What a MACHievement!
After last year’s Machynlleth we didn’t think it could get any better, but it did. We made a conscious effort this year to fit in as much as possible, but also to take as many punts on acts we hadn’t seen before as possible. So we did not plan in any of Nick Helm’s four million work in progress shows though we do regret not booking his finale show, opting instead for The Horne Section who we have not seen before. I had booked most of the shows as they came out, which again is a big mistake and symptomatic of my OCD (Obsessive Comedic Disorder), as then another one would come along in the same time slot that we would have liked to have seen. Next year I will be making a conscious effort to wait as late as possible before booking stuff plus would love to volunteer
We left early morning for the long drive up and after a petrol stop in Bristol, crossed into Wales. A stop for lunch in Abergavenny and a look around the charity shops broke up the long journey. But from here on in it was beautiful scenery all the way, especially the stunning twenty miles across the mountains into Mach itself.
Within minutes of arriving at the campsite we were to bump into Rob Kemp (we were to mutually stalk each other most of the weekend like last year), as well as Horse & Louis (who we camped next to last year). After last year’s torrential rain during the first night and us getting soaked in our inadequate tent, this time we came prepared with the six-berth monster for the two of us. While setting up we were interrupted by two other sets of campers, one needing to borrow a mallet, and the other needing our air-bed pump. My, how we secretly sniggered at their camping inadequacies, until firstly I spent twenty minutes pumping our air-bed only to find Carole had not attached the valve properly so I had been pumping into space, and secondly that Carole had forgotten our duvet. Fortunately she had packed FOUR blankets and this was to just about to prove adequate with the temperatures getting pretty low overnight. (for Carole, read “we”, Dave expects me to do EVERTHING!! – Carole)
A celebratory cider with Rob and his mate Dave and the weekend was underway.
First stop Loisin Lush sweetshop (bumping into our favourite Nish Kumar on the way) where I plonked £20 on the counter to buy festival chocolate bars hopeful but not expectant of finding a golden ticket for the very special gig on Sunday afternoon in the shop itself. With ten tickets to be won, I had no idea of the odds, but was delighted to find a ticket at the fourth attempt (meanwhile Carole was eating up the rest of the shop). Second stop, to the box office to hand back our tickets for Gabby Best (which clashed with the sweetshop). Our instuctions being to give them away to anyone who wanted them (we hope someone took them and the show was great). Apologies to Gabby, we will make you a priority to see next time wherever we can. Third stop the Chicken Cow café on the green for some pre-show sustenance and of course a visit to the big top for a beer (cider for Carole). We found they had some special festival stacking glasses and of course had to have them. We also bumped into Josh Widdicombe and Suzi Ruffell – the beauty of this festival is that you cannot walk a hundred yards without meeting someone you know and that everyone is so friendly and welcoming. As well as that we had our first of many encounters with Pete Dobbin who does a lot of work behind the scenes here, despite being a very fine comic in his own right, we hope he is on the bill next year. I am sure some of the comics dread seeing us, autograph books in hand, and we do feel self-conscious about asking for signatures sometimes. Especially since this year we are trying to get signatures in Tim Clark and Andrew Mickel’s excellent Secret Edinburgh book, as well as Steve Best’s recent Comedy Snapshot book. We also bumped into some volunteer friends and Steph Smith for the first time, who is as comedy obsessed as we are, we had heard about each other via John Robins (sadly not here his year).
And onto the shows themselves.
First up Horse and Louis’ Comedy Bingo. An absolutely beautiful show to start a festival, filled with fun. Basic premise is that everyone gets a bingo ticket on the way in, covered in phrases rather than numbers. Things like ‘Shy Witch Kung Fu’. As the phrases came out of the hat, the boys would act them out until the audience guessed them, then if they were on your card you could cross them off. Prizes were given for getting a line, two lines and then the full house. Prizes were rejects from the boys’ CD collections! And a bottle of ‘REAL CHAMPAGNE’. This was a riotous affair and hugely enjoyable. The first game over, we were given the opportunity to play another (by buying a ticket for a pound) with the winner taking the money. This came down to a tie, with Carole and the eventual winner having to try to lob Maltesers into the boys’ mouths. If Carole could have actually thrown properly we would have won real beer money for several rounds. We would love to see this show again, loads of audience interaction, loads of laughs, loads of fun.
