Live At The Marlowe: Review

Lynne Parker

Lynne Parker

I am reflecting on comedy and ageism after going to see Live At The Marlowe in Canterbury at the weekend. It was a much-needed comedy top up for me and on home territory here in Kent despite the 60 mile round trip! Kent is a massive county but people do travel for their entertainment thankfully.

It was good to see that all 1,200 seats in the Marlowe theatre were completely sold out. This warms my cockles as, in terms of personal ambition, this is why I set up Funny Women in the first place. Over 20 years on, and I’m delighted that an all-female line up like this can attract a large audience in a regional venue and it validates all the work we all do towards equality on the circuit.

It’s all in the casting of course and top marks go to some inspired booking and, in particular, the brilliant host, Jen Brister. She cleverly opened the show by scoping out who was in the audience by engaging in some friendly banter with four Gen Z male students seated on the front row. Their youthful presence was at odds with the largely middle-aged demographic but Brister’s ‘chummy’ approach set the bar, and she had her new fans sharing their cookies and crisps along with some cheeky chatter.

Brister did a straw poll on age which, as a device, is a good way of knowing what you’re dealing with audience-wise.  I’m not going to lie but I was horrified by the response from my age group which was remarkably scant. We’d managed to sit next to what felt like the only other two people in the theatre over 60 plus who shared our surprise at how few of us there were out on a Saturday night!

The biggest response by far was from the 30-40 year old age group, followed by a slightly less vocal 50 plus cohort. The four teenagers on the front row may have been the only representatives of their age group and the 20-30s were reticent.

Upon reflection, I’m not surprised. Representation of my age group in comedy is still predominantly male and I know from talking to my contemporaries that they either consume their comedy on telly or go to see long established circuit comedians when booking live tickets. Three of the female acts last night were over 40 and one of them over 50. The other is in her 30s and didn’t seem as at ease with the audience as the rest of the line up. At least my preoccupation with age makes a change from the usual gender discussion.

Desiree Burch, winner of our Funny Women Stage Award in 2015 opened strongly, albeit with a few too many F-words for some of the genteel Canterbury audience.  Yet, the majority loved her ballsy style and she embraced the large auditorium with tales of coupledom, dodgy knees and cat management.

A big stage begs a big performance and although Harriet Kemsley wasn’t full on Live at the Apollo she engaged us with her tales of motherhood and negotiating divorce. Not sure this was her ideal audience but the response was warm and no doubt Kemsley has gained a few more fans.

Headliner Sindhu Vee is one of my favourite Funny Women Awards alumni (Stage Award finalist 2012) and I’m proud to have been there at the very start of her comedy career. Her material is measured, relatable and perfectly tailored to provincial audiences. This set was full of talk about teenage kids, parenting challenges, trying to be cool and the hilarious consequences of eavesdropping on conversations about ‘ballet dancers’. All very funny and I’m sure it’s all work in progress for her upcoming US tour. They will love her.

There’s lots more great comedy coming up at the Marlowe where I note some more Funny Women winners and finalists on their line-ups including Sarah Keyworth, Sophie Duker and Laura Smyth. Check out what’s on here in both the main theatre and the studio over the next few months.

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