I arrived at The Wardrobe on 4th September looking forward to seeing a couple of hours of jokes and stories from one of the country’s foremost stand-up comedians. What I witnessed was so much more than that. The problem is that I cannot reveal too much about it as Mr Evans will be visiting Yorkshire another four times on this tour and I would hate to spoil it for you. OK, it isn’t an Agatha Christie thriller where the murderer is revealed at the end, quite the opposite in fact, it wasn’t someone who had taken a life, more someone who had given one.
The performance was split into two halves with a break just long enough for me to get a pint for the second half and rid myself of the one I drank during the first. Although linked, the sections were very different. Part One was of the more conventional type with a string of stories and a killer joke which meant that he had to pause until the laughter subsided sufficiently for him to continue. Part Two was a lot more of a personal revelation which had us all stunned. Although profound in its content, the humour was still there in abundance lifting what could quite easily have been a section more of pathos than comedy.
Not only was the performance very funny indeed, but it was also beautifully crafted with the themes of the more flippant first half recurring in the second, albeit in more serious situations. Even the title of the tour is explained in two different ways, I will give you the one from the first half. ‘A life, regardless of when it is lived, is divided into three sections which are defined by technology; there is the stuff which was there at birth so has always been around hence you are comfortable with it and take it in your stride, the second is developed during your formative years and so is able to be absorbed and even used to one’s advantage during the working life and finally there are the innovations made during the time when one has given up on ‘advancements’ and just wants things either to stay as they are or go back to phase one. This last batch are the Works of The Devil.’ At this point I must own up to a failure to do my job as well as Mr Evans does his. He named the source of this theorem and, although I had my trusty notebook and pen in my jacket pocket for situations such as this, I was so absorbed, not to say in convulsions from his delivery, that I ignored it and just enjoyed the show, foolishly convincing myself that I would be able to summon up the name from my memory. 71 years old and still unaware of my limitations. Mea culpa.
Comedy, along with all other art forms, depends on the connection between artist and audience, it is the only one I can think of that produces an involuntary physical reaction throughout the performance and faking it is as obvious as it is in any other situation. I don’t get to many stand-up gigs nowadays but the ones I have attended have seemed to last far longer than the advertised time and I have found myself checking my watch more often than Joe Biden even though none of them has overrun. The only person looking at their timepiece this evening was Mr Evans himself who didn’t want to exceed his allotted time in the first half having added an extra opening section dealing with the pandemic and its consequences. It was worth being locked down for so long for this piece of comedy alone.
Ultimately what I think doesn’t really matter, I am just one of those writers arrogant enough to think that it does, it is the paying customers who decide whether something is good or bad and here the voting seemed to be unanimous. Going back to my previous recent experiences, which were in formal theatres, there was an inordinate amount of heckling and just plain disregard of the acts by the audiences reminiscent of 1970s Working Men’s Clubs where the punters would either like ‘the turn’ or ignore it completely. Ironically this gig was in the large cellar of a pub and had its own bar in the corner giving it the physical resemblance of a WMC but there was only one small incident when a couple of women in seats near the stage took a tad longer than was polite to settle down after the interval. Mr Evans again was superb, politely reminding them that they were not watching this on TV and he could hear what they were saying. ‘It’s like Gogglebox!’ They had the manners to apologise and were good as gold for the rest of the evening, being the first to applaud the particularly funny lines.
You have probably got the gist of this review by now. Simon Evans is a funny, intelligent man and a brilliant writer and performer and you could do much worse than to see him on the remaining legs of his tour. His next performance in God’s Own County, appropriate for The Work of The Devil, is next Saturday at The Courthouse in Otley. For a full list see below.
11th September, 2021. The Courthouse, Otley http://www.otleycourthouse.org.uk
30th October, 2021. Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond http://www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk
5th March, 2022. The Forum, Northallerton. http://www.forumnorthallerton.org.uk
29th April, 2022. The Lamproom, Barnsley. http://www.barnsleylamproom.com
For a full list of dates throughout the country please click the link below although I would advise you to keep checking as the listings only go as far as February 2022.
All photographs by Stan Graham