Following on from last year’s hugely successful debut festival, featuring standout performances from Terry Alderton and Lee Hurst, some even bigger names will be making appearances this year.
45-year-old Lee Mack headlines the star-studded line-up. The Southport-born comedian has starred in TV shows including Not Going Out and Would I Lie To You, as well as guest-hosting Have I Got News for You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. He will bring his quick-witted set, peppered with one-liners, to the final night of the week-long festival (Saturday 19 October). But he is by no means the only big name in tow.
Arthur Smith, the much-loved British broadcaster, writer and comedian, will be performing on the same day. Smith has appeared in shows such as Grumpy Old Men, as well as panel shows QI and Have I Got News For You, and is well-known for rejecting an award from the Perrier Awards in 2005. In his words, “basically, they wanted to tell me I was old and cool; well, I know that already, and anyway, my ego is bloated enough.” This veteran of Edinburgh Fringe is sure to bring the house down.
Alongside Mack and Smith on the final night will be hilarious guitarist Mitch Benn, as well as the quirky George Egg, described by The Guardian as “a hugely entertaining variety turn”. The finale will be compered by Tiernan Douieb, a rising star hailed by many a comedy expert for his audience interaction.
On the Friday night, last year’s headliner Terry Alderton will unleash his magnificent combination of noises and voices. Alderton, who was signed as a goalkeeper by League Two football team Southend United in 2004 after performing brilliantly in Sky reality series The Match, rose to the top of stand-up comedy via the long route. Originally a television presenter, Alderton was voted as The Sun’s Comedian of the Year in 2011, and has also appeared on Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow. A bundle of energy and endearing weirdness, Alderton is truly one of a kind, a blur of imitations and impressions that will leave you in stitches – so good that he was described as a “f***ing genius” by no less an authority than Frank Skinner.
That’s not all, though. Rising star Seann Walsh appears on Wednesday 16 October to build on the phenomenal success of Channel 4’s Stand Up for the Week and BBC One’s Live at the Apollo. The 26-year-old is hurtling towards international recognition at quite a pace, and it is worth seeing him now, while he is still relatively unknown.
And we still haven’t talked about Richard Herring, whose early work consisted of a double-act alongside the hugely popular Stewart Lee, brings his show We’re All Going to Die! to Leamington Spa. Not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, Herring has tackled politics, religion and genitalia in shows thus far, and now adopts the theme of death as his companion on the Comedy Festival stage. A show not for the faint-hearted but certainly for those who appreciate wit and that old chestnut, ‘comedy outside the box’.
Outside stand-up, there are all sorts of activities to get your teeth stuck into. The opening day (Saturday 12 October) sees a face-painting workshop and a performance by popular theatre company Maison Foo, while the Reduced Shakespeare Company are putting on a thrilling and humorous exhibition of all 37 Shakespeare plays in just 97 minutes called The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The show appeared at the West End’s Criterion Theatre for nine years, making it London’s longest-serving comedy, and has been adapted for 2013. Written by Adam Long, Daniel Singer and Jess Winfield, this is a rapid romp through the Bard’s complete works which promises to make you see Shakespeare anew.
On top of all that, there’s Leamington Underground Cinema, a performance from CBBC favourite Justin Fletcher and the Pun Run (Tuesday 15 October), a huge audience favourite in both London and at Edinburgh Fringe.
In other words, there is something for everybody at the Hobgoblin Leamington Comedy Festival. Diversity is rightly a buzzword in comedy, but the best thing about this example of diversity is that it has not come at the expense of calibre.
Visit www.leamingtonspacomedy.com for more details: I’d get your tickets now, if I were you. Look out for our interviews and reviews, coming soon.