Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 17th September 2022

Screaming Blue MurderI expected sadly to have to sit out all this autumn’s Screaming Blue Murders as they had been changed to Saturday nights, and Mrs Chrisparkle and my Saturday nights book up very early. However, a last minute change of plan meant that we could go, so hurrah for that. And, despite the fact that this season’s Screaming Blues have been strangely omitted from the printed brochure, it was a sell-out, so they’re obviously all doing something right.

Dan EvansAnd it was a delight as always to be welcomed and entertained by the one and only Mr Dan Evans, who had his work cut out from the start by front row Shirley from Wootton, who was definitely up for a spot of interaction. We also met laid-back Sonny, Architect Andy and wise-cracking Ian. Dan did absolutely the right thing by starting the evening off with a heartfelt round of applause for Her Late Majesty – it’s always difficult to gauge the right level of respect, especially with something that’s frequently as disrespectful as a comedy gig! But it was the perfect way to recognise the official mourning period. He could then proceed with his usual brand of cheeky chatting with the audience.

Robert WhiteFirst on stage was Robert White – a true Screaming Blue regular; I worked out that this was the seventh time we’ve seen him here. Now a Britain’s Got Talent alumnus, he has the special trick of being Asperges, gay and totally lacking in inhibition. With his trusty keyboard he can whack out any number of comedy songs about any number of audience members. Despite trying hard, he didn’t manage to discover any other gays in the audience, but it didn’t stop him from delivering some classic Robert White embarrassment songs and interactions. Whether or not we weren’t quite sufficiently warmed up I’m not sure, or whether it’s that he’s normally headlining or at least second in the bill, but his material didn’t always land quite so surely as it normally does. But then, with many people feeling the loss of Her Majesty, perhaps this wasn’t surprising.

Naomi CooperNext up was Naomi Cooper, whom we’d seen four years ago, and she’s much more sure-footed with her material and delivery than she was then. She has enjoyable routines about being a “slut” (her description) and dealing with her mother. There’s no one single outstanding aspect to her act, but she sets up a nice rapport with the audience and there were lots of good laughs.

Christian ReillyOur headliner, and another act we’ve seen several times, was Christian Reilly, master of the comedy guitar parody/pastiche. With his perky straw Stetson he gives the impression of being a country and western wild boy, and his Bruce Springsteen always goes down a storm – although my favourite of the night is his idiotically brilliant Bryan Ferry. It feels effortless, although I bet it isn’t, and the audience roared their approval. A brilliant way to end the night.

The next Screaming Blue is scheduled for next Saturday and includes the brilliant Russell Hicks – gutted that we can’t be there, but you should go!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 25th March 2022

Screaming Blue MurderIt’s the final Screaming Blue Murder of the season, and in a last minute change of plan we welcomed James Dowdeswell as our MC. We’ve seen James many times before, as opener, as headliner, even online, but never as the MC, and he’s always great fun. News travels fast in the comedy world, and James’ opening gambit was to check if anyone was in from Wollaston, James Dowdeswellfollowing on from my review of the fairly disastrous gig a couple of weeks ago – so that was me instantly outed in the audience, owning up to being the writer! Fortunately this crowd was a friendly, easy-going bunch, and we responded well to James’ probing into our jobs and characteristics. He’s a very amiable, welcoming and funny chap, and we all felt completely at ease with him the whole evening.

Meryl O'RourkeOur first act, and someone we’ve also seen many times before, both as an act and as MC, was Meryl O’Rourke, always high octane, always full of cheeky vagina jokes. It’s been twelve years since we first saw her act, and the intervening years have perhaps made her humour slightly less filthy – and it’s up to the individual whether that’s a good thing or not! Nevertheless, we still get a great insight into her married life – an assortment of farting, snoring and very occasional sex. She also has great material about the contrast between the sexual expectations of today’s young people versus those of her youth – very recognisable! She ended with a terrific visual joke regarding her Marilyn Monroe facemask. A very safe pair of hands and very funny as always.