Secondly, a trip across the road to a new venue for this year: Ysgol Bro Ddyfi – the secondary school and the wonderful Rob Deering with a work in progress show. We have been huge fans of Rob since we first saw him in Bristol a couple of years ago. We love his inventiveness, and ability to improv during his set, from what we saw tonight, this is another winner of a show. We have never met another comedian who smiles as much either. Carole was particularly pleased to have another chat about running.
Next up Johnny & The Baptists: Stop UKIP tour. This is the fourth time we have seen Johnny and Paddy in three countries in the last year and we have become huge fans. It was another tour de force and the crowd went wild from start to finish. Being the last show in the venue for the night, they were allowed to overrun substantially and by the time they had finished and we got to say hi, we were already past the supposed start time for the famous festival showcase. See you in Edinburgh boys!
We thought we were already late for the Festival Showcase, so made it a leisurely stroll back to Y Plas expecting to be seated somewhere near the back having missed the first few acts. As it turned out the start time had been put back half an hour and despite the room being packed out, we were shown to seats in the front row – result! The show ran from just after 11pm to just after 2:30am with NINETEEN acts performing either side of the interval. We got to see Ed Gamble MC again, we noted last year that he was the best MC we had seen, he did not do anything to change that high opinion this year – he was terrific. The rest of the line up were Josh Widdicombe, Suzi Ruffell, Gareth Brand, Mark Olver, Angela Barnes, David Elms, Mike Bubbins, Mike Wozniak, Jordan Brooks, Nick Helm. This only took us to the interval! Then we had David Trent, Jack Daniels (Joe Lycett) with Josh, Fin Taylor, John Luke Roberts, Phil Wang, Lolly Adefope, Nish Kumar, Ivo Graham and finally Brian Gittins. Whew!! The whole thing was magnificent, our personal highlights being Mark Olver (who we had waited a long time to see), Nick Helm and Jack Daniels (who had us laughing so much I barely held in my wee). Brian Gittins was the only room splitter – I found his simulated Gang Bang hilarious, and Carole hated it. We spoke to many other people over the weekend and the thoughts were exactly the same, either amazed or repulsed.
Of course, we had to find our way back to the tent, which was supposed to be easy, especially with a torch. We got there and I asked Carole whether she was sure this was our tent. She said yes, only for me to open the flaps and find it wasn’t. Apologies to the occupants – you were awfully quiet and patient if you were in there!
What a first day, and it was only to be the beginning!
After a very comfy but short sleep we got up just after seven knowing we had to be at Y Plas at 9am. I tried to go to the showers only to find they were not to be opened until 8am so wandered around to the local supermarket in hope of something for breakfast only to find that they had not put out any croissants and had not much else. I was VERY impressed by the couple already buying cider at this time of the morning. After a shower as soon as they opened we walked down the high street for a quick breakfast at the Maengwyn Café. We ordered asking how long it would take and were told five minutes, leaving us plenty of time to catch our bus to the train gig. However, it is apparent Welsh time is the same as our local time here in Cornwall and we finally got served just after ten to nine meaning we had to wolf it down very quickly, much to the amusement of Rob and Dave who had surfaced but who were not going on our trip. We had to leave a little bit of food and rushed down the road to Y Plas arriving spot on time. Then we were greeted by Pete Dobbin, tour guide for the morning, only to be told the actual start time was 9:40 not as advertised on the tickets and web page. I emitted a little growl at having had to rush so much and we settled down for a hot drink while waiting for the coach.
Toot Toot – this is a very special little gig. The coach picks us up and takes us to Corris, just up the road where there is a narrow gauge steam railway. This then goes to the other end of the track ¾ mile away where there is a big engine shed. There we are treated to a gig before coming back on the train and coach. The coach dropped us off and we found there were two trips to the engine shed as there were too many of us to go at once, so we had some time to explore the lovely little museum and buy a card and Thomas the Tank Engine flag for Pete (we had found out it was his birthday). The flag said POOP on it too, which greatly amused me. Probably a lot more than all the people I kept showing it to!
We got to the Engine shed and found out what a treat we had in store. Our MC was Mark Olver and what a scream he was, getting distracted by frequently all the stuff in the shed. Our other comics were Nathaniel Metcalf, Stuart Laws and Suzi Ruffell. Nathaniel wearing slippers as he had forgotten to put his shoes on. They were all fantastic, but I was particularly pleased to see Stuart again, as we had loved him last year supporting James Acaster in Exeter. Also pleased to see Nathaniel as we had met him in Edinburgh last year but with my stupid schedule, could not fit him in then, howeve we had seen how good he was at the Amused Moose final. And as for Suzi, well everyone knows we love her, and she delivered yet again. The gig being so relaxed that she could come to the stage with a cuppa in hand. We also got to have a lovely chat about the history of the railway from one of the volunteers who man the place. A gig that exemplified the whole spirit of the festival.
