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Didcot’s own Matt Richardson tells Peter Anderson how much he’s looking forward to his show at the Cornerstone – not least because his mum always helps his home gig sell out!

Matt’s first tour at the tender age of 21 was called Hometown Hero, and now he brings his latest tour Imposter to his home town. With this tour, he’s celebrating a decade delighting audiences, both as a stand-up and as a link on many television shows. When I caught up with the lad from Didcot I found, among other things, his mother is still one of his best, and busiest fans.

“I love the show at The Cornerstone whenever I do it,” says Matt. “It’s full of familiar faces and it’s always a lovely sell-out! My mum basically does all the leg work and promotes it to everyone she knows, so it’s a very stress-free show for the promoter!”

What can the audiences look forward to?” It’s loads of new material, about growing up and settling down with some stories about my slightly unusual life on the fringes of the public eye, with one or two of my old routines thrown in from my previous shows as a slight celebration of my decade in the business!”

Feeling he is an imposter as an adult now 28, what’s Matt favourite age? “About 21 or 22. You’ve broken into the world and feel like everything is in front of you and anything is possible, but a lot of the reality hasn’t set in yet. And your parents are still happy to cover your rent once in a while.”

His career has included television work, does the stand-up experience stand him in good stead? “Yes, I really think it does. I’ve done a lot of shows that require dealing with members of the public, and I think years on stage talking to them really sets you up for that. Live TV is such a different beast to stand-up, but I’ve had to make up 10 minutes of a show after the autocue failed and there was nothing to prompt me. The one thing live TV and stand-up have in common are this – when it’s going badly time slows down to a crawl!”

Is there somewhere he would love to perform? “I’d be quite keen to gig in America. I’ve filmed there lots over the years, but I’d be really interested to see how my act goes down with their comedy club audiences. I’ve got a lot of routines I worry are far too UK centric, and I am planning on world domination (once I can sell out Didcot without my mum, of course).”

More info

Matt is performing on Saturday 15th February; visit the Cornerstone website for ticket information.

Max & Ivan

Round & About

comedy

Edinburgh Comedy Award-nominees Max & Ivan, as seen in BBC One’s W1A and heard on BBC Radio 4’s The Casebook of Max & Ivan bring their show Commitment to Reading tomorrow (6th February).

Peter Anderson caught up with the hilarious duo…

Q. How did you both discover your talents for comedy & improv?

Ivan: “ Max grew up listening to, watching and reading comedy from an early age – he always dreamed of becoming a performer and through dedication and devotion he got to where he is now.”

Max: “ As for Ivan, we’re both hoping he’ll discover his talents soon…”

Ivan: “ Fingers crossed! That’s one of my talents, incidentally.”

Q. You met while studying at Royal Holloway. Does that mean acting and comedy is to some extent at Plan B?

Max: “ We both studied theatre, so this is Plan A! The fact that we don’t have a Plan B is what worries our parents the most (and us to be honest….).”

Ivan: “ Getting a real job is Plan B! And I’ve no idea what the next letter of the alphabet is, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.”

Q. How well did you know each other before you came together at the radio station?

Ivan: “ When we met at an audition for a play (in the first week of university) we got talking about comedy and within a couple of weeks we started working together.”

Max: “ Our friendship and working partnership are one and the same and we look forward to it continuing (until the eventual day it falls apart in bitter, furious litigation).”

Q. Who are your inspirations?

Max: “ The League of Gentlemen, Brass Eye, Little Britain, Key & Peele, French & Saunders, Julia Davis.

Ivan: “ Max.”

Q. What can the audience at South Street expect from the show?

Max: “ If you come to see us at South Street you’ll witness the TRUE story of how I attempted to reform Ivan’s teenage band for one final gig on the night of his stag. It’s an incredible story that has to be seen to be believed, filled with an array of embarrassing photos and videos from our childhood.”

