Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 26th May 2023

Dan EvansTime for another rip-roaring Screaming Blue Murder at the Royal and Derngate, and this episode was a particularly fun-packed one. Our host, the usually genial Dan Evans was on fire with his barbed ripostes with the front rows, creating a fabulous mood for us all to enjoy the evening. Although he did have to find wriggle room when he discovered that front row Lisa was a kick boxer; all the belts, all the dans. We also had the pleasure of vicariously meeting 29 year old Claire from France (who was not really from France and probably wasn’t 29 either) and David at the front who clearly has such a huge personal charisma that he can’t bring his legs together.

Paul RickettsOur first act, and someone we’ve seen many times before, was Paul Ricketts; a very safe pair of hands who takes the audience on a journey of age discovery – a lot of his material is based on comparing the behaviours of the old and the young. He has some nice material about internet porn, and I recognised his memories of the porn fairy who, in the old days, would litter the woods with torn scraps of the stuff. Happy days. His routine was interrupted by a glorious moment when a woman at the back of the room clearly and assertively told a chap who was on his phone to go outside to make his call, which he did sheepishly, much to the massive admiration of the entire audience. A good start to the evening.

Eleanor TiernanNext up, and someone else we’ve seen before, was Eleanor Tiernan. Naturally funny, with a nice blend of confidence and self-deprecation, she has some lovely observations about being Irish in London, and how nice it is when you end up crying for no reason and no one cares. I loved her stuff about what happens when an American performer is on stage in Dublin and says it’s great to be back in the UK; and she has some very funny material about going down a speculum size. Brisk, self-assured, and warmly chatty, she gave us a great set.

Addy van der BorghOur headliner for the evening, and someone we’ve never seen before but I have heard a lot about, was Addy van der Borgh; another naturally funny guy and gifted physical comedian, who instantly drives us into hysterics with comments about the way he looks. Full of fresh new material, he does a marvellous routine about how you age and don’t see it yourself, but the world sees you very differently; the sequence about giving a cheeky smile to a young lady and what she sees back is just brilliant. I also loved the idea of anthropomorphising a bottle of wine – naughty Monsieur Merlot, the perfect accompaniment to a tin of spaghetti ‘oops. He had us all in the palm of his hand – we loved every minute of it.

Another Screaming Blue Murder comes along in June – you spoil us, Mister Ambassador!

Review – Tom Houghton, Absolute Shambles, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 1st April 2023

Absolute ShamblesI remember when Tez Ilyas came to Northampton for a gig and within the first five minutes he’d mistaken the town for Peterborough (not a good move) and said that we didn’t have any cricket clubs here (an even worse move). Fortunately we were a kindly bunch and forgave him, but only after we insisted on a grovelling apology.

Tom Houghton started his show last Saturday in a similarly winning fashion. Good evening Nottingham! he yelled from off stage, which was met with the appropriate level of jeering. I think it was a genuine error. If he starts all his gigs with mislocating himself for comic effect it could be a very risky business. Fortunately Northampton and Nottingham are not known for any local rivalries – primarily because they’re not remotely local to each other.

Tom HoughtonPerhaps Absolute Shambles isn’t a bad name for the show, because he also proceeded to tell us that normally he would have a support act on first to warm us all up – but, basically, he forgot to book one. Thus his support act was – Tom Houghton! No problem, of course, because The Honourable Tom has got more material than you cram into a wardrobe, so he started off by looking for posh people in the audience. Nobody confessed; but in the interval there were conversations about how I wasn’t going to mention I went to private school and nor was I, too perilous an admission to make.

Tom saw through us though, and worked out who the posh people were – including the four sixteen-year-old girls in the third row who came in for a lot of gentle jibing. Tom’s big thing is his posh background, having only recently moved out of the family home in The Tower of London. But lockdown affected both the rich man in his castle and the poor man at his gate, and we got a little insight into the fact that his mental health suffered during those dark days of 2020. Other nuggets that he shared with us included a surprisingly lucrative sideline in selling pictures of his feet to foot fetishists, and his experience as being part of the reality TV programme The Circle.

