Words by Ed King
We filed slowly, languidly into the hall. The auditorium was vast… But not silent, which is an immediate win for a Birmingham crowd.
I love my home city, but it can be a tough cookie for any touring artist – from the Insane Clown Posse to Ani DiFranco, you just can’t be sure when it come to a Birmingham gig. And I have never seen comedy at the Symphony Hall; a huge room, indeed a ‘vast auditorium’, one a friend astutely described as “the 1980’s trying to do the 1950’s”.
But if tonight isn’t sold out, then it’s a damn near close. All I can count are the empty chairs stuck in traffic or cursing an AWOL babysitter. Booking Joe Lycett as support was a bold local move too. So bold it could have even backfired, as Lycett takes to the intimidating plateau that is the Symphony Hall stage (without a orchestra on it at least) and makes it as cosy as your living room. Cosier, in fact, like the living room of a good friend but one who won’t expect you to clean up afterwards. Or a total stranger’s when you’ve drunk too much to care.
Taking us to the interval and in some case to our seats, as with the unlucky couple that arrive a little late (once the show had started, once the stand up comedy show had started, once the stand up comedy show had started in front of thousands of people that can see you’re in the wrong aisle) Lycett confidently segues from jokes of civic humour to the best use for an Amazon Alexa. Extreme, funny, and extremely funny, the now Kings Heathen is about to embark on his I’m About to Lose Control and I think Joe Lycett (nice) tour, kicking off the day before Valentines. Definitely one to watch out for, and then watch. If you can. It’s pretty much sold out too.
Sauntering onto the big and empty Symphony Hall stage, “it’s a long walk…”, Katherine Ryan looks resplendent in pink silk (I think) with red frills. Or her Vagina Trousers, as we are quickly informed. So there’s an image that will never leave my mind. Assured, tempered by a tour that’s been running since September, and all the qualities that a stand up Faust would be picking his scabs to sign, seal and deliver, Ryan opens with jokes about relationships, the ending of relationships, and moving six thousand miles away with your fingers crossed – an oddly narcissistic approach to putting your emotional cards on the table. Immediately engaging, Ryan turns what could have been trite into fresh and personal material, inviting us into walk though the weird worlds we all inhabit (even if some of us aren’t totally aware of our terrain). Honest, the fun side of frustrated, and cut to perfection; I will never look at a dolphin in quite the same way again.
From jibes about her “ineffectual butler” daughter, be it stalking Anna Kendrick or learning the difference between “day wine and night wine”, to an accentuated recount of when her family came over from the “trashy part” of Canada to see her small London freehold, Ryan has a firm grip on her delivery. Its gut wrenching; at one point I honestly feel the cartilage between my ribs ask me to stop. But by the time my favourite line of the night is uttered, namely that the Frank Sinatra standard ‘My Way’ is the “anthem of a cunt”, it’s clear there is to be little respite. And I will love that sentence until the day that I die.
But Ryan’s wrath is anything than just pure self deprecation, as everyone from her school gate peers – the bake sale obsessed Julie (who I swear is a more fertile version of my step mother) to the Lycra obsessed husband who would get “hate fucked” back in his box, get an astute poke in the ribs. And if you’ve ever spent “two Christmases” traversing a bitter and empty motorway…
Celebrity culture is also in range, as public domain miscreants – from R Kelly to the misogynists of musical theatre – receive a taste of the lash. But don’t worry, an escape to any would be sexual predator is offered; just “don’t fuck vulnerable women”, as the chant that never was (but should have been) rings around the back rows of the West End.
There is even a little time for some proxy president poking, filtered through the plight of “the world’s most unlucky gold digger” Melania Trump. And despite the clear attack at the abject horror that currently sits in The White House, this once again over used subject is the conduit for another piece of acerbic genius – namely that the maligned First Lady is only “one line of coke and an aggressive hand job” away from inheritance and freedom. We can but hope. Or perhaps even help, to a point. I know a guy with some cracking Colombian flake…
Katherine Ryan’s Glitter Room is on tour across the UK until the 24th March 2018. For more on Katherine Ryan, including full tour dates and online ticket sales, visit www.katherineryan.co.uk
For more on Joe Lycett, visit www.joelycettcomedy.co.uk
For more from Live Nation UK, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.livenation.co.uk
For more from both the Symphony and Town Halls, including further event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.thsh.co.uk