2019 saw St James Concert Hall in Guernsey really establish itself as a venue for visiting comedians with many great nights from some of the UK’s top stand ups across the year but then, of course, shortly after the appearance from Mark Steel and Angela Barnes, this all stopped as COVID-19 and lockdowns struck and its not until now that they’ve been able to resume with a return visit from American comic Rich Hall along with Suzi Ruffell and Thomas Green.
Green acted as MC for the night but it had a ‘three for the price of two’ feel as we got a good length warm up set from the Australian to start the night.
Mostly playing off the audience to get the room up for what was to come he did a great job manoeuvring some tricky responses (many due to the largely obscure financial nature of professions in the front row, and some rather reticent teachers), while being the first to recognise the large contingent from the local Full Boar motorcycle club in attendance, who he had a good time having fun with throughout the night.
I wondered if his liberal use of the c-word might turn some of the audience against him (as we have seen hints of in the past) but thankfully this crowd seemed more in tune with his language and as he introduced Suzi Ruffell the audience was certainly up for the night ahead.
From the off Ruffell was terrific ball of energy, filling the stage in hugely impressive fashion and channeling this into a set based largely around her life and experiences.
This went from stories about school and parents to her engagement and marriage and her and her wife exploring possibilities around having children, in sometimes fairly graphic fashion.
While I suspect there was a tinge of uncomfortableness for some in attendance at some of this, to be honest for me that’s a solid part of the best comedy, she read the room excellently and her delivery was such that I think anyone would have felt able to engage with it even if it didn’t quite match with their specific experience while her energy was such that I just felt swept along by the whole thing.
After an interval and a little bit more from Thomas Green it was time for the evening’s headline set from Rich Hall.
Having last performed here a little under two years ago there were similarities between the two sets but not so much as to make it feel like watching the same show again – aided, if that’s the right word, by the by now more ‘enthusiastic’ members of the audience, particularly amongst the aforementioned bikers.
By his own admission a portion of Hall’s past material had been rendered somewhat redundant by political changes in his homeland but he still found some things to comment on in that regard, particularly as regard responses to the pandemic but without it becoming bogged down in either.
The second half of the set then saw him pick up the guitar and give us a few semi-improvised country and western parody songs, but clearly coming from a place of knowledge and love of the style, including a somewhat meta take on Folsom Prison Blues and a couple involving some audience members with greater and lesser levels of hesitation in their part.
This was all before an interruption from a member of the audience in the very final lines of his final song that you could tell not only threw Hall but most of us watching on too, but he dealt with it as well as could be expected and still managed to finish on the right note (literally and figuratively).
While it was clear some of the audience interactions did derail things slightly for the performers tonight, and there was something of an odd atmosphere in this regard, for the most part the energy coming from the stage was such to carry them all through and was reciprocated in the right way, and simply, much as it was when live music returned, it was just great to experience some live comedy again and I can’t wait for the next time!