The Horne Section, Colchester Arts Centre – 22/11/2016

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The Horne Section is a musical comedy act which centres on five musicians, plus main man Alex Horne. It revolves around making jokes out of both familiar tracks and new ones written by the members of the Horne Section.

Judging the act just on the name itself already gets these guys off to a good start. The Horne Section is an excellent pun on so many levels – the use of horns in the act, the fact Horne is Alex’s last name, AND the fact a horn section is an actual thing. I was impressed, and this was before they’d even come on stage.

You might have seen Alex Horne on his show Taskmaster, which he co-hosts with Greg Davis, or heard him on Radio 4 hosting his show The Horne Section. However, for me, it was seeing Horne on 8 out of 10 Cats Does Countdown that had attracted my attention to the act. I will admit that I actually hadn’t found it that funny after seeing him on this show. It was his goal, therefore, to change my mind at the Colchester Arts Centre.

So did I change my mind? Yes and no. Bits of the show really did make me laugh out loud – the creation of a ‘reverse conga’ which was then put into forwards motion at the end of the show was hilarious, as was the mass zumba session in which every member of the crowd was enlisted. Horne’s anecdotes about his life were also really funny, and I will admit that seeing a grown man with a Henry Hoover on his head was something quite special.

However, there were points of the show that I felt my attention start to waver. The seasons song was a funny idea, but perhaps went on for a bit too long. Some of the other songs and jokes did also seem to be a bit drawn out and I found myself checking the time to see how much longer there was to go.

The Horne Section is a little different to your usual comedy act which I was definitely impressed by. The fusion of music and comedy is something I really enjoy, and I would definitely be interested to see these guys again in the future to see how their act develops.

Rob Beckett, Civic Theatre – 09/10/2015

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I always enjoy feeling like I’ve learnt something at the theatre and after seeing Rob Beckett on Friday night I feel like I’ve learnt one of the most important lessons of all: don’t be late to a Rob Beckett gig. You will be picked on and end up on the other end of Beckett’s brutal crowd interaction.  It’s always hilarious to discover the backgrounds of people in the audience and Beckett had an almost suspiciously good knack for finding people who offered great comedic value – so much so that I almost thought he’d hired them all to walk in late. I think his best discovery was certainly Ray who had failed to arrive on time, despite driving at 100mph in his ‘suped up Fiesta’.

The only thing that would stress me out more than being late to a Rob Beckett gig would be being without the internet, but this is another situation in which I found myself on Friday. After a month of concerts and returning to college my mobile data allowance had taken a bit of a hit so I was left stranded in the interval with nothing to entertain me but a driving theory mock test (which I passed – only just). The Civic possesses an incredibly enticing wifi called CivicGuest (or something like that) but alas my hacking skills could not get past the password on this occasion. I did try asking an usher but they looked at me blankly so I decided to return to my seat and continue trying to work out what on earth the stopping distance is for a car travelling at 70mph.

Beckett’s show itself was excellent with a range of hilarious jokes mostly based on his life. My favourite of these was definitely his description of his dealings with injury lawyers who phone up the house. Beckett apparently tells the person calling his name is ‘Ed Noed’ and that he sustained an injury whilst working at a supermarket. And his injury? His head has fallen off. I also feel like I learnt something here; of course it’s better to waste their time with a fake injury rather than just hanging up the phone!

Rounding up the evening with a Q and A, Beckett proved yet again his uncanny knack for discovering the craziest members of the audience when he discovered Paul, who’s interesting Christmas story was that he left his wife on boxing day. It’s always interesting to see what sort of people different comedians attract!

As we left the theatre Beckett positioned himself at the door to shake our hands and thank us for coming. A nice, if slightly unusual touch, but one that certainly didn’t go amiss with all the women outside afterwards who christened him a ‘right lovely chap’. I agree.

Rob Beckett’s ‘Mouth of the South’ tour continues until December.

Chris Ramsey, Civic Theatre – 29/09/2015

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After a pretty stressful driving lesson and amidst all the personal statement writing drama happening at college the thing I needed the most on Tuesday night was definitely a laugh. And that need was completely fulfilled by Chris Ramsey, a Geordie comedian who’s been building a good reputation as a stand-up after appearances on pretty much every panel show under the sun, and also an endorsement from my parents who had seen him a year or so ago.

The aforementioned parents did recommend that I should probably not sit near the front and as the show began I did feel quite relieved that I was far back enough not to be picked on! Ramsey’s audience interaction is hilarious and the theme of this show – not growing up – provided a great premise for jokes. Particular sympathy was felt for Chris from Tiptree Jam who was met by a very disappointed reaction from the audience when they found out he was involved with logistics rather than actual jam production!

Support came from the equally funny Carl Hutchinson. One of the jokes he made was about hipster fashion and I began to feel slightly self conscious as he started to describe almost the exact outfit I was wearing, right down to wearing short socks with trainers so that it doesn’t look like you have socks on! I hope he didn’t see me on the way out as it was clear from his description he was certainly not a fan of the look…

Ramsey’s show definitely had more of a sense of production than a lot of comedians I’ve seen previously – videos and animations were shown on a large screen, there were smoke machines and (most excitingly) a large ‘C’ and ‘R’ made out of Lego. This not only looked great but got me thinking – could I deconstruct them? Or make a tower? The gags were all equally as well considered, with my particular favourite being Ramsey’s description of the time he convinced an irritating child named Lawrence to get his head stuck in some railings. I also learnt something new – apparently the game where you knock on someone’s door and run away isn’t called ‘knock down ginger’ everywhere – instead being referred to as the hideously uncreative ‘knock on door run’ and the absolutely brilliant ‘ding dong dash’ at different points in the UK. Please let me know of any others on Twitter or down below as it’s been quite the revelation!

