The Interlude tent is on the green outside the Ziggurats. It’s the most picturesque part of UEA and the tent added to the vibe of excitement amongst the audience. I think for most of us, it’s the first time we’ve gone to an ‘event’ in 7 months, so despite the rustic setting, everyone was still up for it. The excitement was raised when Russell Kane, Edinburgh and Melbourne Comedy awards winner, walked through the curtain at the back, mask on, and from the second his foot touched the ground, he owned the stage.
Kane is a consummate performer. You can almost feel the years of experience, the time on television, the comedy nominations and awards, when he dances across stage, holding the audience in his hand. As he alludes to when discussing arts workers and post-covid employment, he floats along, almost effortless in his performance. Despite this effortlessness, he’s still using the stage to its greatest effect, falling down on his knees to exaggerate an audience member’s subservience to his mate, lying down, moving from side to side to interact with a full range of the audience.
In contrast with how easily he seems to find bringing the audience into rapturous laughter, there’s a true frenzied pace to proceedings, as he machine gun rattles off different jokes, impressions, accents, and references. The audience doesn’t get a second to rest as what felt like 30 minutes was actually revealed to be 46 minutes when he checked his phone to see how long he had left to perform. There’s so much going on, you don’t realise how long has passed. And it’s not like he’s using a lot of jokes like a shotgun spread where a few hit, every single joke seemed to have at least some of the audience laughing.
He does a brilliant job of bringing the audience into the show, using crowd work as a segue into his more planned bits. I also had to respect his use of local Norwich information to build a rapport with the audience, even if a quick google maps was all that was required. Even better was when he did a piece about the ridiculous nature of homophobia and an audience member started shouting out and he said: “yeah sure,” then turned to the rest of us: “a tip to stand-up comedians, just agree with them.”
Of course, Kane mocked the fact he was at a university, made jokes about first years leaving home for freedom just to not be allowed out, laughed at the fact we were doing all our lectures online, mocked our lecturers doing even less work than they normally do, but even though the crowd seemed like mostly non-students, everyone was equally enthralled. The reality is that the tent is not exactly the best place for comedy. Even Kane himself alluded to this “it’s not Michael McIntyre in a warm theatre, it’s a tent in a muddy field in October”. But despite literally shivering, despite sitting on a plastic fold-out chair, despite being scared of getting mud on my white shoes, it was an exceptional time and Kane is truly a one-of-a-kind master of his form.