Becki Crossley falls down the wormhole at a new venue for alternative comedy...
Here’s something I didn’t have on my 2023 bingo card - I am now, it seems, a big fan of clowns.
Self-described ‘alt clown comedy weirdos’, Club Wormhole started putting on monthly alternative comedy nights back in October, inspired by the success of clown Viggo Venn winning this year’s Britain’s Got Talent competition. The Gang saw the appetite for this kind of comedy and wanted to bring it to Nottingham, delivering something a bit different and a lot weird.
Sidedoor Studio is packed on this freezing Monday evening for a sell-out Christmas show, with tinsel-framed posters reminding us that WAR IS PEACE and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH to set the mood. Club Wormhole’s festive offering, A Very 1984 Christmas, is an Orwellian twist on a classic panto, also featuring appearances from a brummie Avon lady, Santa Claus and, who else, Socrates.
Musician Sam Marshall kicks us off with a rousing rendition of 1984 (an alternative cover of Bowling for Soup’s 1985), before the show is introduced formally by the man himself - George Orwell, hilariously captured by Jamie Drew. The audience is already in stitches just from his wry look over the microphone.
The Gang deliver silliness and satire by the sacksful
Cast members of the bizarre panto also include fellow Club Wormhole Gang members Katie Mitchell as Winston, George Macarthur Conroy as Julia, Rosa Keaton as O’Brien, and Ben Macpherson as Big Mother (she’s watching you). Bouncing off the energy of the audience, the Gang deliver silliness and satire by the sacksful in-between introducing guest acts for the Christmas special.
First up is 2023 Funny Women Awards finalist Rachel Baker as ‘Gwen’, an Avon-peddling ex-Zumba instructor who feels so real you have to keep an eye on the wig-adjustments to remind yourself she’s a fabrication. Baker is an absolute scream, soliciting pick-up lines from the audience for her dating misadventures and showcasing her brand-new invention - ‘bumba’.
Comic Nicky Vere-Compton combines musical comedy with stand-up while recounting tales from a childhood where they didn’t conform to any gender binary, and was bullied by the choir boys. Tough topics - but Vere-Compton delivers the material in such a way that the audience is screeching with laughter throughout.
We’re then treated to a visit from Santa, although a somewhat disgruntled one, played by John Morris. Lamenting the fact, he can no longer use elves as unpaid labour and bemoaning the increasing demands for presents, Act One ends with Santa hurling sweets at the audience and screaming at us. It’s honestly a riot.
Lee Kennedy, ‘Middle Banana’ of Club Wormhole, performs a ‘Christmas ritual’ in a call-and-response segment that has my sides aching. The specific joy of clowns, I’m learning, is the ability to make what is essentially the same punchline work over and over again, the hilarity only building every time. Anyone who enjoyed Viggo Venn’s Britain's Got Talent audition can attest to this, and Kennedy’s set captures that same energy.
By the time Bruce Edhouse, Club Smashing alt comic, rocks up to the stage, he surveys the audience and remarks; “I think this is the first time I’ve been the least weird act on.” It sums up the night pretty well. Edhouse’s stand-up might well be the least weird, but it’s still laced with a wonderful absurdity. Comedian Stanley Brook wraps up the evening performing as Socrates - yes, that one - questioning the audience on the meaning of Christmas and truly ending the evening on a high - definitely one to watch out for.
In a world where so many ‘comedians’ veer towards cruel jokes disguised as ‘edginess’, comedy like the kind Club Wormhole offers is a breath of fresh air. If you enjoy laughing until your sides hurt in a room of like-minded people, make sure you check out their next performance.
Club Wormhole performed their alternative comedy cabaret ‘A Very 1984 Christmas’ with special guests at Sidedoor Studio on Monday 5 December 2023
Their next performance will take place on Monday 8 January 2024
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