Leicester Comedy Festival review: Tony Cowards’ Ewok Circus at Grays@LCB Depot

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Review by Kyran Kennedy

First, the bad news. There were no ewoks to be seen let alone a circus act, but Tony Cowards brought along some friends that were a fair replacement for the fluffy space creatures.

Cowards introduced three up-and-coming acts to kick off the opening night of jokes at the Leicester Comedy Festival, playing host to a relatively small crowd at the LCB Depot.

As a host, Cowards earns himself a gold star, hyping up the acts before they took to the stage.

Sadly, the cheers and excitement generated for the other acts were the peak of Cowards’ own performance, with his own one-liners receiving the odd giggle and even occasional groan from the audience, reminiscent of a dad attempting to make a dodgy pun during tea time.

First up to face the room was Louis CK tribute/parody act Louis Ok. Living up to his name, the bloke from Boston, Lincolnshire, put on a performance that was just that, ok.

While the material consistently started off with a few laughs here and there, it often felt like the ending pun was lacklustre considering the build-up. Louis was also reliant on his notes throughout his part, but generally this was a chuckle-worthy performance from a man a few steps away from a solid act.

2014 English Comedian of the Year, Jack Campbell, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is rare to say that you got to see a comedian tell next to no jokes in a night and yet somehow still get a ton of laughs.

His act was seemingly over at the first hurdle when the audience offered no reaction to his witty gag, but he used this to fuel the bulk of his time on stage, letting the audience know they’re never safe from being the butt of the joke no matter where they sit.

Regarded as the headliner by Cowards, Stevie Gray definitely earned the most applause of the night. The audience were captivated by the man’s ability to tell an entertaining story and sing a song or two.

Channelling all the energy that most people would struggle to put out in an entire week in to his performance, he could certainly be considered a one-man circus troupe. All age ranges could probably find delight in watching Gray, from children to OAPs.

Overall, not as memorable as the Star Wars Ewoks, but it was certainly worth braving the cold to go and see these lads.

Leicester Comedy Festival: Kathryn Mather, Andrew Ryan and Scott Bennett at Peter Pizzeria

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Review by Kinga Ludwin

An hour zipped by at ‘First Night Funnies’ which offered a trio of stand-ups at Leicester’s Peter Pizzeria.

The winner of the South East New Comedian of the Year 2018, Kathryn Mather doesn’t hold back her punches.

Honesty is a word that neatly encapsulates her style. She makes no attempt to hide her hatred for people who come to the escape room where she works. She doesn’t like kids, she criticises her vegetarian partner and claims the only reason she works as a comedian is an obligation to pay bills.

In a moving, candid and funny set, she tells of her experience with a menstrual cup and of a mum who called her a slag then brings out a trashy magazine with a huge “he beat my baby with a dumbbell” headline on the front page and uses it to prove why we are so brainwashed.

Britain may be out of Europe but Brexit jokes are still in vogue. “This is the first time I am doing a festival outside of the EU,” says Andrew Ryan. It’s a bit of a dad joke, but we can forgive him as the winner of Leicester Comedy Festival’s Best New Show 2018.

Ryan roasts Great Britain from the bottom to the top, naming the UK as the most arrogant country in the world. Donald Trump takes some flak too, but an undeniably  funny set loses me when his focus shifts to cancer.  Maybe that’s just me.

Last but not least is Scott Bennett, a father of two who’s very much the thinking comedy fan’s stand-up. He’s at his best when he homes in on the horrors of keeping his second daughter in a room little bigger than a box. My favourite part, though, is his portrayal of the British at the airport, swigging pints at four in the morning. Scott’s a star.

 

Leicester Comedy Festival review Kathryn Mather – Always Angry (work in progress) at the Cosy Club

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An intimate show set in a cold room soon warms up with Kathryn Mather’s ability to illuminate the stage with her cutting, dark, yet relatable humour, bringing the atmosphere to life.

Mather’s characterful and informal charm makes you feel like you’re catching up with a witty friend from back home.

The Rochdale born and bred children’s entertainer turned escape room employee and comedian already has some serious experience under her belt, from winning South East New Comedian of the Year 2018, to coming third in last year’s Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year 2019.

Although on this occasion many seats at the Cosy Club are left chilly and unused, Mather cleverly works the room by kicking off the show with a classic high school ice breaker. “So, we can all be a little family,” she says, sarcastically. She makes the audience feel comfortable, allowing some elements of judgement to be squashed and forgotten.

She delivers a perfect mix of anecdotal comedy shot through with occasional bursts of darkness, creating an ideal setup for jokes about working zero-hour contracts, the death of a family member, cats and horrible cousins. Her distinctive voice and lively persona drives her passion as she bounces off the audience’s laughter with one sharp-witted comment after another, producing killer gags and engaging puns for students, your mum and probably even your nan.

Mather clearly has a knack for reading a room as she responds to slight awkward silences by interjecting one-liners that are totally, enthusiastically random, but they pay off by leading into a riotous account of a wider anecdotal story.

Her mega-cynical attitude, somewhat bizarre dark thoughts, and naturalistic, organic delivery win well-received laughs, without managing to cause offence. But despite the title, this was a performance without rage, though her sarcastic flair was on show all the way to the end.

She was testing out her new, unheard material but this work-in-progress show has legs. Mather is a joy, and definitely one to watch.