Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 13th April 2018

Screaming Blue MurderYet another packed house for the latest Screaming Blue Murder at the Royal and Derngate, with host Dan Evans on tip-top form again as he brought out the best of us rabble in the audience. Amongst the paying guests whose intimate back-stories he delved into were the assistant psychologist from St Crispin’s whose dementia tests he passed with flying colours; Dan Evanstwo rival soil experts in a relationship; and some noisy crisp eaters seated behind us. When one of the audience confessed to coming from Wellingborough, someone at the back shouted “it’s a sh*thole”, to which Dan observed that the mayor was in.

Diane SpencerWe’d seen all three of the acts before but that did not diminish from the fun of the night – because this was a truly top class night of comedy. First up was Diane Spencer, whom we last saw at the Leicester Comedy Festival in February, but who has also graced us with her presence at Screaming Blues in 2011 and 2015. Ms Spencer has a brilliantly funny stage presence – a delightful mixture of posh and obscene which can really take you by surprise when you’re not expecting it. Amongst her memorable moments on Friday night were re-enacting a rather squeaky, unlubricated pole dance and its unfortunate physical repercussions, what happens when you try to get “Russian slim” and the diplomacy required to rename stepchildren. She was hilarious as always, but what really impressed us was the fact that this was all completely different material from her Leicester appearance. She just oozes natural funniness. A fantastic start to the evening.

Andrew WattsNext up, and in a change from the advertised programme, we had Andrew Watts, a wonderfully dry gentleman who specialises in unladdish behaviour and cricketing analogies but is deceptively streetwise at the same time. We’d seen him here twice before, and he gave us his regular material and indeed memorable punchlines – a couple of which I use myself whenever out clothes shopping with Mrs Chrisparkle – you’ll know the ones if you’ve seen his act. He pitched his material absolutely spot on, and I loved the necrophilia sequence (no, honestly) and the fielding positions set up for the medical team delivering his wife’s baby. He also has this brilliant idea of being the perfect partner for a woman looking for a mediocre night of lovemaking; he’s there to step up to the mark. It may be time for Mr Watts to gather a few more ideas together to enhance his act but, there’s no question about it, he was absolutely hilarious and everyone loved it.

Jonny AwsumFor our final act, we welcomed the return of Jonny Awsum, who just seems to get more awesome every time we see him. Fresh from his appearance on Britain’s Got Talent last year, he attacks the stage with such winning gusto, getting everyone to join in his comedy songs right from the very beginning. He has some fantastic musical parodies; his Take That’s Back for Good is just brilliant, and his Sexy Noises cocks a knowing snoop at the Osmonds’ Crazy Horses. His enthusiasm is such that you cannot help but throw yourself into it. We were howling with laughter. A perfect way to end the night.

That was a fantastic Screaming Blue Murder – and there’s another one coming in two weeks’ time! Dan won’t be hosting this one, so I wonder who we’ll get to accompany us for the night. A show with an already built-in added surprise; you should come!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 9th March 2018

Screaming Blue MurderA sneaky extra Screaming Blue show snuck into the Underground, as the production originally scheduled for these couple of days was cancelled a few weeks back. Once again Dan Evans was in charge of a full house of Northamptonshire’s finest weirdos; I include myself in that number. We had Becky celebrating her 21st birthday along with about half the town by the sound of Dan Evansit; posh Katie with her Glaswegian-sounding pilot dad (Dan ingratiating himself in the hope of a long-haul discount); and the front row couple taking father-in-law out for the night. As usual, Dan rose to the challenge of getting us all in the mood, so much so that we didn’t have to be pre-tested to see if we could create enough welcoming decibels for each of the three acts.

Matt GreenFirst up was someone we’ve seen before but only briefly guesting in Edinburgh at Spank! and in Rob Deering’s Beat This, Matt Green. He’s a baby-faced guy whose innocent looks belie a mischievous interior. He had some excellent material about how he looks like a cherub, which leads on to the things you can say to/about a man but you can’t to a woman – and he’s absolutely right! As a good example, no one ever said to a woman, when looking at her partner, “you’re boxing above your weight there!” Mr Green has a gentle delivery but provides stories and observations that pack a punch. He creates a great rapport with the audience and he went down very well.

