Hurrah! Welcome back Screaming Blue Murder season! We’ve missed you. Where else can you get three incredible acts, two wonderful intervals, and a jolly jackanapes of a host all for £11.50 (provided you’re a friend of the Royal & Derngate, which of course you should be anyway). Our host was the inimitable Mr Dan Evans, who has an unbeatable ability to warm us up with anything between some gentle teasing and outrageous insults. He still seems a little sore at my comments (somewhat historical now) about reusing old jokes, but he does come back each week with fresh material, which I for one definitely appreciate and he’s always a joy to watch.
We normally like to sit close-ish to the stage, but not so close that you’re in danger of being picked on by one of the comics. Four rows back, on the central aisle, is just perfect. However, since Mrs Chrisparkle and I went to Edinburgh this summer and ended up at the front in many comic shows and revues, being an unwitting part of the act now holds little fear for us. Paul Ricketts called me a “silver fox” (ready for a care home); Paul Savage had me standing in front of the crowd reciting love poems from the Song of Solomon to Mrs C in the audience; James Loveridge and the Spank! team probed into our relationship and pet names for each other; we danced with Russell Grant; and we were teased by New Zealand’s Mika. Our former role of being a shy, retiring audience member is now a thing of the past, and sitting at the front has become more attractive a prospect. However, for Screaming Blue Murder we were accompanied by My Lady Duncansby who would sooner sit out on the street in the rain than risk being talked to in the front row; so we took our usual four-rows-back place, in (apparently) safe contentment. However, no one else took the seats in the second and third rows in front of us – so you can guess what happened.
Cue the first act, Craig Murray, new to us, and whose act is very much based on getting into conversations with the crowd. It wasn’t long before he had eyeballed me and I knew the game was up. Not just idle conversation; he wanted my name, how long we’d been married, how and where we met, whether it was love at first sight, etc, etc and etc. Only one thing you can do under those circumstances – jump in feet first and go with it. His responses to what I’ve always thought were our perfectly mundane circumstances of meeting made me sound like a creepy stalker, had Mrs C in the role of Scouse car-parker and Lady D as a bitter and twisted control freak. (Well, she shouldn’t have interrupted). It’s like he knew us intimately. But seriously, his is a really good act, with terrific observations about relationships, confident delivery, great timing and very funny material.
Next up was Juliet Meyers, who we’ve seen twice before. The first time we saw her she really nailed her material and she was fantastic. The second time, she seemed to be off the boil somewhat and it never quite hit home. This time, she was again slightly under par but still good; she still likes to assess her audience with an early use of the “c” word – and it seems to me that the more we laugh at that, the more relaxed she becomes, and the more successfully the act as a whole develops. She’s a bright, in your face, likeable, attacking comic and, for the most part, her material went down well.
Last act was Mitch Benn, who we’ve never seen but of whom I’d definitely heard. He’s a man with a guitar and a lot of pluck, which is a useful combination. He did a song about Eurovision to which I bridled instinctively because no comedian is ever going to say anything complimentary about our blessed contest; but in fact it turned into a very clever and funny song about xenophobia, which not only insulted every country throughout Europe but also turned the prejudice on the singer – so that worked well. He had a tender little song that explains how men’s grunts and bodily function noises may be translated into terms of affection; and another that was an homage to the Very Hungry Caterpillar. With very good material, he kept the atmosphere very lively and the audience were loud and enthusiastic in their appreciation.
Quite a good turn-out but we could definitely do better. You must come to the next one!