Ivan: “ It also made a number of publications’ Top 10 lists for best comedy shows of 2019 – so we can guarantee that it’s FUNNY! We won’t name those publications out of respect to the Round & About magazine, but feel free to Google – sorry, use a prominent search engine of your choice – if you don’t believe us.”

Q. I know Kieran has performed there before have either of you?

Ivan: “ We haven’t! However when we asked Kieran Hodgson (our director) what to expect, he said: ‘Reading South Street is one of my favourite venues, with a discerning clientele and access to a really good canalside Pizza Express for post-show nosh. You’re also under directorial orders to see the weird muscly lion statue during the afternoon. Break a leg! Kieran. X’

Max: “ His directorial brilliance knows no bounds!”

Q. How do you go about writing/creating the framework for the show?

Max: “ With our previous shows, it’s always been a torturous process involving far too many hours spent in a small room drinking lots of coffee and scribbling on hundreds of Post-it notes.”

Ivan: “ We thought that seeing as Commitment is based on a real story it’d be different this time round… but unfortunately not.”

Q. If you had free rein to pick another actor to join you, who would you pick?

Max: “ We have a running joke with James Acaster that he’ll one day appear halfway through our show as a neighbour, saying his catchphrase of ‘hello boys’ – it’d have to be fulfilling that weird dream I guess!”

Ivan: “ You never know – he might turn up in Reading!*”

Q. How do you relax away from acting?

Ivan: “ We write an eight-part geo-political comedy thriller podcast of course!”

Max: “ Why not give it a listen: it’s called Max & Ivan: Fugitives and it’s nothing like our live show…”

Q. I guess there is a lot of driving between gigs, what do you listen to; music, audio-books?

Max: “ John, our tour manager and driver extraordinaire** is actually a trained musical director, so we’ve actually spent most of our travelling time together learning three-part harmonies to songs…”

Ivan: “ We’re quite tempted to spend our final tour date performing some rousing folk songs instead of Commitment (although we’re not sure what the good people of Norwich would think of that).”

 

* he won’t.

**John’s driving is actually quite dangerous and when we’re not learning harmonies we’re reminding him how roundabouts work, or warning him that he’s about to crash into a parked car.

Windsor Fringe 2019

Round & About

comedy

Theatre, comedy, music, dance, family shows, a pop up record stall and music around a fire pit are among some of the many amazing attractions at this year’s Windsor Fringe. 

There are more than 130 performers and artists, showcasing local and national talent at the event from 20th September to 6th October, the second oldest fringe in the UK after Edinburgh. 

The launch party kicks off the festival with music from DJ Steve Nash and guests playing everything from reggae and jazz to funk and disco with drinks and food from street vendors to make it a great way to start. 

Among the many musical highlights of the festival are jazz singers Claire Martin and Ian Shaw with A Century of Song (21st); traditional music from Spain with The Maiden & The Thief (25th); The Magic of Motown (27th) and An Afternoon of Music & Colour brings R&B and funk on the 29th. 

There’s theatre in the form of The Red Balloon (21st) and a trip through Shakespeare in The battle of Love and Power (29th) before you go on Journey’s End on 1st and 2nd October. 

Join a Victorian Windsor walking tour, discover Queen Anne’s Windsor and enjoy some of the work put on display by more than 30 artists at open house events around the town.  

The family is well catered for entertainment to suit all ages from dance to an arts festival day and join The Last Puppet with an adventure aboard ship. 

The festival also features the 16th international Kenneth Branagh Award for new drama writing. The three finalists’ plays will be performed nightly on 3rd, 4th, and 5th October before a panel of judges chooses the overall winner – why not watch one a night at The Old Court and decide for yourself? 

Windsor Fringe

To find out more about all the events at Windsor Fringe and to book tickets

C’est la Vee

Round & About

comedy

Calm, cool, classy and award-winning comedian Sindhu Vee comes to Oxford’s North Wall Arts Centre this month with her latest show Sandhog.

It is said we chose our friends, but we are given our relatives, the exception being our spouse. Those ties are highly questionable at so many points once the bloom of new love is gone (sometime between 24 hours and 24 months after the wedding!).