Tom HoughtonHe has a warm and likeable persona which endears him to the audience, so even when he’s being very cheeky with us – and occasionally rather insulting! – we still lap it up. The show runs at a good pace and, even if it occasionally feels slightly aimless and wandering, there’s always lots to enjoy and plenty of belly laughs to be had. And there’s no doubt, he is an extremely safe pair of hands, and the total master of the art of the callback. The show was sold out, but Mr H is returning to Nottingham, I mean Northampton, to do it all again on 30th June – this time in the Royal Theatre. Recommended!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 24th March 2023

Dan EvansSecond comedy gig of the week, and back in the familiar environment of the Underground at the Royal and Derngate. Our genial host was, as usual, Dan Evans, mining his comic brain for witty rejoinders with the front rows of the audience. This week they included Chris the Floor Fitter, the staff from the Pytchley pub in West Haddon, and a battle of wits to gauge whether or not an MA in Counselling would beat a PhD in Cancer Research – we basically decided the PhD would always win. Dan on terrific form as per usual.

Kelli TaylorFor the second time this week, all the acts were new to us, which is fairly extraordinary given the number of comedy gigs we’ve been to over the years! First up was Kelli! Taylor – the exclamation mark is a vital part of her name, rather like the musical Oklahoma! – a delightful character spoof of a hair stylist from Hull, whose salon is called Hair Body Her Choice. Kelli! takes us into her confidence as she backstabs about all her clients, from the tissue paper thin skin of the elderly to the vajazzling of the more daring. It’s the comedy of bitchiness and gossip, and it works very well. It maybe took a little while for the Northampton audience to cotton on to how the act was going to work, but once we got there, we all really enjoyed it. Very clever!

Amir KhoshsokhanOur middle act was Amir Khoshsokhan, a quietly lugubrious chap who delivers his material with care and forethought but with a hugely wicked twinkle in his eye. He’s another of these supremely gifted and brave comics who adopt a slow pace but with such authority that no one thinks of heckling. Extremely funny material, with a re-enactment of a conversation with his (now) ex-girlfriend about going out late, a lovely sequence regarding sex role play (Gerald and Vivienne) – which leads to tremendous callback later, and the trials and tribulations of being a failed vegetarian. He had us in the palm of his hand and we all loved him. Definitely One To Watch.

Stephen GrantHeadlining was Stephen Grant, an ebullient fellow who bounds onto the stage enthusiastically and gets down to work with energy and likeability. He’s got a quick brain and terrific verbal dexterity, and I loved how he took some easily recognised and well-known topics, like IVF, or marital breakdown, and toppled them on their heads with fresh and funny new material that inevitably all ties up nicely at the end. He has great material about his natural tendency to pedantry, and closed with a superb sequence about how you can sum up a person and their age from their first name – thank third row Graham for that contribution. Savagely inventive with hecklers too! He was the perfect end to an already great night of comedy.

Three shows so far this year, and each one a sell-out. Screaming Blue Murder is on a roll! Next one is on 28th April – and it’s already sold out!

Review – Rob Auton, The Crowd Show – Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 3rd March 2023

Crowd ShowWasn’t it Barbra Streisand who said, and I think it was, People – People who need people – are the luckiest people in the world…. I’m sure that’s an attitude that Rob Auton would 100% get behind. It’s a sentiment that always reminds me of a great Tommy Cooper line: A friend in need… is a pest, get rid of him.

If anyone treads the thinnest of lines between stand-up comedy and spoken word, it’s Rob Auton. We saw him at the Royal and Derngate four years ago with his Talk Show, which I described at the time as an intelligent, thoughtful and emotional hour’s comedy. Since then, not only have we had the Covid pandemic and a plethora of Prime Ministers, but also the return of Rob Auton with his Crowd Show. And, guess what? It’s another evening of intelligent, thoughtful and emotional comedy. I guess I didn’t really expect him to change.

