Saturday, 28 May 2011

Boom Tish, BOOM Tish, BOOM TISH

So after my premature arrival in rainy Crouch End on Thursday, I finally made it to The Music Palace, a really unusual looking building that can be found just opposite the YMCA in Tottenham Lane.

I was there for the launch of BOOM TISH, the brand new variety night.  Sadly a couple of my friends had to cancel due to illness, so after dragging myself down from the heart of Suffolk and hanging around on my own for a couple of hours, it was refreshing to see the friendly face of one of the Boom Tish founders, Nick Dear, welcoming me at the door and a real pleasure to have a pre-show catch up with my lovely pal Abi Roberts who was compering the event.

I've been to many a comedy club, usually upstairs in a pub or in a basement of a bar, but The Music Palace immediately felt like a venue that stood out, not least because it was self-contained and styled with a decent amount of theatrical bling.

And on the subject of bling, I loved the distinctive Boom Tish logo that filled the backdrop of the stage. You can see part of the design just behind Abi, pictured right.

However what I hadn't expected was that the subliminal workings of those words in bold combined with Abi's cleverly rousing routine of audience participation would have left me still muttering the words Boom Tish, Boom Tish, Boom Tish, two days later whilst writing this blimmin' blog post.

Gawd help me...brainwashed into brand loyalty after one visit!  Surely that's a PR dream!

But of course a clever logo and Boom Tish chanting between acts isn't enough to create a following.  The event itself had to be good! 
And it WAS good....or what would be more appropriate for me to say is that it was an all-singing-all-dancing blinder of a night out, with heaps of original comedy talent thrown in.

As expected, Abi was a really fabulous compere and got the audience whooped up with her one-woman variety store of impressions, singing and comedy anecdotes between each of the different acts (here's a brief vid of her intro). She definitely launched the event in style, giving a great billing to each set, a real natural, who seemlessly linked the acts together.

The line-up was made up of the very funny resident Boom Tish band, plus five acts who were each competing to return for the 2011 finale in December!

And so the stage was set for an eclectic night comprising a comedy duo, a character comedienne, a magician, an ex-Holby City actor and a sketch trio, who between them delivered performances that featured a bizarrely entertaining conjoined twin skit, "Mrs Manning's" polite attempts at a few of old departed Bernard's jokes, a sprinkling of "how the heck did he do that" illusions and closing with a touch of harder hitting  "shock" comedy and a thoroughly mesmerising and cleverly performed sketch involving fonts...

....yes that's right FONTS!  You know.... like Helvetica, Jokerman and even Dingbats!

And the winners voted by the audience... the very entertaining trio  The Real MacGuffins, featuring Dan March, Jim Millard and Matt Sheahan, who I caught on camera whilst performing the FONT sketch.

They were well deserving winners but I reckon there was also close competition from the others, especially the very versatile comedy duo Checkley Bush (Laura Checkley and Victoria Bush),  the artists behind the twins skit.

But the biggest surprise for me, was most certainly witnessing actor Duncan Pow, (whom I'd last seen in character as Holby City's reliable, faith-driven Linden Cullen),  appearing on stage with a hard hitting Frankie Boyle-esque set full of shock comedy.  I must admit that what accompanied my reactionary groans to most of the jokes was an automatic  "Eeeeeek!", which made my facial expressions temporarily resemble those of an Aardman Animations model.

When Duncan joined our group later, I asked how he came from an acting role focused on a softer, (although admittedly complicated character) such as Linden Cullen, to a stand-up routine peppered with risque material, the likes of which would most likely have caused a fictional Linden to depart all red-faced or offer the guiding hand of his Christian faith.

In his Scottish accent, he told me that he'd wanted to try his hand at an opportunity that would stretch him into an area that was the extreme opposite to that of his acting role in Holby City. I think he had defnitely achieved that.  And during our chat, he didn't show any reflection of his former Holby character or even the guy I'd just seen on stage, which I guess gives full credit to his acting skills.

