Live : Clwb Comedi : Danny McLoughlin / Kate McCabe / Lukas Kirkby / Che Burnley / Shell Byron11.04.18 : Galeri [Caernarfon]
Caernarfon's Galeri is a human-scale arts centre with a feeling of real craft in what it does. Galeri has recently launched a comedy club, working with established promoter Kill for a Seat.
For the April edition, the omens were good on arrival. Galeri is a welcoming venue, with a convivial bar. The studio-style room was set up with a low stage and good lighting - it was also nearly full as the show started. The night was split into three sections - an 'up and coming' act, a couple of newcomers and then the established headliner - all marshalled by a compère.
The MC, Llandudno-raised Lukas Kirkby, held the evening together expertly. From the outset, bounding on stage with energy and bonhomie, he showed himself to be a softly compelling mix of wit, intelligence and devilment, as he bantered cleverly with the front row. He sang two very funny songs - finding musical humour in complex maths and the scatological roadside perils of marathon running. As well as solid material and the necessary comic spark, there is charisma and an irresistible joie de vivre in Kirkby's stage presence. He has a YouTube channel - with a recent short set here.
I had seen the first act, American comedian Kate McCabe, before - then she was 'a restless ball of pent up American comedic energy'; like a tennis pro returning a difficult shot, she thrived on returning the spiky enthusiasm of the audience. Here, opening the night, once into her own regular material she was for a few moments less certain, but then found her game. With an onstage persona stretched just larger than life (it's not only the shared geographic origin that would draw comparison with Ruby Wax) her observational / autobiographical material was both sharp and engaging, especially when playing with preconceptions around sexuality.
The middle section offered two contrasting performances.
An imposing physical presence, Che Burnley had the audience's complete attention in seconds with a quick fire fusillade of jokes. He then confidently offered the crowd a difficult choice of material - racism or cancer. Naturally funny, a storyteller with a defining dark edge, his only problem was that he seemed to be enjoying himself so much that he didn't want to stop on the dot of his allotted ten minutes. I don't think anyone watching wanted him to staunch the narrative flow either - he took the audience with him every step on his anecdotal excursions, and is a promising new face.
Liverpudlian comic Shell Byron was a different prospect. At times she has an unsettling intensity in her work, which means her punchlines bring the release of suddenly being on certain ground, as well as being funny of themselves. She ran through a set based on her hometown of Whiston, sexism, mental illness and the practicalities of seeking psychological help in the wrong department of a supermarket; less metronomic laughs per minute than standard maybe, but an authentic and absorbing performance.
Headline act Danny McLoughlin is a master narrator with a slightly surreal hue, and an encyclopedic knowledge of popular culture. He is incisive and quick-witted, with pin-point comic timing; McLoughlin is at his best in his wilder moments of spontaneity - when he will take a risk in exchange for a belly laugh. As for the stories - I have never laughed about bread before but his narrative flights, threaded around a supposed love of it, were exceptionally funny.
Live comedy is as far from its televisual representation as live football is from what you see on Sky. Before you get to the acts, the atmosphere of the building, the layout of the room, the mood of audience and the chair you sit in are all part of the texture of it.
Once the show starts the human, interactive element is its essence.
Getting each aspect right is difficult, and Galeri's Clwb Comedi is a brand new venture - but it already offers one of the best intimate venues in North Wales to watch a comedian do their stuff on a stage. At the very least, for an £8 ticket you get five very different comedians and the craic of a very good night out.
The next Clwb Comedi is on Wednesday May 2nd, and features Sean Collins (as seen on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Road Show), the 'effortlessly likeable' Mike Newall and the 'witty & incredibly well timed' Dan Nightingale. Tickets £8 advance or £10 on the day.