BCG Pro Talent Awards for Performance Final - Review

BCG Pro Talent Awards for Performance Final - Review

I was reading an interview with Paul Merton recently in which he got nostalgic for the eighties comedy scene when, he recalled, there were only about 12 comedians in the country. These days, he said, there are only 12 people in the country who aren't comedians. I know what he means. I've judged two comedy competitions recently and despite most of the names being unknown to me, the standard has been incredibly high. 

Last week it was the turn of the British Comedy Guide's BCG Pro Talent Awards for Performance Final. Most competitions tend to have large line-ups, not just because of the plethora of emerging acts looking for a break, but also because they are in large venues and the more acts you include the more mates they can bring. This final, at the intimate Museum of Comedy, was a smaller affair. Five finalists then shrank to four when Low Effort Sketches had to withdraw on the night due to illness.

First up was Maxine Wade, a blue-haired Bet Lynch-alike in leopard print from Yorkshire with a loud personality and a strong line in smutty stories. This was pretty broad-brushed humour and sometimes the pull-back-and-reveal twists felt a little obvious, but there was plenty of potential here. There was clearly more going on under the surface as Wade revealed that she worked in the NHS and was obviously sharper than her scruffy anarcho-persona initially suggested. At least I hope there was more. A well-sustained, energetic 10-minute set that would do well in clubs and a strong start to the night.

Omar Ibrahim put an intelligent spin on some fairly familiar material about how times have changed and where once you might describe somebody as a cheeky chappy these days they are more likely to be described as sex offender. He had a thoughtful take on the whole "go back" remark when it comes to race – the right and left both say he should go back to Pakistan for their own reasons, only his dad who was actually born there says don't – and he neatly skewered the modern nature of wokery when it comes to cooking curry. A new name to me but one to watch.

Before the third act Kit Loyd came on, compere Shaparak Khorsandi (who did an excellent job keeping the audience laughing between sets) said that she hadn't been shaking the hands of the acts firmly enough so gave Loyd a particularly firm shake as he took to the stage. This might have phased a less confident performer but Loyd ran with it, doing it nifty mime that his arm has been numbed by the welcome. It was a great ad hoc start to an act that made an immediate impact.

Loyd is a one man sketch performer and a superb physical comedian, bending his lanky, angular body into all sorts of shapes and contorting his rubbery face to excellent comic effect. Sometimes the material was not entirely unique – playing a cheesy radio DJ, pretending to be shot in an action movie – but his act outs were so impressive they made up for a few holes in his script. Maybe Loyd had a slight advantage, being so different to the other acts, but for me he was easily the stand-out performer on the night and a tough act to follow - luckily he was followed by an interval.

After the break there was one more finalist. It would have been much harder for Jane Postlethwaite if she had come on straight after Loyd as he was bursting with bristling energy and she was a more laid back conventional stand-up. It took a while to get onto the wavelength of her tales of living back with her parents in the Lake District and waiting to inherit. Postlethwaite had previously lived in Brighton, so needless to say, there was mileage in the contrast between the cool south coast and chilly Cumbria. Maybe she could have made even more of it. There were hints of Victoria Wood here, but something slightly darker too.

When it came to the judges – myself, agent Frances Greenfield, promoters Becky Webster and David Hardcastle – all the acts clearly had something, but Loyd (pictured) was chosen as the winner. For me he was head and shoulders above the other acts. And not just because he is well over six foot. 



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