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Review: Eight and a half Welsh comedians

(December 05, 2013)

Review: Eight and a half Welsh comedians
The Glee Club, Cardiff, 1 December 2013

'Tis the Season to Eat Drink and ... have a laugh? The Glee Club offers all of this and, on Sunday, 1 December, kicked off the festive season with a Christmas Special. Billed as Eight and a half Welsh comedians, the 'a half' being the child comedian we didn’t actually see; maybe too busy writing a Christmas list?

Compère, Phil Evans engaged the audience from the outset. An experienced warm up man, he created a sense of inclusion, bringing the audience together. His warm, Welsh tones and directness giving a sense of place and belonging.

Organiser and headliner Ignacio Lopez had gathered early and second-career comedians, who provided new material on a Christmas theme. With so many comedians and two intervals, his choice of the Glee's welcoming surroundings was a good one. The red velvet curtains, glitter-ball light show and pumping music energised us for the comedy and the clean, spacious interior and professional staff made you feel you could eat from the bar menu on offer.

Set in a modern building, in Mermaid Quay, The Glee Club is a great choice for a night out - its layout reminiscent of The Comedy Store, London, with plenty of places to hide or be spotted, as you wish. Two brave souls at the front had worn their Christmas jumpers and became a focus of the audience-participation style acts.

The under-rehearsed 'Dr Woo Show' interview of Santa provided the only misfiring cracker. Watching Santa convincingly choke on a mince pie whilst glugging like a wino provided a relieving slapstick moment in this ill-advised high school skit-style parody of Jerry Springer, with a Dr Who pun thrown in.

Rob Hughes is a beefy Welsh lad, whose promo says he will work for anyone who pays, "Dignity is not issue". With the sideways glance reminiscent of Chris O'Dowd, he has the self-effacing act perfected, with moments of real humour and fond reminiscences of childhood.

Bethan Roberts, a Rhondda girl living in London, writes her own material and delivers it with professional panache. She manages to be harsh, poker-faced and edgy, whilst still being warm and comfortable in her own skin. Her Dad was in the audience, but this in no way stopped her from riffing off her family experiences. In the second year of her career, I expect we will see her on big stages, and small screens ... and soon.

Simon Emanuel enhanced his ginger bonce with bronze tinsel, to become Christmas Rambo for the night. He combined this with his usual maniacal smile and speedy, striding delivery. Like a bottle of Lucozade, you couldn't deny the energy he brought to proceedings. He went into flights of fancy that seemingly belied some tricky feelings, and managed to make you feel that playing Sonic as a real life character was a shared experience.

Sarah Bridgman was the most narrative of the bunch; she pulled us all on-side to her way of thinking, making fresh comments about being single at Christmas that received some big laughs.

Daniel Glyn explained that being an S4C children's presenter meant he spent time being skint, unknown or worse - stopped by club doormen at cool nightspots due to his job. This career start (children's presenter, not S4C) did Dara O'Brien no harm and, similarly, his stand-up shows signs of an experienced performer. He shared tales of being a father to small children that made us laugh, empathise … and recoil in disgust.

Brendan Common was one of the evening's highlights. He likes to wear lots of black, his skin is pale and his intelligent humour flowed smoothly. He looks like a Tim Burton character, but sounds like the quiet boy in school who becomes an Oscar-winning documentary maker - you know, brilliant, but with no hint of knowing it. Come and see him next time, and you too will be able to say, "I saw him in the early days".

The evening ended with a long, headline set by Ignacio Lopez, the half Spanish, half Welsh comedian, who had to spend his summer holidays here. He made a lot of mileage out of culture contrasts.

I'm not naturally a fan of musical comedy, but his version of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" that made the ensemble's finale was excellent. 'Christmas lights on' it will be, from now on. Plus, he really can sing.

Many of the performers will be at Pontardawe Arts Centre for "Love and Laughs" on Santes Dwynwen's night, 25 January 2014 (www.pontardaweartscentre.com for details and tickets). Pop in and ask Phil Evans for a cwtsh.*

* Phil Evans signature "Ask me if you want a Cwtsh" T-shirts available from www.philevans.co.uk

Jennifer Pearce, December 2013

Jennifer Pearce is the founder of Art Club and can be followed on Twitter

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Review: St David’s Hall Christmas Exhibition, January 2013
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