The Navigation – Scott Bennett, Lucy Thompson, Thomas Green, Dan Nightingale and Fran Jenking (MC)

Tonight I was at the Navigation in Nottingham for the first of what I hope will be regular Funhouse gigs there. Last night I was in Ashby, which seemed a long way away, but ironically, the short journey into Nottingham was far more troublesome and I was extremely glad to get out of my car. It seemed that almost every motorist in town was driving as if they had been watching Death Race 2000 and had mistaken it for some kind of tutorial. As it was, I arrived early enough to see the room being set up, with a disparate collection of chairs laid out. I’ve only been to the Navigation twice. Once for Spiky Mike’s birthday party and once to see Paul Kerensa during the Nottingham Comedy Festival. Both times there was horrible noise bleed from downstairs. I noticed a sign announcing a live band playing tonight and just hoped it was a quiet band. Our MC for the night was Mr Fran Jenking.

Jenking is a very enjoyable compere. He has a natural talent for speaking to people and finding a conversation point. He is totally disarming in his manner and people always respond well to him. Tonight he did the rules, kept the breaks to reasonable lengths and provided good solid value as a compere, without going overboard and making the night all about him. He began with room work, found a clapper, chatted to a few folks. The second session he mixed a tiny bit of material in and then for the final outing, he used a bit more material, but not in a way obvious to the audience. He was fun to watch and was perfectly professional in how he approached it.

The opening act was Scott Bennett, who I only saw a week ago. However, it’s interesting to see just how much improvement a skilled comedian can achieve in a week. Bennett began by doing a spot of room work, which made me wonder why I’ve not seen him MC. This was followed by his material on speed awareness courses, with an improved line about a lorry driver. The set then went through child birth, chaise longue, kids telly, Postman Pat, swimming and a teddy bear. This was delivered to big, big laughs and Bennett generated no end of impetus. This is a man who not only has a great eye for a turn of phrase, but he also knows just how to pitch it. There was a brief stumble over a line, but as this is new material and wasn’t being delivered from a clipboard or anything, so this is eminently forgivable and it was covered very well. This was an excellent set.

The first act of the middle section was Lucy Thompson. I like what Thompson has to offer and she has honed her set since I last saw her a some months ago. She opened with a nice line and then went on to discuss a few recent gigs that have been weird, before discussing her ambition when she was four years old, holidays in China, family weddings and living in Leicester at the moment – a very timely piece of material that landed beautifully and perhaps should have had an applause break. She delivered this set with personality and gave the room a very nice 10 minutes of fun. Tonight it felt as if she has really come on as a comedian since I saw her last.

The next act of the middle section was Thomas Green, an act who I think has a lot to offer. He mixes strong material that audiences relate to, with a notable presence and a delivery that combines enough acting to really bring his set to life. Tonight he demonstrated a few changes to the material I’ve seen him use, including a charming story about his dad not taking a photo of his mum. Green received big laughs throughout his set and was extremely entertaining to watch.

The closing act was Dan Nightingale. I’ve seen Nightingale a couple of times before and I know he’s good. I think we all know he’s good. However, tonight he was what I can only describe as brilliant. He was the sort of good that made me wonder why on earth he isn’t better known outside the comedy circuit. He hit the ground running from the off, with various routines, all of which he delivered with dynamism and spot on timing. Almost everything hit home to a huge laugh. Nightingale generated bags of momentum, received applause breaks, had the other comedian’s laughing their heads off and just simply blew the roof off of the place. He did do a routine after what might have been considered the natural end of the set. However, this still got laughs and was funny. This was a stand out performance from someone who is a true technician of comedy.

Tonight I saw a gig that I can only describe as splendid. There were some massively strong performances, a great atmosphere and as there were only 20 plus people in the room, a great level of intimacy. This cost me a fiver and I’ll be smiling for the next few days and perhaps weeks as I remember the various routines. On the way home I couldn’t help but wonder why more people don’t come out and watch live comedy.

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