PREVIEW: NewcastleGateshead Comedy Festival
Back in the days of yore (around one hundred years ago if you’re counting), to qualify as a city your sprawling urban land mass had to have a cathedral and permission from the reigning monarch to refer to it as anything more than a ‘one-horse town’.
Cities were an acknowledgement of grand architectural planning and civic-minded wonder. To be a city was to be a powerhouse of the British Empire and to have an excuse to thumb your nose at the plague-ridden residents of ‘towns’.
Of course now, being a city is so much easier. With most of Southern England slowly being steamrollered into Greater London and every kid from every provincial town moving in for university, there are fewer and fewer ways for cities to show their true colours. Millions of pounds are spent every day as cities of all sizes try to differentiate themselves from their rivals. In council chambers up and down the land, the answer’s always the same.
“Everyone loves to laugh.” Says someone that’s never laughed in their life.
“Let’s hold a comedy festival.” Says another who tries desperately not to bite down on the cyanide capsule in their mouth.
Indeed it seems that you don’t have a city until you have a comedy festival. Most cities manage to completely mangle this idea into a glittering extravaganza fronted by arch-identifier Michael McIntyre and hosted in a variety of hideously large venues sponsored by and draped in the logos of television channels and beverage purveyors.
You won’t be surprised to hear that, like so much in the North East, the Newcastle Gateshead Comedy Festival is different. Different is better, as you’ll have ascertained from the introductory rant.
You won’t be surprised to hear that The Stand has been added to the venue list for this year, along with The Cluny and Hyena Cafe who join The Live Theatre, The Sage and Gateshead Town Hall. Not only that, there are ‘donation’ events that are held at The Chillingham. Festival organiser (and Grinning Idiot Comedy Club organiser) John Smith told us how it works. “You leave a donation at the end based on how much you enjoyed the show. Lewis Schaffer makes his living this way, nine times out of 10 he is brilliant, the other one he isn’t, but for me those times are even more memorable because when he dies it’s spectacular.”
As for talent, you’ll probably be expecting us to fawn over some obvious headliner, but aside from the North East’s next big thing Chris Ramsey and charismatic Irishman Andrew Maxwell, there’s no-one that you’ll be pointing at shouting “I saw them on Mock The Week!”. It’s simply not that kind of party.
This means that you won’t be subjected to the inflated ticket prices that will eventually be the death of stand-up comedy. Tickets for every show at the Newcastle Gateshead Comedy Festival is priced between £8 and £12.50. Given that a lot of shows are double-headers of two Edinburgh Fringe shows, you’re getting your money’s worth and more.
That’s lucky because some of the talent on show is astounding. Take the incredibly talented and often overlooked Paul Sinha. Both a comedian and a doctor, Sinha has been doing the Edinburgh Fringe since 2004 and has never failed to wow his audience and garner more stars than Patrick Moore (who is – of course – renowned for trapping stars in a Guildford basement).
Elsewhere, you’ll be able to see Radio 4 staples Jo Caulfield and Adam Bloom along with the massive talent that is the grizzled Canadian Craig Campbell. For those of you with something other than a desire to see one person standing in front of you shouting words at your face, then you need look no further than The Noise Next Door who are like The Wiggles, but only in the sense that they’re colour-coded.
Is there something for everyone? John certainly thinks so. “There are acts who have appeared on TV in shows such as Live at the Apollo, Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow etc, Award winners, Future Award Winners, Acts who will sell out Arenas in a couple of years, acts who aren’t as famous as they should be, acts doing Edinburgh Previews, acts doing Greatest Hits, acts who Tell Stories, Observational Comedians, Character Acts, Improv, Newer acts, acts from regions, acts from other areas of UK, North Americans, Male, Female, White, Black, Asian, Gay, Straight, Deaf, people who Can’t Talk, Atheists, Christians, Jews, Working Class, Middle-Class, Students, acts in their teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s…”
Convinced? Frankly, if a comedy festival is truly what a city needs to make itself great, then this might just be the greatest city in the world. You know… second to Edinburgh.
DATES FOR THE DIARY:
20/07/2012 Sean Collins and Mike Gunn Live Theatre
20/07/2012 Local Heroes The Cluny
21/07/2012 Jo Caulfield/Anvil Springstien Live Theatre
22/07/2012 Paul Sinha/James Dowdeswell Live Theatre
22/07/2012 Phil Nichol/Carey Marx The Cluny
23/07/2012 Ian D Montford/Charlie Baker The Cluny
23/07/2012 Martin Mor/Dan Nightingale The Stand
23/07/2012 Mystery Guest & Friends
(Work in Progress) St Dominic’s
24/07/2012 Andrew Maxwell Live Theatre
24/07/2012 The Noise Next Door Hyena
24/07/2012 Pat Monohan/Sally Anne Haywood The Cluny
25/07/2012 Hal Cruttendan/Marlon Davis The Cluny
25/07/2012 Phil Walker/Simon Munnery Live Theatre
26/07/2012 Gavin Webster/Tom Deacon Live Theatre
26/07/2012 Adam Crow/Quincy The Cluny
27/07/2012 Andrew Lawrence/Jen Brister The Cluny
27/07/2012 Jason Cook & Chris Ramsay Gateshead Town Hall
28/07/2012 Adam Bloom/David Hadingham The Sage Gateshead
28/07/2012 Seymour Mace/Simon Donald Live Theatre
28/07/2012 Hatful/Play by Carter & Longstaff The Cluny
29/07/2012 Craig Campbell The Sage, Gateshead
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