23rd January 2015 – Bridgwater Arts Centre – Manford’s Comedy Club

Great Comedy but far from a perfect night.

Bryan Lacey (MC & Middle), Josh Howie (Opener), Andy Askins (Headliner)

We had booked this night a few weeks ago, lured in by three things. A special half price offer for any Manford’s Comedy Night in January, only having four other nights in January and a lovely line-up including a trio of faces we had not seen before along with Tom Wrigglesworth who made us both cry (in a good way) during his last touring show in Ivybridge a year ago. These factors combined outweighed the three hour round trip.

I rang the venue on the lunchtime to check on the opening times and seating arrangements as we had no allocated seats, and was told 7 o’clock and that it was a free for all for seats, so the earlier you got there the better. So we decided to try and get up there as soon as possible so I arrived home from work with Chinese takeaway in hand and we managed to get away just before 5:30 with and eta of 7pm.

The journey went as expected and we arrived just before 7pm and we were let into the venue a few minutes early. I had a printed ticket from booking online so went to the box office and asked whether this was all we needed and was told yes. We were then informed that the doors to the theatre themselves would be opening around 7:45pm. So the rush we made to get there could have been avoided.

We adjourned to the bar manned by lovely friendly volunteers and I bought a bottle of wine for the bargain price of £10 for Carole and a diet coke for myself for just a quid. A major bonus, when we are often used to getting fleeced at this kind of venue.

The first person we then met was the lovely Charlotte from Manford’s Comedy Club who was managing the event. We said hi, had a nice chat and she made it really easy for us to get our autographs and photo by telling us to pop back during the interval to sort this out.

One bit of bad news, Tom Wrigglesworth had pulled out the day before due to BBC commitments but the good news being he was replaced with Josh Howie also new to us. This also gave us four acts on the night to get to sign Steve Best’s Comedy Snapshot book, which was a first. Comedy Snapshot.

We chilled out for a while until the doors opened then joined the queue to get in down a narrow corridor. Several people kept squeezing past to get back to the box office and when we got to the theatre door we also got sent away because they wanted anyone without printed tickets to go back to the box office and pick them up. So we went from reasonably close to the front of the queue to the back. It was shambolic with a wheelchair user being abandoned while his partner also went back to get a ticket! The tickets we were all given were completely blank, so what was the point?

Finally we got seated and could actually sit back and enjoy what we had come for. An intro to our MC from an Irish woman connected with the venue and we were off. The dapper and very confident Bryan Lacey strode to the microphone and did the usual banter with the crowd. He did his job perfectly and then brought on Josh Howie to open.

Josh, gave a beautiful set of deliciously dark material. I think it was not for everyone, certainly the woman sat next to us during the break was not impressed. Carole told me she was sat thinking, no, no, yes,no, no, yes, until she clicked into the mideset partway through the set. For me, he was the act I would most like to see again of the night.

The first interval came along and we popped along to get the picture and autographs. The guys were all friendly and welcoming and happy to say hi. There were only three of them so I asked where the missing Cole Parker was to find he was stuck on the A303 having broken down. A slight disappointment, but this was soon to be made up for.

The Irish lady came back to the stage again to advertise a future comedy night (by another promoter – which we found somewhat unprofessional). She also decided to tell us a painfully embrassing joke of her own to groans but mostly silence – leave it to the pros please.

The bonus came with Bryan filling in by doing a middle spot himself. And it was very good indeed, particularly funny being the tale of his unusual stag night! He was engaging and confident and the crowd really loved him, as did we. (And the woman next to us!).

We will have to wait to see Cole in the future but we certainly lost nothing from the night with Bryan filling in.

A final break before the Irish woman, clearly not getting it, came out to total silence, and having done another plug for the other comedy night, decided to sing a song about potatoes. It was the kind of moment that could have destroyed all the momentum in an ordinary night, but this was not, and Bryan soon brought the crowd back on board before bringing on the diminutive headliner, Andy Askins.

A blistering set then followed. We expected it to be all guitar based comedy, but there was so much more, and so clever. Judging the room perfectly, and with a beautiful call back to Bryan’s stag do. A well deserved ovation followed for Andy and the other acts.

A cracking night of comedy, but the organisation was pretty awful by the venue.

We would highly recommend this night and there is another by the Manford’s Comedy Club in March with another cracking line-up.

For the quality of comedy alone it was worth the long journey and I hope the crowd support it, it was a far cry from the often samey Mirth nights we get at home.  We could certainly do with one in Plymouth or Ivybridge – where the Watermark would seem a perfect venue for this kind of night.

Dave.

Bryan Lacey, Josh Howie, Andy Askins

Bryan Lacey, Josh Howie, Andy Askins

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