Over to a new venue (for us) to see Nadia Kamil do her work in progress show. We had waited a long time to see her with our previous two planned encounters being cancelled. It was a mixture of new and old material (apparently) but everything was hilarious and hit the mark. I got to eat a delicious yogurt and Carole got to play Nadia’s evil stepmother, (and have a go at speaking Welsh much to her consternation) in a mini play. The whole audience got wrapped in tape, and she sang and danced and joked. An absolute masterclass of zaniness and a new favourite of ours. We can’t wait to see her again – she was amazing.
Next up Lou Sanders: In Another Great Show Again A work in progress from another act who is very left field, Mostly brilliant, with only a couple of low points, which you would expect at this time of the lead up to Edinburgh. The finale will stay with me forever. Wow! Will not say anymore, go see it yourself.
Around this time we met up with our namesake Carl Chapple. Carole was really disappointed when the tickets for his drawing class went on sale and sold out while we were out playing putting a few weeks ago. He informed us that he had a ticket returned and he would fit the other one of us in. This made our day especially when we were to find out who we got to draw. More of that later.
Next up, David Elms: Suggest It From The Rooftops. Very low key but wonderful musical comedy from a talented lyricist and performer. He was genuinely chuffed when we asked for an autograph after the show and said we were his first. We will be seeing him again at Edinburgh and can’t wait.
The next slot had a whole host of tempting offerings and we had plumped for TOBY: Work In Progress. Sketch comedy from Sarah and Lizzie Daykin. We had heard earlier in the day from Stuart Laws, that this was the very first performance of the show and they were very nervous about it. There were a few rough bits, but the idea is good, and a lot of it was already hilarious. By Edinburgh this will be a real winner.
Next up Josie Long: Work-in-Progress (An Hour of Classic Bants) back at the lovely school venue. Last time we saw Josie was on our wedding anniversary in Falmouth eighteen months ago and I managed to lose my wedding ring at some point during that day. That time she was off the back of her Edinburgh nominated show and we were looking forward to seeing what came next. No disappointments here, and some of the best new stuff was improvised. We can already see another nomination coming. Josie is one of many comics fighting social injustice and we love her. This show made my day and we were to get bonus Josie later in the weekend.
Over to the Bowling Club which was a new venue for us again and David Trent: Work In Progress. We have now seen David a lot since first seeing him at the NATY’s in London 3 years ago. He is one of our absolute favourite acts, and pioneer in what he does with his use of video. We had seen one bit of this at the showcase the night before, and it is a brilliant and thought provoking piece. And the rest of this is also fantastic. DAVID TRENT ABSOLUTELY LOVE HIM, ROLL ON EDINBURGH WHEN WE CAN SEE THE FINISHED WORK. HE IS QUITE BRILLIANT.
David Trent during Macneil & Pamphilon
Finally for day two, we had a late night extravaganza in McNeil & Pamphilon Go 8-bit. It is a great concept with team McNeil and team Pamphilon battling it out playing video games with commentary and forfeits for the losing team captains. It was mayhem, but awesome mayhem, with a ridiculous line-up of comics taking part. Two hours of brilliant fun with team McNeil coming out on top (yippee) and Sam Pamphilon having to down a concoction blended from Philadelphia Cheese, Chillis, Fruit Shoot and a tin of tuna. Which did not stay down long. Our highlights were: a half naked David Trent doing a live action commentary on the street fighter character that looked like him and the numbers of comics who were too drunk to play properly. There are some super pics of this on McNeil & Pamphilon’s facebook page.
And so to bed, and this time we found our tent!
Carole wanted to get up early and go for a run so I set the alarm for 7. We woke to find it raining (the only rain we had all weekend), so went back to sleep. The rain stopped after a few minutes so off Carole went for a 5k run out towards Coriss and over the Millennium Bridge which she reported back was beautiful. Got just ahead of the shower queue and then went for a breakfast at Chimes café by the clock tower which was lovely. And so to our bonus for the weekend the life drawing class with Carl Chapple. Check out his portraits of comics http://www.carlchapple.com/works
While having no drawing talent at all we spent a relaxing and thorough fun morning getting to draw Mark Olver, Joe Lycett and Josie Long. This is our favourite bit of the whole festival and we are so grateful Carl fitted us in again. Roll on next year. Here are our sad efforts!
