Members of the audience buzzed in and out of the Bee’s Mouth downstairs theatre. We were sipping drinks while trying to work out who was there to watch and who was to perform in the show, which sought to illuminate how to tell the perfect story through the work of three stand-ups - Tim Ballantine, Andy Kallstrom and Haydn Griffith-Jones.
The show didn’t stick to its concept, although amongst the random ramblings there were some hidden gems.
There were only about ten people, seated nervously at the outskirts of the room, leaving an awkward empty space in the middle. Introducing himself with a microphone behind the stage, Tim persuaded some curious explorers of the lower levels to enter into our dark, red velvet-lined abode. This seemed justified to some extent by the ridiculously over-amplified set-up. There were not only two huge amps by the side of stage, and one above, but little back-up amps dotted around too. If anything, they got people’s backs up; it seemed the ticket price was going mainly towards the electricity bill.
Tim’s charming smile put the audience at ease despite his Chicago gangster look. His jokes mainly took the mickey out of Americans and Northerners, which didn’t go down a storm as both were represented in the front, and only, row. Haydn seemed more nervous, which didn’t ease the tension in the room one jot. Every time he played with his hair or pulled on an ear or t-shirt collar, the audience were doing the same. There were a few chuckles but no-one broke a sweat. Most of us sat nervously, cross-legged, clutched our drinks. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one trying to work out how fanatical Christian American preachers and aeroplane flights and sleazy encounters in Indonesia were related to a Universal Recipe.
Andy the self-proclaimed ‘not-so-manly’ started by explaining why people thought he was Tim. In the least threatening manner possible, diminished further by his small stature, he then proceeded to ‘damn Dickens’. Having benefitted from an eagle-eyed observance of the audience dynamics during the first two acts, Tiny Andy seemed to realise the show needed a little more audience participation. He began with a joke about the removal of the piano’s brass candle-holders in favour of tackily glued-on crows feathers, which brought the audience back to the room. The show didn’t stick to its concept, although amongst the random ramblings there were some hidden gems.