m afraid I simply don’t recognise it. This level of surrealism must be a dangerous comedic ploy – if the audience isn’t “getting it”, there’s really nowhere to go; you’re in so deep that you can’t backtrack and start again on a different tack. Last time he was here he was heckled pretty mercilessly and didn’t cope well with it – he got defensive and – frankly – a bit arsey with the hecklers (who were funnier than he was). This time the Northampton audience was much more polite. And although I didn’t really get his act, and I noticed stony silence from Mrs C and Lady D, and drooping eyelids from the Baron, the Duchess of Duston at the end of the row was rocking back and forward with hysteria. Humour is such a subjective thing. His African and Indian elephant routine at the end was a masterstroke though, and I loved it. You had to be there.

Another bunch of comics in two weeks time – already looking forward to it!