Horror and Hilarity – October 2016

Sunday 2nd October 2016

Our first gig of the month and off we are trooping to the Bike Shed to see Australian Felicity Ward‘s 50% More Likely to Die, her show from this year’s Fringe.

This is a story of mental health, a bag full of essentials lost on a bus and its recovery; but it’s also about so much more than that. Felicity reins in a bundle of nervous energy, using it to good effect when she darts regularly to the side of the stage to work a klaxon sound effect from her phone. Her, at first, rather eyepopping wardrobe, (stone washed marbled jeans and a tie dye top) is explained somewhere along in the storyline too.

A great tale well told; I hadn’t seen Felicity for ages and based on this, I won’t leave it so long next time!

The following Wednesday (5th), here we are back in Exeter yet again, to the Corn Exchange this time, for The Boy with Tape on his Face is Tapeface and another excellent performance from Sam Wills the New Zealander whose original audience interactive stage act wows the punters everywhere he goes. Sam’s heavy black eyeliner, spiky black hair, atop of his blacktaped mouth, with his trademark stripy top and over the shoulder messenger bag makes an arresting sight on stage. Silent in himself, cleverly chosen background music is the background to his interactive antics.

We’ve seen him innumerable times in Edinburgh and elsewhere and always have a great time. This time, for the first time, there was a proper set, made to look like back stage at an old (1950s?) theatre with missing lights on the dressing table, Exit signs above painted dodgy brickwork, mucky windows to the “street”, and a very retro radio which Tapeface used to tune to the Shipping Forecast, a conceit used as a jumping off point to “nodding off” and having a very long dream while regular “calls” measured the countdown to the “proper show” began.

This show was a mix of the most popular parts of previous shows with additions of some pretty clever new material. Old favourites such as the “bell on head instructions to the ballerina”, the “Imagine song”, and the “measuring tape penis”, were interspersed with “Spinning Plates” and three victi…uh, volunteers sharing a 70s disco song.

Along with the fun and frolics provided, under Tapeface’s instructions, by the volunteers on stage, a lot of hilarity is to be had from the glares, raised eyebrows, body language and expressions that Sam manages to put across as his only method of communication – and the more the hapless chosen ones get it wrong, the more Sam’s scowls and grimaces have everyone in stitches, until the instructions “click” and off we go smoothly once more.

I can highly recommend Tapeface as very, VERY good fun. Go and see him!

Thursday 13th October. Watermark, Ivybridge.

Jon Richardson – Old Man – preview/work in progress.

Jon started off his WIP with a few opinions on his most recent hair do (I didn’t think it looked that bad tbh) and then flowed seamlessly into a wonderful, whimsical hour of observations about marriage, babies; his vegetarianism and surprises in McDonald’s toilets. Great fun, Jon – a comedian at the top of his game; long may he stay there!

Friday 14th October, Barbican Theatre, Plymouth.

Trevithick.

A very busy room for the Kernow King‘s funny (and educational) play based on the life of Richard Trevithick the Cornish engineer whose inventions played a major part in the steam era of the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Along with Mary Woodvine, the Kernow King (aka Ted Rowe) gave us an hour plus of story, music, comedy and characters. Not having even managed to catch the King’s stand-up act yet, we weren’t sure what to expect, but were quite entertained for the whole show. Lots of local references (as you would imagine) and loads of Cornish culture and dialect. Great fun and I’d certainly recommend it, especially if you come from down the “pointy end” of the country.

Thursday 20th October, Austentatious, Phoenix, Exeter.

Five or six players, dressed appropriately in the costumes of Austen’s day, give us an improvised Austen novel based on an audience member’s suggestion. Tongues so far in cheeks, they should all look like hamsters; there are fans, bonnets, gloves, breeches, army captains, top hats, at least one very good swoon and as many misogynistic comments as you dare to pack into an hour. Excellent fun. The Austentatious gang are on tour so check out the dates and see if they’re anywhere near you in the next few months!

Long London Weekend Sat 22nd-Mon 24th October.

Oh how we’d been looking forward to this – Dave had planned meticulously to make the most of the time we could afford to stay away. The alarm call at 5am to get us on an early morning bus from Plymouth to arrive in London by 1.10pm was our first part of the journey; only going slightly wrong as the bus was at least forty minutes late, which made our first mad rush via tube to Kings Cross station and our “cheap but it’s just a base” hotel. The bed was comfortable, the room had a window, and the “shared shower” worked. Enough said.

