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24 September 2014

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Comedy Store Players @ The Brewery
The Comedy Store Players on stage
L-r: Andy Smart, Lee Simpson, Steve Sheen, Jim Sweeny & Richard Vranch (at the front)

Saturday 22 February 2003.

The world-famous improv team visited Cumbria for the first time ever.

Our reviewer Suzanne and her pals went to the Brewery Arts Centre to see if they lived up to the hype.


Comedy Store Players
Official site with information about all the comedians.

Brewery Arts Centre
Website for the Kendal entertainment complex, packed with information.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external websites.


Mon 10 Feb
De Montfort Hall, Leicester

Tues 11 Feb
Jersey Opera House

Fri 14 Feb
Theatre Royal, Wakefield

Fri 21 Feb
Theatre by the Lake, Keswick
Tel: 017687 74411

Sat 22 Feb
Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tel: 01539 725 133

Tues 25 Feb
Swan Theatre
Stratford Upon Avon

Fri 28 Feb
Hebden Bridge Picture House

Fri 7 March
Oakengates Theatre, Telford

Sat 8 March
Bryanston Arts Ctr,
Blandford Forum

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The Brewery Theatre was packed to capacity to witness the first ever Comedy Store Players gig in South Cumbria.

The five Players in Kendal were:

  • The shaggy-haired Richard Vranch who kept things together and demonstrated his uinque piano-playing ability.
  • Andy Smart
  • Lee Simpson
  • Steve Steen
  • Jim Sweeney

"Whose Line Is it Anyway? is a pale TV imitation."
The Daily Telegraph

"Have you been to an improvisation night before?" Richard asked, warming us up by asking us for suggestions. Slow at first, the ideas started to come thick and fast.

Caesar and the waste disposal unit

Using our suggestions, the show got underway with a story about Caesar and a waste disposal unit. Each Player continued the story when pointed to by Richard and was 'out' if he gibbered.

Then followed a scene at Blackpool Sealife Centre with the audience shouting out emotions for the Players to display.

Richard at the piano
Richard Vranch

Next, Richard left the auditorium while we decided on an obscure job. He then returned, having to guess he was "the person who ties bunches of spring onions together with string for £2.75 in Aldi". He'd never heard of Aldi and several folk in the audience pointed out that it's not string it's blue elastic bands.

From their bizarre clues ("I'm not on, Ian's on"), he got it, with us cheering him on with every clue.

I remembered Mr Vranch as the guy hidden behind the piano or guitar on 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?' but clearly he has many more strings to his bow. (Interestingly - to me at least - he holds a PhD in radiation physics. Don't ask how I know.)

Gritty Northern drama

When asked for a suggestion for a TV show, my pal Lindsay's "gritty Northern drama" was picked instantly.

Andy and Jim
Andy and Jim as 'Mary' and 'Deirdre'

Detail was decided as the story unfolded. We followed 'Mary' (Andy Smart), who wants to go to Japan to train as a geisha. But! She's pregnant by her best friend's husband.

Jim Sweeney's impression of a Northern lass was worryingly convincing. "And so I said, 'Never', and she said..." etc.

Steve Sheen became 'Noriko' - a prostitute who sounded remarkably like a gruff Northern builder. Richard stepped up the music to lead him into a song.

"So what do I get for a fiver?" asked 'John', Mary's husband. Cue Steve leaping about the stage doing a geisha version of 'The Old Bazarr in Cairo', all composed on the spot inside his brain. (I couldn't possibly repeat the words.)

Mint cake madness

Another sketch started with two Players making mint cake in Kendal. We shouted out film and theatre styles to change how the scene progressed. My "teen movie" lowered the tone too quickly and was quickly replaced with "ballet", "horror" and "opera".

The Comedy Store Players - on tour
Tour poster

The show ended with "a touch of culture".

Alternative Shakespearean plays were suggested - "Much Ado About Something" and "Cuban" (which went totally over everyone's heads). But it had to be "A Midsummer Night's Wet Dream". The name alone had the audience in stitches.

I'll certainly try to get to another gig by the Comedy Store Players. Their brand of comedy is hard to come by and I came away feeling I had been part of a unique evening. Come back soon please!

A note to anyone going along to a comedy gig: don't drink so much that you have to go out to the loo. And certainly don't even think of getting up if you're seated on the front row!

The Comedy Store Players

Review by Suzanne Worthington, BBC Cumbria.
Want to be a BBC Cumbria reviewer? Email us.

The competition is now closed.

John Thomason from Lancaster won a pair of tickets to the gig in Kendal.

However, you can still test your knowledge with the quiz:

More competitions from BBC Cumbria »

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