Derby Comedy Festival – The fall of Byron Montrose (Ben Macpherson)

Tonight I was at the Carnero Lounge in Derby to see a couple of shows at the DCF, organised by NCF. The first show I saw was The fall of Byron Montrose, starring Ben Macpherson.

This is an entertaining monologue, which in the tradition of Spike Milligan’s books, contains a pun on every line. Byron went on cold, opening the evening and I’m not sure how many people were expecting the show to be what it was and it may have benefited from a slight bit of warm up work, which explained the concept. On the other hand, there would be a risk with that in Montrose breaking character, which would be a shame. Macpherson puts a fair amount of thought into his characterisation, getting dressed up, using that wonderfully sonorous voice of his, sipping sherry substitute (which was a lovely running gag) and making Montrose consistent all through the story arc. This was also an arc that was coherent and lead to a climax, which whilst I wasn’t totally happy with the downbeat ending on a personal note , it did provide closure and fitted in with the title of the show.

This is just as much a performance piece as it is a comedy show and it was great to see people turn their heads to look at the wall when Byron mentioned something upon the wall of the family home. Despite the short notice in the booking (this was a very late edition to the festival following another act having to pull out) and consequent lack of rehearsal time, I thought that the delivery was well paced, giving everyone time to get the puns, but without dragging it out. There is a lot of intelligence behind the references and it is a well educated sort of cove who will get all of the allusions. To me, this makes a nice break from comedians aiming for the most accessible of material as this generally has the effect of setting the bar fairly low and it’s nice to have to work a little bit to get all of the puns. This isn’t a show that you can let your mind wander from, though, because if you miss a couple of words from the prose, the next joke will leave you puzzled.

Tonight the audience was fairly small, largely I suspect due to this being a late addition and Macpherson not having much time to advertise it and if there had been a few more people willing to laugh out loud at the jokes, which, incidentally, are good, then everyone else would have felt comfortable in joining in. As it was, there was a nice cosy feeling of enjoyment from the audience, even if they weren’t hugely expressive about it. This was a show that I thoroughly enjoyed.

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