NCF Canal House – Harvey Hawkins, Kathryn Mather, Tony Cowards, Adam Beardsmore, Mike Hilton, Colin Havey, James Crawley and Demitris Deech (MC)

Tonight I was in Nottingham at the Canal House for the NCF £1 night. Numbers weren’t bad, although unfortunately we were missing Katie Mitchell on sounds, but Sarah stepped in to assist Helen with the door. The bill was a mix of acts that were new to me, including a chap on his first ever gig, some acts that I haven’t seen much of and really wanted to see more of and experienced acts doing new material, all held together by our compere, Demitris Deech.

Demitris Deech (MC)

Deech made a good first impression with his cheerful demeanour and buoyant energy. He took to the stage and explained his role in proceedings and how the night would work. He is a man with sharp hearing and was able to make out a whisper that came from the fourth row. This was a lady called Red, who worked in CIS and he had a lot of fun in asking her about her job and the most fluid found at a crime scene. This provided great background for the comedians to work into their sets. He had a chat with a few people and kept it light hearted and tight before bringing on the first act. I was surprised that Deech did a fair bit between the first two acts, as I thought that the room didn’t need any extra compering at this point, but this was an unusual one off. For the second and third sessions Deech largely stayed with material and good material it was. He didn’t use anything too time consuming or deep, but kept things happy with his topics. This was enjoyable compering.

Harvey Hawkins

Hawkins is a strong act whom I don’t seem to see a great deal of, so his being on the bill was a bonus. He began with a serious sounding routine and this drew everyone in. The punchline landed with a bang and there was a huge laugh. Even better, though, was that this teed up his next joke very nicely, indeed. This was a set that flowed logically through the various topics. I thought Hawkins’ twist on ‘tell you a bit about me’ was absolutely splendid, even if the first one did perhaps edge a little bit towards being an insider joke and the two related gags were even funnier. There was a tremendous moment when Hawkins worked in a beautiful callback to Red whom Deech had discovered during his compering and Harvey further showed off his mental agility, when without missing a beat, he incorporated someone sneezing loudly into a routine. This was a great performance.

Kathryn Mather

I’d only seen Mather once before at the Kayal and I was impressed with what I saw then, so I was pretty chuffed to have the chance to see more of tonight. Her delivery is very downbeat in style, but this comes across as naturalistic, rather than forced. There was the odd ‘fucking’ included in her sentences, which I didn’t think she needed as it didn’t add any extra force to what she was saying, but on the other hand it didn’t hurt it, either – they were just extra words that she could have used more creatively. The material was well written and it had a fresh feel to it. No one else is doing anything on welding or shipping losses and so this was a welcome change. The topper on putting up shelves was great. The idea of farms and fox hunting probably stretched the premise of that particular routine a little bit far, but that was no big deal. The closing routine, however, was comparatively the weakest of what she had to offer. It was still decent, but I thought it not as powerful as the rest of her material. This was an enjoyable set from an act that I’d like to see more often.

Tony Cowards

We resumed after the intermission with Cowards, who was trying out some new material. Cowards’ moving up here is a real bonus. Not only is a totally smashing chap to know, but I’m getting to see a lot more of him performing. He hit the ground running with some quick gags and then experimented with the new material. It was lovely seeing the young lawyer sat on the front row explaining some of these to his partner. The jokes were of a good quality, however, Basin would work better as a visual gag and possibly the same with Hawaii; verbally they were good, but not really up to what you’d expect from Tony. Jeffery Archer was one that split the room between those who know he is a terrible hack author and those who have been lucky enough not to have ever read one, but I’m damned if I can think of an alternative famously bad author that ticks more demographics. There were a few jokes that didn’t land as well as they should, but these all required a little bit more general knowledge than the others and in front of a different audience there is no reason why they shouldn’t work well. My personal favourite was garden centre, which was gloriously daft. In a nice touch one of the audience members asked Deech to repeat Tony’s name, so it looks like she will be looking out for him in the future.

Adam Beardsmore

I only saw Adam last night, but it was no hardship seeing him two nights in a row. Last night, he opened and as is usual in these circumstances it was a tough slot to fill. Tonight he had a far better night with largely the same material and this was nice to see. The most promising aspect of this performance was that although only 24 hours had passed, Beardsmore had worked on his material and improved it. The Lush bath bomb was great substitution for foam. I was very happy with how Adam chatted to the audience and worked the room into his material. He did well to bring in things that had been said earlier during the night, but I do suspect that there won’t be many people sat on the front row to whom he can address ‘bukkake muffin’ to and mores the shame, as it got a huge laugh.

