We weren’t going to Machfest this year, no, no, no, NO! We didn’t want to camp, it was too wet, too windy and more money than we wanted to spend to stand in line, in a wet muddy field, for cold showers. Local hotels were all asking a king’s ransom for three night’s accommodation. For months we held out. People asked us. They said they’d see us up there. What us? Going to Machfest this year? No, we’re not going, absolutely not going, we’re definitely not going!
Sunday 1st May. MACHFEST.
Ok. We gave in. In the spirit of compromise though, it was to be a One Day Only Event.
On the Saturday night (30th April), we saw Shazia Mirza at the Bikeshed Theatre in Exeter; from there we drove on up to a reasonably priced Days Inn just over the Severn Bridge on the M4. Slightly tatty, but friendly enough; and after an initial scare when we thought they’d lost our booking (they were packed out because of some football match or other along the road), we were comfortably accommodated. First thing on the Sunday morning we were off up the road to Mach, ending with our usual trip over the mountains to park easily by 10am on street just up from the Owain Glyndowr Centre. Mach, living up to its usual damp even more than usual, we were glad to drop into deep sofas in the cafe there for a warming cuppa by their lovely woodburner before our first gig.
The lovely woodburner!
And so it began:
The Static Caravan.
With breakfast sarnies, tea and coffee having been handed around, 15-20 of us squashed into the sofa end of the display van and enjoyed a multi-act gig hosted by the lovely Thom Tuck. Jordan Brookes was the first act up and treated us to his own version of surrealism and smart observations. He has the best, mobile face and can mould it at will. I was waiting for the Time Machine, but alas, no. Jordan later explained that not everyone loves it as much as I do!
Next up was Caroline Mabey, who gave us zaniness, singing (!) and more. Always a joy!
Then it was Seymour Mace; another particular favourite for his surreal silliness. Once again, no disappointments. Three days into the festival, and showing it, Seymour Mace still managed to delight us all. What a first gig!
Above – The Static Van!
Tom Parry – Kelly Jones is Tom Parry, Machynlleth Bowling Club
A hot and crowded bowling club saw Kelly Jones AKA Tom Parry at his brilliant best. Sweating his wig off, Tom kept begging us to let him off with his Kelly act but no, the audience insisted that he carry on. The act has grown, but still some original parts remain, including the numbers on a list which correspond to jokes, or ideas. The audience get to decide what Kelly Jones delivers to us.
Next up, over the the YPlas Upstairs 1 for Ben Target, Imagine There’s No Ben Target (it’s easy if you try).
We sat down a couple of rows back in a packed out room, but it wasn’t long before we were standing up again and clearing all the seats to the corners of the room, and we were to remain on our feet for most of the next hour, before setting our chairs back as they had been at the start of the show. I won’t detail what went on during the hour, that would spoil the fun, but safe to say, at several points I was worried about the integrity of the YPlas’s Upstairs 1 floor and whether we were all going to end up in the lobby downstairs.
Paul F Taylor – The Collapse to Greatness, YPlas, Vane Tempest
We love Paul, he always delivers. Sometimes we’re not quite sure what he’s delivering; we don’t believe he always knows either, but we always love it anyway. Upbeat silliness. Great costumes. Always funny.
David Elms, Attaboy, YPlas Upstairs 2
David is the most laid back performer I know. Unassuming doesn’t even begin to cover it. One man and his guitar, inventive songs, linking anecdotes. Questioning the audience. “Good? Ok? Alright?” David, the answer is “Yes”.
Alfie Brown, Work-in-Progress, YPlas, Vane Tempest
A different look, just as good as ever. Alfie likes to make us, as his audience, feel uncomfortable, he questions our values and morals, makes us wriggle. Even as seasoned Alfie Brown audience members, Dave and I are not immune to it. Here, we could see the work in progress happening right in front of our eyes and it’s all good work.
Carole outside the YPlas – even muddier this year but still a blast!
Matt Winning, Mugabe and Me (3D)
Surreal extravaganza, poetry, spoken word, daftness, biscuits, cars – a jolly romp. Final showing of Matt’s last year’s Edinburgh show.
Tom Neenan – The Andromeda Paradox, Owain Glyndwr, Powys.
Our last show of the evening, brilliant, loved it all. Tom plays multi characters, both male and female, and gives us a classic ’50s Sci-Fi story. With influences of the fabulous Quatermass and the Pit and The 39 Steps, totally enthralling from start to finish. More please!!