On to the shows, and first up the amazing John Kearns: Good Luck Mr Gorsky! The follow up to his amazing breakthrough best newcomer winning show at Edinburgh last year. This was very much a continuation of last years show. But was it taking the joke too far? A resounding no from us, it was a scream from start to finish, with one poor punter being forced to be the butt of Johns lunatic ravings for virtually the whole show. We will definitely be there at Edinburgh again, to see the finished show. Our only regret was that we missed him leaving so didn’t get to say hi.
Next up John Hastings: Adventure. John is new to us and a straight up storytelling Canadian. He was probably the revelation of the whole weekend for us, we loved his style and his stories. An early tip for best newcomer for Edinburgh 2014.
We were due to see Gabby Best next but, as previously discussed, now had tickets for the sweet shop gig. The sixteen of us were treated to Josh Widdicombe MC’ing behind the sweet shop counter and having been given free range by the owner, explored the various sweets. Settling on the mega sour ones which he challenged a couple of other punters to eat. He also conducted us through a game of chocolate Russian Roulette with one of the box containing ‘enough chilli to blow your head off’. We fortunately avoided losing and got the praline bullets instead. The gig opened with the adorable Isy Suttie. We first met her in Exeter in 2013 and treated her to some chocolate before her train to London. This time I had brought her a bar of Kernow Chocolate which I had been carrying around all weekend. This was not the time to give it to her in a rival sweetshop. But we were due to see her later in the evening. Next up Tom Basden and finally Tim Key, a man who has caused much argument in our household with me liking and Carole not. Our opinions were not changed here. Tom was great with his comic songs and new to us. A very special gig.
But it did overrun so a 5:40 we went running off to the school to see our absolute favourite act in the world, Tony Law for his 5:30 show Nonsense in Progress. We got there to find our tickets were wrong and he had moved to Y Plas. We finally arrived 15 minutes after the start time but it had started quite late so we missed very little. We had to sit on the floor right at the back. Tony can do no wrong for us, he was at the first proper gig we ever went to in London and he will always be in our hearts and always first person we look to book. This time was a work in progress, and a bloody big room for one. But he is clearly onto another winner, with touches of brilliance. And one story in particular made Carole cry. We waited around to say hi and get another autograph but eventually had to head off to our next show. See you in Edinburgh Mr T.
Next up Fylm School with Simon Munnery. An extension of his groundbreaking 2013 Edinburgh show, this time he had special guests using the equipment. To sum it up, he is in the audience and the show is projected onto a big screen at the front. Lots of cartoons etc. A really groundbreaking format, exploited well by tonights guests Sam Fletcher and Rob Auton. We think this would be amazing for Bec Hill to try too (if she hasn’t already).
Penultimate show of the weekend Isy Suttie and Gavin Osborn: Mach Attack II. Individual songs and duets from Isy and Gavin. This was a beautiful hour and a bit and this would have been a wonderful way to end the festival. We already loved Isy and now Gavin will have to be added to our Edinburgh list. Isy is due a baby, which was the happiest news of the night and we celebrated by giving her chocolate.
And on to our final show. The Horne Section. We booked this principally because we had seen Alex’ solo show in Exeter earlier in the year. This was very different. Jolly japes with a backing orchestra and a special guest. In this case Ivo Graham who I had just bumped into in the local supermarket buying two tins of Ambrosia Creamed Rice for one of his signature stories. It was a fun filled hour but I think we would probably have been better off at the big Nick Helm finale. Our main problem being where we ended up sitting which was in one corner actually behind the stage, which made it very difficult to follow anything that was going on onstage. Still the rest of the crowd were clearly loving it, while we largely sat bemused. However we did get a proper eyeful at one point well ahead of the rest of the punters…giving no secrets away!
A final trip back to the central tent for a last couple of drinks and a reflection on the best weekend of comedy we have ever had. It took so long to come around again and ended so quickly.
There are so many people to thank, some being obvious in the organisers. But lets not forget the volunteers, who again were magnificent and made everyone welcome. The town itself is friendly and inviting. And all the comics and visitors make this a very special weekend in the comedy calendar.
It was a perfect mini warm up for the World Record attempt at Edinburgh.
We took a scenic route home via Aberystwyth and Devils Bridge and all the way kept remembering some of the special things that happened over the weekend.
Roll on 2015.