Review: King’s Jest

SOPHIE BAUER found it took headliner James Dowdeswell to perk up the weary Week 8 audience.

Barber bauer Comedy Dowdeswell King's Jest Rigg Wang

The King’s Jest, Saturday 6th March, £3.

So week 8 has finally reared its beautiful head. It has materialized like a beacon of hope on a horizon of timetabled drudgery, a visible full stop to an ocean of deadlines. Let us parade the streets in triumph, shout our joie de vivre from the top of the UL! Except…it’s not like that is it? If you’re anything like me, your pyjamas are officially in this season, you’re nursing 8 weeks’ worth of cold and 6 hours sleep has become the Holy Grail. As I sat at a safe third row distance at the King’s Jest, I sensed that even the trusty fruit salad of comedy couldn’t nourish this downright dour audience. The evening was good, but felt like slightly stale cake. The core ingredients were still there, if a little wearied by time and circumstance.

But what a noble effort it was; Phil Wang and his posse made worthy attempts to illuminate the waves of haggard faces. Phil Wang slipped back into the comforting role of compere, soothing the audience with his Gok Wan centred musings and tales of his first ‘lolathon’ before unleashing Ahir Shah. His ‘shit dress sense beneath a veil of irony’ got the chortles spreading but at times the material was a little too long winded for the audience’s noticeably diminished attention span.

Jenna Corderoy determinedly grabbed the relay next with her customary flipchart. This time it charted her psychedelic adventures through films and books, the best moment being her love affair with Spongebob Squarepants. Despite being a great listener, really absorbing what she said he did have tendencies to…sponge off her.

I was left strangely underwhelmed by Ed Kiely’s set, too much time being spent on his deep analysis of the University of Cambridge Concert Band’s poster. However, his optimist/pessimist analogies brought light back into my hollow eyes. Next up was Emerald Paston who left the audience lacking. Her short ditty on sexy sports was very funny but barely enough to satisfy those hit with the comedy cravings.

Wrapping up the student performances were Dannish Babar and Grace Rigg. Dannish Babar has got to be one of the most strangely endearing people free to roam the streets. His bizarre scenarios and at times twisted tales provided some of the freshest moments of the evening. Grace Rigg’s character monologue as Harriet was just as good as at the Wolfson Howler, a nice contrast to the more customary stand up of the night.

By this point the audience were still pretty apathetic, but this was triumphantly saved by headliner James Dowdeswell. I’d never heard of him before but will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for him, his charisma and ease ensuring that the Jest ended on the high the performers deserved. From the time he went to clown school to Psychadelia Smith, Eminem rapping and half Rambo-half Alan Carr men; James Dowdeswell’s imagination will not disappoint. His physics teacher demeanour, gentle audience participation and wonderful social observations were right on the mark.

The King’s Jest is always worth going to, the performers consistently of high calibre. Although the mood was a little lacklustre this time, they bravely battled through it. Entertaining a crowd who just wants to get the Horlicks out and dream of a land without punting is the hardly the most invigorating experience.