Harriet BraineNext was someone new to us, Harriet Braine; she specialises in comedy songs that aren’t just about farting and sex. Appropriate for Northampton, she sang a paean to the designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh to the tune of Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn – and it was very inventive and clever and the audience lapped it up; who knew we were all so cultured? (Well Northampton does have the only house in England designed by the great man). Then we had Abba’s tribute to French Impressionism, which was brilliant; one song that bombed because no one (certainly I didn’t) had a clue what it was all about; and then a comedy song about Hieronymus Bosch. Yes you read that right, the fifteenth century Dutch painter. We all really enjoyed her act, a veritable gallery of musical fine arts; I think she shocked us into appreciation, but it worked very well.

Howard ReadOur final act was Howard Read, whom we’ve seen here three times before; a very likeable chap who always comes up with funny material about being a parent, which seems particularly rewarding if you are one. As I’m not, I always slightly feel that his act isn’t really for me, but nevertheless he has plenty to keep everyone amused, with a nice self-deprecating style and the best monsters-under-the-bed lullaby you could ever wish to hear. Sometimes when he engages with any difficult people in the audience he doesn’t always win; it was a shame that Becky’s birthday party drowned out some of his material, but that’s what happens late on a Friday night in Northampton.

Excellent night’s entertainment; there’s another one later this month that unfortunately we can’t make, but I think you definitely should!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 16th February 2018

Screaming Blue MurderIt was a welcome return last Friday to the effervescent Dan Evans hosting another Screaming Blue Murder with three wonderful acts and two delightful intervals. Another packed house – aren’t they all nowadays? – but with a really strange crowd. I think there was a large party that arrived quite late so they couldn’t all sit together; therefore the room was scattered with people who knew each other very well – which was perplexing to some of the comics but comedy gold too – as you will see…

Dan EvansAmongst the crowd were three baby-faced youths on the front row who admitted to being 19 years old, but I’m not so sure; but they were very good sports as almost everyone picked on them at some point. There was also a lady who worked at John Lewis’; Dan got very excited about the prospects for wheedling discounts out of her until he discovered she worked at the warehouse. Dan was on great form as always and got us in the perfect mood for an anarchic night.

James DowdeswellOur first act was James Dowdeswell, whom we’ve seen here three times before, but there’s been a goodly gap since the last time, so his act was fresh as a daisy to us. With an IT geeky face and a certain degree of west country poshness, he delivers a range of very funny and frequently self-deprecating humour, and struck up an excellent rapport with the audience. He has some great stag-do material, and gets a lot of mileage out of his recent engagement and arrangements for his forthcoming nuptuals. All very enjoyable stuff.

And at some point during James’ routine, at the back of the room, and more vocal than was good for him, came the voice of Reg. Reg is a lorry driver. What kind of goods does he transport? White Goods. Cocaine! shouted half the people who knew him. It wasn’t long before Reg was “the supplier” to the whole audience. Nice work if you can get it. Little did we know how Reg would feature later on.

Kate LucasOur second act, and a change to the advertised programme, was Kate Lucas, who was new to us. Where has she been hiding all this time? Kate’s speciality is comedy songs with a twist – a twist of a neck, that is, as she gets so angry during her songs. They’re really funny and inventive – and because she has the voice of an angel and the charm of a Swiss Finishing School Product, her venom is all the more surprising and effective. She has songs that express the disappointment of how ugly a baby can be; a typical argument between husband and wife; and where you can choose to go to Heaven or to Hell. They’re all super-savage and absolutely brilliant. We even joined in. Everybody loved her!

Russell HicksOur headline act, and someone you can always trust to react to the room, was Russell Hicks. The first time I saw him I was disappointed that he went off tangent so much to react to what was going on around him that I felt like I missed out on his act “proper”. Now I know going off on one is his raison de comédie. He was wearing a rather flash sheepskin coat, of which he was clearly proud until someone said he looked like John Motson. Mr Hicks’ American upbringing meant he never got to watch the beloved Motty on Match of the Day, so he insisted on someone Googling his photo for him. One look at the picture and he threw the coat on to the floor in disgust and declared war on us.