Yet people stay married, and she is the generation fighting on two fronts being responsible for both children and aged parents! Stand by for some home truths on marriage, and the exhausting and complicated life of giving all generations the love you think they deserve. Peter Anderson caught up with Sindhu to find out about her, stand-up and her love for Oxford as she looks forward to an appearance at the North Wall Arts Centre.

Stand-up was not on Sindhu’s radar for a career choice, she worked in investment banking, had three children, a Danish husband, and a giant Labrador. Then it happened, as Sindhu explains “It hadn’t really entered my head. I have never seen stand up and then a friend persuaded me to go and listen to them at an “open-mike” night. I thought to myself, I think I could do that and so I did a course on stand-up comedy, and the rest is history.”

It seems though when it comes to inspirations there was a seed that was sown in her childhood in India “Looking back, when I younger and still living India in the 1970s, I was fixated on Carol Burnett, I loved the way she could be so silly. I checked recently with my mum and said Oh yes you were always watching that stupid lady”.

With her experience studying does Sindhu have a structured approach to writing her act. “There is certainly a structure in that when I get an idea, I will practice it at around five “open-mike” nights continually refining it. I don’t think I could allocate a time and certainly couldn’t work at a table in a café – I would just sit and eat cakes all the time!”
Sindhu is pleased to be appearing at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford was the first place in England she lived after she got a scholarship in India to study here. “Oxford has always been dear to my heart, since I first came to England and Oxford to study philosophy in 1992. I always felt it was the wider Oxford that welcomed me as well as my college and the university”

Sindhu Vee

Sandhog is at the North Wall Arts Centre on 19th September for tickets and more information…

Prophet Sharing

Round & About

comedy

Two great religions. Two great comedians. The descendants of Abraham may have gone their separate ways, but now stand-up comedian friends Ashley Blaker and Imran Yusuf are joining forces in the most-unlikely double-act since Kermit and Miss Piggy, the pair are travelling the UK uniting people of every faith and none for an evening of laughter and come to South Street Arts Centre this week. Peter Anderson caught up with the pair to chat about the show and their love of comedy.

With the current divisive nature of politics, it is nice to see comedy trying to bring unity, where did the idea for the show come from? Ashley replies “: I had thought for a while about doing something like this and then Imran came to see my Edinburgh show and really enjoyed it so I thought it would be worth asking him”. Imran agrees;” The show was Ashley’s idea I went to see him in Edinburgh last year and afterwards we got talking and he pitched this format.”

Speaking of the format, what can audiences look forward to? “Authentic experiences of two people from religious backgrounds who actually know what they are talking about.” Imran explains, whilst Ashley entices us “We perform separately and then do half an hour together. Thereafter I don’t want to give too much away.” He smiles.

Would there be the possibility of a sequel, together or perhaps with comedians of other faiths following your splendid lead? Imran replies “I hope this inspires other comics to explore something similar. Ashley and I are both quite well read into our faiths with some hardcore experiences, I hope to see more of something like this rather than the pedestrian narratives that are well worn out now.

I’m already working on another solo show and have vowed to read every major religious book over the next few years to help understand the multiple world views we are all so devoted to.” While it seems, Ashley has a partner lined up for 2020! “I have asked Tom Cruise if he’d like to do a show with me – orthodox Jew and Scientologist. Not sure how funny he is but I thought he would probably shift a lot of seats.”

You are coming to Reading, is this somewhere you have happy memories of? Ashley replies “Yes I’ve performed my last two solo shows in Reading, so I am very much looking forward to coming back.” Imran has also performed here “Yes, I’ve performed in Reading a few times before. At the Uni and for two previous solo shows”.

For your chance to see them together, they are at South Street Arts Centre on 4th June.

  For information go to Reading Arts.

Child’s play: comedy with Sam Avery

Round & About

comedy

Sam Avery will tackle parenthood at Aldershot’s West End Centre on Thursday, 28th February. Peter Anderson quizzes him on how he devised the show.

