Monday, 18 February 2013

FESTIVAL DIARY DAY 11 - Kearns dazzles between afternoon bromance and evening darkness

What a beautiful day it was yesterday - the sun was beaming down, it wasn't bone-chillingly cold or depressingly wet - why, it almost felt like spring was in the air. So, full of seasonal optimism, I decided to leave the bike at home for once and take a leisurely afternoon stroll down to Kayal, to see Scott Bennett & Phil Pagett perform their show True Bromance.

Just good friends  - Phil Pagett & Scott Bennett
Basically the show consisted of both perfomers doing twenty minutes or so of their own stand-up, linked together by small sections with the pair onstage talking about the friendship that has blossomed between them over several years on the circuit together - aww, sounds really sweet doesn't it? Well, actually, it was quite a filthy show for such an early an afternoon slot, especially considering there were a handful of young kids in the audience (but to be fair they didn't really get a lot of the naughtier jokes anyway). Scott's spot was typically entertaining, as he recounted the delightful tale of how his father soiled himself at the beach, and kept the audience laughing with plenty of material based on the thriftiness of Yorkshiremen. Yes, this is a pretty oft-used stereotype, but Bennett gets away with it by being a) from Yorkshire himself; b) very likeable, and crucially c) funny. His account of his Dad's competitive approach to carveries was excellent, as was his idea for a Yorkshire version of Babestation, where guys ring up and get turned on by hearing other Yorkshiremen recounting the bargains they've found recently.
Phil Pagett was something of a contrast, offering a hit-and-miss selection of one-liners, which drew either ripples of laughter as the audience got the jokes in their own time, or wryly-amused groans - either at the standard of the pun, or the filthiness of the joke (for there were plenty of gags of a naughty or downright wrong nature). Lovely clean family Sunday afternoon fun then. Also worth mentioning was the middle section in which the pair treated us to some of the out-takes from the photo session to promote the show - managing to squeeze lots of laughs out of their ridiculous homo-erotic poses and curious facial expressions. Overall a pretty amusing start to the day.

The walk back home was less pleasant, as it had become noticeably colder and windier, and I found myself remembering that I was still ill, grimacing all the way home and wishing I'd brought a better hat and some gloves out with me. By the time I got home, all I wanted to do was collapse under a blanket for several hours, so that's exactly what I did, which sadly meant missing the Tickled Pig line-up at the Cookie (it was jolly good by all accounts).

Bizarre and brilliant - John Kearns
Some hours later, suitably rested and dosed up, I ventured back out having donned fleece, wind-proof jacket, fuzzy hat and thick gloves, to see John Kearns at the Cookie Jar, and my goodness what a show it was... There is a lot of 'buzz' around this performer at the moment, and last night's show proved why, as the under-capacity room was treated to one of the most bizarre and brilliant hours of comedy I've ever witnessed. Kearns, by his own admission, is one of those acts who simply has to perform, in order to let out all the craziness buzzing around his head and stop him from going utterly loopy. And craziness there was, by the bucketload. From the moment he walked on slowly to Rawhide-style music wearing an inflatable horse (which was not inflated), a monk wig underneath an 'Old West prospector'-style hat, his trademark thick-rimmed glasses and a set of novelty buck-teeth, you knew you were in for an hour of ridiculousness. His clownish appearance often meant that laughs came from the slightest look or movement during the quieter sections of the show, yet during the more high-energy parts, particularly the musical numbers, he could appear terrifying simply by singing with slightly too much intensity and a truly unhinged look in his eyes - you physically have to laugh to overcome the fear that he might snap at any moment and do something thoroughly horrific. It wasn't all clowning, however. There was some actual material in there, most of it centred around loneliness, but the absurdity with which he presents his observations and the general silliness of his voice and appearance meant that even when he becomes low and downtrodden on stage, he is still producing uncontrollable giggling from the audience. In fact, there is so much going on in his performance at any one moment, that I'm really finding it quite difficult to sum it up in easily digestible English sentences. Suffice to say here is a man whose commitment to silliness saw him keep the novelty buck teeth in for a full hour (despite the fact they kept shooting out of his mouth mid-sentence), and only removed his deflated horse in order to strip off and put on a dress and blonde wig for the final musical number - which saw every audience member standing behind their chair thrusting back and forth, depicting an act I'm not prepared to talk about on here. I was amazed to discover at the end of the show that it had been his first ever full solo hour on stage, and he seemed truly humbled by both the experience and the huge reaction he received at he end - the applause and cries of "More!" ringing out for quite some time. I'm guessing he'll be taking this show to Edinburgh in August, and I will be very surprised indeed if it doesn't create some pretty big shockwaves amongst the alternative scene.

Comedian in the dark - David Morgan
Not for the first time in this festival, I left the venue with the distinct feeling that my brain had been rewired, but luckily I had just under an hour to reset my synapses and head over to Comedy in the Dark at Phoenix Square. Not knowing who was going to be (dis)appearing or what it would be like experiencing live comedy without the visual aspect, made for an exciting prospect. Well, never having been troubled by the dark, I found it quite a pleasant experience to be able to rest my eyes during the show, and most acts performed their regular material without really playing around much with the format, so often it was vaguely akin to listening to a stand-up podcast with your eyes closed, but one that you could interact with. Host David Morgan performed mostly in the light, with material about how 'un-special' it is being gay these days and some entertaining chats with audience members, who all seemed to be teachers for some reason. He introduced three acts, each of whom performed 30 seconds before the lights went down, with the rest of their set taking place in total darkness. Glaswegian Davey Connor got proceedings off to a good start with some well-written, very dark-edged material (highly appropriate I suppose), which kept the crowd laughing but didn't really exploit the darkness at all. Mads Brynnum's spot relied heavily on outdated gender stereotypes but there were a few great punchlines in there, and he surprised us all when the lights came back on by having undressed during the course of his set. And then came the headliner, who was introduced as being "a bit special, a bit odd, coming straight from his hour show at the Cookie"... yes it was John Kearns again, wearing the same deflated horse and buck teeth as before, but with a different wig this time. So here was a chance to see if his act worked as well when you couldn't see his ridiculous get-up. The answer was a resounding yes. As soon as the lights went down he launched straight into a couple of silent impressions - obviously pointless in the pitch black room - then performed a few of the less abstract bits from his hour show, and took full advantage of the darkness (and his slightly unhinged persona) by leaving the stage to hunt down a heckler, hilariously asking him to help by describing what his face feels like. This audience invasion was met with fear and laughter in equal measures, and he even managed a spot of pitch-black slapstick by walking into the mic stand when he finally returned to the stage. The lights eventually came up, signifying the end of the spot, but Kearns was not willing to stop, now taking advantage of the light to badger various audience members until he was satisfied he wasn't going to find any interesting ones and finally leaving the stage ten minutes after the scheduled end of the show. Overall an interesting and worthwhile experience - as with any mixed bill, its success depends on which comics are appearing, and in this case whether they choose to simply stay on stage and perform their material, or indulge their mischievous side and start creating havoc in the darkness. Tonight they seemed to get the mixture just right.

That's all from me today. Tonight I'm heading to the Belmont for a double-header of 'work in progress' shows from James Acaster and David Trent. Elsewhere, you can see Andrew Lawrence, Ian Stirling, Aaron Twitchen, Joey Page, Paul Savage, Romesh Ranganathan, the Coin-Operated Girl etc, etc, you know the score... see you tomorrow!

1 comment: