Rhod Gilbert – Hammersmith Apollo

Friday 23rd April 2010

Rhod Gilbert’s performance on Live at the Apollo is probably one of my favourite rants of all time. Clever, energetic and hilarious. Therefore, I was off to Hammersmith for The Cat That Looked Like Nicholas Lyndhurst Tour.

The show was to filmed for DVD and to my surprise I had an enormous camera directly behind my seat. Andrew Bird, the support act, warmed up the audience with a witty and polished routine and now everyone was in the mood for the main event.

Rhod Gilbert came out all guns blazing. Asking for the audience if anyone was from anywhere exotic, he did a whole routine on Swindon, only to later find out the guy had actually said Switzerland. A new and funnier routine followed, especially as the subject matter seemed tougher to joke about.

But it seemed something wasn’t right. He was ranting as usual, but at times he appeared genuinely angry and agitated. I guess the pressure of filming the DVD was probably the cause. After 20 minutes, he decided to take a break for an early interval. A concerned cameraman behind me muttered that wasn’t happy at all, ‘oh he is going off on one backstage’. Apparently, he didn’t seem happy with the start of the show, the way the audience was fully lit up and I guess the stupid decision not to move an members from a packed audience to fill some of the empty seats in his immediate eye line.

After the break, it was apparent that a much more relaxed and happier man re-entered the stage. Rhod Ghilbert was fully into his routine, comically annoyed at hoovers and washing machines, along with hilarious material on panic and regression. The performance was explosive and the rapport with the audience was near perfection. So much so that members of the audience were requesting for his stage manager to appear on stage just to wind up the comedian, purely for the entertainment of everyone in the building.

Off he went, only to come back a minute or so later for additional material to be recorded. Noticing members of the audience had already started to make way for the exits, gave him more ammunition to rant during ‘his encore’. For those that were fortunate to have stayed the distance, Rhod Gilbert performed for another 30 minutes, covering a superbly structured montage of the old favourites including duvets and luggage.

Unbelievably, the main highlight of the show was still to come, with the hilarious slide show featuring numerous cats sent into him by ‘fans’, culminating in the final photo that captivated the name of the tour. Rhod Gilbert, after a the nervous start, was sensational and with a 3 hour set, made for a memorable evening!

Katy Brand – Arts Depot

Friday 16th April 2010

Katy Brand’s hilarious performance on Let’s Dance For Sport Relief increased her profile to new heights. Great timing especially with an impending tour just around the corner.

I managed to get tickets for the pre-tour at the Arts Depot, prior to the announcement of the full Katy Brand’s Big Ass Tour. The Studio Theatre is perfect for any artist requiring instant feedback from a small audience of up to 150 people.

A superb view, almost too close, as Katy Brand entered the stage. I was already in stitches just prior to that, as my mate for some reason or another, thought he was actually going to see Jo Brand!

Katy Brand played a number of different characters on the night, mixed in with parodies from the world of music. The parody of Lady Gaga was mildly entertaining, while the Amy Winehouse drunken wiggle put a huge smile on my face. Her Mariah Carey performance was superb, especially the vocals, while the multiple Lilly Allen impersonations was well written and performed.

The Queen and the half-Greek character were ok, with the footballer’s wife a significant improvement. I didn’t really follow the ongoing Kate Winslett parody, but the standout performances were Army Captain Rosie Fielding and drunken Caroline. These two characters were played superbly, with Captain Fielding also pulling off Beyoncé exceptional Single Ladies.

It was a really fun night out and hopefully for Katy Brand’s sake the laughs increase when she performs at larger venues. I’ve also had to rethink what Lionel Richie’s ‘Three Times A Lady’ is really about!

Read Madrid 0-2 Barcelona – Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid

Saturday 10th April 2010

A football dream come true! El Classico between rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, at the Bernaneu, is probably the biggest game in club football.

