Leicester Comedy Festival review: Comedy in the Dark for Kids at the Phoenix

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Review by Olivia Maclaughlin

Parents with pints, children with sweets and fizzy pop and amongst them all, a 21-year-old wondering what the hell she has let herself in for.

I’m here at the Phoenix on my own, for a show in the dark, put on for kids. It isn’t quite my usual Saturday evening, but I will say that I am glad I’m not a middle-aged man, as that would have raised some concerning looks at the very least.

So we file into the cinema – some with sniffly, runny noses, some above the age of 12 – me, in case you hadn’t guessed – wondering what their weekends have come to.

Comedy in the Dark takes an audience, plunges them into gloom – literal, not metaphorical – and makes them listen to comedy rather than watch it. This show, which is part of the UK Kids’ Comedy Festival, was PG friendly.

Laura Davis was first on stage, quickly using her Australian accent to start the laughter off and transitioning into animal facts and fart jokes, a theme of all the comedians.

Samson and Mabel are up next, two siblings who easily earn the most laughter possibly because they were the same age as the audience and knew just the right balance of fart, poo and school jokes would work best. Although young, they’re confident in the delivery and timing of their material.

Olaf Falafel uses fake balloon animals and light-up glasses to guide the audience through the last part of the show. He ends his time with the sound that Chewbacca would make whist having a poo.

Call and response and talking in a comedy show is usually frowned upon yet here it is encouraged and carries from Davis to Falafel. I don’t have children, and I’m not the target audience, but it gets repetitive, and a bit chaotic too: when they’re asked what to do with a cow in their home, everyone wants to be heard at the same time, and the answers are lost in the yells.

Instead, I found laughter in the in-between, and the comments from children that didn’t know any better. These tiny hecklers produce some of the funniest points in the evening. One child shouts “it’s not funny” to a joke that hasn’t landed.

They say children are some of the most honest critics out there. The performers tonight certainly felt that.

Leicester Comedy Festival review: An interview with Milton Jones at the Haymarket Theatre

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Review by Olivia Maclaughlin

 

Think of Milton Jones and the picture that comes to mind is that of a wild-haired man in a strange shirt.

But he strides onto the stage of the Haymarket Theatre with relatively tame hair, wearing a plain jumper.

This isn’t an ordinary show, though. He’s here to be interviewed by Geoff Rowe, the director of the Leicester Comedy Festival, and tells the audience just how he started as a stand-up, his early career and the story behind those crazy shirts.

Most of us know Jones from the past decade. He first appeared on Mock the Week in 2010 and has continued to appear on it since then.

But Jones was no overnight success. He’d been a club comic for 20 years previous to that and came up around the time as Jack Dee and Micky Flanagan, and he gave us some winning anecdotes from the time. He tells us about the Iceman, for instance, an act on the circuit in the 90s whose entire routine consisted of him melting a block of ice on stage with a blow torch.

How did he come by his own signature look? He dabbled in clogs, he says, before settling on odd jumpers and then finally loud shirts. It’s all part of the on-stage character, he explains.

There’s a danger that watching an interview with a comedian you’d rather see perform could be dull, but Jones is lively company and makes sure to break up the conversation and draw in the the audience, allowing us to connect with him in a format we know and find comfortable. In short: yes, there are laughs.

But there’s also insight. His wife, parents and his faith are all pillars of his support systems, he tells us, but being a Christian isn’t brought into his comedy because it isn’t always about having a message to preach.

At an hour long, this honest interview tells us more about who Milton Jones actually is as a person and a comedian than any panel show appearance or stand-up gig possibly could.

 

Leicester Comedy Festival review: Rob Kemp at Grays@LCB Depot

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Review by Ella Lloyd

Loud chatter filled the room, then came the shushes: Rob Kemp was about to begin his performance. However, in the kerfuffle of everybody getting comfy in their seats, this show didn’t get off to a great start.

Out came this six-foot something bloke dressed head to toe in sequins, with the most glamorous grey wig to match his sassy persona, but the sound woman was having technical issues.

Kemp quickly tossed his heels aside to run over to help his technical support whilst shouting at his audience to close their eyes, so that his big entrance wouldn’t be spoilt. It was all very confusing. Was this part of the act?

His second entrance involved a lot of interesting dance moves to The Killers’ The Man, clearly a play on to the fact that he was dressed as a woman. Posing as the strong man, he opened the lid to a tiny jar before flexing his non-existent muscles.

The first 15 minutes felt tangled. Maybe the technical issues had blown the routine off course, but Kemp explained this was also a work in progress, and he was very nervous about it.

Despite the last-minute change to the show’s structure, Kemp still made his audience laugh. Particularly when he said being a white male from the West Midlands meant that he should be his own worst enemy when it comes to crossdressing.

The next 60 minutes of his performance were focused on the traits and everyday occurrences of being a crossdresser and a woman in general.

The show had its ups and downs. Some sections were missing a comic punch, but what they lacked in laughs they made up for in emotional or educational impact. In places Kemp would hide behind his fringe to conceal his raw feelings. We might have been at a comedy show, but it became clear that this wasn’t just an act.

Kemp’s ideas were a real eye-opener. The comparisons he built really made you think. He said he did not like the term ‘tranny’, that it was on the same level of offence as the ‘N’ word. At one moment he would make you laugh, but the next make you sad.

At the end of the show Kemp broke down in tears as his audience rewarded him with a huge round of applause.