thu 30/05/2024

Comedy in the Courtyard, BAC review - al fresco gags | reviews, news & interviews

Comedy in the Courtyard, BAC review - al fresco gags

Comedy in the Courtyard, BAC review - al fresco gags

Short season of outdoor gigs opens

Iain Stirling is the voice of ITV2's 'Love Island'

After drive-ins, now come Covid-secure outdoor shows as the comedy industry tries to find its way back to normality. Battersea Arts Centre is utilising its hitherto unused courtyard for a season of outdoor comedy, during which Al Murray and Russell Howard will perform.

The courtyard accommodates fewer than 50 people – about 30 seated, the rest standing – and the audience had to wear masks throughout. We were encouraged to laugh rather than smile by MC Luke Kempner as we sat like a “bunch of assassins”.

Fortunately there was a lot to laugh at. The comic, as well as being a jovial host, is a talented mimic and he delivered some bang up-to-the minute gags about Boris Johnson and Donald Trump.

Kempner, a fine singer, also appeared in Les Misérables as understudy to Gareth Gates, who got a deliciously catty mention.

The headliner was Iain Stirling, who was a keen competitor on the 2019 edition of Taskmaster and who provides the brilliantly funny voiceover on ITV2's Love Island (for some people, he's the only good thing about the show). In normal times the comic would have finished touring in May (now rescheduled for the autumn), but was trying out new material here.

Stirling riffed on how the pandemic had caused lockdown oneupmanship where the morally upright had stayed at home “in a vacuum-sealed bag” but some people were less than rigorous about obeying social distancing rules a few drinks in.

He took up Bikram yoga before the lockdown – and before the Prime Minister made losing weight fashionable – and knew a London audience would be au fait with it, whereas in his native Scotland the words “hot” and “yoga” are unknown.

Stirling was in chatty mood, talking about being one half of a TV couple (his girlfriend is Love Island presenter Laura Whitmore), and he made himself the butt of a few gags, recounting how he lost his shoes to a gym thief, and then his dignity on a romantic night out.

Also on the bill were Glenn Moore and Steff Todd. Moore seamlessly mixed some new material alongside gags from his pre-lockdown tour, and proved he is a master of the switcheroo: “I was at my nan's leaving drinks... Sounds a lot nicer than a wake, doesn't it?”

Todd's set was less streamlined, but delightfully so, as she performed wine-based jokes. She tried to learn French during lockdown – “Sauvignon blanc. That's French for 'send your ex a text message'” – and shoehorned in some impressions. She fluffed a few lines, but her charm and likeability were so winning that it didn't matter.

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