I’ve been to the Nou Camp in Barcelona, albeit to an empty stadium. I was then fortunate enough to visit the Mestalla, when Valencia entertained Real Madrid. Whilst collecting the tickets, a lack of security enabled us to go pitch-side. Surprising highlights included running out of the players tunnel and grabbing a tiny amount of grass from the side of the pitch. No doubt 80,000 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu for El Classico was going to raise the bar even further.

Tickets for the game were sold out within 10 minutes from going on sale. Therefore, we arrived in Madrid with little hope of seeing the game. With a few touts hanging around the stadium, my friends managed to secure three tickets. The main downside was that the seats were in different parts of the stadium. A couple of tickets in the 1st tier in the South Stand and a ticket in the 4th tier of the North Stand. Slightly more concerning was the actual quality of the tickets, looking like cheap colour print-outs on poor glossy paper.

There was a nice buzz walking towards the Bernabeu, but it was hard to feel excited, as we feared the tickets may have been fakes. After splitting up, I walked around half the stadium until I found Torre D. It turn out to be one of four huge towers, similar to those at the Mestalla. Up the initial steps, past security and inserted the ticket into the machine. Thankfully, or maybe miraculously, it came out the other side and I was allowed in!

The bird-eye view itself was right behind the goal. Absolutely, perfect for anyone interested in the strategy of the game. To be fair, whilst it was difficult to see any expressions on the players faces, it was a great view. With the Barcelona fans chanting to my left and the Real Madrid fans berating them, Nessun Dorma (see video below) was played into the stadium. It was an incredible 3 mins that will live with me forever.

The match itself had moments of brilliance, but overall it was a disappointing affair. Barcelona controlled the play throughout, whereas Real Madrid were hoping for something to happen. Both teams passed the ball around, at times trying to out-trick each other. But there was only going to be one winner. Barcelona moved around the pitch so well, it was almost like watching the Harlem Globetrotters of Football.

The breakthrough came in the 33rd minute. After a quality one-two with Xavi, Lionel Messi chested the ball down, before slotting the ball past Iker Casillas. Real Madrid seemed devout of any quality ideas, long before Xavi opened up the defence again in the 56th minute, with Pedro running on and eventually placing the ball past the now frustrated Casillas.

With all the subs on, the home side’s effort increased, but Barcelona held on. In the last few minutes, with defeat on the cards, late tackles by the Real Madrid players seemed the only way they could get one up on their opponents. Ronaldo was off the pace and Kaka may have made a difference had he played. However, Barcelona came to the Bernabeu with a point to prove, passing the ball, creating chances and ultimately finishing those opportunities. Real Madrid, given another 90 minutes, were unlikely to break down the away side’s defence. Hats off to Pep Guardiola for a great game plan.

There is no doubt though that El Classico was an absolutely fabulous experience!


Infidel Film Premiere – Hammersmith Apollo

Thursday 8th April 2010

The premiere of The Infidel at the Hammersmith Apollo was next on the agenda. Judging by the comments on Twitter, many faces from the world of film and comedy were expected to support the event.

I’ve no idea why I’d expected the night to follow in the same vain as previous events at the Apollo. Basically, arrive, take your seat, watch the show, leave. The hundreds of people outside the venue, along with camera crews, photographers and the infamous red carpet meant it would be a challenge just to make it inside.

Walking towards the red carpet, any old school Grange Hill fans would have had huge smiles on their faces as Todd Carty was spotted having his photo taken. A quick glance across and the real stars of the film could be seen, director David Baddiel and lead actor Omid Djalili.

A friend from Piraeus commented on what how orderly everyone was queuing to get inside the Apollo. With no real guidance, a long bendy line was formed around the venue, whereas in Greece there would simply be a large semi-circle formation squashed outside the main door.

There was a rush to get inside now, as the tannoy kept repeating the performance was to start in 1 minute. The strange thing about that line, was that it was repeated about 7 times, every 2 minutes. Eventually he’d given up. Loud applause followed, but it wasn’t quite clear why. Then the penny dropped, as the organist slowly disappeared through the stage, meaning that something was about to finally happen.

