A weekend with two very contrasting shows.
29th March – Lee Hurst – ‘Things That Make You Go Aaarggh!!!’.
No support act just a show split into two halves. The first half saw the typical banter with the crowd and several bits of prepared material mostly focusing on the fact Lee is getting older and his body is failing. His graphic tale of his hernia was both hilarious and cringeworthy in equal measure. He is also getting grumpier and finding more things that annoy him. Airlines and dogs were among several things that felt the force of his wrath.
A break came and during this we were invited to write our own hates on pieces of paper and deposit them into a bucket. The second half of the show was then spent with Lee picking out these and talking about them. This was not a new concept. Stephen K Amos had recently done something similar with ‘The Spokesman’ and we had seen the concept several times elsewhere. It makes for a very interesting show as you do not know where it is going to go and relies on the comic’s wit. Lee was very sharp and this worked very well on the whole, with a few stops and starts, mostly being caused by the dick who wrote his mate’s name on dozens of bits of paper. There were several bits of real gold here, I particularly liked the guy who hated fat people – as it turned out because he worked with one who bullied him.
It was a really good show and it is good to see Lee back on the circuit after a long hiatus. With a show structured like this it really does depend on what comes from the audience though, so you are always in danger of it falling flat. There were a few ‘knob’ gags floating about, which you could criticise, but they were funny. And a bit of stereotypical stuff about the difference between the sexes. But we only really had one criticism of the show, and this was not material related at all. At the side of the stage there was a chair on which Lee’s tour manager placed an iPad with a countdown timer on it. Being in the front row we could see this counting down all the time and it was quite distracting. It would have been more professional to push this forward a bit more behind the curtain where the audience could not see it. A minor quibble to an overall excellent show. And one which would be interesting to see with a different audience.
Anagram: Lee Hurst – Slut Here
30th March – Alan Carr ‘Work in Progess’ with Suzi Ruffell
Our first visit to Tiverton for comedy and while it is twenty miles past Exeter, it is a very easy seventy mile journey for us. The Comedy Hall is based in a school and manned entirely by volunteers all of whom were extremely friendly and welcoming.
We had missed out on the same show considerably closer the two previous nights as those, in Ivybridge, had sold out before we even knew about them. But I managed to get tickets for this night having seen a tweet and got there just before it sold out a few minutes later. The theatre itself was very well laid out and comfortable. It reminded us of Nick Helm’s venue at the Pleasance last August.
The show started in a lovely relaxed fashion, no big entry music or even an announcement, just Alan appearing from behind a curtain and spending a couple of minutes chatting to members of the audience before bringing on his support Suzi Ruffell.
We like Suzi having seen her twice before, first up a couple of years ago in Gloucester where she MCd, and then at the Bike Shed in Exeter 14 months ago where she played an early afternoon gig to a small but appreciative crowd. It was a lovely hour then so we were excited about seeing her again. This was a shorter set, but showed how much she had come on in the last year or so. Voices, impressions, mannerisms and a really honed set of material. The crowd loved the entire set, a couple of them were laughing so hard it was difficult to hear! Her material about breakups is finely honed and can strike a chord with everyone. Her drinking tales are also something we can all relate to. Another strength being the way she attacks stereotypes. Her build ups are delicious, the pay offs better. Can only be a matter of time before she hits it big. A real talent.
Alan Carr is now a TV superstar and so many people do not think about him as a stand-up. We are not fans of the celebrity chat show populated by people trying to promote their latest book/film/TV show but Alan is a very good stand-up indeed. You know you are going to get a very camp performance and he strolls onstage and plays to his strengths from the outset.
Despite notices everywhere that we couldn’t film or take photographs, Alan told us we could have a minute to get some pictures taken and minced up and down by the front row several times while we all got our cameras and phones out. He had obviously done a little bit of homework before hand asking about a couple of news items, commenting on the “never open” castle and asking about the leaky canal. Also he referred very familiarly to “Tivy” several times and this all went down very well with the locals.
This was supposedly a work in progress show, but it was very well honed. If it is this good already, then people are going to love it when it finally goes on its inevitable major tour. Not that it matters as he would sell out whatever. The mannerisms are there, the prancing is there and the material is already there.
Alan gave us some views on living with a partner after a long time alone, how it can be hard to make room in your home for someone else’s life and also told us about his mum and his dicky hip!
A short Q&A finished the set, with Alan diplomatically fending off a question about Graham Norton before telling us what we already knew, Justin Bieber IS a dick!
The only distraction to the set came with a persistently buzzing speaker, which halted things until Alan got it turned off and then did the rest of his set unmiked. The improv around this again left no-one in any doubt there is a quality comic at work here.
Best value night we have had since Jon Richardson’s work in progress gig at the steamy wardrobe theatre last summer.
Anagrams: Alan Carr – Carla Ran, Suzi Ruffell – I Lez Ful’ Furs