A completely packed Ring o’Bells upstairs is welcomed by compere Dave Williams (Who some of us have seen earlier in more sombre mood, in Prufrock and Me). He’s not sombre now; the fast-fire and friendly audience banter goes down very well, the set gags and off-the- cuff responses piling in one on top of another with an expert’s deftness. As warm-up for an audience already warm, this is high temperature quippery and it gets a deservedly enthusiastic response, before he introduces the first act. Harriet Kemsley is an ebullient young woman who we’ve seen here before ( She won best new act here in 2012.) and her riffs about her life and loves are delivered in an enjoyably breathy but confident style. Though I can’t specifically remember a single thing that she talked about, it matters not. I can tell you that everyone laughed and she got a big cheer at the end. Nick Page is a different kettle of comedy altogether. Never cracking a smile, he kicks off with a deconstruction of everything about a comedy routine in general and his in particular: how the audience banter is rehearsed and predictable; how the apparent spontenaity is no such thing; how he is carefully manipulating everything; and how this will nevertheless make us poor victims laugh. And it does. His meticulously put together material has a go at the foibles of upper class people, middle class people, working class people, comedy audiences and, especially, himself (He’s got a lot of foibles to go at – look him up on the Net.). Laconic and perfectly timed, it’s his uncompromisingly deadpan delivery and his attention to detail that really make the thing work. Altogether, a cracking evening of comedy; and a tribute to the promotional choices of Widcombe’s own comedy impresario, the estimable Nick Steel.
**** (4 Stars)
John Christopher Wood