Review – Des O’Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck Live, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 17th September 2017

Des O'Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck LiveWhen I saw these two legendary names were appearing together on stage I had absolutely no hesitation in booking straight away. They were among the very first famous people I ever saw on stage as a child. Jimmy Tarbuck played Jack in the London Palladium pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk back in Christmas 1968 – New Year 1969; it was my first visit to a London theatre and my first ever pantomime. The Dowager Mrs Chrisparkle couldn’t wait to get me in the front stalls to see how I’d react to the Palladium environment (which she adored) – verdict, I loved it. But, even earlier, in the summer of 1967, I was taken to my first ever professional stage show; on holiday in Bournemouth, the 7-year-old me had a seat to see Showtime at the Pavilion Theatre, featuring Kenneth McKellar, Jack Douglas and starring – you guessed it – Des O’Connor.

Jack and the Beanstalk 1969 castI’d seen Des O’Connor live just once since then, when I took a young female friend (in the days before Mrs Chrisparkle, c. 1984) to see a recording of Gloria Hunniford’s TV chat show Sunday Sunday – it used to air on Sundays, I kid you not. Amongst the guests was Mr O’Connor. At one point all the lights blew and they had to stop the recording for about twenty minutes. Gloria Hunniford retreated into her shell and wouldn’t make eye contact with the audience. Des O’Connor, on the other hand, got up and did twenty minutes stand-up off the top of his head, and, let me assure you gentle reader, he was absolutely on fire! From that moment, I’ve always had immense respect for him.

Des O'Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck 1I’d not seen Jimmy Tarbuck on stage since that panto, and of course it’s been many years since he’s been a regular on TV; so I was very interested to see how he’s progressed, the young feller-me-lad. Well, I can report that he’s doing very well indeed. He’s 77, but looking at him you wouldn’t place him older than his mid-fifties. He still has that irrepressible cheekiness, a very nice line in occasional self-deprecation, natural confidence and authority, and absolutely immaculate comic timing. It’s true; some of his material isn’t very 21st century. Whilst Mrs C was pleased to note the total absence of mother-in-law jokes, they had been replaced by “ugly women” jokes. To be fair, they were often very funny.

Des O'Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck 4Mr Tarbuck (hereinafter Tarby) still uses that classic structure for many of his showpiece jokes – I mean those that aren’t one-liners. He sets them up with a statement that will end with a certain sequence of words; pause. Then comes another statement, ending with the same sequence of words; another pause, whilst suspense/curiosity/anticipation builds. There might even be a third statement, that ends with the same sequence of words – audience by now making up their own punchlines. Then comes the killer final statement that will take the sequence of words and turn them on their head to potentially devastating comic effect. I remember him doing that in the 70s, and he still does it today – brilliantly.

Des O'Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck 5Mr O’Connor (hereinafter Deso) has quite a close association with our beloved Northampton, as he was evacuated here during the Second World War, worked at Church’s shoes (very posh) and even had a stint playing football for Northampton Town. Today he still has that wicked glint in his eye, and at 85 he can still look down on young Tarby. But he did admit that he wasn’t feeling too well, with an ear infection affecting his balance, and would we mind if he sat down for most of his set; of course not – huge kudos to him for still going on with the show despite his health issue.

Des O'Connor and Jimmy Tarbuck 3I’m going to forgive him for starting the evening with a terrible homophobic joke and put it down to the infirmity of his age, as Regan said of Lear. Moving on, with the aid of a big screen, he reminisced about some of his favourite TV appearances – with Morecambe and Wise (naturally), Rod Hull and Emu, Benny Hill, Bernie Clifton and many more. We sang with him as he accompanied himself on a video of him singing with Neil Diamond (are you still with me?) and bizarrely it worked, as the rafters of the Royal and Derngate rang out to the chorus of Sweet Caroline. Deso also led singalongs to Carole King’s Will You Love Me Tomorrow and Tony Christie’s Is this the way to Amarillo, but, sadly, no Dick-a-Dum-Dum, which I’ve always thought was a truly charming look at Swinging Sixties London. Isn’t always the case that artists never perform your favourite song? It’s an unwritten law of Live Performance.

