Comedy Works Review – Doc Brown, Walton Playhouse, 22nd January 2016

ComedyWorks

Doc Brown, Walton Playhouse, 22nd January 2016

“At last,” I said after last night’s show at the Walton Playhouse, “after 40 years there’s finally something to do in Walton.”

Following December’s rip-roaring obscenity-fest that was Scottish wildman, taboo-shattering Jerry Sadowitz spitting his acidic bile all over a crowd that was left gasping for breath, The Comedy Works laid on another excellent roster of comedians at what is fast becoming an essential monthly event.

Humour is in the mind of the beholder but once cheeky-chappie compere Joe Rowntree had introduced the first act, it was highly unlikely Phil Nichol’s motormouth, high-velocity set left anyone dry-eyed.

Picking on one game stooge, Darren, in the front row, Canadian Nichol simply didn’t let up. Brash, utterly vulgar and somewhat unhinged, the Robert Downey Jr lookalike had fiery mischief in his eyes. Together with his guitar and some very funny impressions of Elvis, Oasis and more, he was for me the absolute highlight of the night. Perrier Award winner indeed.

The Playhouse has a serviceable – if slightly humble – bar area and so the first of three intervals followed. This must be a deliberate ploy to inebriate the audience while making some money but this has the undesirable side-effect of boosting the confidence of certain boorish, middle-aged gentlemen (and one sparkly-eyed lady who felt the urge to comment on almost every gag). The occasional heckle is expected but a couple of guys at this gig came dangerously close to spoiling it. Yes, the compere resembled a sort of baggy Peter Andre but we didn’t need repeated reminders of that. Fortunately he gave much better than he got. And it appears that Rowntree didn’t quite give us the full experience, though the naturally funny performer would be most welcome to come back to deliver his act proper.

Peter Brush immediately played on his limp appearance and kept a good stream of jokes going for his run-time. Sad-sack naivety blended with wry social observation kept the crowd giggling, the perfect antidote to Nichol. One hopes that Brush doesn’t always look like his onstage persona, but hey, looks aren’t everything. Or, in the case of his act, they sort of are.

Milton Jones, probably the most well-known of the performers, popping up regularly as he does on shows like Mock the Week, trades purely in puns and punchlines. It’s by design a hit-and-miss affair, but Jones is playful and although his style seems slapdash, you can be sure it isn’t. Silly, blown-out hair, deadpan delivery and game crowd work mark Jones out as the kind of performer who doesn’t pepper his act with expletives but relies on the intelligence of his audience. Excellent.

And so to the final act, one Doc Brown. In reflective mood, Brown talked about race (and played on the idea that black people stand out in rural areas while back in his corner of London he’s just a nobody), equality, feminism, religion, his inability to relate to teenagers, life and death… it was a somewhat sombre but intelligent come-down to the evening’s gag-rich performances but fortunately he peppered his tales of world-weary frustration with enough irreverent and witty asides to keep the room going.

Brown did seem either a couple of sheets to the wind or deliberately apathetic at times, and at the close of the event neither performer nor compere seemed willing to draw a line under it. “You want more?” was met with general approval but then nothing more was offered, Brown had apparently scarpered and Rowntree seemed to shoo himself off. Bizarre.

It was a fine line-up overall but might have benefited by playing in reverse, kicking off with Doc Brown’s reflections and amping and ramping up to Phil Nichol’s fiery mischief at the end. Still, as comedy gigs go, with five comedians playing to a keen crowd, it was excellent.

It’s in local lore that Jimi Hendrix once played the Playhouse, and back in the days of the Walton Hop it’s where several headlines were made (ahem); since then it’s been used for amateur dramatic productions and the like, but now it’s finally found a proper reason to exist (apologies to amateur drama players!). I say finally, but these events have been running for a few years now so if you haven’t been then perhaps it’s time: check out http://www.thecomedyworks.co.uk. Noise Next Door in February and (gasp!) Paul Daniels (yes, that one) in March, plus the as yet unannounced support acts, offer something for everyone.

 

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Chris Ritchie

Christopher Ritchie is a novelist, journalist and musician based in Walton-on-Thames.
A lifelong Elmbridge resident, his two children are at school in Hersham and he hopes one day to be able to afford to move back there. His novels, House of Pigs and The ordinary, are available at all good online stockists as paperback and eBook. He also produces free soundtracks for his books, which you can find at http://bubblectro.bandcamp.com

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