A charity show is always a difficult one to review, because you are aware that the acts on the bill are all giving their time for free to raise money for a good cause. Obviously this is a laudable act, and thus any criticism of them makes you feel like you are kicking a puppy just a little bit. However, like any comedy night, this benefit on behalf of the First Step Community Project, a group who provide support to children growing up in difficult circumstances, had its good moments and some not so good.
Compere Ro Campbell is an excitable and slightly brash Australian for whom, it has to be said, the role doesn’t show him in his best light. He does the job sufficiently, but doesn’t show the spark that the best MC’s display. He runs through the usual “where are you from, what do you do” routine, but never manages to extract the comedy gold. On the other hand, when he moves on to parts of his set material, he begins to shine, and there are a few moments of brilliance, especially while recounting tales of his days as “the man who holds the Golf Sale sign.”
First up for the night was Antony Murray, a tall and slightly geeky Scotsman whose set is mostly based around perceived social inadequacy and intellectual unhipness. He does a decent job, but is something of a slow burn comic and as such probably isn’t right for the opening spot which really needs someone who is going to hit the stage and make an impact.
Vladimir McTavish follows him, and it is interesting to see someone who would normally be the headline act performing in a short early bill spot. Much of his set was familiar from seeing him only a few weeks before, but there was a bit of new stuff thrown in, suggesting he is starting to road test new material ready for the summer. Either way, he is always a solid and popular performer and he set up the rest of the night well.
Stu and Garry are the Stand’s resident improvisational double act, and have been working together so long that they are totally comfortable with each other and the situation. Complementing each other well, the tall skinny Garry Dobson with long hair and improbably long chin beard is the flighty, slightly weird one, while short and stocky Stuart Murphy is the cheeky overgrown schoolboy. They run through a series of familiar “Whose Line Is It Anyway” type games, creating bizarre situations from audience suggestions, which results in such unlikely situations as a row in a gay partnership performed as an opera.
Top of the bill, Jason Cook until recently would have been better known as one half of the novelty German Electronic Industrial Rock send-up act Die Clattershenkenfietermaus. But in the past year he has been making a name for himself with his excellent “My Confessions” show, which he had actually been performing in the Glasgow Comedy Festival earlier that evening before rushing over to the capital to put in his appearance. His set was a mixture of material from that show, which I saw last summer, together with some new observations, mostly based around the idea that he is his own worst enemy and the inner voices that most of us try not to listen to usually get the better of him. With the more poignant moments removed, the material doesn’t have the same emotional impact as the full Confessions show, but Cook still retains the Geordie charm that allows him to get away with telling horrible stories about himself and yet remaining somehow loveable.