Tom TaylorNext up was an act new to us, Tom Taylor. His stage persona is a fascinating mix of the engaging and slightly aloof, and it works really well. Armed with a Bontempi – and not afraid to use it – he’s very silly and very funny. There’s a madcap surrealism to his material, knocking out musical non sequiturs and genuinely inspired jokes. Not afraid to go where angels fear to tread, we loved his take on the Holy Communion menu; you couldn’t possibly be offended by anything he said though as it was all done with a brilliant lightness of touch.

Gerry KOur headliner, and someone we’ve seen once before and absolutely loved, was Gerry K. He’s another comic who’s so adept at taking material that you think has the potential to be really iffy but then turns it around at the last minute into something incredibly funny. Constantly inventive and surprising, he misleads us surefootedly down a familiar route only to deliver something completely unexpected. We loved how he explained how Covid ruined his Christmas, his view about mansplaining, how a Covid test resembles a pregnancy test and dozens more nuggets of comedy gold. For an east London diamond geezer he’s brilliantly self-deprecating, and he gets away with it all because he’s so likeable. A fantastic end to the show and to the season.

I’m guessing Screaming Blue Murders will return in the autumn. We’ll be first in the queue.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 12th March 2022

Screaming Blue MurderIf you happened to be strolling around the village of Wollaston on Saturday night and wondered where everyone was, 47 of them were at the Royal and Derngate to see the Screaming Blue Murder as part of local resident Claire’s birthday bash. That’s over a quarter of the entire audience! The show had been sold out weeks in advance, which is unusual; and a few minutes before the show was due to start the audience was still quite patchy. Then in came the Wollaston crowd, swelling the ranks of all the front seats, which naturally are the last to be chosen. Boisterous and lubricated, they were ready for a good time – so long as the good time involved taking notice of them.

Dan EvansOur genial host Dan Evans certainly had his work cut out. I should say, for everything that followed during the evening, none of it was the fault of the people from Wollaston; if there was a fault, it was down to some of the comics who should have handled the situation better. But to have so many of the crowd all know each other does put everyone at a disadvantage, as they bring with them their own dynamic, their own “house rules”. Performers, staff, the rest of the audience; we all had to struggle to assert our ability to have a good night and not feel excluded. At first, the vibe was great while Dan was getting to know them all. We discovered, for instance, that Claire has quite a big house. Big enough for an indoor swimming pool (even if it was only 10m x 5m, depth unknown), into which many of the audience had previously immersed themselves. We were also alerted to the presence of Matt, an audience member who took the opportunity to interrupt whenever he liked. When Dan joshed with the crowd with jokes that concerned themselves, it was fun and laughter all around. However, when he started to do more general material, which at any other time would be gold dust, people at the front were less interested. Fortunately the people at the back continued to laugh, but you could tell this was going to be a difficult night. There was a moment when one of the ushers came forward to mop up some spilled drink at the front of the stage and someone made a rather cruel remark at her expense. It wasn’t big and it wasn’t clever. We cringed in embarrassment for her.

Tania EdwardsOur first act, and someone we last saw way back in 2013, was Tania Edwards. She bases her material and stage persona on being rather posh, terribly middle-class, and deliberately bitchy with it. She discusses life with the husband who now works from home much to her annoyance, rather than the good old days when she hardly ever saw him. It’s very character-based comedy, and not many of the punchlines hit home. Changing tack, she took her attention to ridiculing the size of Claire’s swimming pool as being little more than a puddle. The non-Wollastonians in the audience hooted with laughter, the Wollastonians sat silently clearly unimpressed that one of their number had been criticised in this way. That atmosphere then spread throughout the whole crowd, and Tania didn’t find a way to regain the upper hand. As I said, this was going to be a difficult night.

andy-whiteFortunately, for the second act, in came the Cavalry in the reliable form of Andy White, who did exactly what the crowd needed – grabbed us by the nuts and took control. He had Wikipedia’d Wollaston during the break, thereby publicly recognising their importance in the show, and with fantastic, assertive material, he silenced Matt and delivered a barrage of brilliant observations and jokes, ranging from the Birmingham Christmas Market, through helping his wife to give birth to the horrors of home schooling. Every line hit home; the dominators were dominated, and it was a masterclass in how to turn an evening around.