David Baddiel than entered the stage to the relief of the audience. To be fair he was apologetic for the long wait and more so when he explained that the film scheduled to be shown at 7pm, was to begin after few stand-up routines and talks from members of the film’s production team. It was a requirement by the venue, of course to sell more alcohol during the interval. I guess only Billy Connolly can get away with having a 2 1/2 hour show without an interval at the Apollo.

Whilst the delays may have annoyed a few in the audience, I enjoyed hearing David Baddiel explain how the idea of the film came into fruition. Omid also provided a hilarious stand-up routine, as did the two winners of the Funniest Religion competition. Names were dropped as to who else was in the audience, most notably long time friend Frank Skinner and music legend Billy Ocean. Among others, Jo Brand, Jimmy Mistry and Hardeep Singh Kohli were in attendance.

There was an excellent response to comedian Imran Yusuf’s Funniest Religion video. I’d seen it before on YouTube, but nevertheless, it was fun just seeing the reaction of the audience as they seemed unsure what to make of it at first. Then there were roars of laughter from the mixed Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Atheist audience midway through the Britain’s Got Talent parody.

The film itself was based around Omid Djilili [a real life avid Chelsea fan] playing a Muslim, following Spurs, who happens to find out he was born a Jew. A superb cast, with an intriguing storyline made for a really good film. There are too many hilarious moments to mention, from the unfortunate political demonstrations to the uncomfortable family get-togethers. The film went down very well with all sections of the audience.

If there was a single disappointment, it was probably the ending, but I’ve racked my brain and realised it’s not easy to finish a film when the subject is so controversial. The same can be said for the very funny You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.

Above all, the film shows that it’s ignorance that forces people apart, extremists that maintain this separation and moderates from all sides that need to close these divisions. Moreover, people have so much more in common with their ‘neighbours’ than what is either perceived or portayed. Maybe along with distributing The Infidel around the world, it would have been an idea to record the diverse audience, showing people of different nationalities, cultures and religions, sat alongside each other, laughing together, all under the same roof. A peaceful experience, in a complex world.

Mark Thomas – National Theatre

Wednesday 7th April 2010

So it’s back-to-back nights at the National Theatre, with the Mark Thomas Manifesto Election Special.

I was in two minds booking an event on April 6th and/or April 7th as it coincides with a really sad period in my life. But 4 years on, it was obvious my mother would have rather I was out having fun, rather than staying in reflecting at her loss.

The National Theatre is even more impressive when observed from high up in the amphitheatre. The direct views from the stalls are great, whilst the amphitheatre hangs over the auditorium offering a completely different experience, almost like hovering above the performance.

One year on from the work in progress shows for the People’s Manifesto, it was interesting to see how far both the serious and the more obscure ideas had developed. There were numerous ‘interesting’ ideas put forward by a variety of audiences, but the one that received the loudest applause was the ingenious ‘if it pisses down with rain on a bank holiday, it will be considered a rollover’.

Mark Thomas introduced Danny Kushlick, the founder and director of Transform Drug Policy Foundation, who will present the People’s Manifesto in the constituency of Bristol West. Notable policies included the introduction of a maximum wage, the scrapping of Trident and the introduction of a Tobin tax on all currency transactions.

A fun and rewarding night out, apart from the pathetic heckler during Danny’s speech. I had a feeling that if Mark wasn’t going to climb into the amphitheatre to thump him one, members of the audience were likely to lynch him. Eventually, the audience did verbally turn on him forcing the annoying heckler to sulk in his seat. Well done to Mark Thomas, all the audiences throughout the tour, and good luck Danny Kushlick.

UPDATE: Danny Kuchlick received 343 votes, 0.6% of the votes.

Stewart Lee – National Theatre

Tuesday 6th April 2010

A tweet from a friend made for a convincing argument to see Stewart Lee. Luckily there were still a few tickets available at the National Theatre.