After all that excitement, with Tom’s show finishing at 10.30pm, we then had a really scary trip back across the mountain (fog, rain, single track mountain road – expecting zombies and yetis at any minute) and way back down to our previous night’s Days Inn accommodation for another night, before heading back down to Cornwall on the Monday morning. Exhausted but very happy.
Blog readers will be glad to know that we have already booked our Machfest 2017 accommodation. There is a Premier Inn in Aberystwyth, just 12 miles southwest of Mach and we are on the guest list for next year. One to think about if you don’t mind a short drive either end of the day and someone is willing to stay sober!
The following Sat (the 7th) found us in Holsworthy, Devon. The White Hart Hotel to be specific. We were there to see The Joke, a three man play. Will Adamsdale, (the Englishman) former Perrier winner (2004 for Jackson’s Way), Brian Logan (Scotsman and comedy critic for The Guardian) and Lloyd Hutchinson (the Irishman) all find themselves trapped inside “The Joke” about a Englishman, Scotsman and Irishman. Geddit? Off on a voyage (quite literally) of the imagination they try to make some sense of what is happening. Luckily it all ends well!
Friday the 13th and we are at the Calstock Arts Centre, a beautiful venue on the Cornwall/Devon border. The Centre overlooks the River Tamar with Calstock Viaduct in the background. We have been here many times and it never fails to be breathtaking.
Tonight we are being entertained by Craig Campbell – Don’t Look Down, an untamed mountain man with many a funny story and wry observation on us Brits. Striding around the stage, wild hair flying and Vibram Five Finger trainers stamping, he never fails to make us laugh as he pokes fun at us! A good evening!
The very next night we are out again (it’s all go, go, go some months), to see Jonny and the Baptists (yes, AGAIN, I know, what can I say, we love them to bits). This time they were showing The End is Nigh at the Bike Shed in Exeter, with a special treat at the end of about 20-30 minutes of their current work in progress (Eat the Poor) for the Edinburgh Fringe. No surprises at all that, even on the short piece we saw, it looks to be well up to their usual standard. I’d recommend them!
A new venue for us, the St Austell Arts Centre, was our next gig nearly a whole week later on the 20th. Henning Wehn and Westphalia is not an Option, another work in progress for Edinburgh. It was raining all the way down in the car and we had a couple of false starts, even with the satnav, to find the venue. Once there we jammed ourselves into the tiny carpark and went off to investigate the space. The actual room itself was around a 200 seater with a massive stage area.
Henning came on, (a few minutes late – which he blamed on the British staff) to his traditional German bier kellar type music. Henning loves to tell us that he never feels more German than when he is in Britain. He has lived in London for several years now and throws us various accents, London cab drivers, cockney, cheeky chaps and he’s pretty damn funny with it. He is always happy to be taking the mickey out of our lack of efficiency and work ethic, but he does it so well, we don’t really mind. Sometimes I think there surely can’t be anything else Henning can find to comment on when it comes to our cultural differences but it doesn’t seem like he’s running short of material any time soon.
Another whole week passes and for our last gig of May, on Friday 27th, we are back at the excellent Watermark in Ivybridge. Dave had been looking forward to this for ages – Simon Evans, In the Money, to be ably supported by David Jordan.
Simon started by doing a twenty minute warm up for his warm up act! We’ve seen comedians do a couple of minutes introduction for their warm up acts but I don’t think we’ve ever seen someone do twenty! Light hearted banter for the most, preparing the way for his main act after his support had been on and after the break.
David Jordan was a completely new act to us. A comedy songster with a guitar. We’ve seen such acts aplenty, but David’s act breathed new life into it and his songs were cleverly written and presented. If you like music with your comedy, he’s worth catching.
The obligatory break and then back to the main act. Simon had smartened up a bit, put a jacket on, and launched straight into his material. He’s very good at bringing up a subject before slashing the legs out from under it with a few sharp remarks. Organic veg, farmers’ markets, and with reference to the title of his show: house investments, cigarettes and alcohol were all in for his attention. There’s plenty of well spoken anarchy and poshly voiced provocatism going on here. He has a sardonic sense of humour and a way of making us feel that he knows a lot more than we do, about pretty much everything. Simon and David came down after the show to talk to a few waiting fans (including us) and both seemed like very nice blokes.
And so endeth May. A very busy, but mostly front loaded month.
June was to prove just as busy, front loaded again at the Wells’ Comedy Festival. Eleven shows in two days over the first weekend of June, but you’ll have to wait till the end of the month for the write-up..
See you next month.