Review: NATYS, Bloomsbury Theatre

daniel duffy

There was a bit of a kerfuffle in the run-up to this year’s New Act of the Year final when co-founder Roland Muldoon bemoaned the quality of the new acts that had entered. He said that while the final line-up was strong, many of the wannabees in the auditions were "inexperienced, often corny and excruciatingly predictable". I can’t comment on those that didn’t make the grade, but the ones that did were indeed pretty good. Although it wouldn’t do any harm if there were less than 15 finalists. I wondered if Muldoon had a big line-up because everyone brings their mates which helps to fill the venue, but he assured me that this was not the case.

Anyway, enough of the politics, onto the show. Sean Patrick had drawn the short straw and went first. It would be a tough spot for a high energy act, but his low-fi, slow-burn offbeat one liners, delivered in a voice with a hint of Simon Amstell about it, took a while to catch fire. There were a few great lines – a twist on old gags about the Geordie accent and a variation on the “I like my women “ trope (a recurring theme last night) – but there was not enough consistency here. Plenty of promise though.

Josh R Cherry was similarly good without being distinct. By contrast to Patrick he had a confident, fast delivery that put the audience at their ease and some quips about boozing and the real meaning of his name that slipped down pleasingly. His 72 Virgins joke would have felt a little tired a decade ago, but maybe now it had some retro charm. Not enough to earn Cherry a placing but he certainly didn’t die on his arse as compere Arthur Smith predicted one act would do. As he does every year.

Jenny Collier was next and was an instant hit. She already has a name for herself having made the news for being bumped from a bill last year. But she is also clearly a rising star. Her quirky personality and distinctive way with words (slight hint of Miranda Hart when she refers to “Jehovah’s Witnii” knocking on her door, but only slight) was an immediate hit and she had enough charm to get away with a sheep-shagging gag when she talked about being part-Welsh – “Welsh Lite” as she called it. Collier could have easily been a winner on another night, btu tonight picked up second place.

As other reviewers may also say, Chris Betts from Canada looked like the world’s first Daniel Kitson tribute act with his specs, shaved head and bushy beard. His material, however, was nothing like Kitson’s. It was much more mainstream with just a hint of zaniness. He was confident enough to try some audience interaction, playing around with Maybelline’s advertising slogan. On a less stressful night it might have gone down better. Still, if his own career doesn’t pan out there is always work as a Kitson body double.

Joe Sutherland was billed as “caustic, camp cattiness” which is correct but doesn’t do him justice. Skinny and in a tight blue suit, he had instant stage presence. The inevitable comparison – and not just because of the first name – is Joe Lycett. It would be easy to see Sutherland hosting TV shows in a few years, as long as he gets a better writer. At the moment his persona and delivery slightly outshone his patter, but he is clearly going places.

Roland Muldoon had mentioned to me that this was a variety competition and not just about stand-up, but so far it had been pure stand-up. Cheekykita turned that around with a clown act that had very faint echoes of Dr Brown but was more redolent of Candy Gigi, who made a splash in the final last year. Cheekykita sang Walking On The Moon badly, did some very bad ballet and played around with a tiny globe. At times, it was hard to tell whether this was expertly choreographed or being made up on the spot, but there was no denying that it was entertaining. It did feel a little too much like a novelty act, however, to land a place.

Read the rest of the review here.

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