Last night’s Alternative Night Out at The Civic Gallery had the unexpected theme of ‘comedy’. You might think that unusual for an arts and health organisation, as even now, mental health is still one of the last tabboos. But you see, sometimes laughter can be the best remedy.
This night of comedy was the finale of a two week take over of The Gallery@ Barnsley’s The Civic. The exhibition was organic, in that it grew each day, via a series of in house workshops open to everyone, including those people who attend the Creative Recovery groups, Re:Sound, Uplift and the Live Arts Cafe.
Up first was Scott Doonican from The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican performing a solo set of the band’s material. Now, I’ve known Scott for many years and have seen many of his band’s performances but in this set, there were a number of songs I hear for the first time. Highlights for me being The Lottery Song and Shirley, a song about his rubber girlfriend.
Next up was Stan Skinny, a semi-pro American wrestler living in Sheffield who struggles with his inner-shoegazing Northern Poet. Flipping between physical humour and genuinely funny ironic poems about body image and self worth, Stan is definitely one to catch on the comedy circuit.
The undoubted highlight for me though was Kevin Dewbsury, a Cheshire comedian with a northern accent and the spit of The Kaiser Chief’s Ricky Wilson. He even comes on to a re-written version of Ruby Ruby Ruby. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how this was going to pan out after that. I wasn’t sure if I was ready for a singing stand-up.
Kevin was here to perform In… Sane which was a show he recently took to Edinburgh Fringe, in which he tackles the subject of his own mental breakdowns and psychosis. Now, many comedians have spoken out about their own mental illnesses before, most notably Stephen Fry and his struggle with bipolar disorder. It turns out though, never have I seen anybody (let alone a comedian) talk about mental illness with so much brutal honesty and graphic detail, and yet be so really fucking funny as Kevin Dewsbury. People forget that even when you’re at your lowest ebb, you can still call yourself a nutter and have a laugh, so his stories about all things shitting in towels and trying to throw himself out of hospital windows are as funny as they are tragic. But all the best comedians were tragic right? There is also an essence of Eddie Izzard in his understated delivery. A massive round clap from me for being original, brave and much needed.
Finally, we have the second set from The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican; now featuring Andy Doonican, the second illegitimate love child of the Irish crooner (the third son was in Lanzarote). This final set features a couple of new numbers that will appear on their soon to be released new album Satday Neet Fever. Pint Fever doesn’t quite click for me like material from the previous two albums. However, recent Barnsley Hospice charity single Lady Is Greggs is genuinely brilliant and set closer If I Could Punch A Face, It Would Be Justin Bieber’s is still great too. It seems the Bar-Stewards have gained even more new fans and are definitely on their way to being one of Barnsley’s most popular bands right now.
So, there were lots of laughs to be had all round and a brilliant turn out too. Not only was this very Alternative Night Out totally FREE but I also got a plate full of free sarnies, vol au vents and cakes. Win!
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