Despite the challenges of Covid-19, Jericho Comedy has continued undaunted on its mission to seek out new comedy formats and venues. This summer has seen them branch out into new ventures, such as comedy on punts and comedy in cars, to the delight of the local populace, which has suffered such a dearth of live entertainment this year. One audience member had travelled all the way from Northampton for the rare opportunity to enjoy some live stand-up.
This was the first time Jericho Comedy has teamed up with Vintage Open Air Cinema (VOAC), which has been providing outdoor cinema for the lucky residents of Milton Keynes all summer. It seemed set to be a match made in heaven: VOAC provided a lovely pop-up open air theatre and vintage film clips interspersed with the four Jericho acts.
VOAC provided a glorious venue. They have put a lot of thought and care not only into the stylish design of their beautiful transportable set – a glamorous red, gold and black colour scheme, fringed velvet drapes, glittery panels, starry lighting nets, wooden art deco models and a large screen edged with iconic black and gold images - but also into the selection of the perfect seating: after three and a half hours, the classy red fold-up seats still felt comfortable! There was real attention to detail and consideration for all the audience’s needs: gold velvet flags for requesting table service, blankets on each chair, and more blankets silently proffered by the friendly waiters as the temperature fell.
The evening began with vintage black and white film clips depicting weird contraptions, behaviours, vehicles, advertisements and slimming devices from a century ago, an entertaining fake historic prediction of life in 2020, and the classic Marx brothers piano duet from The Big Store (1941). Jump to Harry Houseman, speculating on what cheese, fish, iron, fear and war have in common* and on whether Oxford is “posh” or “rough”. The answer “both” was vividly illustrated by the evening itself, as the audience sat waited on, wineglasses in hand, while the scent of cannabis smoke floated through the air from the youth hanging out at the other end of the field.
Two very contrasting clips followed: the balletic black and white “cogs” scene from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and a colorised version of Disorder in the Court featuring the Three Stooges, both dating from 1936. Abi Clarke ended the first half with a discussion of pockets in women’s clothes and alternative uses of babies.
The next clip took us back a full century, to Charlie Chaplin’s 1921 The Kid, such a moving and evocative piece of storytelling, it was rather a hard act to follow for Alex Farrow. His act demonstrated that trying to elicit participation is rather more difficult with a socially distanced outdoor audience. My companion is always nervous when comedians pick on random audience members – even if, as in this case, it is done in a friendly way – so I have to admit that I was relieved when this act came to an end.
I was surprised that a second (and lengthy) Three Stooges clip had been selected (Beer Barrel Polecats, 1946), rather than widening the net to include other classic slapstick stars – only Laurel and Hardy (Dirty Work, 1933) were also on show.
Chelsea Birkby brought the evening to a close, arguing that we should all reconnect with our anger, with discursions into other areas such as why murder is more glamorous than GBH, and bi-polar diagnoses. By the second half, some of the language was getting a bit racy and – as the comedy was being amplified in a park in a residential area – we hoped the parents of Kidlington had either put their bairns to bed or at least closed the windows!
It is sad that summer is drawing to a close and it will soon be too cold to sit outside, as VOAC provided a lovely alternative to an indoor venue; however, I have no doubt Jericho Comedy will continue to use its initiative to come up with more innovative ideas.
*they can all be “monger”ed