Josie Long and Jo Neary at That Comedy Thing
As venues go, The Lamb Inn in Eastbourne on south coast of England is perhaps the perfect place for a comedian to try out new material. The crowd – made up of curious locals and people simply excited that something interesting is happening in their sleepy town – are warm to the acts that stand before them and wouldn’t even dream of attempting a impatient sigh, let alone a heckle. So this is perhaps why so many quality comedians are taking the opportunity to run-through their upcoming Edinburgh performances in the old ale-house. Recently, Isy Suttie brought her embryonic show to town and this week Josie Long and That Comedy Thing compere and organiser, Jo Neary, stood in front of a healthy turnout and set about workshopping what they had come up with thus far.
Opening the night, Neary performed her one-woman show about a bunch of schoolkids in the west country who were building up towards a local talent contest. Set in the 1980’s and alluding towards some level of autobiography, Neary’s story contained countless references to life in those days, all of which certainly resonated with audience members of a certain age. Mentions of Touché Turtle and Five Star were cleverly weaved into a narrative which wonderfully demonstrated the humiliation of being a teenage girl. In amongst some fine wordplay (the “virile shadow of a future moustache,” on Gavin Pascoe’s upper lip, for example), Neary also demonstrated some fun dance moves to Jack Your Body and Star Trekkin and painted a lovely, funny picture of the embarrassment and awkwardness that teenage love and lust can bring. To be honest, so sweet and disarming is Jo Neary’s stage presence that I could happily watch her read the phone book for 45 minutes, so the fact that she has crafted something which struck such a chord was doubly pleasing.
Josie Long (pictured, top) is similarly affable to Neary and, armed with a fistful of scribbled notes, she launched into an impassioned and funny political diatribe. Venturing down a kinda Mark Thomas route, she spoke with intensity, knowledge and intelligence about subjects such as tuition fees, the protest in Fortnum and Mason, David Cameron and the like. While her anti-Tory stance may have fallen on a few deaf ears (Eastbourne has more than its share of right-leaners), generally her opinions were met with concurrence. After all, when someone is arguing for the importance of manners, free art and decent education for everyone, it would take a fucking idiot not to agree.
While Neary’s show seemed pretty close to completion, Long’s clearly was very much in the early stages of being written, but it was still a pleasure, in an increasingly apathetic world, to hear someone talk about political wrongdoings with such passion. That said, the moments when she veered into less heavy territory were always welcome, and her tangential ramblings about The Beatles and the Bronte sisters brought some of the biggest laughs of the night.
A couple of very different shows then, by two equally lovely performers.
Review by Bobby Townsend