Tonight on a cold and dark night I was out to see my first gig of the year. This was the Funhouse gig at Ashby, where I was especially looking forwards to seeing Alan Hudson. I was sorry to see that Robyn Perkins couldn’t make it due to her breaking her ankle, whilst skiing. I counted myself lucky to be able to bag one of the two seats in the house that were empty. On the one hand, I had a lousy view of the stage (it was empty for a reason), which doesn’t really matter for 90% of acts, but on the other hand, I did have a radiator to rest my back on. Mike had a good night compering, keeping the pacing right and managing to be funny, without making the show all about him, which not every MC can manage. The room was warmed up nicely for our opening act.
The last time I saw Alan Hudson it had been at a small intimate gig in Eastwood where he had impressed me with both his magical ability and his comedic skill. The only possible question I had about tonight was how he would translate from an intimate and personal setting to a room six or seven times the size. Unavoidably, the layout of the room wasn’t perhaps the best for a magician, with Hudson having the audience sat in a 180 degree arc, leaving him nowhere to hide (not that he needed it, performing with his sleeves rolled up). However, this didn’t daunt him and he opened by referring to this and doing a quick trick to prove his point. From here he launched into a set that matched magic and mirth in equal measures. The tricks were all delivered with perfection, yet Hudson, demonstrated good acting ability by commenting upon how often they didn’t always go totally as planned. This was funnily self-deprecating and built up some tension. Last week I saw a magician who had been put on a bill by the venue, rather than the promoter and whilst he was a fine magician, he lacked comedy value. I had name-checked Hudson as someone who would have been better for that night, because he has mastered the correct balance between magic and comedy. A lot of the laughs come from his asides and some lovely little incidental touches, such as his choice of beautiful assistant, the blindfolds and his references to Brown. In addition to this, Hudson looks as if he’s enjoying himself and the audience feeds off of this. I really enjoyed hearing his voice – it’s very hard not to like a magician with a Yorkshire accent, which stands in contrast to the silky southern tones used by many and instead of opening things, he ‘urpens’ things. This was, with the odd bit of innuendo aside, a very clean set, which one hardly ever sees outside of special events. Hudson held the room, received great laughs and gasps, depending on what he was doing and I’d like to see more of him.
We resumed after the intermission with Sunil Patel who had a well paced delivery that made up for what it lacked in energy with a wonderful dryness. Patel was only doing a ten spot and ideally I’d have liked to have seen more of him. His material was well thought out and engaging, with the routine about his name being the stand out and his off the cuff comment about 3 chairs being perhaps the best individual line. In introducing new sections he had the endearing habit of saying, ‘good question’ and then continuing as if in answer to an unheard question that he had been asked. He did this three times, getting a bigger laugh each time and I liked it. Patel hoovered up a lot of small and medium laughs almost constantly throughout his set, but seemed to be missing that one knockout reveal that would have brought his set to a climax.
The next act was Tom Price, whose set seemed to promise more than it ultimately delivered. I found it hard to buy into Price’s set, partly because it would have benefited from more to link the disparate routines, as it felt like a group of individuals pieces. In addition to this I found his upper class persona and (perhaps paradoxically) his routine involving inner city patois hard to relate to. However, I did enjoy his room work; this was good and he showed a lot of quick wit in getting the most out of what appeared to be a Pembrokeshire shaped cul-de-sac of a conversation. OCD and the line about moving away from Wales were both very good. The flinch that accompanied the line about shower and sink was great and added a lot. Whilst he wasn’t my cup of tea, the rest of the room enjoyed him and he received a lot of laughs from the audience.
The closing act was Dom Holland, who received a comedically useful introduction from Mike, which he made full use of. This was a set that I perhaps should have felt less enthusiasm about than what I did. Holland was the second act that night to use an inner city patois and became the third act in eight days to have material about picking up dog mess (Barrie and Stone being the other two) and so I should have felt the laws of diminishing returns coming into play. However, I didn’t. This set started well and remained splendidly entertaining throughout. The writing was extremely strong, with no wasted words or gestures. Everything said or done added to the performance and there was a tangible sense of completeness about the set, with everything feeling part of it. Holland made every topic feel relatable, even the surprising end result of his closing routine. The delivery was conversational, even gentle, but it was also very engaging – the room wanted to hear what Holland was going to say next and gave him their total attention (Nick Page also fascinates audiences in a similar way). I felt that the inflection on ‘yes I do’ was fantastic. This was a cracking set.