Anthony KingSadly, our headline act, Anthony King, didn’t take advantage of the upswing that Andy had achieved. This was the fifth time we’ve seen him at Screaming Blue Murder shows, and in the past he’s always brought the house down with his lugubrious persona, and comedy songs with a touch of psychotic murder about them. This time, however, it just didn’t work. You could feel the energy drain from the room within a minute of his starting. Someone with his experience should surely have realised that his usual act wasn’t working so ought to have changed direction. But he didn’t. He continued, morosely, and the few laughs from those supportive members of the audience petered out. At some point during this disaster, you sensed that he had just given up, but was going to carry on regardless anyway. Drawing his act to an eventual conclusion he introduced his last song by saying “and now, to end my career…” to which a wag from Wollaston shouted out “that happened ten minutes ago” – and Anthony had no comeback. Mrs Chrisparkle and I were gripping each other’s hands with cringing desperation. And when the show finally, mercifully, finished, I’ve never heard so little desultory applause from the audience at the end of one of these evenings. It was an experience that I’m sure we’d all rather forget.

Still, hope springs eternal! The last in this season of Screaming Blue Murders is on 25th March, has a cracking line-up and is already sold out. Fingers crossed!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 26th February 2022

Screaming Blue MurderTime for another Screaming Blue Murder – you know the traditional event: hosted by the wonderful Dan Evans, with three delightful acts and two marvellous intervals, an up-for-it boisterous full house of an audience, loads of laughs and, all being well, everyone out by 10:30 to get on with the rest of their weekend. In fact, it’s such a predictable entertainment that you could almost set your clock by it. Everything runs to plan, no one stays sober, everyone goes home happy.

Dan EvansBut is the course of true comedy always that predictable? Not so on Saturday night. It all started well. Dan bounded on with his usual energy (having bigged himself up on the microphone before it started) and spent the usual twenty minutes or so getting to know the audience. We encountered young Daniel, 18 – the most amiable skinhead you could ever meet – and his girlfriend Izzy, 17 (their ages are relevant, trust me); five cats-owning Health and Safety manager Jenna with her ghastly tale of someone who fell in a shredder; the aggregate lorry driver and the long-partnered couples who sat apart. All jolly stuff going nicely to plan.

Rachel FairburnTwo of the three acts were new to us; the other we saw quite recently. First up was Rachel Fairburn, new to us, with a likeable personality and a sister she hates; she’s not sure how, but apparently her Manchester accent is sexy (and, on the whole, I wouldn’t disagree). She has some telling and well thought-out material about OCD, and how it isn’t just a matter of liking things neat and tidy. Her set was going well and we were all laughing a lot when she introduced her next subject – serial killers.

She was just about to mine some comedy material out of the appalling Jeffrey Dahmer, when a young man in the audience became unwell – seriously so. Everything stopped; people were concerned. Rachel actually went to get him a glass of water, but it soon became clear this wasn’t going to resolve itself quickly. Mr Sound Man announced an early interval, and we all went outside in stunned silence for a drink whilst the paramedics attended to the poor chap. Ms Fairburn never got to finish her story or her set, and wasn’t seen again. We were immensely impressed with the way the staff handled the incident, and the speed with which the young chap was taken to hospital. Hopefully, all’s well that ends well. The unpredictability of a comedy night.

Toussaint DouglassBut the show must go on, and our second act was the excellent Toussaint Douglass whom we had seen last year at a Comedy Crate gig. He has a very warm personality, and some terrific material about having a middle class girlfriend, and the pros and cons of being in a mixed-race relationship. He has a great stage presence and delivers his excellent material with confidence and authority. He was able to turn the gig around back to being a good night out and not an oh dear I hope that guy is ok night.

Tom WardOur headline act, and someone else we hadn’t seen before, was Tom Ward, a guy with a thatch of impossible hair that he insists isn’t a wig, an innocent-looking selection of backing music tracks to his side and an incredibly mischievous personality to boot. Put the three together and you have a wonderfully anarchic half-hour. He poked fun mercilessly at Daniel for being a nonce (Daniel took it like a man), then later questioned the guy at the back why his girlfriend wasn’t with him. Dissatisfied with the answer, Mr W got his phone off him and rang her up for us all to listen to her reasoning. Result, it’s not looking good for the relationship. He ended with a brilliant version of Cher’s Believe that has to be seen and heard to be… well… believed.

