Tonight I was in Brum at the Blue Orange Theatre, which is where the Kamikaze Club variety night is held. This is a venue with a lot of potential. It has a proper stage, tiered seating, a sound desk and a green room with probably everything you could ever need (it was nice to see the acts looked after with drinks, snacks and fruit) all laid on. One thing it doesn’t have is an inbuilt audience, as it isn’t attached to a pub or anything similar and I think that the organisers, Michael Bell and Thom Hodkinson must have worked pretty hard to get people in. However, if they can keep people coming and build upon this, then they will have a lovely little gig on their hands. Whilst Thom and Michael host the night, they have Dean on sounds and Colin as announcer. Dean was useful in doing everyone’s walk on music and although he mistimed a gunshot sound effect during a sketch, this wasn’t without comedy value. Colin only had one job and that was to announce the acts, which I think is a nice touch.
Thom Hodkinson and Michael Bell – Hosts
Hodkinson and Bell hosted the evening as a double act and as this was only the third show, they’ve not quite clicked yet. The banter between them didn’t feel especially natural, although I’m sure that this will come in time. They added to this by doing some sketches and playing a game with an audience member. There were some fun elements in their work, such as the guide to comedy (dead pan deserved more) and a running joke in the rules, but I think that they may benefit from keeping it tighter at the top and certainly between the acts. They probably did the best part of thirty minutes throughout the night and this was too much to keep the energy levels up in the room. They both have ability, but I think that this is a case of less will be more. If they were to just do 7-8 to warm up and then a bit more after the intermission I think their work will have a lot more impact.
Rob Kemp as Stang
Tonight I saw Rob Kemp trying some new material where he plays Stang, a Bono like rock star figure, complete with a remarkably good Irish accent. Kemp is a smashing guy, well liked by everyone on the circuit and one of the reasons for this is that he is open and honest with his emotions and he spent his entire set trying not to end up corpsing with laughter at what he was doing. He looked as if he was going to crack up at any moment and the joy of this was infectious. Whilst the material isn’t quite there yet (new material, so that’s more than fair enough) it was still a joy to watch him. Hypocrite received a big laugh and the tsunami line was nice, although it did start tidal wave of suggestions about other countries he may have used instead. This was a work in progress, but an enjoyable one at that.
Although this is a fair sized room, it is also rather intimate and Webber had no need for a microphone. He made the most of this when he went climbing on some boxes that formed a feature on the stage, climbing from one to the other whilst he writhed in a manner not unlike the opening to Tales of the Unexpected. All the time he was doing this, Webber was delivering a joke about star signs. This was followed by goose and fox based jokes, which worked well, although I did get to one reveal before him. As you’d expect in a comedian with such a strong improv background there were some nice ad libs, such as his friend and I enjoyed the feeling that Webber could have gone off in any direction he chose with his performance. The closing routine was dogs in space, where his acting skills came to the fore. A good set and nicely different.
We resumed after the intermission with Cliff, a talented one-liner comedian who was doing some new material, formed on her recent holiday in America. The quality of this was pretty good, with the superiority complex gag being the stand out, although it was the angle joke that got the applause. Cliff wasn’t as sharp as what I’ve seen her in the past and I’m not sure she did the full ten, but I enjoyed what I saw.
It’s possible that Frieze was asked to do a longer set than the previous acts as he gave the room a lengthier performance than any of the acts so far. Frieze is a musical comedian and he arrived on stage with a guitar. He opened with a relevant lookalike joke based upon the hosts and this worked very well. From here he hit the ground running with a series of jokes based around the song That’s Amore. Rather than labour the point, once the format was established, he let the audience suggest alternative lines, which ended up going off at a nice tangent when he received a very middle class suggestion. This was fun and helped the room to become engaged with his set. This was then followed by a medley of songs and comedy which the room enjoyed, the standout being Rainbow, which was a definite crowd pleaser.
Pugh was the headliner and he is a quality act. He has splendid material, unexpected reveals and a smooth delivery. I’ve not seen him that much recently and it was easy to spot the improvements to his set. This was a very good performance.