Parenthood is a crafty beast. The second you master something, it changes the game, so you are rubbish at it again. So says stand-up comedian, viral blogger and best-selling author Sam Avery (aka The Learner Parent) and he brings his tales of twin toddler tantrums, and the sleep-deprived route from first-time parenthood that got him there, to Aldershot this month.

As to how Sam discovered his love for comedy, we have to go back to his own childhood and of course the paper round. “I always liked comedy and making people laugh as a child. When others were doing their paper round listening to the pop songs of the day, I was listening to comedians like Ben Elton.

“I was shy when I first started, I was 25, the first gig was rough, then the next two were good, I thought I was getting the idea then I bombed again.

“Afterwards, one of the more experienced comedians came up and said – don’t worry it’ll probably take you five years to get the hang of it”.

So, who was his inspiration? “My family definitely, all of them are funny. But then probably Richard Pryor; I saved up about £90 I think for a CD box set of his career, from when he was starting out very much in the Bill Cosby mould to when he had created an identity of his own.”

What can audiences expect from Sam’s show? He tells me it was a kind of pseudo-sequel to the book, covering the twins so far. It’s an old chestnut but I wondered if he had struggled to tell them apart? Initially he had been saved the embarrassment, as he tells me…

“When they were born it was actually easy because one of them had to have an operation so had pipes and then a scar. Now they are three years old and most of the time I can get it right, but if I get it wrong, they happily correct me.”

Was writing the blog something that helped him through the lows of that first stint of parenthood?

“I really did find it useful because through doing it not only was I able to pick up good advice, but it helped me realise I wasn’t the only person going through these things.

“Perhaps what was the nicest thing was that some people rather than giving advice were getting the same strength and support that I got, and they said it was really useful for them.”

  For your chance to hear Sam’s tales of bringing up the twins, he is at the West End Centre on Thursday, 28th February. For details visit www.hampshire culturaltrust.org.uk/west-end-centre

Mixing it up! Improv comedy

Round & About

comedy

Expect to be involved in the show in the latest improv offering from The Noise Next Door.

Lightning-quick wit and comedic talent have helped improv troupe The Noise Next Door take the comedy world by storm.

They have sold out the Edinburgh Fringe 11 times with their distinctive brand of off-the-cuff comedy which the foursome have been performing together since meeting at university.

The boys – Charlie Granville, Tom Livingstone, Sam Pacelli and Robin Hatcher – are back with a new full-length adult show, The Noise Next Door – Remix and you can find out what all the fuss and noise is about for yourself when they bring it to Farnham Maltings on Friday, 8th February.

If you’re going along be prepared to be part of the show – the guys take audience suggestions and transform them into funny scenes and songs in the blink of an eye with a combination of characters, one liners, epic stories and ‘explosive physicality’.

They have appeared on numerous TV shows and alongside established British comedy names such as Michael McIntrye, Al Murray and Harry Hill. But their appearances don’t stop there, as they’ve also played to the British armed forces, secondary school students (a tough crowd) and even on stage at Download heavy metal festival.

They have been described as ‘comedy gold’ and as offering ‘a superior kind of chaos’. Remix will see them at their most creative yet with this new cutting edge and hilarious show.

  To book go to www.farnhammaltings.com but if you miss them there or had such a good time you want to go again, they’re at Cranleigh Arts Centre on 15th March.

Hal Cruttenden: Middle ground

Round & About

comedy

One of Britain’s top comedians, Hal Cruttenden brings his stand-up show to Maidenhead’s Norden Farm this month.

Keen to involve his family in the planning as well as being one of the subjects within the act, he asked his teenage daughters what he should call the tour. Hence “Chubster”, which also gives a clue as to other subjects – his battle with weight! Now Hal’s back on the 5:2 diet and onstage in a hilarious show that not only touches on his usual moans about being a middle-aged, middle class father of fat-shaming teenagers but also introduces us to new problems like his struggles with IQ tests, political zealots and the trauma of supporting the England rugby team.

