Two years ago to this very day, I saw Peter Brush performing Older than the Oldest Dog that ever lived in Buxton (thanks Facebook memories) and so it was somewhat ironic that I would be travelling up to the New Barrack Tavern in Sheffield to see him perform his new show today. I really like the NBT, but it is a venue that I consistently under estimate how long it takes to get to. Rather than the 30 minutes or so I think it takes, it is more like 45 minutes away and the extra 15 minutes I gave myself swiftly evaporated following traffic jams and me coming off the M1 a junction early (usually I come off a junction late and have to double back) and then having to work out how to get there from somewhere I didn’t expect to be. The result of all of these shenanigans was unsurprisingly, but still annoyingly, me arriving 10 minutes into Brush’s show.
Usually the comedy at the NBT is inside in a fairly compact room that generates a huge atmosphere, but the all-dayers take place in the garden, which is a lovely setting for comedy on a sunny day – especially as I was sat in shade. The energy levels were set to relaxed, as people sipped their pints and lapped up the comedy.
I walked in just as Brush was condemning Isis. Brush is quite an understated deliver of lines. He doesn’t raise his voice, or jump about on stage. He simply doesn’t need to to get the most out of his material. He lets the quality of the writing do the heavy work and his more than gentle opprobrium for Isis worked all the better for it. I was massively impressed with his comments about their facebook page, these were brilliant. When it came to talking about ‘so called’ I did wonder where he was going to go with that, as I’ve heard more than a few versions of it, but his variant was nicely creative and in-keeping with his stage persona. The routine about Halloween was nicely charming and with a lot of his material, set the scene for some charming callbacks later in the show. The messages received in the afterlife was good, but I was surprised that the accident didn’t get a bigger response, as this was a superb joke. The same could be said about the tanned chicken line, which also deserved more. However, Brush was most certainly right about CCTV and miracles being more clever than funny, but I think that a creative example to illustrate the point might be able to adjust that. The Yorkshire thought section was notably strong and I can see that travelling very well as Yorkshire is almost shorthand for the North and there is plenty for those down south to buy into, too. The notion about buying art was a great premise, and as with everything in this show, well considered and logical. It was nice to see Corbyn getting a bit of a ribbing during this show, because as much as I like the man, he has had too much of a free pass from comedians and so being the butt of a joke is overdue.
Brush is a low energy performer, but frankly his cerebral material would seem odd if it were delivered by an high energy act. It’s nice to hear his precise diction, with no erms or hums and this helps to reinforce the intelligent nature of the work. There are quite long set ups that are pretty wordy and in any other comic I’d probably believe that they would work better edited down for more punch. However, with Brush it’s not only obvious that the reveal is going to be worth the build, but I enjoy listening to him outlining a scenario, even if it is the (when you think about it) depressing tale of Laika. Brush reminded me a bit of Stewart Lee (personally, I think that Lee is overrated and Brush is under appreciated); as every so often following his delivery of a joke he would dissect it, explaining why it was funny, or why it should have received a better laugh. It was interesting to see the craft behind the jokes.
This was an enjoyable show, but slightly worryingly for mid July, it still had the feel of a work in progress, but I’m fully confident that Brush will have it settled in time for Edinburgh. The theme of the show seemed to hang quite loosely and there didn’t seem to be a heavy narrative arc to it, either, but this is no bad thing. There are too many shows that prioritise the story over being funny and I’d much rather take humour over a narrative. This is something that can be enjoyed for what it is – 50 minutes of well written and funny entertainment and I’d urge anyone up there to pop along to the Labyrinth at 12.50 to see it.