End of month review

This has been a most varied month, with a combination of pro, semi pro, open mic and gong shows. I’ve seen 61 individual acts and have had some lovely surprises.

MC

Barry Dodds

I’ve seen Dodd’s perform and MC a few times and whilst he is well known as a performer, he should be equally well known as a MC, as he is very capable.

Review from the night:

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.

10 spots

Stevie Gray

I’ve seen him twice this month and he’s a very versatile performer. His sets contain a bit of everything and form a nice break to the person with a mic that most nights revolve around. He’s also very good at jollying up a room, which plays well to his style.

Reviews from the night:

Stevie Gray, who resumed after the second intermission, injected some welcome energy into the room. He immediately made his presence felt with a high energy approach. This was very shrewd on his part, as his first routine required audience interaction and he created the requisite atmosphere swiftly. He received a small applause break for a wonderful ad lib about egalitarianism before moving onto a pirate song. For this he required another audience member, picking me. It was interesting being up on the stage, seeing things from the view of the comic – 25 shadows and 5 faces. This song went down well and then he moved onto a political song, which was really strong, getting good laughs. Gray has a real stage presence and he is also confident enough to involve the audience. Despite having only seen him last Monday, I enjoyed seeing him again tonight. His section had a joyous enthusiastic feel to it.

Harry Stachini

I’ve seen this comedian twice and it’s amazing how much he had improved in the space of a month or two. This chap is very much up and coming.

Review from the night:

Following the intermission it was Harry Stachini. I’ve seen him before at another FaF night, where he had done well. It seems that during the intervening two months he has improved a lot and I already thought he was good. He opened with referencing some of Banks’ material, which tied his opening section into the night and provided some lovely continuity. Stachini’s material was really good, but what raised it even higher was the feeling that there was a real story and thread running through it all. There were numerous cracking bits in it, too, with Wonderwall and an extremely well drawn drinking challenge being true standouts. There were some very well realised accents that I think add depth to the routine and also a rather spiffing call back. Stachini’s delivery was a bit fast, but I don’t actually think this hurt him, instead it helped him build momentum. He used a lady on the front row as a foil for his material and his asides to her went down very nicely with the entire room. I feel he may have overrun a touch, but considering how splendidly he was doing, I doubt anyone minded in the least. This was a superb performance from a man who has a definite future in comedy.

Wayne Beese

I was tempted to put Beese under MCs, as that is essentially what is set consisted of: him working the audience. However, this was something close to spectacular. He has a great way with audiences and this comes over as being very, very natural.

After the intermission it was Wayne Beese. I’ve seen Beese twice before and he is what I’d call a natural compere. He has the ability to unearth the funnies from members of the audience and knows just what to ask to get the best result without spending too long on one person. Tonight I wasn’t sure which route he was going to take – banter or material. It’s quite possible Beese didn’t know himself till he began performing, but either way, when he went for banter it was a good call. It was remarkable how much he got from a small audience in the way of building blocks for comedy. He managed to ask the right questions to unearth two wonderful stories involving vomit, during the course of a really fun set. Beese is very genial and not aggressive, which probably helps. People are very willing to open up to him. If he ever decides to quit comedy, he should apply to the police as an interrogator. I can well imagine him asking a room full of suspects if they’ve ever had anything happen on a bank raid that was embarrassing and half of the suspects opening up to tell him all about it….

open mic/gong

Kevin Caswell-Jones

The final act was Kevin Caswell-Jones. He had a very enjoyable and comprehensive set. He began with a list of heckles received, which was a way of getting lookalikes/appearance gags worked in, although surprisingly he didn’t reference Patrick Stewart, which could prove a rich vein of material. He then hit warp 9 (sorry) with a call back to contestant no 1’s story, getting good laughs. Caswell-Jone’s set had a nice balance between audience work, and material. Some of the material was better than other bits, but the good stuff was more than decent, even approaching what I would call strong. He has a good stage presence, making me wonder if he has ever done any am-dram. The simple things, such as a quick left and right look before mentioning his wife were real winners, adding depth to what was already a very good set. He was a deserving winner.

Ben Oram

The next contestant was very interesting for all of the right reasons. Ben Oram made a nice start, doing jokes about pubic hair, before making a reference to classic top of the pops that really deserved more than it received. His material was pretty good and showed a surprising level of depth. However, his Don Estelle reference was perhaps 40 years too late and was probably the root cause of what I thought was an undeserved gonging. Oram’s delivery was convincing and he definitely has a nice turn of phrase. I’d like to see more of him, as I thought he showed promise.

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