Checked in, changed and out the door again, we followed Dave’s map to The Old Red Lion Theatre in Angel to see our first gig.  Up above the pub in a lovely dark space with settles and seats and dry ice, we watched Knock Knock, a quintet of short horror/comedy plays created by The Underground Cavern Club and Gavin J Innes. The short skits were presented and linked from the beginning by Andrew Skipper. All of the stories had roots in well known stories, but with their own twists. We especially loved The Penguin (with a huge nod to Edgar Allen Poe) and I also liked The Mob, armed with pitchforks and other mediaval weapons, talking themselves out of breaking into the castle and killing Dracula. “You get to live forever but you never grow old!” and “You get to fly!”

The Hermit also might make you think twice, especially if you are a debt collector!

To finish up we had a slightly different version of The Alien – with a big musical number at the end. In space, no-one can hear you scream, but they sure listen up if you sing at ’em!

Time for some food and then off to the Soho Theatre for Richard Gadd – Monkey See, Monkey Do. This show was sold out and the room was very warm. A multimedia screen and a treadmill with a way out paintjob were the two main items on the “stage”. Soon to be followed by Richard in full running kit with pink accessories. A tale of male sexuality and what it means to be non-conformist.

Unfortunately the very early start, long bus journey and hot room combined to more or less knock me out – and I’m ashamed to say that my head nodded several times, a heinous crime, especially as we were sitting in the front row – Dave had to nudge me!! (hangs head in shame). Dave thought it was a wonderful show and worth of the Edinburgh Best Show this year.

Over to the lovely Leicester Square Theatre for 9.30pm and the wonderful, magnificent, surreal Mr T, aka Tony Law, master of mayhem and My Goodness, What Is He On – I Want Some!

Tony, in full pilot costume with a gaffer tape girdle (of course, what else??) came striding on stage declaring that he is now “fat” (hence the tape), icecream is only to be eaten by the litre and Xxxxxsara Picassos are basically sails on wheels. These and many other gems of wisdom were lapped up by his adoring audience, including us, and not even the input of one very unappreciative-punter-of-Tony’s-brand-of-humour could spoil it for us. Said punter voiced his disillusionment about five minutes from the end; was promptly booed out of the room, followed by his mortified wife, and we all finished on the sight of Mr T balanced on a chair, pretending to watch an air show. Mr T wins.

Speaking to Dave about it after the show; I was confused. The guy was sitting fairly near the rear of the theatre; if he didn’t find Tony funny, why wait till five minutes from the end before taking off? He’s like someone who eats 95% of a restaurant meal, then decides to complain about it. No sense to it at all – fairly apt for a Tony Law show I guess!

Also, I guess, there are not that many shows where the comic can say his family made the set! #clouds

And so to finish our Saturday – a visit to the legendary Comedy Store, just around the corner off Leicester Square in Oxenden Street for The Late Show. A well run proper comedy club, with rules! Pitchers of beer/cider and food at reasonable (for London) prices.

Tonight we had Mandy Knight, MC, Alistair Williams, Sarah Keyworth, then Pete Johansson to finish the first half. After the break, John Warburton and Mick Ferry.

MC Mandy Knight, scourge of the front row, was on top form. Dressed in her trademark Chinese silk she quickly sorted the men from the boys, the locals from the Bulgarians and Norwegians and gave very short shrift to anyone else who was unfortunate enough to catch her gimlet eye. Excellent and outrageous – no subject a taboo. We were quite glad we were a row or two back!

Our opener was a total newcomer to us; Alistair Williams, young, white, blonde, a nice guy – too nice according to his ex-girlfriend. Lives in a basement (according to his dad, good enough for him, but not for his dog), has a history degree, and inbetween being unemployed, has had various jobs, including being an estate agent (which got plenty more boos from the punters than when he admitted being unemployed and drawing benefits)!

I really liked Alistair, he has an open and confident delivery and I’ll wait to see much bigger things from him!

