Our last day at the Fest saw we saw only three shows having narrowly missed out on comps to see Stewart Lee, but boy were they quality.
Jason Cook is a young Geordie based in Manchester where he is managed by my friend Lee of Gag Reflex comedy mangement and one half of the amusing duo who spoof German music, Die Clattershenkenfietermaus.
His show entitled My Confessions uses the simple but effective structure of a powerpoint screen giving titles for a series of confessions about life, and some images as well. Cook is chatty, amiable and witty and the show moves along enjoyably, if somewhat conventionally, with a number of the confessions centering around his enjoyment of practical jokes and tendency to say and do funny things even when they’re also a bit mean. All enjoyable enough, then comes the last twenty minutes when Cook delves into his relationship with a Father he idolises who has sufferred some serious health problems, including a stroke. From this point on Cook ramps up the emotional levels several times whilst still keeping the comedy going – finally ending by describing what happened when his Dad came and saw the show a few days previously. Its no wonder the show is getting five stars and I have to confess to crying a few tears at the end.
After meeting up with another comedy agent whom I know from work and chatting on the phone but had never met in person, and getting an interesting insight into the corporate side of comedy chatting with him and another agent/booker with 25 years experience, I went off to a show recommended by the Kindle theatre girls we had met the day before.
The Smile off your Face was an amazing and unique experience – just thinking about it now is putting me in touch with the emotional impact of it. All we knew in advance was that the audience for the show enters one at a time, in a wheelchair, blindfold and with hands tied. So not your usual show then.
In the waiting room I was a little nervous, but perhaps surprisingly once in the chair and gliding off into the darkness, was fairly relaxed throughout – just allowing these imaginative and sensitive performers to do with me what they would. This trust on my part was rewarded with a series of intimate, diverse and extraordinary experiences, finishing with something so powerfully moving and personal that I think it would be a shame to share it in detail, but suffice it to say it felt like being at once in a reality more real then normal, yet simultaneously within the most amazing film ending you’ve ever seen. I’ll certainly watch out for more work from Ontroerend Goed tho frankly Im not sure what else could match this.
I saw one of Reginald D Hunter‘s first ever comedy shows and began booking him immediately and later managing him and he remains one of my favourite comics and best friends, so its always a highlight to see his show, wondering how he can possibly match the amazing things that I’ve seen him do before. Despite his frustrations with the business side of comedy, Reg is in good form and when we chatted afterwards, was happy and relaxed. This show, and to some extent his Edinburgh show of last year didnt have quite the staggering levels of intensity that I’ve experienced from Reg in other settings, but he is perhaps now more accessible than ever before meaning that some of his crashingly powerful observations are likely to hit even harder and more often with his ever growing audience.