The Swan Theatre, Worcester – Saturday 19th June 2021
I had the conversation a few times in the lead up to this night of comedy. Although, once we had arrived in the foyer we needn’t have worried about such fears. The willing staff of the Swan looked as if they were gliding serenely on the surface whilst underneath they must have been paddling furiously to ensure our welcome – and our safety – were of the highest standard
It is standard for the compere, in this instance the determined Phil Simon, to walk out in front of a crowd with a shared expression of: “go on then, make me laugh!” An audience hidden by masks who only part-filled the auditorium, for safety reasons, must have been as daunting as home schooling your kids during the pandemic. However, Simon achieved both with aplomb and his calming stewardship brought a calming influence. Reassuring and avuncular, Simon’s humour inspired gentle chuckles rather than theatrical guffaws from the audience. This was his role for the evening…
For a small theatre the Swan stage is cavernous and the empty rows must have made the art of stand-up even more difficult.
Alistair Barrie, after the previous 15 months of incarceration and being furloughed by his wife (long story) our seasoned comedian was finally let off the leash. With a stage nearly as big as the National debt, the shaven -headed curmudgeon prowled like a middle weight boxer looking to state his territory in the ring. With his guard lowered and with a gaze, normally reserved for the weigh-in, Barrie ranted and ranted about lock-down, our Government, who is to blame and the rather obvious point… “If these disposable masks do no good, the next time you go under the surgeon’s knife why don’t you ask him or her to leave off their mask and just spit in your wound?” During the lull after one bile fuelled monologue Barrie conceded: “I appreciate these are not jokes but just rants.” Nevertheless, the burning injustice and glaring truth of his “closing-time” philosophy was both hilarious and edifying.
The franticintroductionof Michael Legge raised the noise and laughter levels and you almost forgot the chasm between you and your nearest neighbour. Legge was animated and seemingly out of control. Of course he is a capable stand-up and comedy writer and he was just toying with his audience. The out of control maniacal and theatrical persona allowed him to win over the audience with consummate ease. Accordingly, his casual insult of a fellow Celt in the room was caustic but still brought waves of applause and genuine laughter. Not many comedians can pivot between the troubles in Northern Ireland and someone’s accent in a breath and still have the audience on side.
The theatrical performance of Legge made way for the pantomime turn of Barbara Nice. The alter-ego of Janice Connolly, the caricature of a middle-aged house wife, Lady Baba is a very, very English creation. From the colloquial sayings, the eccentric clothing and quirky handbag, from the self-deprecating put downs right down to the props…a ball of wool? If the comedienne was nervous of taking to the stage after the enforced break it didn’t show. Mrs. Nice was determined to get the audience on side and participating; she worked the room like a supply teacher out to impress the Head of Dept who has just walked into her room unannounced. The crowd clapped and swayed, applauded and arm danced their way through a pantomime of 80s anthems. We all appreciated the spectacular one-liners: “I’ve got to be off soon I need to pick up a saveloy and chips for my old man” And we winced at the dance routines that would shock a veteran pole dancer. Marvellous.
Live comedy is back and we should all embrace the opportunity to enjoy- of course, safely, from 2 metres. Praise, for the Swan Theatre staff and the proponents of the art of stand-up who made it look easy because it’s not!
Assuredly, the Laugh out Loud Comedy Club are offering another night of belly-aching laughs – with an all-Female special – at the Huntingdon Hall in Worcester on the 23rd of July. The night has been armed with Jo Enright, Meryl O’Rourke, Kate Lucas and Mandy Mauden.
Once your ribs have recovered and your breathing has returned to normal there is another Laugh out Loud Comedy Club night on July the 31st at the Huntingdon Hall venue.This evening of jocular japes stars: Daliso Chaponda, Stephen Bailey, Keith Carter as Nige with Barry Dodds as the night’s MC. A superb setting, in a superb venue with a superb line-up of comedians!
By: The Swilgate Scuttler