14 March 2014
Reviewed by Philippa Plater
Screaming Blue Murder is a comedy club within the Royal & Derngate Theatre in Northampton. The comedy club has been running for years. The club is basically a small room in the basement of the theatre. It has a small black stage that’s only about half a foot off the ground and chairs put out in rows for the occasion. It seats 200 maybe 250 people at the most. But this intimate atmosphere is what makes the place an all the more authentic comedy club experience.
The format is always the same; the compare is on first as a warm-up and to introduce the first act, the first act comes on and does their bit and then there is a 15 minute interval (where you can go to the bar or stay in the room) and then it repeats – compare, 2nd act, interval; compare, 3rd act. The compare can be the same each week, (although I note that this compare is only doing 4 out of 7 shows on this run of Screaming Blue Murder) but the actual comedy acts are different each week. The idea is that the further up the billing, the better the comedian is. In theory the 3rd act will be the best/most experience/funniest.
This week the compare was Dan Evans. Dan, as most compares do, feeds off the audience in “Where are you from?”, “What do you do?” questions and then bounces ideas, jokes and wind-ups depending on the replies. So how funny this is depends on the material available! This week the front row was filled by a local bank works night out, so the laughs were based around this and a pregnant woman on the second row. Those who have been to comedy clubs before know not to sit at the front, unless they want to become part of the act – not my idea of fun, but I’m sure some people sit there on purpose!
The first act was Chris Neill. He was short, balding, slightly overweight, gay man (his words not mine!) and his comedy was all about these characteristics and his failings. He was likeable and had a few good lines, certainly not constant belly laughing but a couple of giggles. The second act was Bobby Mair – my favourite of the night. He was a young Canadian with straggly long hair and an even stragglier ginger beard. His act was based on the notion that he appeared to be a weirdo and have the look of a serial killer! He did make me laugh, even if the funniest part was him shouting in the face of the pregnant woman on the second row – not so funny on paper but trust me it was funny! The third act was George Egg – I’m sure he said that was what his name was (although the third act was advertised as Joey Page – must have been a last minute change). His first 5 minutes were completely visual – fine for those at the front, not so funny for me straining to see what he was pulling out of the suitcase on stage. He was good, again, not amazing but funny enough.
I really love this comedy club – tonight’s acts weren’t mind-blowingly funny but they were good and we all had a great night and thoroughly enjoyed it. Obviously the success on the night depends entirely on the calibre of acts and this week’s offering weren’t as funny as some I have seen here before. I have seen some here that are side-splittingly, take your breath-away hilarious.
As a local comedy club though, it is a great place. The fact that it is in the basement and only seats 200 or so is what makes it. The bar available at the interval is well-staffed and efficient and is used only by the comedy club so even if there is a huge show upstairs in the theatre you won’t be waiting to be served. You can pre-order drinks to be ready when the interval starts and you can take your drinks in to the club, which is great, and makes it feel like a little underground London comedy club.
If I was marking the acts tonight out of 5, it would probably be a 3 ½ out of 5, but on a good night this is easily a 5/5 venue and night out.
The next Screaming Blue Murder Comedy Club is Friday 21 March 2014. Line up (subject to change): Nick Doody, Ninia Benjamin, Elis James, Compere Simon Clayton.
Tickets from £11.50. Suitable for ages 16 and above. Running time approx 100 minutes.
For more information or to book tickets click here or call the Box Office on 01604 624811.