It takes a real pro to admit the shortfalls of their act right from the off, but Rory Bremner – the host of this year’s Jeremy Lee Associates Real Variety Showcase – did exactly that.
Thanks to a bland, faceless cabinet, the master impressionist admits he is finding it hard to find any identifiable characteristics of the current crop, with the exception of William Hague’s dreadful drawl. He is, of course, doing himself an injustice. His David Cameron and Nick Clegg are even more oily than in reality. And while his set-ups between impressions may occasionally be a little forced, his Blair, Bush, Clinton, and cruel Blunkett are without equal.
Hannah Gadsby, the Australian comedian, is an expert in the understated. Like the lesbian daughter of Dame Edna Everage, she has a warmth and delivers her slightly naughty material with a wry smile. Life is a series of surprises for her and she assumes for the audience. While her take on growing up gay has an adult edge, she is gently endearing.
Complete with Poirot moustache and perfect RP, Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer reinterprets nineties rave hits on a banjo and beat box. He will literally get any party started. It’s a lazy cliche to add ‘on acid’ to a description to suggest wackiness, so perhaps it’s best to avoid ‘George Formby on Acid’ and opt for ‘Acid House on a cup of Earl Grey’. Either works.
With the popularity of comics John Bishop and Michael McIntyre, there is a trend towards everyman observational comedy. Add to the above Sean Walsh – a rougher McIntyre with great delivery and a punchy energy. His observations of modern life will connect to any audience and his lively stage presence could fill any size room. JLA has a knack for finding top comics before they make it big – Walsh could be next.
Pick of the night was The Horne Section, stand up Alex Horne’s musical act. It’s funny, musically brilliant, highly original and beautifully crafted to turn any event into a fun evening. His highly adept band will take suggestions from the audience for musical style, key, tune – their virtuosity is incredible. But it is the mass board games, that really captured the audience – watching a hall full of people playing Twister has to be seen to be believed.
As does Bruce Airhead. What event is complete without a well-oiled man in a Lycra one-piece fitting himself inside a giant rubber ball? Truly a variety act and one that will have water coolers bubbling for months after.
After the break, came up-and-coming comic Imran Yusef. Much of the likeable Yusef’s act is about his rich cultural heritage – born to Indian parents in Kenya, raised in the UK and schooled in America. While great material for comedy clubs or an Edinburgh show, it’s not quite strong enough for a corporate audience.
Nathan Flutebox Lee & the Clinic is great in concept but weak in delivery. Flautist Nathan is a human beatbox. While a highly original act – playing hip hop, dubstep and Eastern melodies – he failed to connect with the audience and seemed a little disorganised, his two band members, ‘the clinic’, almost wondering off the stage before the set was over.
Comic Simon Evans must have been created in a lab to play corporate events. His deadpan delivery in a cut glass accent perfectly suits his intelligent material. He carefully deconstructs a traditional joke formula and then puts it back together only to find bits left over. And he doesn’t miss a gag. Surely one of the ‘must book’ corporate comics.
The same can’t be said for Andi Osho. A solid comic on the circuit with some nice material, she pitched her set badly for the audience, leaving jokes hanging and often falling short of a big punchline. While she managed some laughs, fart, poo and fanny jokes are probably misplaced here.
For a glitzy drag finale, there’s none camper than Priscilla Queen of the Desert – or should that be dessert? This Tony and Olivier award-winning spectacle has fab costumes and pumping disco anthems. With an impressively large cast it’s a no holds barred show-stopper.