Live : Rhyl Comedy Club02.11.17 : Rhyl Little Theatre
Just offset from the centre of the town, Rhyl Little Theatre opened as the UK's first purpose built children's theatre in May 1963. It has a splendid heritage - the roll of honour of those associated with it as Hon. Presidents includes Richard Burton, Nerys Hughes and (currently) Rhys Ifans.
To be honest from the outside the building looks its age - it is an archetypal box of brick and wood, a sixties stranded hulk - and it needs new heating. At a glance not the first place you'd pick to spend a Friday night, despite the lure of a comedy club. Inside it is very different; there is often a warmth and ease in these community run theatres in Wales that overcomes any difficulties with the boiler, and Rhyl Little Theatre is no exception. The comedy club it hosts once a month has been running for less than a year, and is organised by two local enthusiasts, Sarah Roberts and Nia Lloyd Williams, who have an intent to give new comedians the stage time they need to develop their craft (both of them also perform, giving valuable insight they have deployed in designing the club). It is all very equitable, there is no fixed entry price - you pay a donation on the way in.
Two things make a comedy club - the room and the acts.
At Rhyl the former is just the right size and, crucially on a cold November night, well warmed by mobile heaters. In this space there was a low stage with a large hand-painted logo behind it, a few lights, a good PA, and maybe fifty seats in four or five close rows, nearly all full. Sat separately at the back were the evening's eight billed performers - the first seven taking the stage for ten minutes or so, the headliner then twenty.
From the start everything was kept alive and rolling at a pace (no mean feat with so many comedians) by the skilled MC Mike Keenan, who has an affable, spontaneous style. He warmed up the room before the opening act, Shrewsbury's Max Poole, who was understated and relaxed, marshalling an unexpectedly keen, deadpan wit.
From then on it was a good evening's fun, but two of the performances stood out, one from each half of the gig.
Half an hour in, Cardiff based Lorna Pritchard offered a diminutive but charismatic stage presence. She worked through a set of mainly observational humour, drawing partly on her childhood in Abergele; always clever, engaging and effervescent - her humour was precise and well plotted, her Gollum impression very instant and very funny, her palette of regional accents accurate but subtly comic in their caricaturing.
Closing the night, Ash Preston flirted repeatedly with being seriously good. He darted about the stage, on and off it, then finally onto a chair, with the sudden wired energy of a man who has been shocked to discover his attic is full of cannabis plants and then immediately seen a police car pull up on his drive. In effect he is Warrington's more dishevelled and distracted answer to Mark Watson; he had most of our row laughing, with our heads involuntarily thrown back to ensure we could still take on air, within ninety seconds of taking the stage with his tangential take on audience interaction. No tickling was involved, just a very smart piece of physical humour. Preston is less than a hundred gigs into his career, but has real promise.
Overall, as you should expect for a night that fits in between an open mike night and the more professional polish of one of the larger North Wales circuit-act comedy clubs, it was mixed fare - but always entertaining. Notably a very friendly venue, the audience was always patient - if one of the fledgling comics stumbled, you could feel the palpable support as people waited for them to get back on track. Rhyl Comedy Club is obviously a labour of love, and one that is worth a trip even on a wintry Friday night.
The next stand up night is on Friday 1st December - details will be found on Rhyl Comedy Club's Twitter nearer the time.