Next up Sarah Keyworth, who tells us, right off, in the first minute of her act, that she is gay. The Comedy Store punters are a blasé lot and this doesn’t make anyone so much as blink and quite right too. Sarah is an extra act shoehorned into the evening so it’s a short stint but very sweet. There is a repeat line about an old love interest who kept dumping her, taking her back, dumping her…you get the picture – and also some info about her day job as a nanny to a little boy and girl and their adventures together. Good, confident delivery and well worth her short stage presence, especially as the open spot is a try-out spot and Sarah had never been there before.

Rounding up the first half was Pete Johansson – clever, forthright, funny and with plenty of opinions. Especially of his nine year marriage. Nine years, when the first flush of oxytocin and dopamine has faded and all that is left is brutal honesty – his examples are hilarious, and his delivery is spot on. We loved it all.

A break of just about the right length (oh Comedy Store management – how clever you are!) and then into our second half, and John Warburton who right off tells us that his shirt is loose because he’s lost two stones in weight. One liners, short anecdotes; i-Phone baby (you have to hear it for yourself) and plenty of Northern type club humour.

Our headliner for the night was Mick Ferry, another Northener, and one with a fine line in anecdotes, of which my favourite was a lovely, tasteful little tale of ketamine, sofas and an inability to move when required. My sides ached!!

All in all a very good night, which we’ve come to expect of the Comedy Store – good quality, very funny and well organised.

And so back to Kings Cross for a good long sleep!

Sunday morning and after a nice big breakfast, off to the lovely Hen and Chicken in Highbury for three Edinburgh shows, all of which were being filmed by Turtle Canyon Comedy.

First up was Alexis Dubus and his show A R#ddy Brief History of Swearing. Alexis, (aka his alter ego Marcel Lucont, he of the bare feet, polo neck with suit, floppy hair, gallic sneer and never ending glass of red) has a great show here. There are a few technical issues to begin with, which have to be sorted out with a repeat start because of the filming.

Multimedia screen backing the spiel, this is educational, filthy, funny and far reaching as we don’t only get British swearing; thanks to audience suggestions we get Norwegian, French, and Belgian as well. Weirdly enough one set of parents behind us have brought their young daughter with them who definitely doesn’t look old enough to have her tender ears polluted by swearies but Alexis ploughs on anyway. If her parents are fine with it; who is he to question their wisdom? To round things up, we get a countdown of the most popular swearies ending with the word you would expect. Good stuff all round.

A short break before the next show, and we are on to Grainne Maguire‘s Great People Making Great Choices.

I loved this show; Grainne had several messages to get across, at least one which trended worldwide because of the current Irish law that means women are not allowed to have abortions on demand and are therefore not in charge of their own bodies, Grainne tweeted the Irish prime minister about her menstrual cycle, starting a rush of thousands of other tweets on the same subject, some much more graphic than others. The mention of “blood clots like liver”, made me glad that I am vegan!

Also, Grainne told us how she’s been accosted by people who tell her that she “looks Irish”. I don’t know that she does “look Irish” but she certainly has a fabulous, individual look. I loved her hairstyle, retro dress and shoes. Very 1940s.

Elsewhere in the show Grainne dissects her previous relationships and in particular one, where when things weren’t going smoothly, was she to make allowances for what was her partner’s mental illness and what was her being treated poorly and how could she tell the difference?

I don’t know that this show was sparklingly funny; but it was all the better for it; serious subjects are hard to lighten and sometimes the story outgrows the genre as it fights to get out.

Another break and a couple more technical hitches before Mark Smith, with his show Old Smudge, could get started. Observational in his act, with some cheeky chappy “slightly controversial” jokes about what paedophiles get up to in art galleries.

Then it was back to Angel to the Old Red Lion Theatre and The Wicker Hamper which was another horror comedy presented by Stack 10 which is based (very loosely) on the old 70s horror cult film The Wicker Man. Set on the fictional island of Winterisle, with a Norman Bates character (and his mother), plenty of other horror film references for the horror anoraks and 70s themed costumes (flared jeans, stacked heels) this was a lot of fun.

A break for a chat to a couple of the players from the Wicker Hamper, and then we are onto our last show of the night, The Twins Macabre and Crime Doesn’t Play, a play noir with our stars Detectives McKeith and Jones investigating some horrible murders. There were gruesome deaths, raincoats, and dark jokes aplenty. The audience lapped it up, and as our evening ended, we walked back to Kings Cross for our second night’s sleep in the big city.