But we had Reg as part of our ammunition, who, as I intimated earlier, wasn’t backward in coming forward. Mr Hicks unearthed him from the back of the room, made him swap places with Ravi (the most amenable of the 19 year olds) but then Ravi started kicking off. Mr H was clearly beguiled by a lady in an orange dress and spoke of his admiration for her primary colours when we all shouted back that orange isn’t a primary colour (because you can make if from mix red and yellow of course!) Flummoxed that we all knew our primary colours – but having whipped the room into a frenzy of enjoyment – all Mr H had to do was keep jabbing away at our idiosyncrasies and oddities, and his forty minutes just flew by. As he said at the end, this was one of the absolute weirdest sets he’d done but also one of the funniest. An absolute master at running with whatever the crowd chuck at him, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quite so in control.

A genuinely hilarious night’s comedy. Next Screaming Blue is on 9th March. Don’t miss it!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 19th January 2018

Screaming Blue MurderNow that 2018 is in full swing, it’s great to see that the Screaming Blue Murder comedy nights are back with several superb line-ups between now and May. Our genial host Dan Evans is also back in situ, this week trying to keep control of a very motley crew. Even before the show started the front couple of rows had turned into party central with endless selfie competitions, and a challenge to see which girl could manage the loudest cackle.

Dan EvansIt wasn’t long before Dan identified her, and indeed she jumped up on stage with him at one point; poor lamb got a terrible fright (him, not her.) Our audience also boasted the man with the coolest job in the world, training the seals at Woburn Wildlife Park, and a firefighter who was having difficulty with Dry January. He felt embarrassed to mention it but we gave him a good cheer anyway.

Matthew OsbornSo on with the acts, and some new ones for us; first up was Matthew Osborn, whom we’d not seen before. He’s quite a dapper little chap, with some brilliant material, and that’s not just the cut of his suit. Imagine the Daily Mail’s Quentin Letts doing stand-up. He has a wonderful confident delivery, happy to take it all at his own pace; and he trades on the fact that he looks and sounds totally respectable and then delivers some powerful and rather rude punchlines. I loved all his sex jokes – so much more inventive than the average comedian’s. His reaction to the girl who told him to treat her like a whore, what happened when he went down on one knee, and also when the Jehovah’s Witness tried to open the boot of his car – all really clever stuff. Very impressed, and he went down a storm!

Iszi LawrenceOur second act, and the only one we’d seen before, back in September 2014 was Iszi Lawrence. She creates a lot of humour based on her lesbian chic looks and her posh heritage, and has some great material about being bisexual, the unglamorous sexuality. To be fair, it was pretty much the same routine that we saw last time, but it works well, so I guess why change it? She sets up a slightly intriguing and challenging rapport with the audience but her quirky approach appealed to us and we very much enjoyed her set.

Brendon BurnsOur headline act, who apparently has been on the scene for decades, but I’ve never come across him, was Brendon Burns. He has attack by the bucketload, and quite an aggressive delivery but his material is superb. He’s a full-on agenda comic; pro-equality, he sees men who describe themselves as feminists as deliberately invading one of the few areas in life where women can take control. Much of his comedy is about sex but approaching it from angles that you wouldn’t normally consider funny (that’s the material, not the sex). He has great material about how teenagers today, in this Internet porn age, are being told in sex education to have realistic expectations from sex – definitely food for thought. At the end of his act, on the one hand you feel like you’ve been aggressively diatribed against; on the other you have the beauty of insightful, revelatory comedy. Most impressive, and he got a great reaction from the audience.

Next one is on 16th February. See you there!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 3rd November 2017

Screaming Blue MurderSometimes you think you can predict how a Screaming Blue Murder will go, and sometimes you’re way off the mark… Surprise No 1 last Friday was that they’d changed the stage layout (such as it is) so that it straddled a corner of the room rather than the traditional square to the edge of the room – and I think that different perspective really worked. They’d also studded the backdrop with little lights which looked very jolly and gave the whole thing more of a sense of showbizzy occasion. I hope they keep it that way!

