Review: Bristol Comedy Garden
Back in full force (after missing skipping a year for the Olympics last summer) Bristol’s Comedy Garden in Queen Square is now in full swing with a stellar line up of acts from the world of comedy. I attended on the second night, (Thurs 5th) and what a treat it was. By all accounts it was a very nice tent. A huge circus big top surrounded by some of Bristol’s best independent food traders and naturally of course the Bristol Cider Shop. Comedy aside, I think the arena would have made for a great pop-up festival in these rare sunny Bristol days.
Topping the bill for the evening was Alan Davies (yes, Jonathan Creek but don’t go on about it), preceded by Mock the week regular Josh Widdicombe, and acclaimed Irish star Andrew Maxwell. Hosting the evening was self-proclaimed unknown John Robins (once ruthlessly cut from appearing on a TV panel show in favour of the lady responsible for bringing the word ‘Vajazzle’ to public attention). Having lived in Bristol, Robbins local knowledge instantly engaged the audience and he was consistently funny throughout the evenings proceedings with banter about cider and the enigma that is the mysteriously ever growing area of ‘Southville’.
It’s FLIP FLOPS!
Irishman Andrew Maxwell’s artful mockery of just about every demographic in the audience added some variety and edge to the evening, in particular the special treatment reserved for the Australians present, “It’s flip flops – It’s onomatopoeic! It’s not ‘thongs!’”. Maxwell showed a great turn at improvised stand up and audience participation that demonstrates his versatile talent.
Widdicombe drew the biggest reaction from the audience with some classic material that you might just recognise if you have watched a few panel shows in your time. Jokes were perfectly executed and showed an accomplishment and storytelling ability to match household names like Michael McIntyre.
Widdicombe’s strengths lie in his observational comedy and use of quaint British traits that you can’t help but relate to – questioning why on a train you would be supplied with just a cup of boiling water and a separate tea bag, as if he was supposed to “put the teabag in my mouth and just pour the boiling water in!”.
Alan Davies - Quite Interesting
With the audience suitably in the mood and after an interval for more cider, Alan Davies took the stage. As with previous shows, a large chunk of material was based on Davies’ childhood in Essex and a whole lot of parenting ‘in jokes’ – that seemed to appeal to at least the parents present. Not that Davies stories weren’t amusing, but they just didn’t match the effortless observational humour that Widdicome pulled out with his in depth assassination of a cash machine. I tried to laugh, but at times it felt as if I was listening to someone’s uncle in a pub, smiling away politely as they told a story I really had no connection with.
Having said that the reception received was positive with sustained laughter and applause throughout the set although just not from my general direction.
If like me you are most familiar with Davies light hearted banter with overlord of academia Stephen Fry, the show will be a rather odd affair, no fault of Davies, but more a testament to the TV panel show personality that has been crafted for him by TV editors over the years.
The frequency that Davies interjected a sentence with the ‘F’ word I’m sure was his style in his first stint in stand up that led to his rise to a household name, but to an audience that knew him for nothing else than his TV work it was at best 'unexpected'.
Overall, it was a great night and I wish I was attending all four evenings. Tonight (Fri 5th) gracing the stage are; Mark Watson, Henning Wehn, Isy Suttie and Richard Herring, a great variety that promises a great night.
For more information on tickets, head over to the Bristol Comedy Garden Website.