Live Review: Alistair McGowan in Sheffield, 13/10/13

Alistair McGowanVenue: Memorial Hall, Sheffield
Date: 13/10/13

Its a long way down from a major peak-time series on BBC1 to the Sheffield Memorial Hall, something not lost on the comedian and impressionist Alistair McGowan, who alluded to it at least three times.

Live comedy has never been more popular, a number of comedians regularly play arenas; McGowan comes over as a genuinely nice bloke, he’s very talented, naturally funny and his impressions are great, so why is he playing small venues?

Perhaps the problem is that, like his TV show, his material is good and often very good, but rarely great. Or maybe he just lost his audience, or failed to refresh and augment it.

It is ten years since the Bafta-winning The Big Impression and he didn’t tour between 2001 and 2009. As MacGowan himself pointed out, most of this audience were over the age of 40. Hopefully he is on his way back, on the basis of this show he deserves to be.

Alistair McGowan is very funny, he knows how to tell a joke, can be quite self-deprecating and makes some nice observations. He clearly works hard, he tried out some newly written material on us and made an effort to include local jokes and impressions; he took-off present and past Sheffield Wednesday managers Dave Jones and Howard Wilkinson. MacGowan made his name as a sports impressionist and this is still a significant part of his act, including imagining England manager Roy Hodgson becoming Fagin in Oliver.

He does a hilarious quickfire skit on other comedians, mimicking Dara O’Briain, Micky Flanagan, John Bishop, Jo Brand and others. For the most part, MacGowan eschews political comedy, but he drops in some funny impersonations, such as of Ed Milliband, and observations.  All of his impressions are done without props, a person was accurately and humorously conveyed through voice and mannerism.

I found this a laugh-out-loud funny show, if perhaps not roll-around-on-the-floor, side-splittingly so. It was a very enjoyable evening, I’d recommend his show and I’d go to see him again.

– Simon Benton

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Theatre Review: Suddenly at Home

Venue: Pomegranate Theatre, Chesterfield
Company: Presented by Talking Scarlet
Date: 16th May 2013

The glorious Victorian, Pomegranate Theatre played host to a mystery thriller with several gruesome twists on the evening performance of Francis Durbridge’s, Suddenly at Home.

Starring former Brookside actor, Marcus Hutton, Ben Roddy (Innocent Crimes) and Patric Kearns, the audience are thrown into a complicated mystery involving cheating, scheming and a string of events, which lead to murder.

The story begins with husband, Glenn Howard (Roddy) who plans to get rid of his wealthy wife in a plot to inherit her millions and avoid moving to Bermuda at her wish, leaving his job and life in England behind him. In doing so, he enlists the help of his wife’s friend, Sheila Wallis, who appears to be the subject of his devotions. The duo appear to have a flawless plan in disposing of Mrs Howard, leaving her former lover, Sam Blaine (Hutton) in the picture, until the arrival of Remmick (Kearns).

The plot takes a series of credible and mysterious turns, acted out by a small cast of seven, taking you back into a setting in the 1970s where careful planning is crucial for success.

As a small cast, they hold the pace and plot well, with particularly strong performances from Shelia Wallis’ character and the short but sweet appearance of Patric Kearns.

On occasion, there were brief passages where dialogue between characters seemed hesitant and strained, although normal pace was resumed quickly it did detract slightly from the matter in hand.

That aside, delivery issues didn’t take away from the fact that the cast presented an entertaining, enjoyable and fast-paced performance.

– Charlie Barker