The father, the son and the not so holy spirit
Our 245th, 246th and 247th shows of the year and three shows covering a breadth of styles.
First up Alan Davies at Plymouth Pavilions with his show ‘Life is Pain’. A far from sold out arena for a tour which has been going for two years already and is far from over. Better known for his TV panel show work and acting, Alan started as an stand up long before his other work. And like Alexei Sayle, has just returned to his stand-up roots after a long gap. We are very happy to have him back. Being in his late forties he matches a majority of the crowd and his material comes largely from his experiences of being a father, which clearly resonates which the crowd. He starts mentioning the size of the arena and the massive stage. He is not a high octane comic, prancing across the stage. Indeed, he is so laid back he is virtually horizontal at times. The father stories are a common source of material amongst the older comics on the circuit. We have seen Jason Manford, Mickey Flanagan and the not so well known Brian Higgins doing similar stuff this year. Brian’s show being noteworthy in being equally moving and hilarious.
Alan was right up there though and we thoroughly enjoyed his style and delivery. A story of fishing baby poo out of the bath particularly resonated with us, as our local comic David Arnold has something very similar in his repertoire. He doesn’t do a load of crowd interaction like many big names, and things got marginally weird with a heckler continually shouting ‘Hampshire’ from several rows back.
We have to say Alan did look extremely tired when signing autographs afterwards, and I am sure he is looking forward to a break from the touring schedule he has. We thoroughly enjoyed this this show and hope that Alan does not have as big a break (nearly fifteen years) before he is back on the road again.
Friday evening, and we made a long drive down to Falmouth Poly for Matt Richardson and his debut hour ‘Hometown Hero’. We have seen Matt a couple of times before in Exeter as an MC and opener, so it was going to be nice to see how he had progressed in the year or so since we had last crossed paths. He is still only 22 and has had a big break this year getting the job as presenter on ‘The Xtra Factor’.
Matt had a warm up act in Laura Lexx, another up and comer with a bubbly personality, who we have mentioned a few times already in our blog. She again did a lovely job, with a very odd crowd. We have had a scrapbook going for the year in connection with the blog, where every show we have been to outside of Edinburgh has a page and the acts have signed. Laura had left before Carole got a chance to get her to sign it the last time we saw her, so I was delighted to be able to fill in the gap tonight, with my OCD needs!
The crowd, unfortunately very small 30-40 (we think because of Children in Need at the same time and lots of BBC coverage from a few hundreds yards away at the National Maritime Museum), was really diverse. A few comedy fans, people who were regular supporters of this local arts centre, and a lot of young women, some of whom were clearly there because of Matt’s celebrity. Two sections of this crowd really stood out and made it one of the weirdest gigs we have been to in quite some time. There was a mum with her two daughters of 11 and 14 who had brought them along because they were fans of him on the TV and clearly not knowledgeable about the kind of language and material they were going to see. And then there was fifty(?)-something Lee, who Laura had found out was a court usher, sitting at the front dressed in clothes and shoes which would have been more appropriate for a teenager along with her daughter Macauley, a student.
Matt’s material and title of the show are derived mostly from the fact he is still living at home with his parents. A lot draws on his love/hate relationship with his dad, his hilarious mum, and his stupid brother. Matt, has a commanding stage presence and already is very expressive in his delivery. He does speak very fast, so seeing him for an hour means you get twice the amount of words as most comics. It is a superb performance from one so young and we are interested in seeing where he goes now. Whether the TV work takes him more away from stand-up or not. We certainly hope not as he has amazing presence for one so young. The show was nearly derailed several times by Lee interrupting. ‘She really likes you’, referring to Macauley, came over and over and it seemed like she was trying really hard to pimp her daughter to Matt. Poor Macauley was dying of embarrassment but could not get Lee to stop. I was almost dying of laughter at these exchanges at first, but as they became more and more persistent, joined the rest of the crowd in cringing. Much more interesting was stealing the occasional glance to the row behind where mum and daughters were, and watching mums face redden more and more as Matt recounted gross tale after gross tale.
It was a really interesting night for a number of reasons, but a lot of them were not due to the material, this was well worth the trip for us though. It is the third time we have been there and only Josie Long has ever had a reasonable sized crowd. A shame, and like we often find when we venture down west, it seems people do not want to support live comedy. And as we walked back to our car, we saw Lee and Macauley on the other side of the road in a shop doorway, having a row. Surprise! Surprise!
Saturday evening saw us making a slightly shorter trip to Calstock Arts Centre for Mark Thomas – 100 Acts of Minor Dissent. Unlike our other gigs this week this had been sold out for some time. We have been there several times and it always has been very well attended. The largely middle class older audience always come out in force to support comedy here. Mark has been top of our watch list since we saw him do a short slot at the Machynlleth festival showcase back in May.
The idea of the show is that Mark has set himself a year to commit 100 acts of minor dissent. From taking a picture of a policeman every day for a year, to driving remote control cars with Barbie Dolls up and down the road outside the Saudi Embassy. Posting junk mail back to the senders, with a bonus of maybe a roof tile. All of these acts, while seeming flippant at time, are aiming to attack social injustices. And there have been noticeable results through the years. This is not a show for the Daily Mail crowd. But is a show for anyone who still believes in social freedoms.
Mark is a believer in community and by the end of this show he draws everyone together with several common enemies. And the humour is running through every second of the show. This was one of my absolute favourite shows of the entire year and a must for anyone with any social conscience.
It again was interesting to see the reactions of the crowd, some being horrified at times. And Mark highlights this at the end. A fantastic comedian, a fantastic thought provoking show. Roll on Machynlleth next year and his new show.
Mark is an atheist, but goes to church for the singing and sense of community. He may not be holy, but he is a free spirit and good person and we wish there were a lot more like him.
A week of real contrasts giving us a wealth of different styles of comedy. Alan ‘the father’, Matt ‘the son’ and Mark ‘the not so holy spirit’. Thanks for an amazing set of shows.
Alan Davies – Naïve Salad, Matt Richardson – A Dormant Christ, Mark Thomas – Moths Karma