Review: Brighton Comedy Garden – Alan Davies, Ed Byrne, Lolly Adefope, Suzi Ruffell & Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Preston Park, Brighton

Review: Brighton Comedy Garden – Alan Davies, Ed Byrne, Lolly Adefope, Suzi Ruffell & Kiri Pritchard-McLean, Preston Park, Brighton

The Brighton Comedy Garden is in its very first year, with an excellent bill of comedians from the UK's comedy scene. The question, on its inaugural night, was whether the rich pickings would come together to deliver on the such promise – and also whether it would prosper, positioned as it is the month after an arts-filled and possibly saturated Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe. If this opening night is anything to go by then the Brighton Comedy Garden has no need to worry that the Brighton audience has satiated its comedy hunger – the tent was full and the audience is definitely there.

The canny appointment of Kiri Pritchard-McLean as MC paid off from the start. A room leveller connecting with all walks of life, it's easy to see why Pritchard-McLean has been making a name for herself as an award-winning compere over the last few years. With a combination of smart talking empathy and ready punchlines her mix of audience interaction shuffled the crowd into place neatly whilst keeping her own voice and side-stepping most MC generic tropes.

Suzi Ruffell bounded in, a tight package of energy, fast-delivery and neat comic writing. Punchlines came fast – and although most of her set was familiar to those who had seen her before, this was Ruffell on A-game with personal material melded well into a coherent and engaging set that landed punchlines on LGBTQI parental confusion as well as maternal ambitions with equal deft accuracy. 

The second section was made up of two shorter sets from two very different performers. Lolly Adefope completely changed the tone of the room as she entered in the persona of 'Damian', a man in a middle-management corporate environment to instruct us on what can and cannot be said in 2019's workplace. She was transfixing. Cutting satire, sharp send up, subtle but brutal – punchlines were not signposted but carelessly scattered. Perfect for the self-awarely woke Brighton crowd. She then stepped into the persona of the owner of a children's casting agency  – sickly sweet and demonstrating a surprisingly strong singing voice to underpin the character's hidden motives. 

Ed Byrne closed the second act with a more traditional stand-up set, covering the familiar topics of family and joining the middle classes. He did suffer a little by contrast to Adefope, and although reliable his set didn't sparkle and felt a little staid.

Headlining was Alan Davies – personifying wide-eyed middle age and serving up a delightfully in-the-moment performance that wandered from the festival's logo font to the previous night's Tory leadership debate and on to his own prostate exam. Like a wild-haired woodland sprite of mischief and delight, he brought a sense of magic to the end of the proceedings.

With a tone set to see the night received as a 'Live At The Apollo' of reliable and recognisably formatted stand-up, the line-up not only delivered in its prestige names but also shook a little something up in its variety of delivery and voices given platform. A great first night to set the tone for the rest of the week.

The Brighton Comedy Garden runs until June 23. More info here.

Lolly Adefope picture: Idil Sukan

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