As before, the gentlest of first halves brings Rob to the stage, delighted to be performing again, and genuinely thrilled (I really don’t think he’s pretending) to meet the good Burgers of Northampton on a Friday night out out. He quickly elicits which of us have seen him before (a good third, I would estimate) and he’s chuffed that we’ve returned. Front row John had already seen his Crowd Show in Edinburgh, and Rob is gobsmacked that he’s come back for a second helping. He’s easily distracted by sweet-rustlings; he has to investigate the nature of the individual sweet concerned (Maltesers). He has a well-prepared riposte for the guy who leaves shortly before the interval, assuming he couldn’t wait to nip to the Gents; but in fact he’d gone to place a wine order for the interval. Pinot; although he never clarified if it was noir or grigio. The riposte was, therefore, inappropriate and not used.

I’m going into this kind of detail about the audience behaviour, by the way, because Rob himself takes a lot of time considering what his individual audience members get up to during the show. He sees it as a shared experience; what the audience does is just as vital to the nature of the performance as what he does. And he’s right; before the second half starts, a chap from the back of the crowd runs up and places a box of Maltesers on the stage. It’s all integrated.

Rob AutonMeanwhile, back to the show. Mr A takes us on a journey through his career to date; how he moved from advertising to performing, initially via the medium of poetry, through all his one-man Shows, to where he is today. He remembers aspects of those performances, his content and his intentions with each. It’s a cross between Rob Auton’s Greatest Hits and This is Your Life.

He returns after the interval as a heckler for his own show, sitting at the back calling for it to start, setting up a chant of We Want Rob! which he naturally obliges by eventually returning. The Crowd Show, as such, starts. It’s based on a Google search regarding advice on Speaking To A Crowd Of People (which is what he’s doing). A mangled file of papers in his hand, to which he apparently frequently refers, he goes through the list of individual pieces of advice one by one, showing how he is conforming to Google’s suggestions. It’s charming, frequently funny – although rarely belly-laugh inducing – and strangely reflective. He also plays some games with us; it’s a way of cementing the bond between audience and performer that probably works best when the audience is fully behind the idea. I’m not entirely sure we were.

Rob Auton has an almost unique ability to tell a universal truth in a quiet but winning way. As an example, he remembers an occasion where he saw his (then) fiancé at a distance texting someone and looking really happy to be doing so. Whoever it is she is texting must mean a lot to her, he thinks internally. And then he receives her text and realises it is he of whom she is thinking lovingly. And that’s a perfect, simple, totally natural moment of sheer joy.

I must be honest though – The Crowd Show didn’t fully engage me in the same way that The Talk Show did; whether it was due to his sticking rigidly to the structure of the Google Advice throughout the hour, or whether his observations and thoughts weren’t quite so revelatory, I’m not certain. He’s drawing very near the end of his tour, but no doubt he’ll be back with more reflective emotion soon!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 24th February 2023

Dan EvansAnother massive night of comedy with yet another full house at the Screaming Blue Murder club at the Royal and Derngate, with daredevil host Dan Evans on top form coping with another unlikely bunch of customers. Every other person in the two front rows appeared to be a police officer, which made for a curious dynamic. Or, if they weren’t police, they were charity workers. Fortunately they all had good senses of humour!

Otiz CannelloniOur first act – and the only one we’d seen before – was Otiz Cannelloni, whose act has a rather old-fashioned music hall/variety feel to it, but it’s none the worse for that – in fact, there’s probably too little of that around nowadays. He has a cunning blend of comedy and magic – and a charming rabbit to assist him with some of his tricks – and lots of silly comic throwaway lines. He’s a great example of if ain’t broke, don’t fix it, as his act was pretty much the same as before, but the material works really well, so why not?

