Sat 2nd December, and here we are at the lovely Plough Arts Centre in Great Torrington. It’s a bit of a hike up to GT, not that much further in miles than Exeter but no fast dual carriageways, and all a bit twisty and windy as we make our way up through Devon’s further reaches.
We’ve traipsed up for Mark Steel and Who Do I Think I Am, a story of Mark’s search for his birth mother, a Scottish model, quite a tale and with surprises along the way. I don’t want to spoil the story, so won’t say much more that. With opening pokes before the interval at the Brexiteers, Mark’s leftwing politics are no secret. We’ve had plenty of leftie rants recently, but there’s still plenty of ire left to be mined in this particular subject.
All in all, we had two and a half hours with Mark, good value for money and a great night out. I’m definitely a convert.
Thursday 8th December.
Just a few days later, and it’s a trip to Exeter’s Phoenix once more. This time for Nish Kumar’s Actions Speak Louder Than Words Unless You Shout The Words Really Loud.
With no support, Nish comes on and gives us half hour of delightful warm up, making it rather ironically known that at last his time has come and with it some small fame. The late David Bowie, James Brown and Prince all get a mention on stage too during this first part of the show. Always strange I think, to find that the people of whom we are fans, are also fans of others.
Nish’s show around hipsters, gentrification, social divisions and rich white men, is quite a performance; at times Nish imploring his audience to keep up with his theme. Cleverly written and funny (of course). There is the inevitable Brexit mention and once more we are aware of how, with recent events, just how much more political comedy has become.
9th December – Dave’s mini trip to London
With Carole having to work (schools!), I took a day off work to traipse off to London for two shows. My Megabus return worked out at £4.10 including booking fee. Due into London at 6:20, at this time I was just passing very near to the Museum of Comedy where the first show was due to start at 8pm. I asked the driver whether I could just get off somewhere as I had no luggage but he made me sit on the bus until it reached Victoria 50 minutes late.
Not being a townie I wondered whether I would make it up in time, but eventually I did with a good 15 minutes to spare, immediately bumping into and being able to say hi to the star of the show Brendon Burns. I thought it was going to be an hour show but it turned out to be 90 of Brendon at his absolute best. As often with his shows, there was a big twist but I wont say anything about the show as he asked people not to, suffice it to say it was brilliant and highly recommended. We both love Brendon (he is Carole’s number one comic) and she was absolutely gutted to have missed this.
As I said, I was expecting this to finish at 9pm giving me a leisurely 30 minutes to stroll down to the Leicester Square Theatre for the Weirdos Big Fat Christmas Wedding, my main reason for the trip. As it was I was late, so ran (waddled) my way down, arriving 10 minutes after the advertised start time, immediately bumping into Bob Slayer who told me I had not missed anything! My seat was in the second row but I stayed at the back until the interval, where I eventually stayed, finding in the break that my seat had been turned into a cloakroom for seemingly dozens of people.
No matter, I had a lovely time, I don’t know where to start, but it was a joyous experience and everyone was brilliant. Unless you attended there isn’t really any point in trying to explain. Carole and I have come to love these guys so much, and their brand of humour, they are always first for things to do in Edinburgh and they will be again in 2017. I got to say hi to lots of people who I have come to know down the years, and went away with a huge smile on my face. I had a wander around for a while and finally got something to eat, then went back to Victoria to settle in for the night. I had booked a 9am bus back, but didn’t want to waste money on a room for a few hours. So I went to the Costa in the station and settled in with a coffee for the night along with around 70 others. I had a Twitter chat with Brendon Burns and then got to sleep. At 3am some miserable gits came around and kicked us all out, saying we couldn’t stay there. So I ended up wandering around until 6am when I became the first customer at Wetherspoons for breakfast. This was quite amusing, seeing the guys who came in asking for a Guinness, only to be told they didn’t serve alcohol until 8am, getting quite aerated.
Eventually, I got onto the bus as planned, but although I had a ticket to Plymouth, I got off in Exeter where Carole met me on the way to…
10th December – A trip to Bridport for our seventh wedding anniversary and a gig at the Bridport Arts Centre with Suzi Ruffell and Tom Allen who are on tour together.
