On paper my second experience of live comedy at St James in recent months looked rather similar to my first (Marcus Brigstocke and Rob Rouse) with two stand up performers, one big name and one lesser known to warm up the audience, within these confines though this show from Phill Jupitus and Marion Davis couldn’t have been much more different.
After a quick introduction from Juptius, Davis took to the stage and it was clear from the off that his youthful, London, style and voice was not what a lot in attendance were expecting. I have to say I’d not heard of Davis before so didn’t know what to expect either but once I settled into his style of storytelling I loved it.
Starting out with tales of his home and family, based around a nice self deprecating streak focussing on his appearance and extremely recognisable voice, he set the scene very nicely for what was to come.
As they went on his stories pushed boundaries a little further, culminating in one that was clearly designed to push the audiences buttons on issues of race. While it was very funny, given the demographic of those in attendance tonight, it wasn’t surprising to hear some people commenting they had found it uncomfortable during the break that followed. This was more than balanced though by those who ‘got’ what Davis was aiming for and personally I found it very funny and will be looking up more of Davis’ stuff going forward.
As well as this sensibility nudging Davis had a form of delivery and stage craft that seemed designed to lull the audience into a false sense of security and revealed itself brilliantly over the course of his 45 minutes or so stage.
In comparison Jupitus was a relatively straightforward, traditional stand up comedian but within his delivery comes a level of energy that drives his whole performance forward in a way that matches his imposing but not intimidating physical presence on stage.
After an initial tirade about Brexit, the potential incoming occupant of Number 10 and a hilarious diatribe about Nigel Farage and how he deals with his hate for the former UKIP leader (which earned a round of applause), Jupitus brought the stories closer to home focussing on his new home in Scotland.
While I believe he has just completed a tour of Scotland, so this was I assume the same set he was doing there, a lot of the material translated perfectly to the ‘small town’ feel of Guernsey so many of the touchstones were the same and worked just as well for this audience as they would in a small town at the other end of the British Isles.
From stories of local wildlife and how locals always seem to want to know each other’s business, complete with some excellent Scottish accents and animal impressions, he culminated this with a story about puffins and a trip to the Shetland Islands.
This all had the audience in fits and again while you could say there was nothing particularly special about the story itself, it was the energy that it came with that made it work so well. I’m sure this is something that comes with Jupitus’ years of experience but seems built into him at the deepest level, even an interruption from the audience at an almost crucial punchline moment didn’t derail him and kept most in the venue invested too.
This energy could easily become a one note stream of anger and rage but Juptius expertly keeps it just under the surface using it to push the show, allowing the angry feel out only at crucial moments and otherwise translating it into something infectious.
After the main set ended with a great observational piece about his daughters wedding, including an anecdote about a phone call to Sandi Toksvig, which again drew applause of approval for its message of tolerance as much as it’s humour, Jupitus called Davis back out on stage for a happy birthday singalong before he left at least some of the audience calling for more closing another great night of top level comedy at St James on a particularly feel-good note.