Dan EvansThe audience were quite a weird bunch on Friday night. The front two rows were exclusively taken up by one group of people, celebrating Mark’s 50th birthday (Congratulations Mark). Unfortunately, it meant they were all constantly laughing at things other members of the party were saying, which didn’t mean anything to the rest of us, so there was a feeling of being left out. Mark, you didn’t look 50, but your explanation about your accent went on a bit. The good thing was that our genial host Dan Evans was on cracking form and played off those first two rows beautifully, comparing the comedic value of one man’s heckles against another, and going where angels fear to tread with a lady in a white jumper that looked like she had her finger in the electric light socket.

OlaOur first act was Ola, whom we’ve seen twice before in 2012 and 2013 and I remember him being an absolute hoot. He still is; with his understated and deliberate delivery, slowly setting up situations for him to rip down at his leisure. He used the concept of telling people “it’s your fault” in many different and clever ways, which was much funnier than it sounds. Some lovely observations about race, swingers on wi-fi, and a new definition of a hard Brexit. A real master of his art, and constantly surprising. A great opener.

Joey PageNext up was Joey Page, whom we’d also seen before, back in 2015. He was great that time, so I was expecting something similar – but, unpredictably, somehow he just failed to get into gear. He still has his made-up facts, which are still very funny, and he still comes across as an engaging character but the material just never quite hit the mark. He got a guy from the front row up on stage to assist him in one routine, but this chap was sadly a bit dull. Ah well, it happens sometimes.

Paul ThorneOur headline act was Paul Thorne, who was new to us, and he was pure class right from the start. As he was developing a thread, again unpredictably, somewhere from the back of the room came the sound of a huge wet chunder. Imagine the sound of loudly pouring a full kettle of water onto rubber matting – I know, sorry to be so disgusting. The rather inebriated source of the vomit was quickly ushered out, presumably to spend the rest of the evening on the toilet. Although more than gobsmacked at the interruption, this was a fantastic opportunity for Mr Thorne to guide him through the rest of his set; it’s startling how many ways there are to weave vomit into your comic material. Just brilliant. Additionally, I loved his material about why Theresa May was no good at the Home Office, and his observations on a Taliban Gap Year were genius.

So, all in all, an unusual Screaming Blue, but still extremely funny. There’s one more left in this season, in two weeks’ time – sadly we’re otherwise engaged, so I’ll look forward to seeing more next year!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 13th October 2017

Dan EvansBack for another Screaming Blue Murder at the Royal and Derngate, with Dan Evans in charge (as usual) with a motley crew of punters some of whom were a bit tricky vis-à-vis letting their Friday night mood take over. But we did have the man who makes the plastic pieces that create the folds in the manufacture of cardboard boxes… so that’s all good then. There was Chris the birthday boy and Robin the front row chap who I could tell was a challenge just from looking at the back of his head. And then there was the lady directly in front of me; more of her later.

Funmbi OmotayoWe’d seen all the acts before but they were all on cracking form; when that happens it’s like choosing your favourite pizza toppings because you don’t always need to try something different. Our first act was Funmbi Omotayo, whom we saw last year at the Edinburgh Fringe. He’s a disarmingly charming, friendly guy who uses his humour to challenge some notions of racism but he does it oh so kindly. I loved his take on how he ought to be a real tough dude, overflowing with intimidating attitude, but it doesn’t work because he can’t stop his coquettish little smile peeping through. He’s got some great material, including changing a tyre with the police, a glance at the Paralympics and his analysis of living in Hackney. He even gave us some political observations; that’s normally a kiss of death in Northampton because for some reason collectively we just don’t care, but he actually hit the mark with that too. Very likeable, very funny, and a great way to start the night.

Eleanor TiernanNext up was Eleanor Tiernan, whom we saw at Screaming Blue Murder last year when she was slow to warm up but then exploded. This time she was absolutely on the ball from the start. With that lovely Irish lilt to her voice, she has a wonderfully self-deprecating style, bringing in some subtle Brexit material by revealing that she had no idea that Ireland was in the EU. As usual she really comes to the fore when she’s (comically) examining aspects of the vagina – I won’t spoil it for you but she shared the most fantastic metaphor which still has me laughing out loud three days later. She also looks on hand dryers in exactly the same way as I do. A brilliant routine.

