Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Champion night - review of Ben Champion and Guests musical comedy night

Ben Champion and Guests musical comedy night at ACE Space, Newbury on Friday, March 9

I’VE always wanted to be a muse for a song, inspiring music of beauty and lyrics of joy. And on Friday, to my delight and great surprise it finally happened - the song being the moving and memorable punk-inspired future classic Ain’t Going Back To Basingstoke, by Newbury’s very own comedy singer-songwriter Ben Champion. Inspired by my dilemma about whether to see comedian Stewart Lee at The Anvil on Friday, or to come down and support something a little more home grown, he penned a ditty listing the myriad reasons that Basingstoke is not for the likes of us Newburians.

A packed ACE Space enjoyed an excellent night of musical hilarity organised by Champion, performing alongside three hand-picked acts: Natt Tapley, Ant Dewson and Horse & Louis (pictured above), who between them displayed how diverse musical comedy can be. From Champion’s own musicianship, showcasing a different style on each song, to Dewson’s laugh-a-line piano playing, Tapley’s reworking of Beatles classics (“Dear students... you’re going to have to pay...”) and Horse & Louis’ faux rock god stylings, the presentation was pleasantly varied, but never low on laughs.

Tapley kicked off the show, performing in character as “actual” London mayoral candidate Sir Ian Bowler, the self-styled Lesser of Three Evils. Reminiscent of Rik Mayall’s Alan B’Stard at his most oblivious to the little people, “Bowler”’s two musical interludes were rather an aside to his mainly stand-up routine, which worked very well considering he was performing at a “local gig for local people” (Champion’s description) who are probably mainly not that fussed about the mayoral election thingy going on up in the Smoke.

He may modestly describe himself as a “piano player (Grade 6) and singer of stupid songs”, but Dewson’s performance was pure, unadulterated hilarity. With naughty songs about his love for Carol Voderman and Richard Hammond, and a riposte to young people who believe that life ends at 30, he encouraged audience singalongs (very tuneful - well done, the ACE Space audience), and basically went down a storm.

Champion put himself third on the bill in addition to his compering duties, with some excellent songs which gave a little insight into his day job as a composer for children’s television, the perils of auto corrective texting, his thoughts on the Higgs Boson particle (“have you tried looking for it in the second drawer down?”) and his dreams of being an atheist priest and/or a ginger cowboy. Lovely stuff; another local talent we are very lucky to be able to call our own.

Horse & Louis (aka Nick Phillips and Louis Fences) took the night’s top slot, with a most entertaining set in the style of The Conchords and Tenacious D, the duo told stories about dating difficulties, call centre woes and the sexual posturing of musicians through the medium of rock opera. A frenetic and packed performance, the only disappointment was that their set was rather short, but it was an uplifting end to an excellent evening’s entertainment.

With a bar set this high, it should be hoped that such comedy nights become a regular diversification of ACE Space’s programming. I was certainly left wanting more.

(By the way, as it happened, I had to go to Basingstoke on Sunday morning, for a football match. Sometimes, there’s just no avoiding the place.)

  • First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, March 15, 2012

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