I was in two minds about booking an event on April 6th and/or April 7th as it coincides with a really sad period in my life. But 4 years on, it was obvious my mother would have rather I was out having fun, rather than staying in reflecting at her loss. I offered a spare ticket to the venue to either sell or give away and surprisingly, as it was more likely to sell 2 tickets next to each other, I was given a single ticket in a prime location.

The National Theatre itself is an impressive venue, as was Stewart Lee’s entrance onto the stage. Impressive in terms of how many times, he walked on and off until he felt he’d nailed it. The smoke didn’t help, nor did the incorrect round of applause, or even the huge house on stage. I knew from that moment the show was going to be exceptional.

Stewart Lee had the audience in the palm of his hands. At times, simply remaining silent on stage still provoked as many laughs as during his cleverly orchestrated storytelling. Cafe Nero received a well-deserved ear bashing, as they stupidly implied he’d fraudulently marked the middle section of his loyalty card.

‘Observational’ Michael McIntyre and ‘enraged’ Frankie Boyle were not to be spared. Especially the latter, as he’d commented that after the age of 40, comedians should retire as they’re no longer angry. At 42, Stewart Lee begged to differ and ‘mocked’ the comedian for the feeling angry about the Queen’s private parts. Furthermore, explaining that the topic barely came up in conversation, even during the periods in his life when he was supposed to be at his angriest.

The Top Gear team were slaughtered and rightly so. Jeremy Clarkson’s continued politically incorrect comments, especially the nasty remarks about Gordon Brown’s disability, were ripped apart by the comedian. However, it was the bigot’s sidekick that faced the wrath of Stewart Lee. Richard Hammond sitting back giggling at the bully’s comments, riles Lee more than anything else. Apparently, just by saying ‘it was a joke’ after any slur was meant to be ok. In return, the now very angry comic wished unpleasant ‘incidents’ on Clarkson’s children, and of course the Hamster too (who is not a real Hamster). The audience were split and unsure whether or not to laugh. But once Stewart Lee cried out ‘it was a joke’, the rest roared with laughter, exposing the very nature of the humour in question.

Whilst ranting, Stewart Lee even made his way around the auditorium, climbing up into areas that most people would have required a ladder to get to or at the very least a helping hand. It was an amazing feat in itself, made more impressive by the fact routine continued throughout. There was even time for a song at the end.

An absolutely sensational performance from a comedian that has obviously mastered his profession. I even got the chance to have a brief chat with Stewart Lee at his book [DVD] signing after the show and he was very friendly. Then again, I did my best not to annoy him, because even in his 40s, he can get a tiny bit angry. An outstanding show, not to be missed. But if you have, make sure you get the DVD!

BBC Comedy Presents – Bloomsbury Theatre

Wednesday 31st March 2010

The final ever BBC Comedy Presents had a strong line up with Ardol O’Hanlon headlining the show at the Bloomsbury Theatre.

Back at one of my favourite venues, we took our seats near the stage. Host for the evening Dan Atkinson had the audience in the right mood after a good warm-up set. Marlon Davis, continued with an entertaining routine, before Sara Pascoe delivered a humourous performance.

Angelos Epithemiou, better known as a panel member in the latest series of Shooting Stars, was the first half finale. A superb, strangely idiotic routine, had the audience in the palm of his hands. At one point, he stared me out just after I’d taken a photo of him, even posing for another one during his routine.

The second half began with a hilarious musical improv routine performed by Abandoman. Really clever and thoroughly enjoyable. A surprise appearance next, when Micky Flanagan, a late addition to the bill, entered the stage. With a fantastic stage presence, his performance was sensational, especially the ‘nosy neighbour’ routine.

The final ever BBC Comedy Presents performer was Arlon O’Hanlon, who maybe past his best, still delivered a really entertaining routine. A great night of comedy, with the stand out performance perfected by Micky Flanagan. It’s a real shame that this event is to be discontinued.