Tonight I was in Nottingham for an NCF show at the Lord Roberts, for two Edinburgh Previews. The performance area was in the pub’s cellar, a new venue to me. I ended up in the gents toilets first, before having to back track. This cellar reminded me a bit of Manhattan 34 in Leicester. It is a room that if given a dozen people, one has a viable gig. Anything more than twenty and it would have a huge atmosphere. I am pleased to hear that NCF intend to make more use of this room. The numbers tonight weren’t huge, but it was nice to see local circuit figures, Minder Kaur Athwal and Rob Stevenson present. Elliot Bower introduced the night, doing the rules and keeping it tight, before bringing both acts on to a nice round of applause.
The first Edinburgh Preview, was from English Comedian of the Year finalist, Adam Rowe, whose show is entitled Bittersweet little lies. Rowe is very much an up and coming comedian and is one who will be able to make a living out of comedy. Tonight he made a fast start, launching into his show without doing any room work, or banter to ease the audience in. This could have been risky, without a compere warming the room up, but such was his strength of character, Rowe easily pulled this off. After the first two or three minutes, he did pause his show, to break off and enquire of a table at the front, whether or not they were actually drinking tea and without milk at a comedy gig. This swift change of direction could have been jarring, but instead was all the funnier for the earnestness by which he asked.
The theme of Rowe’s show was lying, how not all lies are bad and how some have unintentional consequences. As themes go, this is nicely different to the usual stock in trade of relationship breakdowns, midlife crises and marriages. There was some great material about Rowe’s eye, with the expression he wears upon raising his left eyebrow adding lots of force to this. I enjoyed the truism concerning ostentatious expressions of grief on facebook, when someone is ‘taken too soon’. In contrast, his section about heaven being a nightclub has merit and I like the idea, but it felt like it just needs a bit more work. However, this show is a work in progress and that is par for the course. Rowe’s notion that people should have to sit an exam before being permitted to use social media is very timely considering the uneducated and ill thought out rubbish that has been on facebook during and after the referendum.
Rowe’s material on lies during relationships covered a topic that has often been dealt with by comedians. However, instead of sounding similar, there was a lot of entertainment to be had from his own individual circumstances and the upset that a bacon sarnie can cause. Rowe’s description of an argument occasioned by returning late from a friends 21st birthday generated lots of momentum. Whilst discussing what ladies want from a partner and how some of this is mutually exclusive and then applying it to his own financial stability, I felt that Rowe may have missed out on a chance for a call back to Peter at no 43, but then I’m a big fan of call backs and love seeing them included within sets. The show ended with the telling of how a white lie had had deep ramifications for Rowe’s family and this was a real roller coaster of an ending, combining pathos and honesty.
This show was very enjoyable. I like seeing Rowe; he is always entertaining and is a man to watch rise through the ranks of comedy.
The next Edinburgh Preview was from Caimh McDonnell, whose show is entitled Gorilla in the Midst. McDonnell is an excellent comedian and made a big impression on me years before I began reviewing. This is the 5th time I’ve paid to see him and I’ve never had anything less than an excellent time. Tonight, he began with a story about a near death experience, which included a lovely ironic spoiler alert. This was followed by a collection of stories involving his encounters with other animals, such as a badger, a police horse, a dog and rats. These stories were delivered in such a way that they came to life before your eyes. The descriptions were so vivid, that one could easily see McDonnell sat on his sofa, with the rat waving to him. This story was one that struck a particular chord with me, as my wife is terrified of spiders and if one had swapped out rats for arachnids, then it could well have been describing her attitude to the critters. Interestingly, by the time that McDonnell was discussing his granddad’s reaction to political campaigners knocking on his door before tea, I was laughing heartily at just the set up, with no idea of what the reveal would be. The final tale concerned families and the sort of lively cousin that most people are glad that someone else has, if only because they get to hear all the antics, without having the personal discomfort of having to deal with the aftermath. The material of this show is first rate and is massively funny.
McDonnell is a natural raconteur. He is one of those chaps who could make a discussion about anything interesting. He delivers his material quickly and seems to get through 90 minutes of material in an hour. His references were wonderful, from the now dated figure of Ian Paisley to his line about a Christmas performance at the Fritzl’s. This was a fantastic show from a comedian who is on top form. Every time I see McDonnell I always drive home wondering how someone who is so gifted is not yet a household name.