What could have ended in an uncomfortable night for everyone ended in hilarity, thank Goodness. I felt sorry for Rachel Fairburn ending her set by not ending it, if you see what I mean. But at least we think the audience member was ok. Let’s hope so. Next Screaming Blue is on 12th March and is already sold out. See you there!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 14th January 2022

Screaming Blue MurderHurrah for the return of the Screaming Blue Murder comedy nights at the Derngate, the first of the New Year and with a capacity audience which is how we like it. We were a bright and cheery bunch, keen for a good laugh, and up for whatever the Gods of Comedy decided to throw at us. I must say though, it was a surprisingly patchy night. The fantastic just about outweighed the not-so-fantastic – but more of that later.

Dan EvansWe welcomed back our usual genial host Dan Evans, who had his work cut out encouraging/controlling members of the audience who included Big Nana and her unruly family of Spencer/Browns, the Four Siblings, the man who drove the human waste truck and the Landed Gentry who open up their garden for charity. Not to mention the vociferous lady from the back who wanted to be a member of Big Nana’s family. Rather like the now defunct News of the World, all human life was there. But, as always, Dan handled it with deft aplomb and only the occasional downright offensive insult.

James BranOur first act was James Bran, whom we last saw here almost four years ago, and is a likeable chap with a rather thoughtful, quiet approach to comedy, which can make a nice change from the more frenzied style. He started off with the best exchange of the night, by boldly asking who’s been vaccinated (yay shouted by far the majority) followed by who’s not been vaccinated (a slightly more guilty yay muttered by a tiny few) to which a lady in the front row shouted out “twats!” which took the conversation in a very different direction from which Mr Bran had I think intended. A great moment of interactive drama. However, after that the energy started to fall, and I found that most of Mr B’s material didn’t really engage me. Although there were some good laughs it never soared. And at the end he did a long sequence about bananas which I’m afraid left us both completely cold. Maybe it’s important to have seen the YouTube video he’s referring to.

Daman BamrahNext up, and new to us, was Daman Bamrah, who cuts an imposing stage presence; it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a Sikh gentleman as a stand-up comedian, and Mr Bamrah knows that his personality and presence is something he can work to his advantage. His other great gift is accents, and his opening few minutes were comedy gold as he explores a beautiful audio/visual juxtaposition and when the joke lands, it’s firmly on us – brilliant. There were also some nice observations about growing up in Wembley and mispronouncing his name. Unfortunately, his subsequent material isn’t quite substantial enough to sustain this high watermark and after a while it felt rather meandering, and any punchlines weren’t quite sharp enough to properly hit home. He’s obviously a naturally funny guy, and I know he’s relatively new to the comedy scene, so with some better material he could be a strong contender.

Richard MortonOur headline act was someone we’ve seen twice before but not since 2012, comedy/music act Richard Morton. The evening needed to end on a high note and by jiminy did Mr Morton provide it. Starting off with some great interaction with the crowd, tempered with some entertaining self-deprecation, he then moved on to his guitar-based musical parodies which are just sensational. He absolutely gets the style right of whatever musician or group he’s playing with (so to speak) and his comedy lyrics are both hilarious and bang up-to-date. I loved his selection of pandemic songs, and the act culminated with a now the groups are old selection – and he was completely hysterical. We left the theatre on a comedy high!

The next Screaming Blue Murder is on Saturday 29th January. We can’t make it – but I’m sure you can.

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 19th November 2021

Screaming Blue MurderIt’s odd how the same format of three fabulous acts, two wonderful intervals and one marvellous compere can create a different vibe from show to show. There was something odd and ill at ease about October’s Screaming Blue Murder, but last Friday’s show was a crackeroony of a night. Host Dan Evans was on fine form indeed with his welcomes and entr’actes, mining the comedy out of the front rows, including Texaco Josh who was 29 but looked 13, Oundle Will who was 17 and looked 17, and Farmer Alice who, according to Dan, had to get up at 5am every day just to fill out all the refund forms, thus receiving the biggest laugh of the night.

