Hotel D'Comedie

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

This unusual way of witnessing comedy up-close and personal – and in the surroundings of a swanky boutique hotel – is probably one of the highlights of the Leicester Comedy Festival, if only for the uniqueness of experience alone. But the comics do their part to make it memorable, too, even if this is far from their everyday gig.

After the audience had gathered haphazardly in reception, host Holly Walsh bound out of the lift with the big ‘ta-dah’ Fast becoming as good an MC as she is an act, this bright and witty comedian was in her element as she wandered round the armchairs, bonding the group together and explaining the set-up. The genuine hotel guest, arriving to check in, must have been baffled by the scene that greeted her: 20 or so people crowded round the hotel computer to see the website of a poor-quality Sean Connery lookalike.

On then, to Room 5, where sketch group Idiots Of Ants lay in wait, slumped around as if recovering from a heavy night on the town, which was indeed the set-up for their first scene. They used the hotel setting brilliantly, hiding in wardrobes, snuggling up in bed, showing a filmed sketch on the telly and emerging unexpectedly from the bathroom or behind the curtains. Such imaginative use of the space lent the feel of a genuinely site-specific performance, even if, in truth, these are scenes they could equally well perform on stage. Their warmth as performers brought the best out of their playful skits, and broke the ice in this potentially socially awkward situation, producing plenty of fun and hilarity.

In the next room, Carl Donnelly awaited, propped up against the table and sipping on his tea as we all filed in. No respecter of the fourth wall, he chatted amiably about his immaturity, about his surroundings and about previous gigs he’d performed. He takes slight issue with reviewers who call him ‘laid-back’, considering it a form of faint praise, but his relaxed approach certainly paid dividends here, as rarely does a stand-up performance feel more like a chat with pals than this. Again, a fine choice for this intimate gig.

Cheerful Geordie Jason Cook completed the night; with some good-natured chat with the audience (though, in truth, we felt more like a tour group), leading into confessions of his own pranks, normally with his long-suffering wife bearing the brunt. But rather than just telling us of his own misdeeds, this affable act conspired to bring us all in on a fresh slice of mischief. Which is why, from the flimsiest of reasoning, we all found ourselves on the Roof terrace, singing Christmas carols. It’s something few will forget in a hurry – just like the rest of this curious, unmissable experience.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Leicester Comedy Festival, February 2009

Review date: 1 Jan 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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