shelleyhanveywriter

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Review of Russell Kane’s ‘Smokescreens and Castles’ at Parr Hall, Warrington

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Fresh from positively basting his fellow ‘Let’s Dance’ buddies with his blistering Beyonce groove; Russell Kane took a well-earned breather from his charitable capers this week, to perform his retrospective comedy show ‘Smokescreens and Castles’ at Parr Hall, Warrington.

The high value, high camp spectacle had been sold out for a number of weeks, such is the draw of the performer after notable weekly appearances on hit shows including, ‘Comedy Rocks with Jason Manford‘ (ITV) and ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here Now (ITV2) .‘ As the number of excitable young females rose upon spotting a typically casually dressed Kane loitering in the foyer, it was clear that this  30-year old Westcliff-on-Sea native’s star was also heading in the same direction.

Support came in the form of a fellow Avalon Entertainment signing, Nat Luurtsema. I would describe Luurtsema as possessing all the traits of one of my favourite dessert goods; that adjective being ‘ambrosial’ whilst the dessert good hails from a surely un-coincidentially similar source, that being Devon, or Ambrosia Devon Creamed Rice to be precise. Ambrosial is a synonym for cute or loveable and those were the exact words that sprung to my mind as Luurtsema took to the stage and began her short introductory set. Luurtsema wished to clarify that onlookers had not been mistaken and that her face was, in fact, “the size of a thumb” and that her hair had indeed been cut for the recession; “(the long imposing fringe) saves me a third on make up.” I knew after these two self-deprecating admissions that Luurtsema and I were going to get on splendidly. Her particular style of comedy followed largely in the same vein; poking fun at her love life or lack thereof, her home town and her interesting choice of social activities. The funniest moments for me came courtesy of a particular memory of visiting Huddersfield for the weekend and her decision to take part in a televised protest against Miss World in her less than sheltered neighbourhood in London. Luurtsema described Huddersfield as possessing the only two vital establishments that any town requires: a pet shop and an off-licence, recounting the number of times locals had surely awoken with a major hangover and an iguana stuffed in their coat pocket. Describing the time that she got roped in to taking part in a demonstration against Miss World, Luurtsema explained that her Mum had got so excited after spotting her at several televised crime scenes, that she openly encouraged her daughter to “hang around” unsavoury places in her neighbourhood, “in case anything kicks off and I’ll set the Sky plus!” It was in just such comical circumstances that she had ended up on television sporting an anti Miss World sash with ‘Miss-ogyny‘ written on one side and ‘Miss-carriage of justice‘ on the other; the fly in the ointment being that the sash had misplaced itself and whilst she continued to wave furiously at the camera, it simply read ‘Miss-carriage‘ across the screens of millions. I enjoyed Luurtsema’s recollections but I felt a little uncomfortable at times, due to the seemingly never-ending hushed silences which greeted a couple of her lines. The audience was a good mix of late teens to mid-late forties, but the male population were in the majority and I felt that Luurtsema’s style of more cosy left-wing and female musings had perhaps not registered with the men amongst us.

The same could certainly not be said of the headliner however and for this reason, with hindsight, I think that the pairing of the two acts was quite inspired and satisfying; both sexes getting a few jokes made at their biological expense whilst also getting the opportunity to rib their partner/friend/neighbour. Kane took to the stage to begin his unrestrainable 90-minute set to great applause; the audience clearly animated in their fevered anticipation of what was to come. The show had been billed as focusing on the council house in Brimsdown, Enfield that Kane grew up in. Kane says that his Dad bought the house and decided to extend it; leading to much anger and resentment from his neighbours and a subsequent local dubbing of the house as ‘the castle.’ Kane then uses the castle as a metaphor for his family and class relationships.

Kane won the 2010 Fosters Edinburgh Comedy Award for this very show, beating contemporaries such as Sarah Millican and Greg Davies. If energy and pace had been the sole judging criteria, then this show would still have walked away with the annual prize; before considering the quantity and diversity of material and audience participation. Kane announced pretty early on in the set that he liked to write around a theme (‘the castle‘) but would often dip into other memories and at times completely un-related aside points. This helped to make the show flow quite comfortably, the audience never getting the sense that a joke had been laboured or that Kane’s material was dwindling. Clearly popular with the female contingent, Kane announced that he was in fact recently single, which I was a little perturbed to hear; mostly due to concern for the welfare of their shared cats, Keith and Wayne. Admittedly, I am a self-confessed amateur psychologist and I love nothing more than to analyse the inner workings of the human heart, so I did get the impression that Kane’s repeated referral to the break-up signified some unresolved issues and perhaps unfinished business? As I say, I don’t think that Freud has anything to turn in his grave about and I don’t think that my fellow XX chromosomes in the audience shared this perturbation, however. Bunch of scamps.

Kane talked a great deal about his upbringing in Enfield, his Dad and how that Essex upbringing might translate in another part of the UK, particularly Wales and show venue Warrington. It would appear that Kane’s idea of a northern accent never veers from the confines of Bolton, which led to some comic moments of audience participation with one lady embarrassingly regretting leaving her mobile phone switched on mid-show…not for the faint hearted! Kane’s delivery is always high camp and high energy, ensuring that the audience works hard to keep up with the content and direction; it is possible at times to miss the odd punchline in this regard however, as Kane’s speech is so fluid and excitable that the end line can sometimes be drowned out by the laughter of the audience and before you know it, he’s moved on to a completely different subject. Some call it ADHD, for Kane fans this is merely par for the course.

I particularly enjoyed Kane’s musings on social classes, specifically his pondering as to whether posh people pelt stand-ups with quale eggs and sunblushed tomatoes, as opposed to the common varieties. I also liked the references to people from Essex stealing all the vowels in the English vocabulary, “hi’yaaaaaaaaaa, you al’riiiiiiiiiiiiiight?” and his hatred for people who can sleep anywhere, “ooh! are we there already? I must have dozed off…you dozed off in Essex Mum, we’re in Edinburgh. Have a nice f***** nap did ya?!” The funniest reference for me would have to be Kane’s memories of being taken to the Akash Indian Restaurant as a child and his subsequent hero-worship of his Dad after a particularly dicey incident with a group of unruly youths and a Chicken Shashlik…that’s a Shashlik, not a Tikka Masala mind, he was very specific about that!

Kane’s memories of his Dad are clearly poignant, leading to a welcome sentimental monologue at the close of the show, were Kane appeared to intimate that his Dad had made him promise to include memories of him in the show; leading me to believe that the great man was no longer with us. After some post-show research, it would seem that this is indeed the case and for that reason, I can most whole-heartedly say, that Kane more than kept his promise on that score. ‘Smokescreens and Castles‘ is a bittersweet  journey through Kane’s childhood, taking in colourful characters (Dad, Nan) and vivid venues (the Akash) along the way, building to an emotional and rather surprising crescendo; ‘the castle‘ might have seen many family battles over the years but Daddy Kane had clearly been its keep and master.

http://www.pyramidparrhall.co.uk/home

http://www.russellkane.co.uk/

http://www.natluurtsema.com/

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Written by shelleyhanveywriter

February 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm

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