* Darren Burke
comedy, Lenny Henry, doncaster civic theatre: NEVER ever sit in the front few rows at a comedy gig. That’s unless you’re prepared for a few good natured jibes being chucked your way. Fortunately, down the years, I’ve managed to skulk around in the shadowy gloom at the back of the stalls, avoiding the glare and the razor sharp tongue of the comic in front of me. Not so on this occasion as Lenny playfully picked at my profession and helped get laughs along the way from a sadly only half-full Civic. Those who weren’t there missed a treat. Not everyone’s cup of tea, Henry can still cut it at the top of the comedy tree as this delightful trawl through the world of music proved. Slick and sharp in a swanky red satin suit, Lenny took us on a heartfelt, joyous and nostalgic trip of ludicrous dance crazes, weird music genres, Chinese Elvis impersonators, Freddie Mercury audience singalongs - and a surprisingly powerful and soulful set of lungs that showcased his singing skills on classics such as Jailhouse Rock and Blueberry Hill. Lenny’s boundless enthusiasm, breathless energy and crackling repartee with the front rows (as well as those jibes of course) as well a finale of the legendary lovesexy icon Theophilus P. Wildebeeste ensured a standing ovation and happy exit into the cold night air. Three of a kind? There’s still only one Lenny.
* Darren Burke
comedy, ALEXEI SAYLE, Hovingham Village Hall, North yorkshire: IT’S 17 years since the infamous Scouse vitrol and politically edged bile of Alexei Sayle was last heard on a live stage. Since hanging up his mic, he’s turned his attentions to the written word. But now he’s back - and just as brilliant, relevant and jaw-droppingly funny as ever. Playing a string of small venues as he eases back into the stand-up comedy world, “It’s like a weird episode of Heartbeat this, innit?,” he tells the 150-strong audience crammed into the red, white and blue bunting clad village hall deep in the wilds of North Yorkshire, things have changed since Alexei was last with us - but while he may have mellowed, that infamous anger is still there. Since founding alternative comedy “single-handedly,” he’s sorry for helping to foist Michael McIntyre on the world, not impressed that Ed Miliband’s aides have to Google him for salient facts and faced an awkward moment with Dennis Waterman on New Tricks. Of course, it doesn’t make much sense unless you were there - and not many were in a venue that normally hosts WI meetings and playgroups. But worth every second of a 50 odd mile drive to catch a true comedy legend in action. But with material as good as this, Sayle needs to be seen by as many people again in as many venues as possible. In just an hour of frenzied and action-packed stand-up, Alexei showed us just what we’ve been missing in among the blandness of recent years. Diluting the legacy? Far from it? 18th best stand-up comic in Britain - number one would be more fitting. There’s no one like Alexei out there - and we need him back on our stages and screens now. As Alexei might say in his own words, “very nice.” Unless he happened to be trapped in a cupboard with Lembit Opik and the saxophone player from Madness.
* Darren Burke
film, The Twilight SagaBreaking Dawn - Part 2 (12A, 115 mins): Tissues and holy water at the ready as the fang-tasy series based on Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling books comes to a spectacular close with a battle royale between the diabolical Volturi, led by Aro (Michael Sheen), and lovers Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson), whose mortal-turned-vampire offspring, Renesmee (Mackenzie Foy), is considered an abomination by their fellow bloodsuckers. Thankfully, best friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) is on hand to rip off his shirt and flaunt his abs before transforming into a werewolf then leading the snarling Quileute wolf pack into the fray. Director Bill Condon, who helmed Part 1, orchestrates the special effects-heavy mayhem set to an angst-heavy soundtrack of Green Day, Ellie Goulding, Christina Perri and Feist. the very first screenings in the UK of this concluding chapter.