mon 24/06/2024

The New Normal, Royal Victoria Patriotic Building review - strong mixed bill | reviews, news & interviews

The New Normal, Royal Victoria Patriotic Building review - strong mixed bill

The New Normal, Royal Victoria Patriotic Building review - strong mixed bill

Pop-up arts festival in a lovely Gothic venue

Sindhu Vee spoke about spending the first part of lockdown suffering from coronavirus

We live in strange times, so it's appropriate that a socially distanced pop-up arts festival – of theatre, comedy, improv, music and magic – calls itself The New Normal.

I went to the first comedy night of its August run, curated by Good Ship Comedy, a great comedy club which is normally located at a pub in north London, but is decamping to south London for a couple of dates here.

And what a here: The New Normal is taking place at a gem of a location, the baronial gothic Royal Victoria Patriotic Building in Wandsworth, once an asylum for girls (for which read workhouse), later an MI5 interrogation centre, and which now houses various artistic endeavours including the drama school ALRA.

The events are being hosted by Le Gothique bar and restaurant, whose spacious courtyard with a tree in the middle has been decked out with canopies and fairylights, has an outside and an inside bar, plus a barbecue. The organisers have created a welcoming festival vibe.

Ben Van der Velde was the genial host of the mixed bill, and his excellent crowd work showed little sign that he had not performed in front of a live audience since March. As a latecomer, wearing a mask, hovered at the door, he instantly quipped: “A few months ago we'd all be running for the exits. Now, it's August.”

First on was Suzi Ruffell (incidentally, an ALRA graduate), who is always good value on a mixed bill. In a typically energetic set she mined the rich seam that her working-class Portsmouth family provides – geezer dad and double-animal-print-wearing mum – and the story of how the latter, a few Bailey's in, couldn't keep the secret of how Ruffell's girlfriend was about to propose.

Next up was Jake Lambert, a clever and likeable stand-up with fantastic timing who knows the value of a well placed pun and a beautifully subtle payoff.

In an impressively wide-ranging and gag-packed set he riffed on – among many things – politics, racist statues and having epilepsy, and even offered relationship advice. “At the start, give yourself nicknames. Little tip: that's mine...”

Headliner Sindhu Vee, in a less sardonic performance than usual, delivered a strong set around having had coronavirus earlier this year and the effect it had on her hair.

If that sounds mundane, it wasn't, as Vee was in philosophical mood and skilfully interwove jokes and acute observations about family life, long-lasting marriages, her relationship with her hairdresser and the true role of a therapist – which, she was annoyed to learn, doesn't include him agreeing with everything Vee says, particularly when it's about how mean her sister is.

Jake Lambert is a clever and likeable stand-up with fantastic timing


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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