But before I end up debating with myself the extent to which a comedian's set is made up of natural personality and acting talent, I'll share the other great news of this first ever Boom Tish night...and that was that it helped raise £500 for the James Baldwin Trust, a charity which supports families of those suffering from T-Cell Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma and organisations that are researching a cure for the cancer.

The Patron of the Trust is actress Tamzin Outhwaite, pictured here with Abi Roberts, announcing the winning tickets for the raffle that helped raise the much needed funds that night.

This photo was taken seconds before I'd asked my Facebook friends to cross their fingers for a pink ticket, somewhere between 146-155.  And hey presto, the magic worked.  Pink 152 was drawn minutes later for one of the top bill prizes....2 VIP tickets to the filming of ITV's Celebrity Juice in October, which left me both excited and perplexed while my Facebook pals were busy having modern day online fisticuffs over who's going to accompany me.

So for just a tenner's entrance fee it was a real cracking night out, which wouldn't have been complete without Helen O'Brien's character Mrs Manning, who made me chuckle and magician Stephen Barry, whose "fiver in a kiwi" trick was met with a standing ovation for his magical malarkey.

I wish the founders Tom (aka Baz), Nick and  Jake every success indeed.  It was a top event, supported by a packed out audience, which I couldn't help but notice was brimming with folk from the media circles, including writers, actors and presenters.  It was definitely worth trekking down from Suffolk for and even though I won't be able to make every Boom Tish, I'll be back for a few more, including December's finale!

BOOM TISH has definitely made its mark on the London variety scene.  The event is held on the last Thursday of each month at The Music Palace, N8. For more information about reserving tickets or to register your act for a forthcoming heat please contact

Friday, 27 May 2011

Budgens, Banners & BOOM TISH. A stranger in Crouch End.

It was piddling down when I finally arrived in Crouch End.

I stepped out of the oversized black cab hailed from Kings Cross, into the busy London suburb, which until then had only existed in my mind as folklore of Londoners whom I'd met on my life's journey.

"COUCH End", one friend had called it, but I can't remember if that was due to an over-abundance of therapists or a propensity of coffee mornings amongst the good folk of suburbia.  Who knows, it could have been both or indeed neither and not that either or any which way matters.  I was simply looking forward to getting there and happy to have made it, not least to escape the cabbie's tale of his "amicable then not so amicable then gawd what I'd do to her" divorce.

I'd arrived early and didn't need to be at The Music Palace until 7.30pm.  It was the much anticipated launch of the new variety night BOOM TISH, which was being compered by my very good pal Abi.

I'd wanted to explore! But two and a half hours to fill in Crouch 5pm in the rain!  I could have planned it better.   With umberella up I paid the cabbie and tottered off to discover a new land....starting with Budgens!  Thorntons Budgens -  a supermarket with so many award-winning eco-credentials my visit could have easily been mistaken for a pilgrimage.  It even sells food grown on its roof you know, which is run by the amazing rooftop community garden initiative called Food from the Sky

But all glammed up in my waist-busting corset, I was neither prepared or suitably dressed for hanging about in a supermarket despite its oozing eco'ness.  I was in the mood for food and a chance to discover the eateries.  Well at least one would do, and it was only five minutes later on recommendation of an assistant in the Oxfam bookstore, I found myself perched at a table in a restaurant called Banners, in the same spot as the legendary Bob Dylan had allegedly once parked his derriere too.

A bronze plaque proclaimed the status..

"Bob Dylan sat at this table in 1993."

I couldn't help wondering how long he'd sat there.
The walls were decorated with old posters and the rest of the furniture was as eclectic as the wall covering .  It felt the kind of place where you could comfortably lose yourself in a good book. A rare guilt-free moment to indulge in a novel without interruption and it was by no coincidence that I'd dropped into the book store first. You could call it the first step in the defence of the dark art of sitting in a restaurant on one's own. 

