MACHYNLLETH COMEDY FESTIVAL (April/May 11)
So here I am. Back from The Machynlleth Comedy Festival. Ever been to Machynlleth? Ever wanted to go there? Ever tried pronouncing Machynlleth while you’re half-way through eating a packet of Walkers crisps? I wouldn’t advise it.
It’s a lovely town with a selection of quirky little shops, a lively music scene and friendly outgoing locals – some of whom are the living answer to the question “Where did all the 70’s Hippies go?”.
However it is somewhat off the beaten track. In fact so few people walk along that particular track, there’s no actual sign of it being beaten.
I’m not saying it’s in the back of beyond, but it does share the same postcode.
You get the picture?
You may not be aware that the town had a small zoo for many years, but it closed down last year. Sadly, the wasp died.
I was there for the second Machynlleth Comedy Festival, about which more later. Now I’m sure in years to come, when the Festival becomes bigger and more people get to hear about it, that’s the main thing that Machynlleth will become world-famous for. You know, like Hay On Wye is for its Literary Festival, Brecon for its Jazz Festival and Newport for its combined ‘Tattoo & How-Many-Pints-Of- Beer-Can-You- Drink-While-I-Repeatedly-Punch-You-In-The-Goolies Convention’. Tickets go on sale for that un-missable event next Monday. See you in the queue.
But at the moment, however successful the Comedy Festival is, the town is best known for its Centre For Alternative Technology. No, don’t go away. I can see your eyes glazing over so I’ll make this bit quite amusing, honest.
Until I went there, I thought Alternative Technology meant switching my house lights off every other day.
The Centre For Alternative Technology looks for ways for us to heat and power our homes in winter, without using gas or electricity. Basically this involves sitting in the dark for hours on end, wearing six layers of clothing and sucking an Extra Strong Mint.
They are also very involved with wind power. Whether this is in any way connected to the generous portions of lentil and black bean soup that they sell gallons of in the cafe there, I cannot comment.
What else can I tell you about Machynlleth? Well, the late Laura Ashely started her fashion empire in the area. I remember the moment when I heard on the radio that she’d died, my immediate thought was “Well, that’s curtains for Laura Ashley”.
Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr has strong links with the town. He held his first Welsh parliament in 1404 (which is just after two o’ clock) and chose Machynlleth as the place for it and we were privileged to be performing comedy in that very building.
Glyndwr was also rumoured to have gone into hiding around the town after his rebellion against the English failed. And because he was never ever seen again after that, in recognition of his achievement, in 1978 he was posthumously awarded first prize in the All Wales Hide & Seek Championships.
Anyway, I shared a cottage with 5 other comedians in a secret location outside Machynlleth. It was so secret the other four didn’t know the address until the last day of the festival.
We were all booked to perform shows in English and Welsh – three of each.
The very thought of performing at a festival with all your comedy peers is an experience on its own.
The comedians were as follows:
Tudur Owen. One of Wales’s most popular and best loved funnyman on S4C and BBC Cymru. Comedian, writer and broadcaster. He easily charmed the audience from the off and it was a sheer delight to watch him interacting with and working the crowd.
Gary Slaymaker. Broadcaster, writer and comedian with bags of attitude.
He also brought along bags of sweets, bags of chocolates, bags of cakes….and four dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. He’s big in the comedy world and wants to stay that way.
Having spent much time with Gary over the past 2 years I’ve discovered that a strong opinion and a confident attitude can be hilariously funny. And if you don’t happen to agree with that comment, why don’t you go and boil your head, you total waste of space!
Beneath that tough exterior there is a heart of gold with strong morals and values which at times can be seen in his material.
Slaymaker delivers his material with colour and rhythm that draws the audience in, and takes them on a journey that is peppered with huge belly laughs. Even for people who don’t have huge bellies.
Huw Marshall. Actor, writer and comedian. Another truly talented comedian with a straight dead-pan delivery and clinical timing. He had instant rapport with the audience and was a pleasure to watch.
Jams Thomas. Actor, voice-over man and comedian. Jams brought his comedy character to life and connected with the audience instantly. His stage craft and act-outs were so strong that big laughs were guaranteed through-out his performance.
Daniel Glyn. Broadcaster, writer and comedian. An extremely warm and likeable persona with an unoffensive delivery, ensuring that the audience enjoys the journey. Well thought out and tightly-written gags made his comedy look easy. A true master of the craft is Dan.
Caryl Parry-Jones. Broadcaster, producer, singer song writer and comedienne. A true pro who has a HUGE following. For a while she also had a Hugh following, but after a few short sharp words from Caryl, he soon scarpered.
And you can see why she’s so popular as soon as she walks on stage. It was a pleasure to see her working, with comedy that works every time.
We all worked on the same shows. Two shows each day. One in English and one in Welsh.
We were an instant success – they loved us all and every performance was a winner. By the time we finished the second show, the event organiser was keen to negotiate next year’s event. Result.
To be frank with you, the fees we discussed for our 2012 appearances were quite modest. I mean, very, very small. But that’s all we could afford to pay.
Living, sharing and performing with 5 other comedians at the festival was a magical and educational experience. Apart from when we had to queue for the bathroom in the morning – in particular the day after we’d, all of us devoured large portions of lentil and black bean soup in the Centre For Alternative Technology Cafe.
There was non-stop laughter and friendly banter in a supportive environment. This was constant and through-out every waking hour. And let me tell you it’s not easy writing down other comedians best gags when you’re doubled up with laughter and trying not to split your sides.
As a result of this we were fired up and ready to go which clearly showed in each performance. We could see it, and the audience could see and feel it.
This was the ideal environment for writing, fine tuning and delivering material to a very high standard. I know what you’re thinking – so what the hell was Phil doing there?
This was a very moving and proud experience, which brought performers and each audience closer together. We each felt that something worthwhile had happened. Together we had made a difference.
I must also mention Eilir Jones from North Wales and his farmer character who had his own show and was an immediate hit with the Welsh audience. He has ‘funny bones’ and delivers sharp wit whilst constantly engaging with the audience at all times. A pleasure to see this man work.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be passing the hat around for a silver collection in a moment, to pay for the upkeep of this site – and a romantic weekend away with the love of my life (don’t tell the present Mrs. Evans) in Trecco Bay – but if this blog made you smile and helped you forget about the cares and worries of the modern world, don’t be afraid to drop in the odd tenner.
For those of you blessed with the gift of telepathy, let me leave you with this thought….