STRATFORD Playhouse hosted its final comedy evening of the year in its ‘Variety Bar’ last night (Thursday November 29) – a venue fittingly named for three very different comedians, each delivering with timing, wit and truth.
Compere Jessica Fostekew was someone most would be happy to go for a pint with, with her tongue in cheek Stratford jibes and effortless audience interaction.
Her conversational tone was like someone’s elusive joker-of-the-pack friend dropping into a party.
And despite her stinging wit, I will not be ‘setting the swans on her’.
In contrast, Sam Fletcher was like an ironic Tommy Cooper with his props and ability to ramp up the crowd’s excitement levels with a single piece of cutlery.
Not to mention a highly tense, yet ingenious, game of pass the parcel.
But headliner Colin Hoult’s ageing actress alter ego, Anna Mann, was undoubtedly the star of the show.
In truth, I was a teeny bit apprehensive of the headline transvestite act, half expecting a bawdy drag act similar to the likes of Lily Savage.
I could not have been more wrong. Anna regaled us with wacky anecdotes of ‘black 70s pooh’, snorting up shrunken mascots and her theory to defeating fascists (cuddles).
My favourite part of the act was the personal menagerie of animals Anna built up by doling out pet names to audience members like ‘badger’ and – my firm favourite – ‘fish’.
It was pleasant to see Playhouse hosts Ellis Creez, Rebecca Hallworth and Phil Tyose present throughout the evening, flitting between serving drinks, production and spectating.
And the night was certainly a testament to the promise of a welcoming, community venue – ensuring my return in 2019.