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- Tim Boden’s Letter from Australia – First Impressions - 15 March, 2014
The Brudenell Social Club is a strange beast. Half hipster hangout, half old-fashioned working men’s boozer, tucked away in an unedifying-looking flat-roofed building sandwiched between a garage and a letting agent. It’s one of the few places in Leeds’ Hyde Park district that pulls off the trick of bringing together students and locals. It’s had an admirable reputation as a venue for live music for years, and more recently has added comedy to its roster of entertainments, thanks to the monthly stand-up extravaganza that is the Pigeon Hole.
For the sake of journalistic integrity I should probably mention that one of the major forces behind Pigeon Hole Comedy is Vada‘s own Callum Scott, so I may be a less than objective reviewer. However, having attended Pigeon Hole from its launch many months ago, it’s been a pleasure watching both the event and its regular performers going from strength to strength.
The perfect example of this was our host for the evening, Red Redmond. On previous outings as Pigeon Hole’s MC I hadn’t particularly warmed to him, but on this occasion he seemed at ease and on the ball, ably improvising in conversation with audience members and keeping everything moving smoothly throughout. (I would also like to apologise, in the unlikely event that he’s reading this, for whatever deeply-lodged part of my Nottinghamshire upbringing made me instinctively shout ‘sheepshagger!’ as soon as he mentioned being from Derby. Respect to the man, though, as he came back with a well-pitched response without the slightest break in pace.)
First act proper was Wes Zaharuk, who owned the stage like a randy Canadian Tommy Cooper, bringing us a high-energy exercise in bravado, slapstick and schadenfreude. Prop comedy is hard to pull off successfully, but his guts and gusto carried it along throughout, encouraging shy members of the audience into increasingly ridiculous acts of self-debasement while making himself look equally preposterous at the same time. There’s now at least one man out there who won’t be able to look at plungers without shuddering for a long time.
The following performer, Liam Pickford, was a complete tonal contrast, his style being a mixture of surrealism and sarcasm delivered in the most gruff and deadpan manner possible. The blunt delivery nicely counteracted the whimsy, making the everyday strange and vice versa; however, the more usual observational remarks seemed a little run-of-the-mill, and the final few minutes of his act were unfortunately marred by a deeply awkward altercation with a heckler of which neither side came out looking very good.
After that, Sean Morley’s low-key, self-effacing style was exactly the kind of emollient the audience needed. However, I think he suffered from his placement in the line-up just before the headline act, as although I definitely recall chuckling at regular intervals I genuinely cannot remember a thing about him or his act other than I thought he was wearing quite a nice shirt. This is why I am not a professional reviewer.
Finishing the night was a genuine coup for Pigeon Hole, Simon Munnery. As a man I’d last seen wearing a ridiculous hat on television about a decade ago, and about whom I had recently read rather mixed reviews, I was entirely uncertain as to what to expect. However, this particular night he was on excellent form, eschewing his more avant-garde material for a mix of dry one-liners and slightly longer set-pieces, including a spot-on deconstruction of the Mission: Impossible franchise (it’s mostly about switches) and a rumination on the mysterious workings of the minds of small children.
As always with live comedy, a mixed bag, but a very successful night overall (even if I do miss the early days when they used to have a competition to win a plastic bottle of cider). If nothing else, having sat through some pretty shitty stand-up nights in my time, it’s a privilege to have such a consistently decent one on my doorstep, and to the Brudenell’s credit that it’s showcasing live comedy in the same way it’s done so well for independent music. Long may it continue.