Jason Manford, North Pier Theatre, Blackpool
Entering the stage in a sea of fake smoke under a gently shimmering glitterball, Jason Manford was in the mood for fun right from the off.
The stand-up had already drawn inspiration from the legendary – and rather unique – setting of North Pier Theatre, and how could he resist... How many venues can there be where you reach the stage door by golf buggy?
But the almost instant turn round on gags surrounding that journey, as well as the reported hauntings of the theatre, got the night off to a great start.
As was expected, talk of Blackpool FC and the Oyston family came up, too, although it’s probably not fit for publication in a family newspaper.
Suffice to say, it got a rowdy reception from the Oyston Out campaigners in the building.
After a bit of ‘Taliban-ter’ surrounding gigs for the troops at Camp Bastion, Jason turned his hand to tales of family life.
His warm-hearted recollections of fatherhood, with four girls, including twins, and a boy, really set the laughs coming thick and fast.
And we were all hoping no one suffered the same fate as one of his little girls recently.
The story of her having forgotten to visit the loo, ‘because she was having too much fun’, while classic toilet humour, was truly endearing, as were the various other quirks of fatherhood; the drama of a leaf on the shoe, or his ‘scary’ child’s night terrors.
That said, he was quick to hail the audience as ‘the most fun people in the country right now’ for being out at North Pier Theatre on a Monday.
Jason made the most of his recently-honed acting skills throughout, showing why his turn in BBC drama Ordinary Lives proved popular, and a sing-along finale made use of some finely-tuned lungs – just off the back of a six-month tour in musical The Producers.
A largely local crowd, with people also having travelled from Preston, Manchester and beyond, also enjoyed a support set from Malawian comedian Daliso Chaponda.
With lines like “This is great, an African on stage raising money for British people, we’re equal” – in reference to the night’s fund-raising for Blackpool Victoria Hospital, as well as laughing at the political correctness of the UK compared with his home nation, he certainly gave the laughter muscles a stretch in preparation for the main event.
Jason was clearly proud to be doing his bit to help get such a special venue back on the map, and it can only be hoped the resounding peels of laughter will be replicated soon with similarly popular comics.