Event review: Pappy’s at the Oval Tavern, Thursday 18th June

By - Wednesday 24th June, 2015

Mirth this well made is magical, says Rob Preston

Photo by Pappy’s. used with permission.

There is a lot of festivals coming up in Croydon quite soon. We have Purley Festival, South Croydon Food Festival, Croydon Heritage Festival‘s on right now, and in July the ambitious Ambition Festival. But what about comedy?

Since the closure of comedy club Up the Creek and then the Warehouse Theatre, laughs have been on the decrease in Croydon Town. What to do about that? Well, how about a whole summer of comedy gigs under the umbrella of Croydon Comedy Festival? Over the next few months, around fifty comedy events will be held at venues including the Oval Tavern, the Spread Eagle and Matthews Yard.

After two successful test events at the Oval (the first night outdoors, the second one, indoors), one thing was very apparent; watching the funnies is far more fun in the Oval’s impressive garden, on their new outdoor stage, with subtle and clever lighting, on a balmy night under a sky painted pink and yellow. So the seventy-strong audience who’d gathered for the first night proper took their seats there for some outdoor comedy from two established acts.

Steak and Blowjob Day. It’s payback for Valentine’s

Up first, funny lady Caroline Mabey delivered her work in progress, ‘Chaos is a Friend of Mine’, a show centred around motherhood. She’ll be taking it to Edinburgh in August, and used this night to see what works and what doesn’t. Sadly for her, a no-show of hands told her that there were no mothers at all in the audience who might identify with her material, so she moved away from talk of baby, who she describes as looking like a Ray Harryhausen Bond villain in a highchair, wobbling its head.

Instead, she focused on jokes about the ever increasing number of ‘days’ we are seeing, such as National Women’s Day and World Book Day (where children dress up as their favourite characters from TV shows). The biggest laughs came from her observations about Steak and Blowjob Day (men’s payback for having to make an effort on Valentine’s Day).

Their best sketches reach the heights of great comedy

Next-up was Pappy’s, three men (Ben, Tom and Matthew) who have a wide range of comedy routines, including their own solo shows, but tonight in group mode, they gave us the live sketch show. With one tall, one medium and the last diminutive, they are reminiscent of The Two Ronnies, particularly with the way they start their show “We won’t have time to perform this sketch for you”, and then they perform the sketch. “Or this one”… and then that one.

For sketches to work live, you need to be tight, and these boys really are. The sketchers are interspersed with the occasional song, including a brilliant one about what it’s like to be men with tails, and an equally fantastic one about gloves. But it’s Matthew and Tom’s skill as mimes that bring the best of their sketches to the heights of great comedy. Ben is able to become a convincing T-rex just by pulling a face and donning a swimming hat and floppy tale for two sketches about a dinosaur who is no good at sports. One sketch titled ‘Old Louie’ gives a certain nod to Vic and Bob at the peak of their powers, with their farting Frenchmen.

My face actually hurts

The highlight of the night is a sketch played a little freer and looser than the rest. Marti, of legendary folk band Marti, Mim and Julius is launching his solo career. He plays a song, with no evidence of any comedy. He stops. It just isn’t the same without Mim and Julius. But then who should appear? It’s Mim with guitar in hand, and the two folk legends carry on with the song. But it’s just no use, not without Julius. Enter Julius, to complete the trio. Only problem is, he’s gone completely insane, and believes himself to be a Roman emperor. It’s hard to describe how hilarious this was, but Tom as Julius had the audience in the palm of his hand just by throwing about an apple in the palm of his. It had me, and others literally crying with laughter.

There’s something truly magical about watching mirth-making this good as the sun goes down behind it. As the show draws to a close, Ben decides he’s fallen in love with a girl in the audience who is brought up onto the stage. The three, once again employing mime, and to perfection, act out what that relationship would be like, and it’s tragic. ‘So – you gonna go for it?’ asks Matthew. ‘No’ Ben replies. ‘It doesn’t end well’. And then all too soon the night is over. I overhear people saying, ‘That was brilliant’ and ‘My face actually hurts’.

The organisers of this festival could not have hoped for a better night to kick things off, with a great venue, perfect weather, and killer comedy of the highest calibre. All Croydon residents should try and make at least one date of the festival. Personally, I’m grabbing a season ticket.

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Rob Preston

Rob Preston

Rob was a co-host on Croydon Radio's Encyclopaedia Croydonia, and hosts the popular bi-monthly tribute nights at The Oval Tavern on Oval Road. As a writer / photographer his work has been published in Doctor Who Magazine, Dreamwatch, Auton, Dog's Breakfast, Bulletin Your Head and SoHo Life & Technology Today. His short stories have been read at Tales of Croydonia at The Oval Tavern, and he is currently working on two anthologies of his own short stories, one crime, the other horror. He has written and directed seven plays at various Croydon venues, and survives today as a jobbing actor.

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