So, who were the people who inspired Hal in his career that has often seen him nominated for awards? It seems those middle-class doubts needed satisfying as he says his inspirations were people like Eddie Izzard: “He convinced me that you could do stand-up successfully and be middle-class. I thought it was so impressive and it taught me that it was more the joke than the person telling it. I just so love Bill Connolly’s charisma, I just want to sit down and listen to him. Comedians like Frankie Boyle and Kevin Bridges, I think for me it is more a case of jealousy rather than inspiration.”

Having given his family the chance to name the show, do they also get a chance to see their dad in action? “Oh yes, they always see the shows. As to what they think of them, my children are now asking for a raise in their pocket money and calling it research costs!” Hal says. Speaking of research, how easy does he find the writing? Not, it would appear! “I am anything but disciplined, I am rubbish – if I did not have a deadline to work to I doubt I would get anything done. I have the upmost respect for Lee Mack, I have absolutely no idea how he writes all the comedy scripts and stand-up shows that he does.”

Having toured the world, it seems the bright lights of New York still beckon for Hal, he says: “I would really love to perform in New York, I really fancy doing Carnegie Hall or the Radio City Music Hall.” Your chance to see him at Norden Farm Arts Centre is on Friday, 11th and Saturday, 12th January.

  For more information go to norden.farm

Fighting Talk

Round & About

comedy

Comedian Lucy Porter brings her smash-hit Edinburgh Fringe show Choose Your Battles to various venues Peter Anderson catches up with her…

In Choose your Battles Lucy Porter, with the aid of the audience and a punchbag, works out when she should stick to her guns and fight and when she can use her disarming charm to defuse a situation. I caught up with her and, while ducking the boxing glove, asked her about her life and the tour.

Q. Is your current tour based purely on your life and experience, or observation as well?
“It’s a bit of a mixture. Most of the material comes from my own experience, but my audience are wonderful at coming up afterwards or emailing me and saying ‘that story you told reminded me of something awful my husband did…’ or ‘when my kids were little, I found this was a really useful tip…’ so I get a lot of helpful feedback that finds its way into the show.”

Q. Have your husband or children seen the show?
“Oh goodness, no! My whole act relies on the fact that my husband is looking after the kids while I’m out talking about them on stage. I don’t know what I’ll do when the children are old enough to see my act – I’ll have to change it and just talk about our cats.”

Q. How long does it take you to collate and write material for a show?
“It’s a never-ending process of writing, presenting stuff to the audience and then revising it. It’s 100% my favourite thing about live stand-up; the fact that no two shows are alike. The skeleton of this show was written for the Edinburgh festival in August last year, and some of my favourite bits have stayed in, but there’s always stuff that’s new this week, today, or even on the night.”

Q. As someone who prefers not to make a fuss, and carefully choose your battles would you like to have lived in 1717?
“Ooh, I hope you’re referring here to my play the Fair Intellectual Club, which was set in 1717 and concerned a group of young women who decided to set up a secret society for studying maths, physics, astronomy and all the other things that ‘nice girls’ weren’t supposed to concern themselves with. I hope I’d always have been a mouthy, opinionated and difficult woman like they were.”

Q. You write both comedies and dramas. Is it easy to switch between the two?
“I never had any ambition to write drama, but as I’ve got older I’ve realised my life experience has gifted me some serious points to make. That said, even when I’m writing drama I can’t help playing for laughs sometimes. I hope never to have to take life, or myself, too seriously.”

Q. If you were stranded on a desert island, who would like to be stranded with?
“I love my own company and I need a holiday, so I’d be delighted to be on a desert island for at least a week. If I could be stranded with Dolly Parton and Paul McCartney, I could have the music and good company as well.”

Q. You are appearing at The West End Centre in Aldershot. What memories do you have of appearing there?
“The West End Centre is one of the nicest and most welcoming places I’ve ever encountered. Also, the people who run it have impeccable taste in music (and comedy too of course!).”

