The Spotlight Club 20.3.09

The Spotlight Club has been a fixture at The Yorkshire House for however long now, but later this year it moves to a new home: the recently re-developed Storey. That should be interesting.
Meanwhile The Yorkie has seen its share of good, bad and indifferent under The Spotlight, and if, as some say, it isn’t what it once was, then maybe they will feel inspired by the new venue?

Friday’s Spotlight was, like many that went before, a mixed bag. That old cliché, a curate’s egg. Cliché indeed being how I felt about the opening act proper, Pascal Desmond. Reading from his supposed autobiography, Desmond played on the stereotypical comic Irish upbringing, to no great effect I’m afraid. Occasional insight was balanced by liberal use of ‘the bollix’ and ‘shite’ and ultimately, overbalanced. Then he sang a song, ‘We just crashed our nuclear submarine’ bad enough before he lost the tune, the words, and then the plot.

Pamela Pottinger was altogether more assured in her delivery, which was a help. Her evocative first person account of tending her dying father’s wishes and arranging his funeral had the air of a Radio 3 Play, maybe even the darker comic touches of Alan Bennett in places.

After the break, rising star Kim Moore read some of her poems. If only Kim had full confidence in her talents, but perhaps her recent prize winning poetry will bring that and lose her sometimes shaky presentation.. Her verse is lyric, blackly observational, recognising those feminist commonplaces. That she can do this when inspired by a line from Johnny Vegas says plenty.

Simon Baker is more often compere than performer at these nights, but tonight he took on the frighteningly convincing personal of a bigoted, violent lad out on the pull, drinking and acting the big man. Homophobic, gratuitously sexist, scheming and manipulative, Simon’s character was pulled up short when his sister fell victim to someone probably just like him. The brutal ending as hate boiled over into violence gave listeners pause for a moment, how real was this guy?

The evening had started, as usual, with the half-dozen open mic spots, ranging from complete newcomers, Rebecca Willmott and Anthony Christie, to repeat offenders. A few months ago Kim Moore made her debut at the open mic, I’m not sure any of tonights acts will progress so fast, but good luck to them.

And there was music, but only at the end, from Dan Haywood’s New Hawks. Offering a choice to the audience ‘do you want a song in E Minor or one in D’ the crazy psychedelic folk was certainly different. In my notebook I find I’ve written John Otway meets Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, which is totally inaccurate but somehow conveys the feel of this band. Maybe not what some expected, but perhaps what was needed.
So a mixed night, quality wise, though maybe not as diverse as some occasions. I heard talk at another event of people trying to get some Stand-Up Comedy on in Lancaster, and that once upon a time Spotlight was a showcase for performers of all kinds. Well maybe the move to Storey will bring out the comics, the burlesque acts, the puppeteers and the mimes. Maybe, for all the undoubted talent on show, Spotlight is in a rut to a degree, and the move will revigorate? Let’s hope so.

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7 Responses

  1. Oooo, scathing. I like your style. I put myself out there a lot running the gregson open mic and playing with the low countries, and having done the SPOTLIGHT I can only agree on the hit and miss element. Of course it all hinges on what the collective will of the organiser, performers and audience can bring to it. All credit to Mr and Mrs Spotlight, just to keep going for so long is a mommoth undertaking, but I must concur, its time for a shake up.

  2. I am an irregular attendee at the Spotlight Club, and I actually thought the standard at this one was pretty high. Admittedly, Pascal’s ‘songs’ were ill-advised.

    I’ve been to others in the past where I’ve really cringed – enduring a 15 minute monotone voice reading from an unpublished sci-fi novel being a nadir.

    But all credit to Ron and Sarah, who do a sterling job.

    • Yes, I do agree that Ron & Sarah do great work, and for so many years too. They of course can only do their best with the contributors at hand, and maybe the move to the Storey will help in bringing people out of the woodwork?

  3. Wow. I’m all for constructive criticism and I’ve attended a couple of Spotlights so I know what you mean, but, if you’re hoping to encourage new talent to crawl shyly ‘out of the woodwork’ I’m not sure this is the best way!

    • Beth: Hmmm, I thought that my review was generally favourable. I really like Kim Moore’s work, she just needs to get more confident as a performer as on paper she’s already winning awards. Simon and Pamela both had me hooked too. So though I think overall Spotlight might improve, Pascal Desmond apart I thought it was a reasonable night. But like all long-running programmes it has peaks and troughs, and maybe the move will help prevent a reasonable night being followed by another and then a mediocre and then a poor one and so head off a trough?

  4. Fair point – I’ve re-read it now and can see where you’re coming from, and that you’ve been careful with the open mic-ers. However my initial response was ‘flippin’ heck, there’s no punches pulled here’ which, while it makes for entertaining reviewing, might be quite off-putting to a potential performer.

  5. Declaration: I was the compere of the above event!

    Good to see an independent review of Spotlight, I don’t think there have been many at all down the years. The local papers haven’t run one to my knowledge, anyway.

    Spotlight’s ALWAYS been a mixed bag: some of the ‘Open Mic’ performers, brave souls who get up and perform in front of an audience perhaps for the first time ever, deserve praise for making a go of it. Some, like Simon Baker in the case of the above event, started as OM performers and now they can deliver an assured and mezmerising performance as part of the ‘pro’ side of the evening. I thought his performance was positively chilling and the story he read impressive.

    Not every act is going to be everyone’s taste — I suppose you could loosely compare an event like Spotlight to reading an anthology, you’re not going to necessarily enjoy every author — but from humble beginnings back in 1994 Sarah Fiske and Ron Baker have worked bloody hard to put it on the cultural map in the town. Let’s hope the move to the Storey is a successful one although I’ll miss the atmosphere of the Yorkshire House.

    If you’re interested in pictures from various Spotlights check them out here on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/downthetubes/collections/72157602110865482/

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