REVIEW: The Alpine Club at the Magdala, Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 17:10 11 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:08 07 September 2010

. JOKES about inferior supermarkets and pikeys with dogs tied to bits of string set the tone for this, the token stand up comedy night at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival. While classical music is the lifeblood of the fortnight, it s a hell of a shame

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JOKES about inferior supermarkets and pikeys with dogs tied to bits of string set the tone for this, the token stand up comedy night at the Hampstead and Highgate Festival.

While classical music is the lifeblood of the fortnight, it's a hell of a shame there wasn't more comedy on the bill if this was anything to go by.

Upstairs at the Magdala pub in the heart of Hampstead you felt the compere Ross Ashcroft was on safe ground with his charming, well spoken banter and occasional digs at undesirables. But his warm, well-paced opening paved the way for a superb blend of stand-up and musical comedy.

Slightly reminiscent of a young Eddie Izzard, Henry Packer explored the problems of dating women who are good with faces but not names and picked out with an exquisite sense of timing how predictive text messaging can undo the suavest of memos.

The angry and cerebral Steve Weiner gave a masterclass in immaculate high-speed ranting about all things annoying. Iceland supermarket came in for a clattering when he imagined what the TV adverts might look like if the company adopted a Marks & Spencer-style marketing campaign complete with sexy voiceover for Turkey Twizzlers.

And then the music started. Tom Adams' super-nerd persona was wonderfully awkward between songs accompanied by his classical guitar. His songwriting is witty and accomplished and his punchlines sharp and funny.

The sweet-natured themes of his work included 'gay moments' and Lois Lane - in a song where he brilliantly worked in a melody from the Superman theme tune.

Among nerdy sci-fi observations guitar powerhouse Mitch Benn belted out his own ironic take on masculinity and a superbly acted ode to boy bands. A big man anyway, he uses an undersized guitar for comic effect - providing ample opportunity for jokes about perspective and those sitting at the back of the audience.

His huge voice roared out in the small venue, at times hardly needing a microphone. Just how good he is as a musician is confirmed after the gig when George Vass, the artistic director and one of the prominent conductors of the Hampstead and Highgate festival, whispered his praises. It was a great night with some potential stars and I urge you, Mr Vass to bring them back to the festival nest year.

TP


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