For more details visit www.lucyporter.co.uk

Feel the Byrne

Round & About

comedy

Jonathan Lovett chats to comedian, actor, writer and dad of two Ed Byrne, 45, who has just embarked on his biggest ever tour to date, Spoiler Alert, following a sell-out success at this year’s Edinburgh Festival

Q. What is Spoiler Alert about…or is answering that a bit of a spoiler in itself?!
“Well, I called it that partly because if there were any bad reviews people wouldn’t read them because it would say ‘Spoiler Alert’ at the top! But it’s mainly because the theme of the show is the notion of how spoilt we are in general and how we’ve become quite mollycoddled as a nation. Stuff like having to push a button to start a car rather than turn a key because it’s such a great drudgery to turn a key these days. And how it’s the trivia stuff we act really spoiled about, whereas with the big stuff, such as politics, we seem to just accept how bad things are. There was a big women’s march after Trump was elected and some people were like ‘Uhhh. What are they complaining about? We don’t live in Saudi Arabia,’ with the implication being ‘Shut up, luv. We’re not stoning you to death, what are you bothered about?!’”

Q. If you had the opportunity to say something to Donald Trump what would it be?
“If I ever did have such a marvellous opportunity I’d have to look him straight in the eye and say, ‘You really are an awful person, aren’t you?’ or maybe I would just scream ‘STOP PAINTING YOURSELF ORANGE…YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS!’”

Q. You’ve just begun an epic tour. Do you love touring this much, Ed?
“If you are really famous you can just go and play the main cities and people from little towns will come into the big cities to come and see you. Whereas if you are just ‘that bloke on Mock the Week’ you have to go to those small towns. People from Evesham can’t be bothered to go to Birmingham to see me. So I have to go to Evesham.”

Q. What was your worst gig ever done and does it still haunt you? “I’m sometimes hired to do corporate gigs and now and it can be a real struggle. On occasions there is just no laughter at all and you’re up there in front of an audience who are just there for their own thing and perhaps you’re just not the right comedian for that particular crowd. I mean, Metallica are a great band, but if I booked them to play at my in-laws’ golden wedding anniversary it might not go down particularly well. I have been on stage in the past and just wished ‘God. I wish I was a stripper’ because I would’ve got a far better response from that audience then I ever would as a comedian!”

Q. I can testify you are very funny on stage. Were you the funniest kid in your class?
“I was the classic case of having to be funny to avoid being bullied, but even at school it was bigger, louder kids that were considered funnier. My humour was a bit nerdier. So at school I would be reciting Monty Python sketches and I would be met with a kind of, ‘What the flip are you on about?’ I was probably a little more ‘niche’ as a school kid than I am now and I used to play Dungeons & Dragons even as a teenager. My cousin and I were proper little geeks and I would go into school with a spring in my stride on a Monday morning having got my wizard to Level 14 the night before.”

Q. We’ve just seen you and best mate Dara O Briain on TV in Dara & Ed’s Road to Mandalay, a follow-up to Dara & Ed’s Great Big Adventure in which you travelled the Pan-American Highway. Where next for the intrepid duo?
“Well, if they do ask us to do another one, we are both quite keen on travelling through the Nordic countries. I think there will be a lot of mileage in that. We have a tendency to think of everyone up there as Swedish but it would be really interesting to get under the skin of these places and go, ‘Swedes are like this, and Danes like this, and the Finnish do this etc’… And, if we could get Abba to reunite, that would be good. I was talking to this guy in New Zealand who reckons he saw them all living and working together in this house in New Zealand and I was like ‘Really?!’”

Q. What’s the best thing or worst thing about Dara?
“I tell you what the most interesting thing is about Dara… he doesn’t know about spoons! If you showed him a spoon and said, ‘Now, is that a soup spoon or a dessert spoon?’ he’d be like, ‘It’s a bloody spoon!’ He knows big spoons and small spoons but in-between he doesn’t know anything about them! He only knows ‘spoon’ or ‘not spoon’.”

Visit www.edbyrne.com