An evening full of non-stop laughs, Chris Ramsey is certainly proving himself as one of the best comedians around at the moment.

Chris Ramsey’s tour continues until April 2016 and a DVD will be released in November. 

A Younger Theatre: …and Ephgrave, Etcetera Theatre – 08/08/2015

In hindsight, a pub in Camden on day 1 of the new football season might not have been the most conventional place for a 17 year old theatre fanatic to find themselves, but this is exactly the situation in which I found myself last Saturday. It was all in the name of theatre reviewing and I managed to find my way upstairs into the lovely Etcetera Theatre, a cozy and intimate venue that was the birthplace of Camden’s Fringe Festival 10 years ago.

‘Part of Camden’s annual fringe festival, …and Ephgrave sees comedian David Ephgrave taking on his first solo show without the aid of his double act partner, Glyn Doggett. It had moments of real humour but overall fell slightly flat and leaves you feeling entirely indifferent about Ephgrave’s comedic skill.’

Read the full review here.

Katherine Ryan, Civic Theatre – 04/06/2015

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So the exams are finally over, and I can return to my usual schedule of theatrical adventures! I did my last exam yesterday – I think it could certainly have gone better, but it could equally have gone much, much worse. I managed to sufficiently act as if I knew what I was talking about, though the reality may be an examiner getting my paper and bursting into laughter at how anyone could write anything so ridiculous. Let’s hope that’s not the case! Overall I think they’ve gone okay – I got off to a terrible start with a History exam on the one part of the course I hadn’t revised, but things gradually improved and I’m glad it’s over (well, at least for another year).

What better way to celebrate then than an evening of comedy at my local theatre! Katherine Ryan is a Canadian comedian who’s often seen on British panel shows; Have I Got News For You, Mock the Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks to name but a few. I look forward to her appearances; she’s always really funny and luckily her live stand up show was no exception. I’ve really not been to see many comedians (only Jon Richardson at the same theatre about a year ago), so I was definitely excited to be at the Civic again for another fun evening of entertainment.

Katherine was supported by Irish comedian Al Porter who was really funny and great for getting the crowd going before the main act came on. His joke about Don’t Tell The Bride was so spot on – I have also been a culprit of shouting at the people on there ‘WHY DON’T YOU JUST TELL HIM WHAT YOU WANT BEFORE YOU GO ON THE SHOW???’. I’m struggling to think of another way to describe him apart from ‘he was just so funny!’, but that is the truth!

My stereotypical girly vibes came out as Katherine came on stage in what can only be described as one of the nicest jumpsuits I have ever seen, and I did consider trying to find her after the show to ask where she got it (I decided against this though as it may have been just a bit weird). She was really funny as well (I may have to consult the thesaurus to find some other words to describe comedians aside from ‘funny’), and her jokes about famous celebrities, especially Tulisa and Cheryl Cole were right humdingers (see, I told you I would find a new word!).

A really funny (sorry, I mean witty) night of comedy, I’d definitely recommend catching her tour if you can and I’m looking forward to seeing even more comedians at the Civic Theatre soon.

Katherine’s Glam Role Model tour continues until 2nd July, with tickets available here.

[4/5]

Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho, Leicester Square Theatre – 17/03/2015

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Described as a ‘drag comedy musical extravaganza’, Margaret Thatcher Queen Of Soho is easily one of the most fun nights out I’ve had for a long time. It follows the story of our hero, Maggie T, getting lost in Soho the day before Section 28 (the bill banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools) is debated in Parliament. Along the way she sings a multitude of hits, questions her decisions and eventually gives up her Parliamentary career to become a cabaret superstar (unfortunately, not entirely historically accurate, but the real story of Thatcher’s demise would make for a far less entertaining show).

Entering the Leicester Square theatre was an exciting event in itself; classic songs blared from the speakers (think Man, I Feel Like A Woman) and I was pleased to see I was not the only person singing/dancing along! The atmosphere was great and it seemed like everyone was ready for a glorious evening of camptastic fun (perhaps helped by the fact it was also St Patrick’s day!). I was intrigued to see what was in store – I’d watched some videos of Maggie on YouTube (her top 10 tips for being PM are a must see) but no amount of videos could have prepared me for witnessing the phenomenon in person. As she bursts onto stage with her somewhat unconventional rendition of the YMCA (with audience participation thoroughly encouraged), I knew I would be enjoying myself for the next 90 minutes.

Now I must mention the magic behind Maggie that is Matt Tedford.  His marvellous portrayal of the Iron Lady had me in stitches every time he opened his mouth, particularly the interesting pronunciation of ‘homosexuals’ that I unfortunately can’t portray through the written word (just trust me, it’s brilliant) and the complete sass with which he dealt with people in the audience. Maggie’s ‘helpers’ Hestle and Tine (100 points to whoever came up with those names), played by Ed Yelland and Nico Lennon pull off a multitude of different roles with equal humour and really help to move the show along. A highlight has to be the arrival of the Ghost of Winston Churchill who Maggie turns to in her time of need. This scene (though mostly scripted) had an improvisatory quality about it which only made it funnier and really let the talent of the actor/comedians involved shine. Two other highlights: the Queen of Soho’s unique rendition of I Need A Hero (which involved far better cape management than Madonna) and her ‘heartbreaking’ solo version of She’s Always A Woman.

A must see for anyone wanting a hilarious, clever and thoroughly entertaining night out, Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho is playing at the Leicester Square theatre until 21st March. If you can’t get there then be sure to check out Margaret Thatcher Queen of Podcasts in which Maggie offers brilliant insight into the week’s news. There’s even an Ed Miliband impression!

[4/5]