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Review: Brighton Comedy Festival – Opening Night Gala, Friday 9th October

With a full theatre and a panoply of great acts, the Brighton Comedy Festival’s Opening Night Gala kicked off a month of comedy with a bang. The event, organised by and benefiting Sussex Beacon (a local HIV charity that you most definitely should support), featured eight stand-ups, many of which are performing in Brighton over the coming month. In sum, it was a grand advertisement for the festival and a great cause.

The night’s compere was Hove based stand-up Simon Evans. Although he made reference to the fact that compared to the previous masters of proceedings – Michael McIntyre, Alan Carr, and Adam Hills – he isn’t a household name, he ran the night masterfully. He whipped the crowd up ready for the acts with arch and cynical material concerning living in the ‘South-Coast retirement belt’ and not having enough money to buy food due to sending his children to private school; an endeavour, he claims, that will only teach them to hate him.

The first half of the evening featured Andrew Ryan, Porky the Poet (the poem reading alter-ego of Phill Jupitus), Elliot Steel, and Tom Allen. Ryan, a thirty-something Irishman, channelled the positive energy of Russell Howard and his ilk. A particular highlight of his set was a recounting of his mischievous pranks at the christening of his godson (all to the consternation of his put-upon mother). The next act up, Elliot Steel, showed skills beyond his young years. Although at times he faltered slightly, perhaps due to the large room, his story concerning not into Croydon hot-spot ‘Tiger Tiger’ went over well, leaving the audience in stiches. He’s certainly one to keep an eye on. Moving from the new to the old, Juppitus then came on stage, reviving his poetry act from the eighties. It was a bold move given that most know him simply as ‘that guy from Buzzcocks’, but he didn’t disappoint. In fact, his ten-minute spot, which included poems about Jeremy Clarckson fornicating with cars and his unwanted attraction to Theresa May, hinted at great potential for bringing the act back in full. The first half of the evening was then ended by Tom Allen. Although he’s far from a house-hold name, he commanded a formidable authority in his crisp suit. His camp and cutting style was a high-point of the evening.

The second half of the evening saw Suzie Ruffell, Phil Jerrord, James Acaster, and Seann Walsh take to the stage. First Ruffell kept the momentum going with a set that for the most part revolved around her well-meaning mum and geezer father. These stories of awkward familial interaction were relatable and went over well. Brighton local Phil Jerrord then went on to discuss the trials and tribulations of an early middle-aged, Guardian reading existence. With a mixture of brilliantly scripted lines and perfectly pitched anger and disdain, he had the room doubled over in laughter. Next up was current critic’s choice James Acaster who justified this position (as well as the selling out of his show the following night). With his quirky observations and stories, he’s sure to have won over a new legion of fans. Closing the night was Brighton born TV star Seann Walsh. Although it was difficult to think how the previous hours of comedy could be topped, he masterfully did so. With a collection of material including the downsides of living with a morning person (he describe a hairdryer as a ‘sound gun’) and local observations such as how the robotic voice on the train pronounces ‘Moulsecoomb Station’ with apparent disdain, he put a pin in a wonderful night of comedy.

For more information concerning Sussex Beacon, follow this link http://www.sussexbeacon.org.uk/

Alex Mason

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