The Saracen’s Head – Nick Page, Lukas Kirkby, George Lewis and Alun Cochrane

Tonight I was in Southwell for the Funhouse Comedy gig at the Saracen’s Head. This is a pretty big room that consistently sells out to a polite and mature comedy savvy crowd. Spiky Mike had a great night compering, chatting to Tony who was renovating a house, getting a big laugh for his comment to Beth about her keeping back some of the uniform samples that she was a buyer of and topping a witty reply of another Mike who claimed that he couldn’t close his legs, with the word ‘arthritis’.

Nick Page

Page is one of my favourite acts, but it’s been a while since I’d last seen him. In the meantime, he’s won the English Comedian of the Year contest and has had a fantastic run on Britain’s Got Talent, so I was especially interested in seeing him perform. Nick is a superb writer and all of his routines have a lovely internal logic to them, which he then takes to its ultimate conclusion, hoovering up big laughs along the way. The topics he discussed were all seen from unique angles and this made his material even stronger. Tonight he spoke about cats, politics, Christmas, cycling, bell ringing, meals arriving on things other than plates (a hell of a lot of sympathy for this from the audience), planning applications and saving the environment. A lot of this material was new to me and it was very impressive. There were some great lines in this set, such as plank and warlord, which both stood out. Page delivers his material at a nice steady pace, with a cynical air and this works wonderfully. This was a cracking set that I’d have liked to have seen more of.

Lukas Kirkby

I’d last seen Kirkby only a few weeks ago where he had been doing a great job of compering at the New Barrack Tavern and so it was nice to see him do a set. Kirkby is a good singer and he made skilled use of this by giving the room three cleverly written parody songs interspersed with some decent jokes. The first song is maths related and whilst it isn’t immediately punchy it only took a verse before everybody was onboard and into it. The second song is fantastic and I had a lovely thrill of anticipation, because I knew what was coming and my parents, sat next to me, didn’t. It’s great when you know that there is a real treat on the way and can sit back and enjoy people’s reaction to it. This second song featured Paula Radcliffe and it is incredibly funny (my mum laughing heartily to it made my night all the better). Getting the audience to join in on the final line was an inspired act by Lukas. The opening line of the third song, by an amazing coincidence, made it sound as if it had been written especially for the night, because there can’t be many places with a minster in England. This final song was another gem that had the room filled with laughter. This was a set that the audience adored and I think it fair to say that Kirkby smashed it.

George Lewis

Lewis opened well by explaining that having Southwell Saracen’s written in his diary had made him think that he was playing a sports club. This got everyone onside very quickly, as anything that can be tied in to a particular gig without using a crowbar and is also funny is always welcome. There were a lot of good routines in this set, such as his girlfriend and also the massage, which built up very nicely indeed. It was nice to see Lewis get applause for the misheard present, but I did think that tax avoider deserved a bigger laugh than it received. There was quite a lot of misdirection jokes in this set. Probably 7-8, but as they were spread out over twenty minutes or so they didn’t overshadow the rest of the set, although I think a few more and people may have begun to try to play at spotting the twist. Lewis had a very pleasant delivery. He looked cheerful and happy, which came over well and the audience responded in the same way. I also liked his habit of occasionally chuckling at a line and also his practice of flashing a quick smile at the room. This was appealing and helped to create a congenial atmosphere. The closing routine, the rap, was very well thought out and tied together his set nicely, giving a strong conclusion to what had been a good set.

Alun Cochrane

I’ve seen Cochrane a couple of times, but not at all recently and so this was a nice bonus to what had already been a great night. Cochrane is an experienced act and he is smart enough to do a spot of homework before stepping onto the stage. He had plenty of references to the demographic of the audience and had enough knowledge of what had been said before he had arrived at the gig to work in some clever callbacks to them. This helped to make the show feel bigger than the sum of its parts. Cochrane is a low energy, laid back comedian, who utilises long set ups. This can be a challenging combination, but with powerful writing, the result is splendid and Cochrane had reveals that landed like hammer blows. Dedications made for a pleasing callback, religion was made fun, knife was timely and the warnings on railways was excellent. This was a strong set.

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