Create theatre – Phil Jerrod, Ben Shannon, Lost Voice Guy, Angela Barnes and Barry Dodds (MC)

An odd quirk of going to gigs is that the closer to home the venue, the harder it is to get there on time. If I’m travelling 50 miles or so, the chances are I’ll get there twenty minutes early. If it is nigh on within walking distance, then I’ll probably have to trot into the venue at the last minute. Tonight I was at Create Theatre, at West Notts Tech, which is less than five minutes from my house; hence a near belated appearance by myself. When the gig was being publicised, only three names were mentioned, with the immortal phrase ‘plus support’. As I got there, I saw Barry Dodds, who I didn’t know was on the bill and this immediately brought a smile to my face. I like Dodds, he’s a fine act and his presence really upped the gig in my estimations.
Although NCF had organised the bookings, the ticket sales and promotion were in the hands of the college and this was something of a weak spot. I’ve been to this venue a few times and it never appears to have been pushed with any kind of aggression by the college. The price I paid was £15, which whilst it wasn’t the cheapest night around, wasn’t outrageous, either and did represent value for money. Numbers weren’t as high as I’d have liked and this was exacerbated by the peculiarities of the venue itself. It is very much like a theatre, with room for 150 or so people and a performance area the size of a badminton court. The end result was a theatre sized room and a pub sized audience. This made for a very strange and challenging atmosphere for the comedians. Luckily the MC was Mr Barry Dodds.
I’ve seen Dodds a few times recently and it’s always a pleasure. The last time I saw him he was closing a night just 2 miles away from this venue and he had a good night then, despite a persistent lady who kept interrupting him. Tonight Dodds came onto the performance area and greeted the room as if it was The Apollo, with bags of energy and affability. This was a really good start to the night. He was handicapped a bit by the fact that 90% of the audience seemed to know each other and was connected to a college – offend one, offend all. However, I don’t think this really held him back that much, as he still did a really nice job of warming the room up. He showed his authority, did the rules and made some real connections with the audience. His first session was banter, then for his second session he found a nice way into some material – Halloween and the M1, which considering that everyone in the room is very familiar with the nearby motorway, was instantly relatable and relevant. Dodds received lots of laughs for his work and it made me wonder why he isn’t better known as a compere, as he has real talent for this. Dodds is a good act, but I think he should get a lot of work as a MC based on what I’ve seen of him.
Phil Jerrod opened, having travelled for five hours to get to this gig. Jerrod has a warm smile and a lot of charm, but more importantly he has a really good delivery for his material. I felt that some of his material may have been a bit too sweary for what seemed to be such a respectable audience, however, his delivery was such that everything seemed to land to a nice response. He did have a bit of bad luck in asking someone their name 5 minutes after Dodds had asked them, but this was no real impediment to his night. His stuff about British murderers not being what they were went down especially well and was well thought out. His set took a turn for the strange when he was stopped mid flow by an audience member who had an annecdote to tell. These sorts of things can seriously derail a night and I almost wanted to facepalm when it happened. However, Jerrod wasn’t put off his stride. He climbed into the second row and sat on a seat facing his communicant in a way that momentarily made me think of Smith and Jones. He then had a charming chat with them before finishing his set. Jerrod engineered a standing ovation which was far from undeserved. He did well and was a fine opener.
After the first intermission Ben Shannon resumed play. He started with some room work before getting into his material. His delivery seemed a bit understated to begin with, but once he got into flow he did very well, giving the room a very pleasant set. He had nice material on auto-correct (with call back) and vegan music, but the section on the quiet carriage was a real winner and thoroughly enjoyable. I felt that although he received consistent laughs throughout, he definitely deserved more for the quiet carriage.
Next on was Lost Voice Guy. This was the first time I’ve seen this unique act. As a chap who can’t speak, his routine is delivered via an Ipad, using pre-recorded segments. This isn’t the most conducive way to deliver comedy, as neither tone nor emphasis can be altered, however, he got some wonderful material out of just this fact alone. His material was really good with the undatables and robot wars being real standouts. He did start off slowly, but built up a lovely momentum, getting some really good laughs. The end result was an enjoyable set from a man who is a fully fledged comedian in his own right and not the token act as he mentioned in his set.
Closing was Angela Barnes, who like Dodds treated the gig as if it were an arena. This was a lovely approach and she did well. Her material hung together nicely, with no awkward leaps and there was a very nice call back, which I’m a big fan of. Her southern accent sounded strangely exotic in my home town, which is still largely a Northern pit village collection, and did her no harm at all. When her material moved onto internet dating, I did nearly groan, as I’ve heard this topic done so often recently, but luckily this was merely the gateway into some good material about a date, not a routine in itself. At one point Barnes came and sat with the audience, giving the gig a nice intimate feel. Her style was pitched perfectly and gave the room a feeling of a shared experience. I enjoyed seeing her.

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