Andre VincentOur last act was André Vincent, whom we last saw at precisely the same Screaming Blue last year as Eleanor Tiernan… is this significant? We should be told! He’s the kind of chap you can imagine was a right Jack-the-Lad 25 years ago, and probably not much has changed since. He told us the problems of growing up as an André in Brixton, and survival at the Bestival Festival; he’s got a winning way about him in the same way you’d have fun with one of your dad’s mates who ought to know better. He was given a classic opportunity to go off-piste when the lady directly in front of me (see paragraph one) suddenly nodded off during his routine in the most dramatic way, head lolling all over the place, obviously taken into that very deep slumber moment when even a fire alarm wouldn’t wake her up. André’s reaction was hysterical, suggesting we all tiptoe off and leave her to wake up in the morning; when she did come back to the land of the living she was left in no doubt that her ten minutes of coma hadn’t gone unnoticed. By everyone. He rounded off his set with a great story about him meeting milfs in Halifax when he was a youngster. Beautifully told, and really funny.

An excellent night’s comedy! It’s on again in two weeks, but sadly we can’t make that one… line up looks great too…. You’ll have to let me know how it went!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 22nd September 2017

Screaming Blue MurderHaving missed the first Screaming Blue Murder of the autumn – and by all accounts it was 100% fab – we definitely made sure to get tickets for this one. Great to see that it was a sell-out, and that in order to get all the people in the Underground bunker, they had to curve the front row seats around either end of the stage. (I say “stage”; it’s more like an upside-down pallet, but you get my meaning). Dan Evans was back in charge, and on cracking form. This week in the front row he had to cope with Five Guys, not named Moe, but drinkers at The Yeoman pub in Wootton.Dan Evans They were jolly chaps, but if drinking at that pub makes you as follically challenged as those guys – then maybe I’ll take a pass. There was a posh girl called Victoria with her buddies and a guy called Graham who makes exceedingly good cakes for a well-known bakery company was celebrating his 31st birthday as part of an extended family outing. They were all very well behaved and contributed nicely to the evening – which is something you can only rarely say at this gig.

Tony CowardsWe’d seen all the acts before, but it had been a long while back for two of them, so it was good to get a re-visit. First up was Tony Cowards, whom we last saw back in 2011, when he came 4th in the Annual Chrisparkle Awards for Screaming Blue stand-up: no mean feat. In some respects, Mr Cowards isn’t an obvious joke-front-man; he’s quite reserved and retiring in appearance and voice; but his material is puntastic. He loves to take a word and put it in the wrong context in a throwaway line, thus creating some really funny mental images. I was well taken with the idea of a coffee enema (you never know when it might come in useful) and the constipated detective (you can guess the punchline yourself). But you might not work out what you get when you rearrange the letters of A POSTMAN. In his half hour or so he must have treated us to at least a hundred jokes and puns; he must be one of the hardest working guys in stand up, I reckon. He’s really inventive and very funny – even if the guy on the opposite side of the aisle from me wouldn’t crack a smile on his stony face. Ah, well, you can’t win them all.

Ria LinaNext was Ria Lina, whom we saw here back in 2013, and on that occasion, I didn’t think she made her material work properly. It’s always a little dangerous when the main topic of your humour is race – she has to tread a fine line between the funny and the offensive – and that last time, funny didn’t win. So this time I wasn’t expecting too much. Wrong! Her material worked an absolute treat. It isn’t an easy ride – I had to stop and think about a couple of her punchlines because they definitely challenged me as to what I find acceptable and what I find funny; humour won the argument, and I allowed myself to be swayed by the laughter of the audience. She also had a couple of excellent musical interludes – a big build up to a Brexit song – another bold move considering how much it can divide people – but that was hilarious, and then another about how she ends up sleeping with the boyfriend’s father, thereby creating a wealth of incest material. Lovely!

Steve BestOur final act, and someone we’ve seen many times, was Steve Best; as manic and off the wall as ever. If you’ve not seen Mr Best do his stuff before it can really take you by surprise; it’s a very special kind of challenging. One of the Yeoman pub guys was literally helpless with laughter for all the time he was on stage. To be fair, I don’t think he’s changed the act at all in all four times we’ve seen him; but it’s a winning formula, so why bother?! I do love the cunning way he ends the act with a visual resolution of a callback that you’ve got no idea had even been set up. As predicted, he was a resounding success.

Another Screaming Blue in three weeks’ time – can’t wait!