Tonight I was at the Derby Guildhall to see Alun Cochrane’s new show – A show with a man in it. Although Nottingham is closer, I almost prefer gigs in Derby. When it only costs £1.30 to park all night, it is as if they are actually encouraging people to go there and have a good time. This is in stark contrast to Nottingham, itself, where parking charges seem to be set by the Kray family. The Guildhall was as you’d expect with a venue of this name, rather grand with lots of little decorative flourishes. It seats 240 people in a very small area. The seats were tiny and really packed close together. Whilst I wasn’t claustrophobic at the start of the night, I’d have taken evens on me feeling it by the close. The seats also spring back up with the sort of force that could be used to launch things into a low earth orbit, as did indeed happen with my hat and notebook when I unwisely expected the seat to stay down whilst I took my coat off. The support was Mike Newall.
I saw Newall at Nottingham Just the Tonic last Autumn and remarked at the time about how he reminded me of Cochrane in his style, so it was somewhat ironic that he was now supporting him. He opened with the time honoured staple truism of all supporting acts, ‘Hello, I’m not the man you’ve come to see.’ From this he went on to have a brief chat about his home town, Stockport, turning its’ meagre claims to fame into a positive. He was brought up short in this by what seemed like an omnibus of late comers all arriving at once and trying to find their seats. He resumed with talking about exercise, relationship breakdowns and attending festivals at a certain age. Surprisingly he left out what I had thought was his stand out routine: the unexpected bonus of lending money to a friend you don’t really like. Newall’s delivery is low energy and relaxed, which suited his material. Throughout this Newall received good laughs. Nothing huge, but they were consistent and set the room up nicely in a quietly efficient way.
After a brief intermission we resumed with Alun Cochrane himself. He began with a spot of room work, just to regain a bit of atmosphere following the break and then he launched into his set. Launched is probably too strong a word for such a relaxed performer. Meandered is more suitable. He began with the story of his best ever gig, which involved pizza and being paid on the night. This set the scene for the next hour or so, as it contained a mixture of flights of thought and personal observations. A lot of his actual material is hard to remember five minutes after he has delivered it. The topics were fairly pedestrian and inconsequential, but strangely no less enjoyable for this. It is very well written, possibly verging on over-written, but in a way that is not actually detrimental. For a well structured set, Cochrane was very happy to throw in ad-libs, especially about the rival show taking place in the square, outside. These ad-libs and the odd new bit seemed to keep the format fresh, which was nice. Every so often, he would deliver a small routine and then comment on how well it had been received. Sometimes this can really burst the bubble and strip the magic away, but as there were 240 people who had paid to see him, Cochrane was on safe ground. His delivery was a lot louder and energetic than I was expecting and I wouldn’t have objected to a tiny bit less shouting, but the audience were extremely happy with everything. Bizarrely in the last minute of the show one chap on the front row jumped up and sprinted out of the door in the sort of way that you’d associate with people leaving when the discovery of something ticking has been announced. This didn’t interrupt the flow and the show reached it’s highly satisfactory conclusion. Cochrane may not be a comic whose routines will make you question deep held beliefs, but he is a comedian who will improve the week of everyone who sees his show.