3rd-5th May Machynlleth Comedy Festival

We went to Edinburgh last year and had a wonderful time, this year is probably going to be our last time there because of all my pay cuts over the last twelve months. Like many of the comedians performing there, we simply can’t afford to go, pay the exorbitant accommodation prices as well as for the shows etc.

We first met Henry Widdecombe, the Machynlleth festival organiser, in Exeter in January and the range of shows he put on persuaded us to book for it immediately afterwards. And we are so glad we did as, without a doubt, we had the best comedy weekend of our life.

We left Saltash at 12 on Friday, thanks to Carole’s workmate Michelle who covered her for the afternoon. A 4 ½ hour drive followed and we arrived in the town just after 4:30pm. A quick erection followed (of the tent!) and then we headed off to the box office to collect our tickets for the weekend’s shows. Fortunately we made it just in time to add another show to our already packed agenda. Even on our two minute walk from our tent to the box office we bumped into several people we had previously met on our travels, and this was to set the tone for the whole weekend. The town being so small, and all of the venues being no more than five minutes apart, it was a constant case of rubbing shoulders with friends both old and new. There were bonus gigs on a steam train, free stuff all over the place, and so many different beers available it would have pleased even the most hardened real ale fans. Food tents and local cafes, and bars were also there. And, in total contrast to Edinburgh, the prices were kept low, for food, drink and the shows themselves. And our camping cost a whole £12 each for the weekend!

Our Friday began at 5:30 with Bring and Bilingual, a nice idea for a show, fusing a bit of Welsh culture in to a show that you did not need to know Welsh to enjoy. Ably compered by Daniel Glyn All Denying (who we spoke to several times over the weekend), with Huw Marshall All Warm Hush and one of our favourites Amy Howerska A Marshy Ewok who spotted us and waved as soon as she came on. A really fun show to begin our weekend. Straight over to the other end of town, as far as we could go (all of five minutes) for show two, Sarah Bennetto Northeast Bean and her show Lucky. This told of her adventures in luck, having won several big prizes. And being similar myself in having won a car and several big holidays, this show had a particular significance. Really good show. Worth noting that we bumped into the lovely Isy Suttie while queuing here. We had seen here show here, in Exeter in January and she remembered me as having given her chocolate back then. Back to an amazing venue Y Tabernacle for our third show Pappy’s Spy App and Pappy’s Last Show Ever.

Being suckers for sketch comedy, we were very excited about this one especially after it was nominated for best show at last year’s Edinburgh. We were blown away and so were the rest of the crowd. Carole still thinks Max & Ivan are the best sketch act out there, but I am not so sure now.

This was also our first encounter with Tom Parry, a man who played a “big part” in the weekend. And so, back to Y Plas for the festival showcase, an amazing 2 ½ hours of little snippets, some of the best the festival had to offer. This one show was worth the trip itself. And gave us a new list of people to see full shows of in the future. Here is the amazing lineup (anagrams only given if we were not seeing the artists elsewhere). Compere Ed Gamble Embed Lag, Nick Helm, Fin Taylor Flat Irony, Bridget Christie The Digit Scriber, Ben Target Agent Bert, Nish Kumar, Thrice ER Itch, John Luke Roberts as Alan the Button, Mike Bubbins lmbibes Bunk, Holly Burn Horny Bull as Dangerous Dawn, Richard Herring Richer Hard Grin, Mark Thomas Mask Hot Arm, Joe Lycett Cole Jetty as John Roast, Charley Webster, Thom Tuck Hock Mutt, Colin Hoult, Chris Boyd HR by Disco, Lloyd Langford and finally Pappy’s (who since the whole thing had overrun had time for a solitary sketch).

And so to bed, and ten minutes after we retired came the only downside to the whole weekend. Down came torrential rain and combined with the wind, we barely got any sleep, and we did get slightly wet. Still no major problem and as it turned out the weather for the rest of the weekend just got better and better. Though the lack of sleep did cause a few problems to us oldies as the weekend progressed.

Saturday, started with us coming out of our damp tent, to be confronted by what would become a familiar sight, our neighbour on the campsite Stewart Lee wandering to the Portaloos looking like a dishevelled yeti.

Breakfast at the local café, where we were the only people not speaking Welsh, which was amusing to us. Then a quick shower at the local leisure centre and then an extra little activity we had booked. Life Drawing supervised by our namesake Carl Chapple, with the model being Tom Parry from Pappy’s. We had an amazing time here, though our skills hardly mirrored our enthusiasm. Still at the end we all had to hand in our best piece of work for the exhibition in the festival tent. A good place to give my anagram for Tom Parry Arty Romp. Oh and we had a lovely cream tea here too. My only suggestion for this class, if it takes place next year, is instead of providing charcoal to provide some crayons for the less gifted amongst us. I would have been much better doing some colouring given my efforts. Many thanks to Carl for his encouragement though. If he thought we were crap, he certainly never said it, a good reason why I would never make a teacher.

Onto our first comedy show of the day, the New Act Showcase. This started with Jordan Brookes’ Jokers on Board, continued with Matt Rees Teamster who we have seen and enjoyed many times, and finished with Charley Webster Ethical Brewers. In our opinion Matt was by far the best, but we may be biased.