Dan EvansAn innovative line-up featured two female comics and one male, which may be an indication of some progress where it comes to equality in comedy. We’d seen all the acts before, some more recently than others, and it’s interesting to see how they mixed and matched the same material we’ve seen before but to different effect.

Juliet MeyersFirst up was Juliet Meyers, whom I was expecting to use the C word within the first couple of minutes as she always does, but this time she didn’t – maybe she thought we were posher than we were. It wasn’t until she made a disparaging remark about our beloved Prime Minister, at which point Front Row Tom got up in a magnificent display of what appeared to be disgust which I think took us all slightly aback, only to get to the door to turn around and say by the way I agree, Boris Johnson is a massive c*nt (I may be paraphrasing). After that we were all relieved and Ms Meyers had the green light to use the C word as much as she wanted, and then everything fell nicely into place. Front Row Tom returned (he’d only nipped out to the loo), and Juliet got on with some great material about dogs’ unconditional love, Brexit in the canine world, and why men have become more tender in the bedroom. Great stuff.

James SherwoodNext up was James Sherwood, who reminds me of what David Mitchell would look like if he was just relaxing down the pub. He has a great interaction with the audience, very wry and dry, gently laconic and I really enjoyed his material regarding sex versus drugs and the pros and cons of both. He split up his act with a few musical jokes at the keyboard, which are his trademark, but for some reason they didn’t quite hit home in the way they have in the past. Nevertheless a good fun set.

Jenny CollierOur headline act was someone we’ve seen twice already this year, Jenny Collier, and I feared that listening to the same material again so soon after hearing it before would be a little disappointing. Not a bit of it. Ms Collier has honed this routine to perfection, working on the just the right words and intonations to make it as funny as possible – and she went down a complete storm. She is one of those comics who plays beautifully on her rather sweet and innocent appearance and contrasts it with the unexpected power of her material; a posh versus filthy balance, which she gauges perfectly. She uses her experience working in the NHS to great effect; has a great joke about a gag reflex; tells us about all the new Welsh words she learned this year; and ends up with a riotous routine about providing a stool sample. Left us all wanting a lot more – fabulous work.

That was the last Screaming Blue Murder for 2021, but, if we have unearnéd luck, we’ll all be back in January. See you there!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 22nd October 2021

Dan EvansScreaming Blue Murder time again, and our party of five braved the increasing Covid numbers to sit as safely as possible by locating the Underground’s new ventilation panels and plonking ourselves under them. Another full house, all expectantly awaiting the 8pm start for a cracking night of comedy. But, come five past eight, where was our loveable host Dan Evans? Still hurtling up the motorway, as it happens. A massive traffic jam held him up Brighton-way and he was never going to make it on time as a result.

Kevin ShepherdThus it was that our first act, Kevin Shepherd, had to introduce both himself, the audience and his act all at the same time – and an excellent job he made of it too. We’d not seen him before, but he has a confident, relaxed style and an engaging manner, which worked well with his getting to know the front row punters, including regular Tom – whom it was decided would speak for the entire audience (and indeed town), and the family of recycling operatives. He had some excellent material which included the nitty-gritty of a drunk date, the majesty that is Bognor Regis, and how when you keep your mask in your trouser pocket too long you discover exactly how testicles smell (that was the truest observation of the night). He also made a number of references to life with his wife, which was perhaps unsurprising as…

Diane SpencerOur second act was the wonderful Diane Spencer, whom we’ve seen many times and never fails to delight with her posh but filthy persona. She also happens to be married to Kevin, which they never made obvious, but I expect a large number of the audience will have twigged. As she often does, she had lots of great material about sexual shenanigans including getting repetitive strain injury in bed and achieving a personal best. But there was a bit of an odd vibe in the audience, and a slight comedy reticence in the air; whether they were put out by Dan’s late arrival – he was able to take over the MC’ing after a while and was his usual jovial self – or whether our biorhythms were out of kilter I don’t know, but Diane did have to work perhaps a bit harder than usual to get the laughs. But she still got them.

