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May 2004
Linda Smith @ Stanwix Arts Theatre
Linda Smith
Linda Smith wrapping up warm

Linda Smith has just made an appearance at Stanwix Arts Theatre in Carlisle.

We were there to see how she went down with a local audience ...



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Stanwix Arts Theatre

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Linda has written and performed in two series of her own BBC Radio 4 sitcom Linda Smith's - A Brief History of Time Wasting.

She is the first female captain on BBC Radio 4's News Quiz and a panel guest on Radio 4's other shows Just A Minute and Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

Linda has appeared in numeous TV programmes including Have I Got News For You, Room 101, QI, They Think It's All Over, Call My Bluff, Monday Night Clive James, Question Time and Countdown.

She's also appeared in Radio 4's The Roots of English, Word of Mouth and Great Lives.

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Linda who?
My biggest problem with Linda Smith is her name. It's just not cool enough to be a comedian.

"Her fertile, slightly unhinged imagination works ideas up into a great comic turn."
Daily Mail

My immediate reaction when hearing her name is 'who?!' Having run through my mental database of nondescript names, including Fred Bloggs, John Doe ... and Des O'Connor, I finally remember that I saw her once on Room 101 and Have I Got News For You and she made me laugh. So why not see what she's like in the flesh when she visits Carlisle?

A bit of a radio moron
I have to admit, I'm not cultural enough to listen to Radio 4 on a regular basis, so I've only had limited exposure to Linda.

Having said that, it makes me more impartial ... a possible new convert, but not afraid to dish the dirt if she didn't come up to scratch!

Get on with the review
I'm pleased to say I really enjoyed it. She was on stage from 1930-2145, with a 15 minute break between halves, and I take it as a good sign that the time went really quickly.

In the first part of the show she moved between the homely, observational material that she does so well and political comment. The life-based stuff went down much better with the audience, and I sense she decided to stick with this in the second half as it was getting more laughs.

It's intelligent humour, in that you have to be on top of your cultural and literary references to keep up with some of the gags, but it's also extremely accessible too.

Linda Smith
Linda without the parka

Not just for Radio 4 listeners
Linda herself commented on the age range of the audience. I'd expected them to be hardcore Radio 4 listeners - but there were older people there, very young people and - um - 'youthful' people of my age. Most of them were radio listeners though, as Linda herself determined.

Interesting to note that she swore about 5 times in 2 hours ... 4 x 'bloody' and 1 x 'bastard' off the top of my head - but don't quote me on this. I don't mind swearing in my comedy at all, but I'm always interested to see how those who choose not to follow that path still manage to hold an audience through effective story telling.

The other thing Linda isn't frightened of is a pause. She's happy to take her time to have a swig of water (it was hot and she needed to!) or just relax in telling a story. She strikes me as a cross between Victoria Wood (much less 'mumsy' though) Ben Elton (only at times, during the political stuff) and Hattie Hayridge (played Holly in 'Red Dwarf' - saw her in Hull once, thought her soft delivery would get her eaten alive by the macho, Northern audience - but it didn't!).

"Smashing and witty."
The Guardian

Keep it local
I was particularly impressed by the way she'd got to grips so quickly with the local psyche ... and loved the routines about 'what happens if you go to Keswick and want to buy indoor clothing?', 'who would model a foodstuff on toothpaste (Kendal mint cake)' and 'how we milk Hadrian's Wall for tourism'.

She also took the mickey out of the venue as well. It's the first time I've been to Stanwix Arts Theatre ... and as Linda pointed out, it's a bit black isn't it?

I found the seats cramped, the air conditioning poor and they don't number the seats ... so if you come in late (as we did) you take your chances as to whether you'll be able to sit with your companion(s).

That shouldn't detract from what was a highly enjoyable evening out however. The sound system was very good, the view of Linda excellent and the chocolate machine in the refectory superb.

The final verdict
I'm a bit of a miserable git and I don't usually laugh out loud unless I told the joke.

However, that doesn't mean I'm not capable of being thoroughly entertained - and I was when I went to see Linda Smith perform.

She's fascinating to listen to, makes some lovely observations and has a great way of telling a story.

I know a lot of people missed getting tickets for Linda's performance this time around. If she visits the county again, get in there quickly - she's a hot talent, and with more TV exposure nowadays, she's bound to catch on in a big way.

Do you want to comment on this review? Would you like to write your own review of the gig? If so contact us at - we'd love to hear from you.

The show was good, I liked the one about the pig's heart valve - where are you going to get a healthy young porker who's just fallen off his motorbike. And carrying a donor card?

The measure of success is if your competition winners would pay to go again and the answer is yes, with several of my friends.





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