Live Review, Live at the Chapel with James Acaster, Kevin Eldon, Jayde Adams, Carl Donnelly, John Robins

When the pioneering Invisible Dot organisation closed down in 2016 there was a fear that the regular Union Chapel gigs promoted by ID might come to an end too. There have been lots of memorable nights at this Islington church over the years and luckily for the comedy world promoter Will Briggs has picked up the baton. Briggs is clearly a shrewd man, even if last night’s compere John Robins described him as looking like a stoner out of Point Break.

It is a cavernous room to compere and Robins got the balance just about right, bantering with the front rows while not forgetting that there was also an audience at the back and upstairs. He landed a spot of comedy gold with a fan who had an unusual tattoo and revealed that he was rather fond of the number eleven. This allowed Robins to affect mock dismay every time there was a number eleven-linked event during the night. All bollocks as Robins or any passing numerologist could clearly see, but hugely entertaining.

First act of the night was Carl Donnelly, who is about as reliable a stand-up as they come. This is intended as a compliment. He is an easy-going, instantly amiable presence, occasionally giggling aloud at something funny he has just said or thought. Donnelly is currently touring his last Edinburgh show and dropped part of that set into his 20 minutes, reflecting on the fact that 35 – his age – is supposed to be the best age to be. Scientists have spent time proving this, he explained, before wondering if “they should be looking into that cancer thing” instead. There was plenty here to laugh at, from thoughts on class to thoughts about romance. And if you want to hear the world’s best routine about farting look no further. 

Second on was Jayde Adams, who is building up a fair old head of career steam since her Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nomination last year. She has had a good weekend, already making new friends with her appearance on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown on Friday. Having loosened up onstage by stripping down to her leopard-patterned onesie, she told a very relatable story about a journey from hell on Megabus Gold – “like the Orient Express except everyone carries their stuff in bin bags.” I won’t give too much away, but she finished with an operatic flourish flat on her back and received an uproarious ovation. Highly recommended.

After the first break Kevin Eldon was a sheer joy, delivering an impeccable extended anecdote that shot off in all sorts of comical directions – which was apt as the first 10 minutes were spent discussing the very nature of digression. Eldon is best known for his skilful verbiage but he also has a naturally funny physicality. In fact I’d never noticed before how much he was like a young angsty, agile John Cleese. And then just as I looked up from my notepad Eldon started goosestepping across the stage, pretty much being Basil Fawlty. If you can imagine Basil Fawlty being half his height. There was a hint of Harry Hill in the manic stream of consciousness too, but sod the comparisons, Eldon is a unique comic legend. 

Finally after another break and a bit more awesome MCing from Robins, headliner James Acaster hit the ground running with his sublimely constructed Chilean miners routine (and you don’t get anywhere near enough of those on the circuit these days). Acaster has a way of crafting a story which totally draws you in even when you have no idea whatsoever where the narrative is heading. A second story, about Lochness Monster hoaxes, had the audience hanging on his very word. Even when there weren’t laughs for a while as he slowed the pace or paused completely you somehow knew that a showstopping payoff was on its way. And, of course Acaster delivered big style. 

Ten out of ten for this gig? The tattoo’d man at the front would probably give it eleven.

Next Live at the Chapel is March 4, headlined by Doc Brown. Tickets here.

Stewart Lee On Kevin Eldon.


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