Hands up gov’ner, we were both a little three sheets to the wind here; it was our anniversary weekend and we’d already seen off a pint each and a bottle of Prosecco between us round the corner at the local ‘Spoons before the gig; plus although the art centre didn’t have full bottles of Prosecco; they did have one third bottles, and so we had some of those instead!
From what I can recall (forgot to make notes), Suzie was performing her Edinburgh show ‘Common’, and was her usual fabulous self, stories of her family, her on then off then on relationship with her partner and her dog, er, cat. Some we’d heard before, some was new, all was enjoyable. Suzie has a warm, funny and fizzy delivery; we’ve got a chicken named after her and she never fails to make us laugh. Positive words were also overheard in the Ladies!!
After the break we had Tom Allen who announced, as if he needed to, “So, I’m gay” as soon as he’d pranced on stage. Family tales were also a feature of Tom’s act, his mum’s friend Joyce featured as did his upbringing in South London. Another artist who comes across as warm and genuine. The audience loved it and so did we!
A big gap till between Christmas and New Year, but soon we are on to Tues 27th, the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth with La Navet Bete and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book.
This Exeter clown troop, beautifully family friendly (and most people in the audience had children with them) work on two age levels of humour; there’s stuff for the adults that whizzes over the kids’ heads. Their version of the JB had an “electric net curtain” hanging down at the front of the stage to begin with, to contain the “live animals” which obviously could not be let loose to run around the audience!
Of course the original production “goes wrong”, and has to be rescued by the lads who dress up as the various characters using whatever props can be found backstage. Of course there is audience participation (mostly children, plus one adult “volunteer”) and knicker wetting loud bangs and flashes. All good stuff.
Another panto the next day, Wed 28th, this time a definite change of venue as we have caught the morning Megabus up to London and we are at The Latchmere in Battersea for Sleeping Trees and Scrooge and the Seven Dwarves.
Again, we have an original production that “goes wrong” and the boys have to fix it. We have a “planted musician” in the audience who is “volunteered” to help out – that definitely fooled the wee lad behind us, who had to have the concept of the “plant” explained in a loud whisper by his dad.
The troop are so good at what they do; they are all good actors and there’s plenty of action and a lot of running on and off stage to cover the multiple parts each of them is playing. Of course we all have to have a singsong at the end!
Hoping to have had time for a proper meal before the next gig at 7pm (we had three booked!), Dave had identified a restaurant that did vegan options, but as luck would have it the Trees had gone on longer than we thought and so we had a mad dash from Battersea via bus and Tube to the Soho Theatre, grabbing some food at Victoria on the way.
Thus we found ourselves in Dean Street’s Soho Theatre for Jayde Adams, a lovely Bristolian comedian who was presenting her show “31”(Jayde’s age). A born storyteller, Jayde had a row of costumes hanging behind her, some glittery, some not so, but all looking very theatrical. Later we find out that it is her mum who is handy with a needle and thread and who has kept Jayde in outfits for years.
Jayde’s story of her family, and especially of her sister, weaves a fine cloth; it is by turn engrossing, funny, sad and affirming. The hour flew past in what seemed like a few seconds. Also, wow! This woman can sing! We loved it and I for one can’t wait to see her again!
Last up that evening, and again in the Soho Theatre, we were seeing Scott Gibson, a Scot with a story to tell, and what a story!
After a somewhat airy fairy start (Scott acknowledges he doesn’t know how to start his shows) we get straight into a tale that will have you wondering how Scott even comes to be still here on this Earth!
A stag night, a dodgy Blackpool B and B, headaches, hangovers, and due to the self-perceived immortality of the young, a complete lack of self-care (IMO) leads to Scott’s health going quickly downhill over a very short period of time. And that’s just for starters!
Scott is the typical dry humoured and direct Glaswegian – he’s a good teller of a tale and there’s plenty of humour injected into this one, despite it’s dark subject matter. We had a lovely time, well worth a viewing if he comes to a venue near you!