views from the gods

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Peter Broughton-Rates presents Meet Here
Etcetera Theatre
3rd August 2015


Publicity image for Peter Broughton-Rates presents Meet Here

Photography provided by PBR Comedy

You may watch a lot of stand-up, but have you ever thought about taking the mike yourself and dabbling with the world of comedy? In Peter Broughton-Rates' Meet Here, he attempts to get new recruits to sign up for the Scottish Secret Service, a sort of exclusive club for the finest comedians. It's so exclusive and secret in fact that there are currently only two people enlisted in active service; him and the General. And the General may or may not be a literal puppet, leaving plenty of vacancies open if you're game for a laugh.

As part of the training process, Broughton-Rates sets us various challenges - this is the sort of show where you have to get involved - don't worry, nothing too traumatising. As part of our education, he shares stories of his own road to comedy thus far, which gives the show a clear narrative arc, but could be written more sharply. His delivery is however spot on; crisp, assured and never showing the slightest hint of panic even when things don't go to plan, possibly the most essential quality in a successful S.S.S. member.

With it being opening night, a number of things did go wrong, most notably Broughton-Rates losing his place and inadvertently cutting his hour-long set down to a trim 35 minutes. This in itself is a lesson to S.S.S. recruits in training - skipping a scene or many in a play spells disaster; in a stand up set, you can get away with quite a lot in the name of improv and underdog. There's something horribly British about laughing at someone else's misfortune (how did the Germans coin the term schadenfreude before us?) but the slips in the planned running order didn't curtail the humour.

I've seen plenty of comedians try to duck out of a gig when ticket sales haven't been overwhelming, as if penalising the people that did bother to turn up would win you a solid fanbase. Broughton-Rates carried on regardless, showing a huge amount of professionalism and actually managing to make the experience entertaining rather than awkward. Believe me, that's quite an achievement. Meet Here would undoubtedly work better with a bigger crowd, giving Broughton-Rates more energy to feed off, but it's frankly a miracle that it worked at all with such a small one.

I can't say I had learned a huge amount about the art of comedy by the end of the show. Maybe I'm just a bad recruit. Maybe the good stuff was in one of the sections that got missed out accidentally. The audience participation created a lot of giggles; the journal entries and quick-fire quips written in advance were less laugh out funny than they should have been. With his confident manner, excellent timing and an ability to not let any hiccup faze him, Broughton-Rates strikes me as far more suited to improv and should freestyle more often. Nonetheless, Meet Here is a fun concept, and you never know, you might learn something. Well, if Broughton-Rates remembers to tell you - it's an educational roulette.

Peter Broughton-Rates presents Meet Here opened on 3rd August and runs until 6th August 2015 at the Etcetera Theatre, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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