A glorious, gothic 200 year old church is generally not the sort of place you would expect to hear a stream of curse words and altar boy jokes thrown at a 400 strong congregation. However, during Saturday night’s continuation of the highly successful Live At The Chapel comedy series, five brave comedians; headlined by the endearingly awkward Mark Watson; risked the wrath of the Almighty with a performance of live stand up comedy.
A sultry 5 piece jazz outfit seduced the audience as they filed dutifully into the uncomfortable wooden pews of the Islington’s Union Chapel. The hazily illuminated spire was charged with the saucy atmosphere of a roaring 1940’s speakeasy.
Urbane MC Arthur Smith warmed the audience with his witty observations on the highly topical election, a range of well-worn one-liners, also indulging the audience with a crooning rendition from his Radio 4 comedy Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen.
The first of the support acts, musical comedian Tom Basden, nearly stole the show with his charming ditties, devoted to social taboos, such as snuff films, weeing in his wetsuit and his sexual fantasies involving the Neighbours cast. One of the standout performances for the night, the audience ate up his performance and were definitely left wanting more.
Angelos Epithemou was a change of pace, the burger-van owning character from Shooting Stars declared his intentions early, 3 jokes would be told in 10 minutes - a trilogy of jokes - leaving the audience not knowing what to make of his act. His awkward, flailing arms and long-winded build-ups to each joke gradually drew the spectators in and culminated in a hilarious 80’s glam rock video inspired finish, all the while clutching his Sainsbury’s bag full of props.
The acerbic and self-deprecating Sean Hughes was the penultimate act, regaling the audience with the horrors of middle age, and predictably embarrassed those unfortunate enough to be sitting in the front row. Hughes took a bold risk of alienating some in the audience with his extremely graphic portrayal of priest/altar boy relations, which left many cringing, and the others in stitches.
Mark Watson's fans know what to expect from his routines, a rambling, honest and hilarious trip through his stream of consciousness. Covering familiar ground lambasting his own work on a range of tv commercials, Watson managed to hook the pew-weary audience with a exploration of the depression he had recently experienced, revealing a writhing mass of his own insecurities magnified by the recent birth of his first child. His ability to explore and laugh at his own anxieties, with a room full of strangers, ensured his performance remained hilarious, yet candid and personal.
By Ryan Hutchinson
The Live At The Chapel comedy series will continue in early June, watch out for dates and line-up announcements.