Discussions on the Derngate Theatre, Northampton
Alan Davies – Life is Pain
The thing about reviewing an event for me is to try to recapture the essence of what you were expecting and what you experienced. Well, as someone who doesn’t watch Qi on TV I haven’t really followed Alan Davies since he was the magician’s assistant in Jonathan Creek. He seems a genuinely nice guy and so we booked our tickets.
A bit scarey really because we were only 5 rows from the front and Jane was in an aisle seat so she could stretch her gammy leg out but we needn’t have worried because he didn’t really pick on anyone unless they were asking for it, and he didn’t embarrass anyone, except the woman who got up half way through the first session to go to the toilet. Didn’t she have any control?
On to the comedy – it was brilliant!!! The first half flew by and there weren’t many minutes when we were not laughing. For the first part he just talked to people about where they’d come from, the problems they had getting there, especially for the late-comers. His humorous story telling was excellent. By definition (Raconteur – a person who is skilled in relating stories and anecdotes interestingly) he is a master raconteur and so, so funny (that’s not “so so” as in dodgy but as in “extremely”).
In conclusion it was an excellent night and highly recommended.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
We went to see the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy Radio Show on stage at the Derngate Theatre. What’s this you say, a radio show live on stage? And well you might ask because we didn’t know what to expect but as keen followers of The Guide we just had to see it.
Well it was brilliant! A live band introduced the programme by playing a medley of sci fi tunes which were excellent. Amongst them was a Pink Floyd track (can’t recall the title) which was one of my favourite tracks when I was at college and it would just fill my room for hours, or at least that’s how I remember it.
Anyway back to the performance – the original radio broadcast actors came on stage and read through the whole series with help from puppeteers who came on and were the Vogans. The star of the show for me was Marvin the paranoid Android. He sums up life, the universe and everything so well.
We came away knowing that Douglas Adams was a genius. We can only guess what he might have come up with next if he had lived a little longer.
Stewart Francis – Outstanding in his Field
We went to see Stewart Francis at the Derngate on Saturday night (12th May). We loved his one liners on Mock the Week and we wondered if he could hold an audience for an hour. We needn’t have worried because he just kept them coming. He has a a terrific ability to play with words and deliver a peculiar view of the world. We were laughing out loud for most of the time and if we didn’t laugh it was because he moved on so quickly we hadn’t registered the joke.
With so many jokes it is nigh on impossible to remember them all but a couple we do recall was his story about being a member of the Canadian Dyslexic Society, the BFG. They had an international convention in Mali however half the attendees went to Lima and he finished up in Albuquerque. Another joke involved him looking up the meaning of the word digress in the dictionary and he then proceeded to go off subject never to return until about twenty minutes later.
It was a great evening.
Chris Addison –
We went to see Chris Addison (Mock the Week) on 23rd February. We arrived at the venue with ten minutes to spare only to be told the time on the ticket was wrong and we had to wait for over twenty minutes before being allowed in to take our seats, not a good start.
Thankfully Chris Addison came on and announced that he was his own warm up so we were in for quite a night. In the first half he appeared to be overdosing on adrenalin with some of his humorous comments being lost in asides to himself. He lived up to his reputation of being a middle class comedian who takes the piss out of his own class and hates the coalition government with a vengeance. Such phrases as – “I hate the Tories, they are scum” shortly after chastising Cameron for his sexism and suggesting he’s worse than the cartoon stereotype of Silvio Berlusconi who, nudge, nudge “genuinely tried to get young people into politics.” He muses on the recent riots and likens the TV coverage to a new drama series, filmed over three nights and featuring different cities, cleverly poking fun at his own middle class views and perceptions. Chris links each of his themes together in a way that often appears chaotic and unscripted, interspersed with moments of giggling at his own comments. It seems he has rambled off into a completely unrelated topic, and you can wonder where this is going, but he always draws the strands together and delivers on the punch line.
If there’s one criticism that I have is that he kept balancing his ascerbic wit with a softening tale an example would be his decrying of the Royal Family only to then say how much he enjoyed the humour displayed by Prince Philip. His material shows a great comic and observational talent, so that even when he is saying things that are controversial, the audience can’t help but laugh and to some extent agree with his views. He then goes on to discuss how views are often established whilst very young and cemented in by the choice of paper or media you decide to read or listen too. The message is very profound and delivered in a charming style often poking fun at himself and his beliefs.
We enjoyed the evening tremendously.
Basket Case – This was a simple comedy drama with light laughs and no depth. It had all the feel of a 1980s television sitcom however this is no longer the 1980s and even if it was it wouldn’t have a long run.
There were a few laughs but mainly from the excellent support. David Cardy as Guy’s best friend, James, made the comedy look effortless and had the best lines while Graham Seed, as devoted but dull vet Martin, proved the perfect straight-man. Meanwhile the star, shockingly dressed in an ill-fitting navy jacket, black trousers and white trainers (who was responsible for this fashion faux pas? He looked like he had raided the dressing up box in the dark) seemed nervous and ill at ease throughout.
Steve was disappointed but Jane said it met her expectations and on reflection Steve’s disappointment was because he has become used to the depth of thought that went into many of the events we saw at the Edinburgh Festival.
Stephen Merchant – went to see him at the Derngate last night and I think he was the best one man comedy show I have ever seen. Throughout the public success of BBC’s The Office, Ricky Gervais took centre stage however it is very apparent from Stephen Merchant’s show that he is in fact the wordsmith and Gervais is the performer. It’s like the puppet master comes out from behind the curtain and shows all of his skills in terms of brilliant story telling, precise comedic timing and maintaining a thread of several stories running throughout the evening.
He does find a lot of his comedy in his height (6 feet 7 inches); he also plays on his apparent geekiness and a certain meaness with money that he refers to being careful.
There were several occasions when I hadn’t finished laughing at the previous humourour epithet before he’s cracked open another storyline. The time just flew by and he left his audience, especially me, wanting more but like all brilliant performers he left the stage on a high.
I’d be interested from anyone else who shared the experience…
I also saw this show and it was very good. From a PR point of view I think it was a good idea for Merchant (or Millet as the press sometimes refer to him as) to do his own thing, as from working with Gervais and Pilkington he can get lost – especially in the chemistry the other 2 have on the podcasts. This show proved that he brings a lot to the Gervais table.
In terms of the show itself – his self depreciation and ability to laugh at himself was at the heart of it. I also thought his warm up act was excellent, must be a brave decision to have someone so good up front.
We went to see Yes Prime Minister last Thursday and after a slow start the players came alive. It has been brought up to date with recent events and dilemmas so it was still very relevant. Of course it supports our views of central government civil servants and politicians; the lengths they will go to preserve their jobs or positions of power. It was extremely funny and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
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