REVIEW: Devizes Arts Festival’s Comedy Night @ Corn Exchange, Devizes – Friday 4th November 2022

An Early Night of Fireworks

Andy Fawthrop

Just when you’re least expecting it, a crackling night of comedy suddenly looms out of the Autumn mist.  Here we were on a Friday night for a 400-seat sell-out of the Corn Exchange for Devizes Arts Festival’s Comedy Night.…..

And a smashing little box of crackers it was.  First up on stage, and binding the whole evening together, was compere West Country native and Bristol comic James Redmond.  He’s previously been seen on BBC TV’s West Country Sitcom, and The Outlaws.  James’ style was laconic, laid-back and relaxed, poking gentle fun at a few of the locals up at the front.  Whilst some comperes can slightly overstay their welcome, serving only to delay the entry of the ”real” comedians, there was no danger of that here.  A few sparklers and then he was gone.

First up was Aideen McQueen, a late substitute, but no less good for that.  She proved her worth from the get-go with some hilarious material, and lived up to her reputation as one of the brightest sparks in the new generation of Irish comics.  She was cheeky, yet self-deprecating, and very funny with it, also choosing to delve into the front rows for some of her off-the-cuff impromptu material.  A real whizz-bang.

After the first interval, and some more of James Redmond, we were introduced to Stella Graham, a naturally funny stand-up comedian, writer and actor.  We learned that she was a half Sri Lankan gal from Coventry.  Plenty of riffing on lazy race stereotypes and another great set.  A Catherine Wheel of delights.

And finally, following a second chance to grab a drink at the crowded bars, was headliner of the night, the acclaimed comedian and professional hoaxer, Simon Brodkin.  He’s best known for handing Theresa May a P45 at the Conservative Party Conference and for showering Sepp Blatter with dollar bills at a FIFA press conference.   His longer set made no reference at all to these previous victories, and instead he delivered a full-powered main-stream stand-up set.  More delving into the audience, more riffing on D-Town’s somewhat back-water, country-bumpkin West Country reputation.  But it was very well handled, very funny, and without malice.  A spectacular rocket display.

All four comedians were spot-on with their material, read the audience well, and made lots of new friends in the room.  And it was refreshing to hear so much wonderful material delivered without descending into mere crudity and profanity.  Of course there was some swearing, and some near-the-knuckle topics, but it was well blended in and genuinely hilarious.  An excellent show.

The audience obviously loved it, and the evening served to clearly demonstrate (yet again) that there’s a real appetite for some comedy gigs in D-Town.  Interestingly, the best gigs (from a perspective of ticket sales) during the main Devizes Arts Festival recently were the comedy gigs (remember Scummy Mummies and Alfie Moore?)  Perhaps it’s time to get the old regular Comedy Club going again?

In sum – plenty of bangers, some sparklers and a real bonfire of the vanities.  And all this was delivered for a mere tenner – an absolute bargain in my book!  Great night out.


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