Andre VincentOur headline act was Andre Vincent, a comedian of long standing reputation, and whom we’ve seen twice before. He started off with a brilliant gag about self-identification, but maybe it was because of the generally lacklustre audience, or indeed the two young women in the front row who didn’t laugh at anyone or anything, but his energy and comic inspiration seemed to go awol from time to time. His routine centred on two longish stories that he had told on both occasions we’d seen him before, and, although there were laughs a-plenty, somehow the whole thing didn’t go quite to plan. It happens. He’s a gifted comic and a naturally funny guy, but on this occasion, it didn’t quite soar.

Another Screaming Blue in the offing in November – already looking forward to it!

A few more theatre and dance memories for you from July to September 2009

  1. The Revengers’ Comedies Parts One and Two – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 11th July 2009

The Royal and Derngate’s 70th birthday celebrations for Alan Ayckbourn continued with his two part comedy The Revengers’ Comedies, performed in the studio Underground theatre by the Community Actors Group. We saw it on the Saturday where Part One was performed at the matinee and Part Two in the evening. An extremely funny play, performed to perfection by the group.

 

 

  1. Man of the Moment – Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 5th August 2009

The last of the big three shows in the Ayckbourn celebration season was Man of the Moment, a blisteringly funny and savage play that starred Kim Wall, Matthew Cottle and Malcolm Sinclair, and directed by Ayckbourn himself. It put the finishing touches to a perfect season.

 

 

  1. The Winter’s Tale – Royal Shakespeare Company at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 15th August 2009

David Farr’s production of what I always find a difficult Shakespearean comedy starred Greg Hicks as Leontes, Kelly Hunter as Hermione, Darrell D’Silva as Polixenes Samantha Young as Perdita and Tunji Kasim as Florizel. The Courtyard Theatre was a temporary theatre to give the Royal Shakespeare Company a home base whilst the Royal Shakespeare Theatre was being redeveloped. Can’t remember much about the production but I think it was considered a success.

  1. Romeo and Juliet – Oxford Shakespeare Company at Wadham College, Oxford, 22nd August 2009

Shakespeare’s lovers’ tragedy was re-imagined as a pair of warring Oxford families in the summer of 1959. Guy Retallack’s inventive production was very effective with fabulous attention to contemporary detail.

  1. Forbidden Broadway – Menier Chocolate Factory, London, 23rd August 2009

The Smash-Hit Broadway revue came to London with a bang, and a fantastic cast of Anna-Jane Casey, Sophie-Louise Dann, Alasdair Harvey and Steven Kynman. No Broadway/West End musical is beyond ridicule in this wonderfully funny revue. It helps if you know the shows it lampoons, but even if you don’t it’s still hysterical. Absolutely brilliant.

  1. The 39 Steps – Criterion Theatre, London, 31st August 2009

Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of the old wartime spy story had already been playing at the Criterion for three years before we finally got to see it. A fantastically funny spoof, performed with incredible gusto by John Hopkins, Stephen Critchlow, Stephen Ventura and Natalie Walter. A very successful production originally performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

  1. BBC Proms No 67 – BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 5th September 2009

Jac van Steen conducted the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at this Saturday night Prom, with David Pyatt on horn. The programme started with Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen suite, then the London Premiere of John McCabe’s Horn Concerto, Rainforest IV, and then after the interval, Dvorak’s Symphony No 9. A fantastic night of classical music.

 

  1. Screaming Blue Murder – Underground at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 10th September 2009

This was our first ever experience of a Screaming Blue Murder show; hosted (almost certainly – I don’t know the line up that night) by Dan Evans, with three fantastic comics and two superb intervals. Once we started going to these shows we couldn’t stop – and we still regularly go twelve years later.