We did not have far to go for our next show, to the room next door, for Nish Kumar Human Risk. Nish provided us with one of the most thoughtful, entertaining shows of the whole weekend. For someone new to us he definitely gets our own personal best new act award. We bumped into Nish a whole bunch of times after the show and he always smiled waved or said hello, depending on his proximity at the time, a real gent.

Our next show was in the same room Edward Aczel Waddle Craze and his show Edward Aczel Lives in a meaningless Shed. This show split us, with me loving it and Carole not so much. Still that’s what comedy is all about, people have different tastes. We also found we were sat next to Liverpudlian comic Robert Kemp who had come all the way down from Liverpool to do an open mic spot at our local gig at Plymouth Ski Lodge on 12th April, the day after my 50th birthday. Small world.

We came out expecting to go back in again for Molly Naylor, only to find that the show had been cancelled due to laryngitis. A quick jaunt back to the box office saw us with replacement tickets for a bit of comedy theatre and Tin Shed Theatre Threatened Shit and Dr Frankenstein’s Travelling Freak Show. A jolly fun romp, but not as good as Miracle Theatre’s Frankenstein that we had seen back in January.

Our next show was very deep and thoughtful, with the comedy legend Robert Newman Bonnet Warmer and a preview of his new show Robert Newman’s New Theory of Evolution. The lack of sleep the night before caught up with Carole and she dozed a couple of times. No reflection of the great material on show.

Next up Lloyd Langford Dragonfly Doll with a work in progress of his new show Galoot. Work in progress or not, this was a fantastic show, we loved it and Lloyd’s delivery. Another chap who is also really lovely off stage.

The night finished with Colin Hoult Chill On Out, and his work in progress Characthorse. Colin was impressive with a wide range of characters, I was struggling a bit with the long day by then though and the really hot room, and did have to fight a bit to stay with it. And so to bed again. No problem with rain, a bit with wind and the noisy party animals. Still we were so knackered nothing was going to stop us sleeping.

Sunday, saw us getting up and going for a drive to nearby Aberwystwyth for a visit as there were no shows scheduled until 1:30. A massive Wetherspoon’s breakfast followed and a walk through the castle. I started swearing at this point, claiming I had Turrets, a joke which I was delighted with, but then led to a massive bit of déjà vu later in the day.

A trip to a car boot sale on the way back, then shower and we were set for our day’s comedy which began with a one-off show with our favourite Mr Tony Law Town Lay being interviewed by John Luke Roberts Runs Joke Brothel (my favourite anagram). This show was largely improvised, but it was fantastic. Mind you, we love Tony so much, he could spend an hour eating poo and we would still enjoy it.

Next up, Gareth Richards Arrest High Card with Gareth Richards Goes Electric. A bit of music, a bit of stand-up, all quality.

And so we went to see our pal again Tom Parry in a solo show Fancy That! Brimmed to capacity with energy, silliness and audience participation this was brilliant and made our ribs hurt, with the laughter. And the moment when Tom came out with a variation of my Turrets joke from the morning. Carole and I turned to each other, our jaws dropped in realisation and then we had an uncontrollable fit of laughter.

Our next show was David Trent Advent Dirt with his work in progress This is All I Have. I first spoke to David in January when we met him in Exeter and I gave him an apology for accidentally screwing up the Edinburgh show we went to last year. He was a really down to earth lovely bloke then. And this time I bumped into him as he was coming in to set up and he remembered me from Exeter and called me by my name. This was yet another example of what we found all weekend. That the comics here, were amazingly down to earth and cared about the people coming to see them. The show, was a bit rough in places and not quite finished, but what we saw had us roaring with laughter, we think it is a step up on last year’s show already.

Only three shows to go and the next was comedy legend David O’Doherty Hydrated Ovoid, A magnificent show from a master.

Next, one of my favourites Stewart Lee Real Tweets, with his 3rd preview show of the weekend. Stewart is one of my absolute favourites and even Carole has grown to like him. His new material is almost there but his delivery is everything, there is no-one as good at what he does.

Finally the festival finale with Nick Helm Elm Chink Greatest Hits Vol 1. This was a mindblowing and magnificent finale to a supreme weekend. I had a couple of roles during this show and was first to be pulled up during a song in which the entire audience of 250 was eventually to end up on stage and Nick was to sing from the empty auditorium where they once sat. I got a chance to thank Henry at the end for a magnificent weekend and only hope the kiss I planted on him does not traumatise him too much. We are already planning for next year. A dance in the tent to finish the night.

And one more thing, let us not forget all the magnificent volunteers who gave up their time, to make this as special as it was. Thank you all, along with everyone else associated. One regret, not being able to time travel and see all the other magnificent shows we could not get to.

PS. With Edinburgh in mind, we are coming up for 15 days this year and hoping to do 120 shows. We can’t afford that many paid shows, so if any kindly comics want to give us tickets to their shows we will gladly come and then write nice things about you in return, unless you are crap in which case we will say you are 😉

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