Chris Norton-Walker (MC), Theresa Farlow, Neil Irving, Jonathan Prince, Jim Kelly, Simon Beckwith, Gaye Jones, Bambam Shaikh, Sam Potter, Chris Sherwood

FAF promotions free Hoofer’s got Talent night at Field Mill. This was downstairs, not upstairs, as that was hosting a Madonna tribute Act. Luckily, I only spent 5 minutes sat in the wrong room before I twigged on.

This was a challenging gig for all concerned. Stew “stoney ” Coleman did his part, personally going around the room, closing doors, turning screens off, moving seats about, which is always great. However, this was a very ill behaved crowd. People had no shame in just walking in front of the stage on their way to the bar, shouting out, shouting out stuff in reply to the original shout out and generally misbehaving. At times, it felt like having a couple of snipers would be a bonus. There was a late start, which was unavoidable and this didn’t help, but the major factor was the rowdy atmosphere and all acts bar a couple suffered from this.

MC was Chris Norton-Walker, who reaffirmed his ability, skill and hard work ethic tonight. He got the room under some form of order with a bit of difficulty (no one could have done more) and used his infectious charm to get the show on the road. This is a guy who could probably inject atmosphere into a vacuum and it was a joy to watch him work.

Theresa Farlow struggled as first act, the audience didn’t really give her a chance and she never really injected any personal authority into the room, despite some nice jokes.

Neil Irving had some reasonable material, but was largely undone by the room. He ended his part by lying down on the stage and more or less throwing in the towel. This got a big laugh.

Jonathan Prince was one of the acts on tonight’s bill that I was especially interested in seeing perform. He’s very charismatic and has presence, also he was one of the two acts that didn’t suffer much from the crowd. He has a good singing voice, but as he only had 5 minutes to get his material out, I felt he may have been better devoting his time to more material than a build up to the reveal. Some of his material was a tad lightweight, but he has a really good delivery and I feel he has real potential. Once his material catches up with his delivery he will be a man to watch.

Ending the first half was Jim Kelly, who had some nice comedy songs, which were short and too the point. However, he made the fatal mistake of engaging with the hecklers in conversation about Rasputin and this robbed him of all momentum. He didn’t so much stumble, with this self inflicted harm, as decide to dive into a mine shaft. This is a shame, as he could have achieved a lot more if he’d just carried on with his set.

Simon Beckwith had an interesting time. He left the stage and walked into the room to perform. This was a mistake, as it robbed him of his authority, although with the crowd, it didn’t take much. He had a very good reveal about a written warning, which didn’t get the result it should have done. He deserved more for that joke. I was interested in seeing where he was going to go. However, he took the mood of the room and as the remainder of his material involved the audience listening, he came off early. This was a shame, but I can understand his logic. I’d like to see him in a more amenable environment.

Gaye Jones wasn’t phased by the room and got some material out. However, much of this was to do with Rochdale and the reputation of girls from Rochdale. This was ok, but a bit hack, as you could have substituted anywhere for Rochdale, really. It wasn’t bad at all, just nothing we haven’t heard before about Rotherham, Shirebrook or someplace.

Bambam Shaikh (Jay Islaam) was up next. He was the other act I was especially interested in seeing. I’ve seen him before at the Admiral Rodney, where he had a good night, so I knew already he was strong. He had a great gig and is a reliable performer. The only thing muting his reception tonight was the crowd being a bit thin by the time he went on, otherwise he would have raised the roof. He has his act honed nicely and has a good sense of timing. He knows when to pause to let a gag sink in and whilst some of his material does require a level of knowledge, this doesn’t dilute his impact. He was the only other act not to get seriously messed about by the rowdiness and was again a joy to watch.

Sam Potter also made the mistake of leaving the stage. This can work in an intimate gig, but not in a rowdy one. Some of her reveals were a bit easy to guess, but still enjoyable However, not many of her observations seemed to land heavily. Partly this was because a lot of the room were chatting amongst themselves or shouting out, but also because they were a bit lightweight. There was a lot of truth in her observations and some cleverness, but sadly not a lot of humour.

Closing was Chris Sherwood who again, was an act I was more interested in seeing. He does dark material. Some comedians, I feel can do it and make a good job, such as Nicola James, but I’ve not seen many comedians do this well, apart from Ben Briggs who is very much on my radar. Chris had had time to weigh up the room and came on with a good attitude of not giving a monkey’s for the hecklers. He showed a lot of guts in this. He did some political jokes, which didn’t land well, but this was partly because they required the audience to listen and this audience wasn’t really one for that. He had better luck with his references to television. Some of this was mixed, as people hadn’t seen the programmes, but the references that did hit, hit well.

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