Refuelled by 10 well-paced chapters, a Pinot Grigio and a classic Thai Green Curry, my time as a tourist in Crouch End was quickly up.

The Music Palace beckoned.

And so did BOOM TISH.

...with some extra surprises thrown into the mix.

But all that will have to wait until next time...........for now this woman needs sleep.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Abi Roberts takes you up the Aisle...

And indeed she did Matron...with some cracking comedy and tantalising tunes, all packed into a one hour set, which was delivered with a sufficient dosage of double entendres that left the Bury Fringe audience revelling in a night of non-stop laughter.

From the moment my pal Abi Roberts entered the stage singing Chapel of Love, the scene was set for a performance that took the audience through tales of her failed first marriage, the divorce, the highs and lows of internet dating and the heights of meeting her new love.  For anyone who has experienced such chapters of matrimonial pleasure or soured love, there was something to touch the hearts and the laughter buttons of all.

But Abi does not give us a story of self-pity. Instead she delivers an uplifting routine of getting over some of life's relationship hurdles in a show that seamlessly weaves soft ballads with some real belters, glittered with sparkling impressions of Cher, Carrie Bradshaw and some truely fabulous regional accents.  All whilst getting dressed for her impending nuptials. 

Having already seen Abi Roberts perform in Leicester Square, London and in Soho's Pink Poodle Club, I knew she was great, a talented and natural entertainer, but I was still a little nervous having hooked her up with my pals at the Fringe Festival in Bury St Edmunds. Whether Bury would love her work as much as I did was the question that remained at the forefront of my mind.  It reminded me of the very first time my in-laws-to-be met my parents!

But of course I had nothing to worry about.  There was no doubt that Abi was perfect as the Fringe finale act, where she ended her show with an encore that brought the audience to their feet, dancing and applauding, whilst they joined in the chorus of Abi's anthem "Every girl should have a Gay Best Friend" with all the frivulous choreography that accompanies it.

So my job here is done.  The comedy lovers of Bury St Edmunds have fallen in love with Abi's work as much as I did a couple of years ago and the post-show reviews just said it all.  "What a stunning voice" said some, "The best night out in ages" added others and one audience member's Facebook comment just captured the evening brilliantly "Absolutely loved being 'taken up the aisle' by Abi Roberts.  What a stupendous stand up comedienne with a delightful singing voice too".

I couldn't have put it better myself.   So if you're up for a night of total cabaret entertainment with a lady who knows how to get the audience on their feet in a partying mood, Abi Roberts is definitely your gal and you can catch her on the tour that is taking her from the Brighton Fringe next week right up to this summer's Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.  Just visit for details and if you're looking for some inspiration on what to wear, the gig provides a great opportunity for hats, tiaras, fascinators and posh frocks abound! 


Well that's the Bury Fringe Festival done and dusted for this year and huge congratulations to organiser Claire Lowe and her team for pulling together a wealth of entertainment for Suffolk.  As well as Abi's gig. my personal highlights have been the entertaining comedian and broadcaster Kate Smurthwaite and Doug Segal, a fascinating mind reader who's also currently touring and is a must-see at Brighton or Edinburgh Fringe or indeed other listed venues around the country.   There really have been some great giggles and moments of awe during these last two weeks and last night's finale was simply the icing on the cake!  The events have most definitely made me want to see more next year.

So people of Bury St Edmunds, keep your eyes peeled for next year's Fringe.  It will certainly be one not to be missed.  Just bookmark and take a peek next spring to see who's going to be entertaining you next year.  In the meantime, to keep the laughter rolling, you can always head down to the Chortle Factory, the monthly comedy club at Benson Blakes' Attic Room.  Just watch this space for further details.

....and don't forget to check out my own impromptu "contribution" to comedy...helping the diva zip up her wedding dress, live on stage. Captions on a postcard please!