views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Rich Mix
29th June 2012


As you can see if you bother to scroll down for my other reviews (come on, don't be lazy) you will see I didn't really take to Rich Mix's Dong night. It was sweaty, noisy and frustrating. No, it wasn't an orgy, despite how it sounds, but an evening of hip-hop based comedy that failed to get the best out of the talent and made me feel about 150. But I'm nothing if not fair (except perhaps a hypocrite, misanthrope and unnecessarily cruel to my enemies) so I decided to give the venue another go with comedy promoter Knock2Bag's night.

And this time, they got the line-up just right, with a great mix of the challenging, political, mainstream and fabulous. Compere Elis James worked the room confidently and his deft audience interaction was normal in content but second-to-none in style. Joyously self-deprecating and a touch idiotic, his strong Welsh accent only helped the laughs. A piece about the Welsh language certainly tickled my linguistic funnybone, as did a story of some unfortunate out-of-season carol singing. Natural with his patter, the audience were firmly on-side.

That was until Dr Brown. This was by no means his fault. Some wonderfully inventive physical comedy which involved putting the microphone near a guffawing audience member, was strong. But his clowning soon soured the crowd who were evidently looking for something more conventional. Or, as we later found out, possibly rapper/comedian Doc Brown. This came to a head when a meandering piece of anti-comedy poking fun at the "Something funny happened to me..." trope landed him in hot water with a couple of impatient hecklers. His response - to call them ugly and childishly mock their voices, ridiculing both them and him in the process - was inspired but uncomfortable. Eventually, though, his slightly pathetic responses had the audience do a complete U-turn and throw their weight behind him once again. I fear his witty clowning schtick was more suited to a group of Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery or Ted Chippington fans than a handful of philistines here.

The softly-spoken musical comedian David Elms was next up, and his calm demeanour tinged with slight discomfort, whether real or put on, was incredibly endearing. This melted away when he brought out the acoustic guitar for gleefully silly songs about playing "guess who" and a short, sharp set-up/punchline break-up tune. The confidence boost also saw him hilariously attempt to pick up a girl in the front row, but the stand-out piece was a love letter featuring the entire phonetic alphabet. Some superb linguistic dexterity combined with simultaneously inspired and groan-inducing puns deservedly brought down the house.

Now, confession time. I've never really 'got' Josie Long's particular brand of tweeness crossed with politics. I don't dislike her, she just seemed to appear on the scene to a disproportionate level of acclaim for what was gentle kookiness. But after this performance, I've had to reassess my opinions and apologise. Whether it was increasing disillusionment with the Government, or having recently turned 30, she has matured. The handmade badges are gone, but the politics remains - and is sillier but sharper than ever. A frightening representation of how Ed Miliband might really be in power was at odds with her amiable persona, laughs coming from the surprise delivery as much as the content. And a great deconstruction of MSN Live's 30 Things To Do Before You're 30, which jumped from depressed to cynical to irritated was an excellent bit which may have overstayed its welcome in less assured hands.

What can you say about headliners Frisky and Mannish? The stylish and uber-glam pop duo are at the top of their game, demonstrated by a barnstorming set featuring new material as well as old favourites like Kate Bash and The Wheels on the Bus. It was essentially a Now That's What I Call Frisky and Mannish best-of CD. Treating their source material with warmth and affection as well as pinpoint accuracy, their homages are not only hilarious but pitch-perfect. Frisky's exuberance and diva-like posturing is acutely observed, while her staggering vocal range is a joy to listen to on a simply musical level. Equally, Mannish's mannerisms, subtle mocking of convention and glorious facial expressions are painfully hilarious. Put the two together and it's magical.

An unexpected encore which even seemed to surprise Elis James rounded off a cracking night. Despite my previous RichMix experience, when Knock2Bag is involved, it can hardly be better.

Knock2Bag is a regular night at Rich Mix, currently on hiatus until after summer 2012.

Nearest tube station: Shoreditch (Overground)

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