POSTED SEPTEMBER 26 2008
by Natalie Lambracos
You know the pressure’s on when you’ve been asked to take part in the prestigious JLA Real Variety Performance. Known throughout the entertainment industry as being the best in the business, what did this year’s bash at London’s Cadogan Hall have in store?
Impatiently clock-watching as the performance was late to start, my premature negativity soon dissipated when Rob Brydon bounced out on stage bellowing out the lyrics to Tom Jones’ Delilah.
Introducing, Far From Kansas as his backing singers, Brydon ushered the choir off stage and informed us that we would see more of them as the evening digressed.
First up was comedian, musician and writer James Sherwood. Described as the next Bill Bailey, Sherwood soon revealed his perfectionism for the correct use of the English language. Sat by a grand piano and performing renditions of famous pop songs, Sherwood’s compulsive obsession with grammatically correct sentences would cause him to stop mid-song and change the lyrics to what they should be.
Truly making me laugh aloud, this first act had won me over and even if the rest weren’t as good, I was still in for a good night.
Next out was Stephen K Amos who claimed to have upped the black population of Chelsea by 1,000 per cent. Winner of Time Out’s award for Best Stand-Up, Amos proved his worth. Ridiculing his family background, Amos painted a stereotypical black family living in England and comically poked fun at the challenges they faced.
Rainer Hersch and his Orchestra provided comedy with a difference giving the comedy circuit a musical twist. Under Hersch’s instruction, the orchestra played well-known classical masterpieces and encouraged the audience to guess which television advertisement they were from.
Hersch’s slapstick conducting provided amusing entertainment and the orchestra really came into their own when playing the Microsoft Windows waltz - an amalgamation of the opening, you’ve got mail and shut down sounds that a computer generates.
Continuing the musical theme, Far From Kansas are musical theatre’s answer to comedy. Dressed in black T-shirts and kilts with sparkly red shoes, they sung alternative musical style songs with jazz hands and generic, exaggerated movements.
Following on, Reginald D Hunter was next to hit the stage. Introduced by Brydon as the epitome of cool, Hunter certainly lived up to this description. The London-based American, drew comparisons between Britain and the States. Over here, according to Hunter there are so many different types of insult, there’s irony, sarcasm, tongue in cheek, it takes him three weeks to realise that he’s been insulted.
However, in my opinion Randy Thompson AKA Beardyman was equally as cool. Starting off by counselling the audience and telling us not to be afraid of ourselves, you truly felt that you were ‘on the couch.’
But, after a couple of minutes, revealing that he is not afraid of himself or what he can do, Thompson broke into DJ mode and became a human beatbox. Creating such an authentic club environment, you honestly couldn’t believe that the sound you were listening to was coming from another human being - it was mind blowing.
As Thompson exited the stage, the question on everyone’s lips was how will anyone top that? And that was exactly what the next act, Mancunian Jason Manford said himself as he stepped out on stage.
“Just pretend I was on before him,” Manford jibed to which the audience burst into laughter. “And I’ve got you back,” Manford added.
His anecdotal-style comedy revolved around Manchester, road rage and his lying, narcoleptic father. Proving to be a success, he had us in stitches and clearly succeeded in winning back his audience.
But the prize for the most unusual act has to go to Ennio Marchetto. Essentially a mime artist, Marchetto appeared on stage in a cartoonish cardboard cutout of a famous celebrity. Set to the soundtrack of one of their most famous songs, he would caricature a stereotypical vice. So, for example, as Amy Winehouse, he would stumble across the stage, downing paper cutout bottles of wine while miming the words to Rehab.
It was incredibly humorous and, as he re-appeared as another celebrity, you kept hoping that he had more up his non-existent sleeve.
Clearly doing what it set out to do, this show was a success with each comic providing versatility and variety. Each time a different act came out, I thought it was better than the previous, but, to be honest, I would be pressed to pick a favourite.