Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 18th March 2016

Screaming Blue MurderWe’ve been a bit on-off with our Screaming Blue attendances this season, as other juicy sounding shows had been up for sale before the Screaming Blue dates were announced. But at least we were free for this one. Unfortunately, our regular host Dan obviously wasn’t, and we were treated to a replacement host for the night in the shape of Mr James Sherwood, whom we’d seen once before and enjoyed his act.

James SherwoodIt’s the task of the compere to get us punters nicely warmed up for the first act. Unfortunately, no matter which tack Mr Sherwood took, it ended up as a dead end. We weren’t particularly responsive as a group, and his questioning line of “who’s had a nice day” just didn’t elicit the right kind of engagement. Things took a turn hugely for the better between the first and second acts though, when he reverted to his usual act and simply sat at the keyboard and played funny songs from a grammatically pedantic point of view. That was great. He also attempted some political humour, but we didn’t bite – we don’t normally do political humour here in Northampton. That said, simply mentioning the words “Michael Gove” isn’t really political humour.

Caroline MabeySo, on to our acts proper. First up, and new to us, was Caroline Mabey. She was at a disadvantage because at that stage we weren’t properly warmed up, but she seemed bright and breezy enough. Somehow, somewhere into the act we all realised that it wasn’t quite working, but Caroline kept on with gritty determination to get through it as best she could. I think the problem was that she adopts an “I’m mad, me!” type of persona but I don’t think that’s really who she is, so it comes over as rather forced instead of natural. Her voice and mannerisms are those of the bastard love child of Mel Giedroyc and Frankie Howerd, and I wouldn’t see that relationship ever getting off the ground. It was all a bit painful but we all got through it in the end.

Peter BrushSecond act, and also new to us, was Peter Brush. A complete opposite to Caroline in many respects, because he too adopted a persona – that of a nerdy fish out of water – but you completely believed that that’s exactly how he is in real life. He paced his act beautifully, mined each moment for its full laughter quotient and above all had some marvellous material. With a surname like that, he must have been called “Daft-as-a” at school.

Jonny AwsumFinal act, and someone we had seen once before, was Jonny Awsum. He was very good then but this time he completely smashed it, as common parlance would have it. He just comes out on stage and the mere sight of him makes you happy. His mix of comedy and music works brilliantly, and you are powerless to resist joining in and making silly noises to accompany his songs. It would be too much to hope that he really does rejoice in the surname “Awsum”.

What started a little shakily ended up being fantastic. Enormous fun – and still a few more gigs to go this Spring!

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