Review: Richard Herring @ Warwick Arts Centre, 29th April 2017

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Richard Herring: Simply the best (routines from all his solo shows)

Compiling a Best Of compilation is a really difficult thing to do well. In music, it can generate hours of discussion about what constitutes a band’s best songs, before you even get as far as figuring out how to make those tracks fit together as a satisfying whole to appeal to curious listeners. A similar concept for a stand-up’s work must be impossible, right?

Richard Herring has had other ideas. Taking his favourite routines from each of his past twelve solo shows, The Best is him doing what he does, well, best. An interesting experiment, it was good to hear some of these routines again in a theatre – when past shows live on only as DVD releases, and new shows are written each year to go to the Edinburgh Fringe, there’s a constant cycle of renewal at the heart of stand-up which doesn’t lend itself to enabling new fans to discover older material on the stage, only on the screen. Continue reading “Review: Richard Herring @ Warwick Arts Centre, 29th April 2017”

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Review: Josie Long @ Warwick Arts Centre, 15th February 2017

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Josie Long: Something better

Josie Long clearly enjoys a challenge. The award-winning comic set out to make her latest show, Something Better, a positive one to offset the grim reality of Brexit and Trump. While it certainly seemed the case that, based on audience reaction, she was decidedly preaching to the converted, Long’s optimism in the face of such depressing subject matter was no small feat.

A show powered by Long’s own introspection about the political climate, and how the reality is so far removed from her own ideals, clearly resonated with the audience here; a heartfelt and intelligent response to an overwhelming situation, and a dissection of her own abilities to grapple with the challenges ahead.
Continue reading “Review: Josie Long @ Warwick Arts Centre, 15th February 2017”

Review: Mark Thomas @ Warwick Arts Centre, 14th February 2017

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Mark Thomas: Stand-up with a social and political conscience

In recent years, stand-up and activist Mark Thomas has tended to flit between overtly political shows and more personal, theatrical flourishes, such as the deeply touching Bravo Figaro and the highly acclaimed Cuckooed. His latest effort in this sphere, The Red Shed, was perhaps the closest he’s come to merging the two strands of his recent output, being a personal voyage in political protest and recollection of the miners’ strike.

The titular shed, a Labour club based in Wakefield, celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, and this show was Thomas’ tribute to its influence and staying power throughout turbulent times. In truth, though, it was as much a reflection of the inner workings of the Red Shed as an investigation into Thomas’ own memories, notably of children in a school playground singing a workers’ anthem, and of whether his memory is accurate or a romanticised version of events. Continue reading “Review: Mark Thomas @ Warwick Arts Centre, 14th February 2017”

Review: Danny Baker @ Warwick Arts Centre, 3rd February 2017

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Danny Baker: From the cradle to the stage

It seems surprising that, having been in the world of showbiz for so long, this is Danny Baker‘s first solo stage tour. But then, despite jokingly referring to the theatre as his “first love” in the tour’s promotional material, few people have perhaps been more synonymous with radio in the past 30 years than Baker himself.

Having got the idea while doing book signings, this show – titled Cradle to the Stage – found Baker on scintillating form, showcasing his fantastic wit and his rarely matched skill as a raconteur; the sort of gift which has made him arguably the UK’s finest broadcaster during his curate’s egg of a career. Continue reading “Review: Danny Baker @ Warwick Arts Centre, 3rd February 2017”

Review: Nish Kumar @ Warwick Arts Centre, 9th December 2016

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Nish Kumar: Satire turned all the way up to 11

Nish Kumar is a frightened man. He has been ever since the EU referendum, and 2016 has made very little attempt to disabuse him of that fear. The critically acclaimed stand-up received a raft of great reviews at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, and he brought that highly rated show – Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Unless You Shout the Words Real Loud – to Coventry as part of his current UK tour.

What’s most impressive about Kumar, who has in recent series been the host of Radio 4 Extra’s Newsjack, is his ability to pair biting satire with silliness, a combination also employed to great effect by acolytes such as Stewart Lee and Andy Zaltzman. That technique was firmly on display here, with Brexit and the US Presidential election understandably dominating, but where other comics tread a similar path, Kumar’s singular voice found fresh angles on well-worn topics, dispensed with winning comic lines and oodles of charm. Continue reading “Review: Nish Kumar @ Warwick Arts Centre, 9th December 2016”

Review: Marcus Brigstocke @ Warwick Arts Centre, 3rd December 2016

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Marcus Brigstocke: A sharp satirical voice

Radio 4 stalwart Marcus Brigstocke returned to Coventry with his latest show which was very much an evening of two halves. This new offering, self-deprecatingly titled Why the Long Face?, focused not just on the righteous ire and satirical anger which has dominated so much of his work (though there was plenty of that too), but was also about his personal troubles of late.

Certainly, the first half of the show dealt mainly with the somewhat mixed bag of a year that’s been 2016 – one of political upheaval, the rise of fascism and myriad deaths of beloved cultural icons. Brigstocke, not surprisingly, saved much of his outrage for the subject of the EU referendum, with his pro-European rant being greeted with applause and cheers of approval, but crucially managing to fit in a surfeit of gags along the way. Continue reading “Review: Marcus Brigstocke @ Warwick Arts Centre, 3rd December 2016”

Review: Paul Foot @ Warwick Arts Centre, 2nd December 2016

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Paul Foot: Surreal stand-up

Paul Foot is certainly no stranger to the absurd. Across a career of carefully concocted silliness, Foot has cultivated a dedicated following through TV appearances and regular touring, sticking very much to his established oeuvre of oddness which has delighted and befuddled in equal measure. His latest show, ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Piglet, didn’t stray from this template, and instead indulges in a rarefied style he called “literal surrealism”.

After the opening section of the show, with oddball poetry from the deadpan, engaging Malcolm Head, Foot headed straight for some familiar territory, though a routine about what might have happened to the people from the empty seats in the front row was an effective flight of fancy, rivaled by a neat set-piece where he took out his anger by punching a soft toy in the face. Continue reading “Review: Paul Foot @ Warwick Arts Centre, 2nd December 2016”