Monday dawned too early (we were checking out of the hotel by 10 am and had planned on being up by 9), but as I’d also featured in my now traditional early morning run at least once over a weekend away, this morning had to be the day to get my trainers on. A few circuits around the garden in Argyle Square opposite our hotel proved to be rather boring, so I legged it up Grays Inn Road and back to make it a 5k. Back to shower, pack and check out.

We knew today was going to be quite hard work as we were both going to have to drag our suitcases around London whilst taking in a museum (National Galleries) two shows and not getting out of London until late evening on the overnighter bus back home.

Two o’clock found us at The Phoenix in Cavendish Square for Funz and Gamez, presented by Phil Ellis. We then found ourselves saying hello, shaking hands and having a short chat with Johnny Vegas outside of the venue where he was flyering for the show. Going inside, we had a cuppa while we waited for the show to start. The place was filling up with parents and kids waiting to go downstairs to the basement space for the event, which surprised me as I hadn’t realised it was child friendly! Dave had seen Funz and Gamez before in Edinburgh as part of the 2014 World Record and knew what was coming.

The show runs on just the right side between what is suitable for children and what all right thinking parents should avoid at all costs for fear of causing mild PTSD in their kids. The jokes are running on two levels, running a fine line in innuendo. There is a mournful dog playing a keyboard, there’s an elf (James Meehan, from Geins Family Gift Shop), a drunken uncle (Mick Ferry) and a clown (usually played by Mat Ewins but on this occasion we had Pat Cahill). As soon as the clown came on, he proceeded to try and strip – which had him immediately thrown off again!

Attempting to pull all the madness and mayhem together is Phil, who has a vintage suit and some very high platform shoes on. He spends an hour madly skidding around the stage, bemoaning his ‘divorced and being bled dry by his ex’ state, whilst running various games for the younger members of the audience; there are unwinnable prizes and there are lollipops being thrown into the audience with scan regard to health and safety (it’s all Funz and Gamez until someone puts an eye out!) Parents get involved much to the kids’ delight, and the best heckle ever, causing complete uproar, was shouted by the wee madam two seats from us “This doesn’t make any sense!”

Last up on our three day comedy and horror fest, was Stand Up For Animals, a charity gig for Humane Society International back at the Comedy Store near Leicester Square.

This was right up my street, there was a vegan menu for the evening; there was a list of which drinks behind the bar were vegan friendly, there was a Humane Society International stall selling t-shirts (Dave bought me two!) and at least three of the comedians were vegan. The crowd on being asked were about one third vegan, one third veggie and one third still to be converted – I was very happy.

Our line up for the evening was Alistair Barrie (MC), Aisling Bea, Rob Deering, Stewart Francis, Hal Cruttenden ( an extra bonus!) , Alisdair Beckett King and Jake Yapp. The whole evening was really good, with the comics all showcasing their best lines and bringing up HSI and their own alliances where veganism etc was concerned. We both had a great time, and didn’t finish hugely late, leaving us just enough time to get back to Victoria for the overnight Megabus back home.

Monday 31st October 2016 – a Hallowe’en Treat.

Something a little different; a film viewing, at Plymouth Uni, of Sightseers. This was presented by Johnny Mains, co-editor along with Robin Ince, of Dead Funny and Dead Funny Encore, two books of short stories written by stand-up comedians.

Sighteers is a little delight of a black comedy movie from the pens of Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. This Ben Wheatley directed 2012 film also stars Alice and Steve as the couple who go on a tour of the Midlands’ lesser known tourist attractions – the only problem is, people seem to be left for dead wherever they go. I won’t go too much into the storyline – just to recommend that you go and see it, and that is funny and horrible in equal measure.

The Jill Craigie Cinema where the film was being shown was about a third to half full, not too shabby considering the film has been out for several years and that it was Hallowe’en.

Of course, the extra attraction was definitely the fact that Alice Lowe was in attendance and was introduced before the film showing and then interviewed by Johnny afterwards. Then the audience were permitted a short Q & A session.

I have to say that both times we’ve seen Johnny Mains present one of these evenings, he tends to monopolise the star’s time with the interview and indeed on several occasions Alice did hint that maybe it was time to get the the audience Q & A, (people were getting up and leaving – they probably had buses to catch!) but Johnny, being firmly starstruck, was determined to get his every last point across.

October, a very busy month!

Carole.