Kat GeborysNext up was Kat Geborys – who, probably quite wisely, shortens it to Kat to make it simpler for the rest of us. I was going to call her Proudly Polish, but in fact she doesn’t seem to have much complimentary to say about her native country – perhaps doing the slightly xenophobic material so that we don’t have to think it for ourselves; Poland is a country that she maintains (allegedly) can’t distinguish between being gay from being a paedophile, for instance. A lot of her act centres on her being – shall we say – sexually frank and direct, and there’s a lot of good material there. She has excellent timing, a fun stage presence and went down well with the audience.

Adam BloomOur headliner was Adam Bloom, a comic who’s been around for some time and it’s criminal that we haven’t seen him before – and we’ve missed a lot. Cleverly self-deprecating about his appearance, he delivers his excellent material with sure fire confidence; a mixture of traditional kids/marriage/divorce type observations and some more daring stuff – I really enjoyed his sequence about virtual reality sex. Great use of callbacks, and he ends his act with a very successful round of you give me a subject and I’ll give you a joke about it. A great end to a terrific evening.

Next Screaming Blue Murder is on 24th March and – guess what – it’s sold out again!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 27th January 2023

Screaming Blue MurderA big welcome back to Screaming Blue Murder and their first gig of the year which had sold out well in advance. An unusual vibe this time – although quite a refreshing one – in that there were approximately 20 17- and 18-year-olds from Northampton School for Boys (who were mostly girls, and I still haven’t quite figured that out) populating the front rows. Fortunately, they threw themselves whole-heartedly into the proceedings, and (mostly) laughed their socks off all night.

Dan EvansThis presented an interesting challenge to our regular genial host, Dan Evans, who quickly got them splitting their sides. It’s true – he suggested that all the older people would be looking at fresh-faced 17-year-old Joshua, purely with the intent of harvesting his organs. Guilty as charged. It wasn’t all kiddiwinks though, with poor Mark on his own in the front row surrounded by students, plus good sport Rob, vehicle salesman Ash and his mental health nurse wife whose name I’ve forgotten, soz.

Iszi LawrenceFirst up was Iszi Lawrence, whom we’ve seen a couple of times before at Screaming Blue Murders – she always has great material, but it sometimes takes an audience a while to settle into her pattern. She has a lovely sequence about coming out as bi to her mum, and I did like the material about how she acquired her cat, grotesque sound effects and all. She gets carried away with the subject of dinosaurs, which she admits to herself isn’t funny but can be fascinating – if you’re also into dinosaurs. One of the lads from Northampton School for Boys was definitely into dinosaurs and was agreeing demonstrably with her. As for the rest of us… I’m not sure the dino material works really!

Jamie D'SouzaNext was someone new to us, Jamie D’Souza, a quirky mix of Swiss and Indian (Swindian – not from Swindon, it’s not that bad, as he said.) Immaculately funny, with a perfectly structured routine, beautifully chosen words revealing a true feel for the language, and absolutely superb timing. His whole performance is one big act of self-deprecation and it works brilliantly. So many clever throwaway lines, and he leads you up a garden path to expect an ending to a joke which turns out to be something completely different. I particularly loved his material about being hopeless and inexperienced at sex, and the idea of making “old person noises” when he sits down. Terrific – and someone we would definitely want to see again.

Jonny AwsumOur headliner, and someone who’s always an invigorating presence, was the musical comedy genius of Jonny Awsum. Uplifting, inclusive and very, very funny, he jumps from comedy song to comedy song and each one is a delight. I particularly liked his Humming Song, and he got Rob from the audience up to help him with his Rapping Rhymes sequence, which was brilliant. There’s also a song with a chorus involving a well-known TV chef; I just wonder if Mr Awsum realises the said chef died over three years ago. I guess it doesn’t matter!

A great night’s entertainment – looking forward to the next one in February; check for returns, as it’s already sold out!

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 – 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.