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Comedy Night at Frinton Summer Theatre - By Lisa Wakely

Comedy Night - Frinton Summer Theatre - Pierre Hollins, Ada Campe, Trevor Cook, Caro Sparks, Caroline Parker, Brendan Dempsey

A warm, buzzing atmosphere filled the air at The McGrigor Hall on the opening night of Frinton Summer Theatre’s season of shows. People of various ages steadily ambled into the theatre, holding a refreshing beverage while humming along to the eighties pop tunes blasting over the speakers. As the lights dimmed, we were greeted by Artistic Director and Producer, Clive Brill. He spent a few minutes gearing up the audience before announcing the first comedian, Brendan Dempsey.

Brendan has been seen on the big screen in films including Waking Ned, About Adam and Gangs of New York. He also appeared in two BAFTA award-winning television comedies, Father Ted and The Revenge Files of Alistair Fury. Brendan built a good rapport with his audience without interrogating them, as some comedians do! Although he did pick out one member of the audience, only to discover that not only was he a rock climber, but he was a performer in Frinton’s upcoming production of ‘The King’s Speech.’ This poor gentleman became the target for the other four comedians – not that he minded! His comparisons to dogs and children were hilarious. He sometimes tended to drift into a ramble without pausing for breath, but I am sure we will be seeing Brendan for many years to come.

Caro Sparks (Caroline Parker) stepped onto the stage, wearing a flamboyant pink sequined jacket and headband to match her vibrant personality. Caro Sparks is a member of Abnormally Funny People spreading delight by sharing stories of her childhood growing up deaf. Her unique approach to signing songs has seen her performing at festivals such as Glastonbury, WOMAD, the cabaret circuit and the Paralympic Opening Ceremony 2012 finale song. Caro had an incredible stage presence. The absolute highlight of her routine was her hysterical touch to Wuthering Heights, all in sign language. Although most of her set was a glimpse into life as a deaf member of the community and how she deals with wearing a hearing aid, which resulted in mild titters from the audience, it has perhaps encouraged us all to open ourselves up to learning sign language. As she took her bow, seeing a few audience members waving their hands to show their appreciation using sign language was lovely.

The McGrigor Hall Stage - Comedy Night - Lisa Wakely
The McGrigor Hall Stage - Comedy Night - IMAGE: Lisa Wakely

Trevor Cook meandered onto the stage dressed like a lumberjack, making us feel instantly relaxed with his laidback approach. He began his career at the Sydney Comedy Store in 1991. Within 18 months, Trevor was headlining regularly at the Comedy Store and touring with other comedians. Trevor’s casual delivery brought laughter to the stage before he had even started his routine. His sharp wit and close-to-the-mark comments triggered a few sharp intakes of breath. For example, he asked the gentleman sitting at the front whether the girl beside him was his wife. ‘No, it’s my daughter.’ She certainly didn’t look too impressed! At one point, he whipped out a sheet of paper containing a list of jokes he was working through, checking that he’d not forgotten anything. He was definitely a hit with this audience!

Ada Campe (Naomi Paxton), with her gaudy feathers, vivid make-up and wacky costume, totally owned the stage when she stepped out and greeted us as ‘friends’ in her deep, rasping voice. Since 2008, she has performed as the eccentric Ada Campe, appearing at comedy, cabaret and magic shows, including The Garrick Theatre in London. Her storytelling was utterly compelling, with her performance proving to be a true variety show of crazy, ridiculous, magical, mysterious and outright funny moments. You couldn’t draw your eyes away from her fantastic facial expressions and engaging movements. A true performer. Her psychic duck routine involved full audience participation. Although we hadn’t a clue what to expect, we did as she asked – only to discover she could also perform magic tricks—a very talented comedian.

Pierre Hollins was the final comedian of the night. He won the audience immediately as he strode on stage carrying an electric guitar. Early in his career, Pierre supported the likes of Sir Lenny Henry and Rory Bremner. His laidback, witty delivery is incredible, and it is common knowledge that he is the envy of a lot of his fellow peers. Using his guitar, he delivered a string of short clever songs that rhymed. His final piece required audience participation, singing the words, ‘Please Don’t Take Me Shopping.’ His ability to recite Shakespeare in a Birmingham accent was something I doubt we will ever hear again. Of course, all comedians have to deal with hecklers. They can either use it as part of the routine or ignore it. Pierre chose to respond to his heckler using his clever wit, which resulted in applause from his audience. He has described himself as ‘Far-fetched and slightly dangerous.’ You really need to see it to believe it.

The comedy night was a real success and was enjoyed by all!

Frinton Summer Theatre Contributor, Lisa Wakely, Writer. Lisa Wakely is a talented writer and performer from Essex. Her passion for writing and teaching performing arts is matched only by her adventurous spirit, which includes heart-pumping activities like skydiving and wing walking - all for raising money for charity. She's a true force to be reckoned with. Her boundless energy and unwavering determination are nothing short of awe-inspiring.

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