Tim Minchin, Daniel Kitson – Stand UP for Depression, Live Review

Ever get the feeling that something odd is happening right before your eyes, and you’re not quite able to believe it’s happening?  I have. Quite a lot actually, but the last time it was in the Union Chapel in Islington, watching Tim Minchin call out the Pope via song.

(Ok, that’s probably not quite so weird in the grand scheme of things – the chapel was built for the congregational branch of Protestantism, so chances are the person who commissioned it had no love for the Vatican either. Still, nothing quite like having a go at Christianity while in a church. Feels pretty good)

(c) Claire Haigh, courtesy The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, with
thanks to Tim Minchin and the Union Chapel.

 

The chapel is tiny and COLD. But (Baptists take note) it’s got a reasonable bar, and when was the last time you went to a gig and got offered lasagne? Or a selection of teas?

Don’t lie.

Now, this wasn’t just a night of Tim Minchin doing a low-key gig for the hell of it; this was a night hosted by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, or the snappier ‘CWMT’. Billed as ‘Stand UP for depression’, it was a night aiming to raise awareness of depression, since, scarily enough it will affect one in FOUR of us at some point. That’s probably at least one person in your IMMEDIATE family.

So, while I don’t really want to bum you out too much, it’s something you will NEED to consider looking into, if only for peace of mind (sorry about the pun). But, since this was an awareness of ways to get help, and to try to remove some of the stigma, it really needs to be said.

 
(c) Claire Haigh, courtesy The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, with
thanks to Daniel Kitson and the Union Chapel.

Comedic host for the evening was the outstanding Daniel Kitson. Not really a household name at the moment, but a comedian some of you will know by sight. Having played a role in Peter Kay’s ‘Phoenix nights’, he famously fell out with Kay, and now has nothing good to say about him. That alone should be enough to earn him your support. Opening with a declaration of wanting to ‘kick depression in the cock’ before meandering into a discussion on whether depression even has a gender (never mind genitals), you realise that while we ARE in a church, reverence has been left at the door. Bearded and with a pronounced (and addressed) stammer, he’s an engaging host, and utterly captivating. Even when he’s off-mic and waving his arms, or using a slide projector to keep a mug of tea warm.

(c) Claire Haigh, courtesy The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, with
thanks to Tom Basden and the Union Chapel.

First act up was singer/guitarist Tom Basden. With a nice line in short guitar skits and a projected slideshow: covered included why being raped by Sting would be a bad thing, why his friend Steven’s cat has gone a bit odd, and how there are (possibly) hidden levels to Neighbours I never knew existed (and didn’t really want to, if I’m completely honest). It’s only slightly less surreal than it sounds, and was almost painfully charming and endearing in places. After a short quiche or lasagna break (nope, never had one of those before either), stragglers are counted back in by an increasingly agitated Daniel Kitson and we get the next two acts.
 

(c) Claire Haigh, courtesy The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, with
thanks to Daniel Kitson and the Union Chapel.

Sanderson Jones is a bit, well, terrifying really. It’s a strange look – half creepy geography teacher, half perma-student, and its stranger territory, comedically speaking. Starting with a Michael Jackson quip, and ending up with incest, you’re at a loss most of the time as to whether what you just heard him say was hilarious, distasteful, or just plain awful. It’s captivating. Pushing the bounds of taste is what got us out of the repression of the forties and fifties, you ultimately need someone like this to keep the ball rolling, lest the future ends up as a puritan hell-hole.

(c) Claire Haigh, courtesy The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, with
thanks to Sanderson Jones and the Union Chapel.

About half of what he said went a bit flat, mostly through people being a bit disturbed. The other half was inspired. I might not have agreed with ALL of what he said, but I’m sure that’s what being a pioneer is about.

Third act proper of the night, Jonny Sweet, is another change of pace. Promising to BLOW OUR MINDS, with a LECTURE about HMS NOTTINGHAM, you are suddenly looking at the guy with a puzzled ‘Ok then – let’s see what you’ve got to back up your bold claim’. The first act of the night to properly utilise the projector, it’s actually a riveting set, and I REALLY want to see the full hour instead of the edited highlights. (In case you’d forgotten, Nottingham was the one that managed to hit AUSTRALIA – not exactly an uncharted rock in a harbour). Having appeared earlier in the year as David Cameron in More4’s ‘When Boris met Dave’, he’s this time claiming a (not convincing, but definitely entertaining) naval career.

The set veers in and out of chaos, with what could be deliberate intent or could be actual disarray – it’s hard to say at times – and I’m pretty sure that accusing fifty per cent of the population for the downfall of the Royal Navy is none too smart either. What is certain though is it’s very funny – the slides are hilarious, especially the animation, and when he climbs into the pulpit to offer a prayer you are half expecting a lightning bolt to strike.

 

(c) Claire Haigh, courtesy The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, with
thanks to Jonny Sweet and the Union Chapel.

Now, as good as the previous acts were, it’s safe to say the majority of crowd considered Tim Minchin to be the main draw. Playing one of his last few ‘small’ gigs before the arena dates which will round his year out, you get the feeling you’ve stumbled into a dress rehearsal.

Almost.

Now, you could choose to be a bit annoyed at this, but you’d be missing the point a little: Tim Minchin isn’t just PLAYING the enormodromes, he’s SELLING THEM OUT. The only way you SHOULD be able to see him in a venue this intimate is with a time machine. So, if he doesn’t play your favourite song, and tries a new one in its place – you only have yourself to blame for not breaking the laws of physics.

 

(c) Claire Haigh, courtesy The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, with
thanks to Tim Minchin and the Union Chapel. 

Choosing to lay off the ‘actual’ spoken comedy, and deciding to focus more on his trademark piano cabaret, he goes down a storm – a short storm, but a storm nonetheless. A new song, which sort of gets played twice as part of the joke, is pretty good, though the stuff about having young kids is lost on me. ‘The Pope Song’ is still a wicked little tune, though I’m left baffled by ‘Cheese’.

I appreciate that last paragraph made it look a bit patchy, and it sort of was and wasn’t at the same time – yeah he was a teensy bit late on stage, and yes, we got more new songs than stuff we knew, BUT (and it’s actually quite a big ‘but’ to be fair) it was a TINY venue (with perfect acoustics) and we got NEW material.  As there are very few things in life more annoying than being told a joke you already know the punchline to, HEARING A COMEDIAN’S NEW MATERIAL FIRST in my books cancels out any conceivable negative.

Unless the material isn’t funny.

Luckily for us, it was.

All in all, a night of 5 really funny comedians, a tiny venue and a worthwhile cause.

If you can find fault with that, you need to get out more.

Thanks to Claire Haigh for the Photographs, CWMT for hosting the event, The Union Chapel for continuing to be the best venue in London (and turning on the heating) being and (bizarrely) Stephen Fry for telling us about it.

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