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Where the comedy seeds are sown: exploring Exeter's budding arts scene


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21st February marked start-up Creative Culture South West’s second Open Mic Comedy Night, hosted generously by The Barnfield Theatre in Exeter where a host of local and national acts performed to a sizeable and (mostly) game audience.

Image courtesy of Creative Culture South West

The Barnfield is a mainstay of the quirky, the alternative and the creative. With the venue’s support, Creative Culture provided a much-needed jump-start to the heart of Exeter’s amateur arts scene.

Steve Hogarth kicked us off with straight-from-the-90s anecdotal musings of hard bass, hard drugs and a hard time growing up. Then, triumphantly squashing the “women aren’t funny” cliché, Niki McCretton and Shelley Szender dominated as stand-out acts of the evening.

McCretton brought us biting, hawk-like observational comedy that hurt so good, with excerpts from a book of top tips she had amassed from her wealth of experience as a “barren, childless, lonely spinster”. Szender is the kind of woman who could make comedy from chip shops and flower beds. Her acute and raunchy poetry was saturated with a cultural awareness that the audience immediately identified with.

Neil Braeman delivered a blue, jibe-heavy commentary on his Northern roots, skilfully navigating the mostly-millennial audience. Acts Ben Milden and Christian Russell-Pollock provided dad jokes aplenty (don’t try and hide it: everyone secretly loves a good dad joke).

Making you sit up and watch, Rhys Slade-Jones reappeared for his second performance in the Open Mic canon with a kind-hearted polemic to “straight people”. Channelling a hungover Marie Antoinette with serious Mad Hatter vibes, Slade-Jones entreated the audience to find their “own Bette Midler”.

Andy Costello was point of difference. As a cage fighter, Costello felt he was in a position to dispense some self-defence wisdom which, offset against his bulky frame and well-appointed clipboard, was met well by the crowd. Attentively toeing the borderlands of tact, Costello debuted to warm applause.

The “legend among the Gods” and frequently unassuming DJ Riordan explored the trials of attending medical school, with scat-heavy anecdotes and reflections on “packing a trouser snake”. DJ Riordan will be competing soon in the Bristol stand up scene and believes his career as a doctor will be a future comedy goldmine (we tend to agree).

Charlotte, who will shortly be appearing on the Soho comedy circuit, performed in her first foray into stand up to receptive applause with irreverent, loving diatribes on trashy reality TV. She was followed by Chris White, who picked up plenty of humour a few bottles in at The Firehouse prior to his open mic performance.

Promoting diversity and every level of artistic ability, Creative Culture Southwest seems committed to a mission of cultivating the South West’s creative scene. Looking to host new events showcasing the South West's budding arts and music community, organisers Bryce and Garth encourage anyone with an interest to reach out. Watch their Facebook page here for updates.

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