Des O'Connor and Jimmy TarbuckThere was precious little hesitation in the audience to rise for a standing ovation for these two grand old chaps. For Tarby, he absolutely deserves it for still delivering 45 minutes of cracking stand-up. For Deso, he deserves it in recognition of all the years of happy entertainment he’s provided, even from before I was born. They’re still touring this unique get-together show for a few more dates this year: 7th October in Harlow, 29th October in Reading and 5th November in Newcastle. These young lads deserve your support!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Late’n’Live, 26th August 2017

LatenliveOur very last show in Edinburgh this year is Late’n’Live at the Debating Hall @ Gilded Balloon Teviot at 01:00 in the early hours of the morning of Sunday 27th. Let’s read that last blurb: “’Still the best late night show on the Fringe’ (Scotsman) is back for its 31st year! Different shows every night, but always the same recipe: one hilarious compere, four amazing acts, one incredible band, two hours of dancing and a whole lot of fun… Leave to simmer from 1am–5am and you’ve got yourself ‘the celebrated comedy abattoir that has slain a thousand comics’ (Scotsman). Comperes will include Scott Gibson, John Hastings and many other top names.”

I really can’t see us staying up till 5am. However, I’m sure some people will! We’ll just stay for the one hilarious compere and four amazing acts, whoever they are. Check back sometime after 3 am (or preferably on Sunday morning, or later) to see whether we survived.

If you’ve been following our reckless pursuit of entertainment over the past eight days, thanks very much for your loyalty! If not, I can’t blame you. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!

And we fell at the final hurdle. We already thought that this was going to be A Show Too Far, and so it proved. So rather than watching this show, we’ve treated ourselves to a bottle of shiraz in the hotel bar. Rather a quiet way to end our Fringe week, but the quality has been outstanding. Hope you had fun too!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – James Loveridge: Suspiciously Happy, 26th August 2017

James Loveridge againNext up is another of my favourite comedians, and someone else whom we’ve already seen a few times this week in Spank! and that’s James Loveridge: Suspiciously Happy at Just the Attic @ Just the Tonic at The Mash House at 21:00 on Saturday 26th. Here’s what the blurb has to say: “Despite the world being on the brink of collapse, it’s fair to say James is the happiest he’s ever been. He’s just got engaged, his relationship with his cat has improved (subject to change), now all he has to do is not f*ck it up! Nominated Best Show Edinburgh Fringe, 2016 (Amused Moose). ‘Undoubtedly the best free show that I have seen at the Fringe’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Animated and confident, with a fine sense of timing’ (Steve Bennett, Chortle.co.uk). ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). **** (Skinny). **** (ArtsAwardVoice.com). **** (EdFringeReview.com). **** (FringeBiscuit.co.uk).”

James LoveridgeJames has got a great stage presence and I’m looking forward to an hour of general silliness with the occasional stand back in amazement insight. Check back around 10.15 pm to see how much fun it really was. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

James is so irrepressively happy that it’s impossible not to warm to him and to love his account of how he and his fiancee got together and how they’re preparing for their nuptuals. It’s an hour of sheer goodwill, peppered with brilliant and hilarious stories of how he will inevitably f*ck things up. The comedy gig equivalent of a feelgood movie and highly recommended!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Kev’s Komedy Klub, 26th August 2017

Kevs Komedy KlubFor our last evening in Edinburgh we’ve got four shows of comedy in its various fringey hues. First up is Kev’s Komedy Klub at The Basement @ Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom at 18:15 on Saturday 26th. Here’s the blurb: “Stand-up comedy from the stars and creators of the underground-award winning Festival Fringe hit Kev’s Komedy Kitchen. Each show will feature a special guest headline act. ‘Slickness and sheer talent’ (Time Out). ‘Lively and energetic, instantly likeable’ (WhoDaresGrins.com). ‘An excellent comedian, one of the most underrated comics on the circuit’ (Toby Foster, BBC Sheffield and star of Phoenix Nights). ‘A real treat of understated deadpan humour’ (ThreeWeeks). ‘Engaging and funny’ (QuaysNews.net). ‘Bonafide Funny’ (BroadwayBaby.com).”

Kev's Komedy KitchenKevin Dewsbury is one of my favourite comics whom we only saw a couple of days ago in his Komedy Kitchen and here he is again masterminding an hour of comedy with guests. I’m thinking Will Hutchby will be involved too, but I’m not sure who else. Check back around 7.30 pm to see who else was there and how much we laughed. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

A classic host-and-guest show with Kevin Dewsbury in charge and keeping it lively with some great material – including wrestling holds – and introducing some very funny guests. We had Lee Kyle, who’s spent the last month in a tent, Mark Grimshaw, who reviews trip advisor reviews, and Liam Pickford, with his amazing party trick of telling you some basic facts about your hometown. The hour flew by! 

