A chance to see comedy’s future stars

Julian Deane
Julian Deane

Pop along to Shoreham’s Ropetackle Centre this week, and in a few years’ time, you might just be able to nod sagely and mutter “I was there at the start.”

This week the venue is showcasing the possible stars of the future with its very own Ropetackle Comedy Festival, a week of cutting-edge comedy (Monday, June 22-Saturday, June 27, 8pm, all tickets £5).

Iain Stirling. Picture by Edward Moore.

Iain Stirling. Picture by Edward Moore.

The shows as part of the festival are: Iain Stirling and Phil Wang: Monday, June 22; Carl Donnelly and Matt Winning: Tuesday, June 23; Ed Gamble and Adam Hess: Wednesday, June 24; Gareth Richards and Rob Auton: Thursday, June 25; Jarlath Regan and Julian Deane: Friday, June 26; Steve Hall and Ahir Shah: Saturday, June 27. Box office: 01273 464440 or ropetacklecentre.co.uk.

Ropetackle spokesman Mark Phillips said: “Every year, comedians are doing their preview shows before the Edinburgh Festival. We get a lot of the comedians on the circuit working towards Edinburgh. In the past, we have had them dotted around, but this year we thought we should have one solid week. It’s a combination of Anne, who does our programming, and the agency we are working with, Avalon. They have these comedians on their books, and they are looking for venues. They spoke to us and said ‘Why don’t we put together a week of previews for the festival.’ It’s really about celebrating the comedians that are currently under the radar that are fast-rising and that are going to be the next big names. All the people that are now household names are people that have done this circuit, that have done these kinds of previews.

“People might not necessarily know their names, but Avalon have got a lot of big names on their books, and the fact they have recommended these comedians to us shows the confidence they have got in these comedians.

“I have seen preview shows, and then I have seen the comedians doing big shows later, and it is really interesting to see how they have changed. With these previews, also they can really bounce off the audiences as they test their material. It’s great fun. You are getting brand-new stuff, but they are still working on it, trying to see what works. They are testing out new ideas, and there will be a lot of interaction.”

Rob Auton

Rob Auton

As Mark says, it’s the audience’s chance to see a show take shape and also actually to shape it: “The comedians will get feedback and reaction, and you can see how comedians will alter their show going forward.”

Key is that interaction Mark talks about: “It’s a great chance to interact with the comedians. They are usually quite informal. They will arrive by train just before the show, and they will usually stay and have a drink in the bar afterwards. It’s a really great atmosphere.”

The hope is the comedy festival will become a fixture on the calendar: “We just hope to get as many people as possible who will come along and see some really good shows, discover some comedians they haven’t known before and that they will come back.

“Going forward, we hope to continue with different comedians but it would be good to get some bigger names in there to fit in with the smaller names so you get a good combination.”

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