Mike Hilton

One of the nice things about NCF is that they are always happy to give people a chance to have their first go at comedy and every so often there will be someone doing their first ever set. Tonight it was Mike Hilton who was doing his first and possibly only performance. Everyone has to start somewhere and no one expects a first timer to be as good as Nick Page, but this was pretty catastrophically bad by anyone’s reckoning. I could live with Hilton holding the mic too low (around belly button height) as that’s an easy mistake for someone to make in the adrenalin rush. Similarly, coming to stage with a load of notes in his hands and mixing reading from them with frantically searching for what he had to say next isn’t ideal, but for a first timer, it’s forgivable. The palpable sense that he’s not prepared for the show is less than ideal, though. However, the biggest problem was that his material was terrible. I’m buggered if I can see how even on the most optimistic read through it could be deemed promising. Hilton began with a list of things that piss him off and it was just that. There wasn’t anything intrinsically funny in the list, it was just standard moans that you’d see on a tedious facebook feed, such as having to get up. There wasn’t anything in it to add humour, no clever or not so clever twists – it was just a list of standard gripes. This was followed by a lengthy routine about breeding on an alien planet and I’m pretty sure he accidentally read out the same set of notes two or maybe three times, as he seemed to repeat sections of it, much to the mystification of the audience. I lost track of what he was saying, but then I was struggling to remain focussed on it and I was slightly distracted by Helen, who had come to the front of the stage to flash him off. Hilton got laughter, but this was pretty much incidental to anything he was actually saying and was a mix of nervous laughter and the more unpleasant kind when you are watching a car crash of a set. However, being positive, the best thing about this performance for Hilton is that from here, the only way from is up.

Colin Havey

Performing whilst suffering from a heavy cold must be a bit of a nightmare, but Havey made a good job of it. He opened with a bit of room work and returned to this throughout his set and I wasn’t surprised as he seemed to be particularly on the ball with this and it made me want to see him compere gigs. The material was largely job related and held together well, with a big laugh on ‘dad’. Knob head at work is a great premise and the build up is very amiable, but the pay off could do with strengthening. The order of the works material may benefit from a rethink, as Colin moved from call centre to warehouse and back a few times and perhaps having one occupation dealt with before moving to the other would work that little bit better. The closing routine about the glasses was particularly good and the suit you line a beauty. Despite the cold, Havey’s delivery was sound. There were a few ‘rights’, but I was probably the only person to notice. Interestingly Havey resembled Alfie Moore as whilst he was talking he was performing small lunges as he took a step forwards with one leg and then semi-crouched. This made for an odd visual, but didn’t detract from his performance. I and the rest of the room enjoyed this performance and I’d like to see more of Havey.

James Crawley

Crawley has only been gigging for ten months, but you wouldn’t have guessed that from his set. He opened with some timely material about snow, before moving onto ‘Millennial Monopoly’, which was a very good routine – the chance and community chest cards and parking were superb lines. The pub quiz was a fairly lengthy routine, but the final reveal more than made it worth it. Crawley had a quietly confident presence on stage and his delivery reflected that. My only quibbles with his performance was that his delivery seemed to plateau and there was no sense that he was building to a big finish and indeed, his set didn’t have the big closing routing that it deserved. However, there was a lot to like about what I saw and I’ll be very interested to see where Crawley stands by the end of the year.

Scott Bennett

Last night I saw Andrew Bird and tonight it was Scott Bennett – two comedians who are absolutely top notch and that has made this a really nice week for me. Tonight Scott was polishing new material and it was a pleasure to spot the improvements. As a great bonus there was an expanded section about daycare. Cardigan was a lovely extra line, baby monitor was pacier and daycare gives Bennett a chance for some physical actions on stage and these really brought the set to life. At one point Scott had to pause the set and ask a lady if she was ok, because she was laughing so much. When someone is laughing that hard it is a real tribute to the skill of the act. This was a great ending to the night.

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3 thoughts on “NCF Canal House – Harvey Hawkins, Kathryn Mather, Tony Cowards, Adam Beardsmore, Mike Hilton, Colin Havey, James Crawley and Demitris Deech (MC)

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