There's a scene in the ‘The Prestige’, the Christopher Nolan film about two rival stage magicians, where Hugh Jackman's character performs his new trick, stepping through a door at one end of the stage and immediately appearing from behind another at the far end. He has, of course, dropped through a hidden trapdoor, with a lookalike stepping through the second door. As the audience rises in wild acclaim, he stands alone in the dusty theatre basement, arms outstretched, straining to hear the muffled sounds of exuberant applause directed at his lookalike – applause that rightfully belongs to him.
I was reminded of this recently as I stood at the back of the room at Seven Miles Out, watching a delighted audience whoop and holler as Danny Mcloughlin left the stage having performed his Edinburgh Fringe Festival show as part of Mojo Bravo Comedy Night. I looked on with envious eyes at the wide smiles of the audience as they clapped their approval at Danny. I've been involved in running comedy nights for nearly seven years now and there have been many times I've looked on from the back of the room, having booked the acts, designed the posters, promoted the gig, put out the chairs, set up the lighting, manned the sound desk, shushed the chatterers – as the comedians take all the adulation – and thought, yeah, but what about me? Behind the scenes is a lonely place. Truly, running a comedy night is no laughing matter.
Mojo Bravo comedy club sprang into life back in May thanks to the support of the Seven Miles Out arts centre and funding from the Stockport Portas Pilot Project Delivery Group. Prior to this I’ve been (and still am) involved with A Laugh In Stockport, where at various times I’ve done almost everything except compère the gigs. The Barratts, that omnipresent family who run Seven Miles Out, asked me if I might be interested in running a comedy night there and I was encouraged to make use of funding available for events in the Old Town area to help get it off the ground. So I did.
We’ve now held three successful monthly events, with fantastic Edinburgh Fringe Festival preview shows from Lost Voice Guy (we discovered he *really* hates Mr Chatterbox), Chris Turner (a skinny young man who amazed the audience by stripping down to his vest and improvising a rap about Socrates, ukuleles and, er, gussets) and Danny Mcloughlin (who told us rather more than we knew before about the now unobtainable Mint Drifters). As Stockport has such a rich musical heritage I thought it was important to include some musical comedy at these shows, so we’ve also seen great performances from Stockport’s very own Two Old Codgers, the lovely Ruth E Cockburn, and the also lovely but quite inappropriate Hawkeye and Windy. It’s been a genuine joy to put these talented acts on in front of what has proved to be a lovely audience in the Old Town.
One of the aims of the Mojo Bravo comedy night is to contribute something to the evening offering in the Stockport Old Town area. As a resident of the town centre I’m all too aware that it has resembled a ghost town for much of the recent past. But things are starting to change. Foodie Friday at Stockport Market continues to go from strength to strength, thanks to the enthusiasm and passion of Esther Morrison, and the hard work of the market team; the Baker’s Vaults has been reopened and re-energised by a team full of new ideas; Seven Miles Out is proving to be a hub for all things creative with an impressive arts community growing around it. Things are opening around the Old Town all the time – a new diner, and a new sports and live music venue being the latest additions.
But, yeah, what about me? As Danny left the stage that evening, I remembered that I was also the compère for this gig and I dashed on to end the show, congratulating Danny as I passed. I’m not sure if it’s an ego thing* that has prompted me to start compèring the gigs myself, or just a desire to save cash on hiring someone else, but at the very least I now get to go on stage at the end of the show, thanks the acts, audience and venue, and take that final round of applause. There’s no ‘i’ in team, but there is one in egocentric.
Things are getting better in Stockport town centre, but there’s a lot more hard work to do. It needs people to keep putting their time and ideas into the area and for Stockport Council to continue to support them. And it needs *you* to visit and take advantage of what’s on offer.
Speaking of which – our next show is on Saturday 30th August as part of the Stockport Old Town Fringe Festival. We’ve got a headline set from Vikki Stone, the multi-talented comedian, actress, singer and musician and winner of The Soho Theatre One Night Stand Up Award, plus support from master thespian, Randolph Tempest – who looks a bit like Peter Slater, who you might have seen on telly in Ideal with Johnny Vegas, Saxondale with Steve Coogan, or Phoenix Nights with Peter Kay. Check out the Mojo Bravo website for more details.
Go on, these are fun times – be part of them.
*It’s definitely an ego thing.
Martin Bain is the promoter and resident compère for Mojo Bravo Comedy Club (http://www.mojobravo.co.uk
) at Seven Miles Out.