  1. Last Night of the Proms – BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, London, 12th September 2009

As I had done on many previous occasions, I entered the ballot for a couple of tickets to the Last Night of the Proms – and, lo and behold, we were successful! Here’s the programme: Oliver Knussen, Flourish with Fireworks; Purcell (arr. Wood) New Suite; Purcell, Dido and Aeneas closing scene; Haydn, Trumpet Concerto in E flat Major; Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Villa-Lobos, Choros No 10 “Rasga o coracao”; Arnold, A Grand Grand Overture; Ketelbey, In a Monastery Garden; Gershwin (arr Forgie) Shall We Dance “They Can’t Take that Away from Me”; Piazzolla (arr Milone) Libertango; BBC Proms Inspire 2009 Young Composers, Fanfares for the Last Night; Handel, Music for the Royal Fireworks excerpts; Arne, Rule Britannia; Parry, Jerusalem; Elgar, Pomp and Circumstance March No 1; National Anthem; Auld Lang Syne. Probably a once in a lifetime experience.

  1. Thank You For the Music, A Celebration of the music of Abba – Hyde Park, London, 13th September 2009

We stayed over in London after the Last Night of the Proms and went to Hyde Park on the Sunday to see this celebration of Abba. A huge list of stars gathered to play Abba, with Bjorn and Benny also present for some of the songs. A great night out.

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 – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 1st February 2020

Screaming Blue MurderOur first time of attending a Screaming Blue Murder on a Saturday night – felt kinda weird because we’re already halfway through the weekend rather than it being a welcome curtain-raiser to those hallowed subsequent two days. Nevertheless, it was sold out yet again, and they’re still persisting on having the front two rows of the audience wrap around the comics’ podium, which has pros and cons. The pros are that there are more victims, I mean guests, for the comedians to interact with. The cons include… well, see paragraph 3.

Dan EvansOnce again MC duties were in the capably hairy hands of Dan Evans, who had plenty to contend with in the front row. It was someone’s birthday. We never found out her real name, but she was given a card addressed to “Li’l Slut” so that became her epithet of the night. She’ll always be Li’l Slut to us. It turned out that half the front rows were part of the birthday party including a lady from Mexico who got upset (quite rightly) at the mention of Brexit. Furthermore, later we had the joy to discover Mike, hiding himself away some rows back, who sold jet skis. In Northampton. You couldn’t make it up.

Paul RickettsOur first act, and someone we’ve seen a couple of times before, was Paul Ricketts. He has a relatively laid-back style and is most at home when he’s bouncing directly off the audience. He had plenty of entertaining material for us, including his bitter resentment of anyone younger than him, observations about Luton Airport, and the very funny Four Stages of an Eastenders Actor. But here’s a thing; for some reason, a number of the punters seated around the stage felt the need to go for a wee during his act, and the only way you can get out of the Underground to get to the toilets from those seats is to march out directly under the performer’s nose – even to the extent of walking on to the stage area and off again. The first time it was quite funny, but by the time four people had separately heard the call of nature it became distracting both for Paul and for us. Nevertheless, Paul battled on regardless and gave us a good half-hour’s worth of fun.

Faye TreacyNext up was someone new to us although I know she’s got a show at the Leicester Comedy Festival coming up very shortly – Faye Treacy. She’s the 21st century’s answer to George Chisholm in that she presents a comedy act plus trombone. The novelty value of this alone is worth the ticket but, additionally, Faye’s musical madness is totally hysterical. Her trombone-influenced material is unbeatable; Trump’s brain music and her vegetable climax had us in stitches. The non-trombone material in between is also enjoyable, but deep down you really don’t want her to put her instrument down.

Dan AntopolskiOur headliner was someone we’ve seen once before and things didn’t entirely go to plan – Dan Antopolski. It can happen to anyone. This time Dan was as sure-footed as a mountain gazelle. His is a subtle, intelligent act that isn’t crammed with one-liners, and in fact often the funniest bits are the bits he doesn’t actually say – there’s clever for you. As such, when you look back over his act, it’s very difficult to pick out moments or topics that really touched the spot; it’s not that they don’t exist – they do – but there’s something ethereal about his whole approach that makes him and his material hard to pin down. I do remember – and really enjoyed – his routine about iPhone versus Samsung; as for the rest of his set – it was excellent but I’m blowed if I can remember any of it.

Next Screaming Blue is on 14th February. Prepare for lots of Valentines jokes. I’m afraid we can’t make it. But you should!