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Ari Eldjárn: Pardon My Icelandic, 26th August 2017

Ari EldjanWorking on the theory that we choose our Edinburgh shows from those least likely to make it to our home town of Northampton, next up is one of those fascinating gigs that only Edinburgh can offer. Or maybe Rejkjavik, as it’s Ari Eldjárn: Pardon My Icelandic at Banana Skin (Basement) @ Heroes @ Monkey Barrel at 13:40 on Saturday 26th. Let’s read the blurb: “Ari Eldjárn is Iceland’s biggest stand-up comedian. Born and raised in Reykjavík, he debuted as a stand up comic in 2009 with his local comedy group Mið-Ísland, which is the highest selling stand-up act of all time in Iceland. He has done numerous TV specials, performed with the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra and opened up for Ari Shaffir, Bill Burr and Ed Byrne. Pardon my Icelandic is his Edinburgh debut. ‘Very talented comic. An Icelandic treat’ (Jim Gaffigan).”

An Icelandic comedian, who’d have thought it? Well even Icelanders have to laugh sometimes. I’ve seen some of his Youtube routines and they’re very funny. Check back around 3 pm to see if he was as bright as a puffin or as foul as buried cod. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

That was great. Because his material is so different from most of the other comedians we have seen, he really stood out. I loved all the stuff about language differences, Nordic racial stereotypes, and I’ve never heard such a convincing impersonation of an erratic warm air hand dryer. Extremely funny! 

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Spank! 25th August 2017

Abigoliah SchaumaunNow it’s time for our third and final visit to the show that’s one of our annual, must-see events. It’s the irrepressibly brilliant Abigoliah Schamaun and the amazingly wonderful James Loveridge hosting Spank! at Belly Dancer @ Underbelly, Cowgate, at midnight on the night of Friday 25th. Here’s the blurb: “Spank! returns for an incredible 14th year with sexy hosts, awesome comedians and gratuitous nudity. With the most exciting comedy and cabaret on the Fringe, don’t miss the ‘best wild night out’ (Scotland on Sunday) at the festival!”

James LoveridgeWe’re seeing Spank on the Friday night this year because last year’s Saturday show, although excellent, lost a little magic for us because it wasn’t hosted by James and Abigoliah; so I’m definitely hoping they’re still on Friday duty! Check back around 3am (or maybe early on Saturday morning) to see who were the guests, who got naked and how much fun we had. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

Tonight it was hosted by James and Tamar Broadbent and it was an absolute cracker. All the acts were on blistering form, but special mentions to Milo McCabe aka Troy Hawke, Lauren Patterson, Rosie Jones and a sensational climax (if you’ll pardon the expression) from Danny O’Brien. Just the best late night show ever!!

The Edinburgh Fringe One-Weeker 2017 – Dane Baptiste: G.O.D. (Gold. Oil. Drugs.), 25th August 2017

Dane Baptiste GODYet more comedy of the highest order; our next show is Dane Baptiste: G.O.D. (Gold. Oil. Drugs.) at Pleasance Above @ Pleasance Courtyard at 21:00 on Friday 25th. Let’s check that blurb: “Original, provocative and exceptionally prolific, Dane returns to the Fringe with a show about our worldwide pursuit of wealth, power and pleasure. Baptiste made comedy history in 2014 as the first Black British act to be nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award. ‘Observational comedy at its finest’ (Independent). ‘Outstandingly perceptive’ (Scotsman). As seen on Live at the Apollo (BBC Two), Tonight at the London Palladium (ITV1), Mock the Week (BBC Two), Live from the BBC (BBC Two), 8 out of 10 Cats (Channel 4) and his own BBC sitcom, Sunny D.”

Dane BWe’ve seen M. Baptiste (with that surname I always think he should be “Monsieur”) a few times now and he’s absolutely brilliant. It’s always a great combination of intelligent observation, self-deprecation, and the totally absurd! Very excited to see him again. Check back around 10.15 pm to see how good he was. By then the next preview blog should be available to read too.

As usual, M. Baptiste delivered the goods! Gold, oil and drugs, plus their by-products and equivalents, are taken to task for their role as false gods in our current society. I love how intelligent and well reasoned all his arguments and observations are. Dane is a National Treasure-to-be, and I’m sure he will tour with this show if you can’t get to Edinburgh. Comedy Gold (and Oil, and Drugs)!