Last night in London saw the performance of The Secret Policeman’s Ball ’08 at The Royal Albert Hall. The SPB is a charity comedy show featuring stars of stand-up, sitcoms and other radio and TV sketch shows. This year the show was in aid of Amnesty International‘s Protect The Human campaign.
If you didn’t have tickets for the actual event then you have a couple of choices: wait for the recorded hilights to be shown on Channel 4 tonight (Sunday Oct 5), or do what we did and go to one of several cinemas around the country where they were screening the event live.
The Everyman Cinema Club in Hampstead is not your average cinema. You can tell that by the way you have to walk past their full bar and lounge to get to their two screening rooms. Once inside the theatre itself you find not the usual row upon row of sticky-floored cinema seats all bolted together, but plush armchairs, two-seater sofas and — in the pricier section — padded footstools. All seat pairs have their own drinks table and wine cooler, and there is waiter service to your table before the film/show and during any intervals.
So it was that we spent the best part of four hours last night vegged out on our black sofa in the darkness, sipping long drinks, eating nibbles and watching what pleasantly surprised me as a very funny show on the big screen.
Headline act was Eddie Izzard. Now he has a huge fan base but personally I’ve never liked him that much. True, he does have some genius comic ideas but I always feel short-changed by the casual stumblings of his performance style. Fans will assert that it’s all part of the Izzard Magic, but to me he always looks like he’s just rushed onstage half-cut from a party and spend the first five minutes trying to remember the script.
There was some great comic talent on display, some of which I was already familiar with (Ed Byrne, Sean Locke, Mitchell & Webb and a great impersonation of Boris Johnson by John Culshaw), but it was the newcomers who really impressed me. Now at this point I must say that I don’t exactly have my finger on the pulse anymore where new comedy is concerned, but the following were newcomers to my eyes:
Tim Minchin — Australian comic singer & pianist. Did two hilarious and clever songs.
Russell Howard — sidesplitting routine about his brother’s epilepsy (tricky one that).
Shappi Khordandi — Iranian comedienne with great humility and an unaffected style. Very clever humour.
I enjoyed the show very much, made more special by the big screen and cosy atmosphere of the Everyman. However as the evening wore on — and my wallet steadily emptied — I couldn’t help thinking how like being at home it was, only much more expensive. I hope the novelty doesn’t wear off quickly because I do like the Everyman and would choose it first to see a big new movie (got Quantum of Solace down in the diary already), but I wish they’d tone down their prices a bit (£6 for a single whisky!!).
If you’re in a country that will get the highlights tonight, I recommend you watch the show.