Christ’s Hospital Comedy Night, Horsham, March 11
Famous for its prestige as a boarding school, Horsham’s Christ’s Hospital is developing something of a surprising alter ego – as a hub of comedy.
Held in the grand theatre in the school’s grounds, the latest comedy night on Wednesday, March 11, features superb performances from three excellent comics.
Compère Charlie Baker provides a warm, welcoming stage presence and Crawley funnyman Romesh Ranganathan’s deadpan delivery and fatherhood anecdotes make him a crowd favourite.
But attracting Russell Kane – now an established name and a frontrunner in British comedy – to the school represents a real coup.
Kane’s star continues to rapidly ascend, and his polished yet flamboyant performance delights the audience from start to finish.
Baker kicks off proceedings with a high-energy introduction, teasing the audience with ‘posh’ jibes and enjoying some banter with the plucky few in the front rows.
Accomplished as a singer, Baker cleverly combines his musical and comic talents, and the Devon-born jokester even brings a bit of the West Country to West Sussex.
With the help of some strongly delivered lines from the audience, the compère recreates the cattle market from his hometown.
The resulting scene in the theatre is bizarre, but is also one of the funniest moments of the evening, setting the tone for what is to come.
Baker then introduces Ranganathan, who immediately wins the audience over with his quick wit and laid-back attitude – though he jokes his nonchalant act is due to tiredness from being a father-of-three rather than part of the show.
At times, he reaches Jack Dee levels of deadpan, seeming to effortlessly cause waves of laughter.
The ex-maths teacher, who must have been a hit in the classroom, delights the audience with remarks covering a vast range of subjects, from fatherhood and race to being a ‘fake feminist’, ugly schoolchildren and breakfast cereal.
Ranganathan’s set ends with a bang as he explains the frustration of teaching his son to read.
Following the interval, cheeky chappy Baker returns to teach the audience a dance masterclass, before inviting Kane to the stage.
Well-known for his extravagance and camp style, Kane is like a hyperactive child at times – darting across the stage and contorting his body into extravagant postures.
Within minutes of his performance beginning, he bows down to the gods of comedy after discovering a German is sitting in the front row.
It prompts material that seems to be part-scheduled and part-improvised as Kane observes the differences between Britons and other nationalities, with Germans and New Zealanders – another nationality from the crowd – featuring prominently.
An early gag about his journey through Crawley – evading the ‘goblins’ as children are ushered towards the safety of Horsham – ensures he has the audience on his side.
Kane’s material is excellent but his delivery is even better. He is expressive and has clearly mastered the art of body language.
He seems to feed off laughter and by the end of the show, Kane has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
His set is a fitting finale to a superb night of comedy. The next event at Christ’s Hospital is certainly not to be missed.