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

Mark Thomas
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”

Advertisements

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

Danny Baker
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

nishkumar
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

brigstocke
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: Mark Thomas @ Warwick Arts Centre, 17th March 2016

Mark Thomas
Mark Thomas: Trespass

After a couple of decidedly personal forays into storytelling for recent shows, the latest outing from Mark Thomas saw him return to the politicised output he’s most widely known for. Trespass, in a similar vein to his well-received 100 Minor Acts of Dissent, found Thomas in typically agitated form, perfectly equipped for performing political comedy against the backdrop of a Conservative government.

The show threw a spotlight on the topic of reclaiming land for public use, flying in the face of draconian laws introduced by local authorities and exposing injustices which, he suggested, needed to be challenged. What followed was tales of defying those authorities, making the stuff of nightmares for security guards.
Continue reading “Review: Mark Thomas @ Warwick Arts Centre, 17th March 2016”

Review: Gein’s Family Giftshop @ Warwick Arts Centre, 16th March 2016

Gein's Family Giftshop
Gein’s Family Giftshop: Award-winning sketch troupe head out on tour

It might be odd to see PE kits on stage – and maybe even bring embarrassing flashbacks for some – but the plain white t-shirts and gym shorts are the uniform of choice for acclaimed sketch act Gein’s Family Giftshop. The trio of James Meehan, Kath Hughes and Ed Easton – aided and abetted by Kiri Pritchard-McLean, who was also the support act here – have carved out a niche as purveyors of dark sketch comedy, and this compilation of the best bits from their past two shows displayed just why they’re so highly regarded.

With inspired sketches about breaking bad news, imaginary friends, and dancing to The Knack’s ‘My Sharona’, the three-piece meld influences such as the delicious darkness of The League of Gentlemen with the violence and energy of The Young Ones for a heady mix of cleverness and filth. Continue reading “Review: Gein’s Family Giftshop @ Warwick Arts Centre, 16th March 2016”

Review: Mark Steel @ Warwick Arts Centre, 11th February 2016

Mark Steel
Mark Steel’s back in town

Nature or nurture? You might think you know who you are, and why, but veteran stand-up Mark Steel‘s latest show proved it might not be as clear-cut as you thought. The Radio 4 favourite and cricket fan grew up in Swanley, in Kent, knowing he was adopted, and in Who Do I Think I Am? he told the tale of how he found out the strange truth about his mother and father.

While there was a strong undercurrent of Steel’s politicised material – he’s an ardent left-wing comic and activist – this show was a deeply personal couple of hours which concentrated far more on storytelling than his usual output would suggest. Continue reading “Review: Mark Steel @ Warwick Arts Centre, 11th February 2016”