Leap year week laughter in Norwich

An ex-heavy metal drummer, a silent Kiwi, a Stockport mother of five and the return of Norwich's original alterative comedy club. SIMON PARKIN previews a diverse array of comedy nights heading our way in the next seven days.


Norwich Playhouse, February 24, �12.50, 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk

Following sell-out shows at the Sydney and Melbourne Comedy Festivals and storming sets on Michael Mcintyre's Comedy Roadshow and Stand Up For The Week, inimitable Australian comic and ex-heavy metal drummer Steve Hughes arrives at Norwich Playhouse as part of his eagerly awaited debut tour.

Expect intelligent, straight-talking social commentary from one of the most original and thought-provoking performers on the circuit.

Steve recently joined Reginald D Hunter as a special guest on his nationwide tour - playing to tens of thousands of people at more than 80 venues and gaining legions of extra fans along the way.

The show, Big Issues, and he has plenty of issues he wants to deal with - terrorism, music, language - you name it, he's going to sort it out.

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It allows him to flex his comedy muscles as an erudite, philosophical and provocative performer with a blend of laid-back charm and acute caustic anti-establishment humour.

In his irreverent manner, could see him talking about serious issues including stolen land and nuclear weapons or, on the other hand, pressing issues like why hotels no longer provide a toilet brush in the bathroom.


Norwich Playhouse, February 29, �12, 01603 598598, www.norwichplayhouse.co.uk

Silent entertainment seems to be making a big noise at the moment. While French silent film The Artist is a hit at the box office and nominated for 10 Oscars, this off-the-wall silent comedy show has also been creating a lot of talk.

With his mouth sealed with gaffer tape, Kiwi comic Sam Wills, whose whole act is based on an inability to speak, uses every means at his disposal – sound effects, costume, pop music and playful business with the audience – in pursuit of wordless fun.

Think Chaplin, think Marcel Marceau, but Wills ranges beyond classic silent comedy. Yes it's old-school, but it's a delight to see great routines reinvented and invested with real personality. It's mime making noise, stand-up with no talking, drama with no acting. You'll, as they say, be lost for words.


Olives, Elm Hill, Norwich, March 1, �6, www.olivesnorwich.co.uk, www.wegottickets.com

Salt Box Comedy Club, Norwich's original and best alternative comedy club, returns after a year away at a new, hopefully regular, home at Olives.

The brainchild of Norwich comedian and compere Dan McKee, Salt Box started in 2007 in the back room of a small pub with the aim of bringing alternative comedy acts from London and giving local comedy talent a chance to perform. TV channel Dave has recently recommended it as one of the top five alternative comedy clubs outside London.

It kicks off 2012 with a night headed by legendary Cambridge act David Trent, who has long been a firm favourite with Salt Box audiences and who will be previewing some of 2012 Edinburgh Fringe show.

Also on the bill is Hatty Ashdown, whose distinctive spin on stand-up has seen her quickly gaining an enviable reputation for a unique brand of comedy that is warm, inclusive, and unpretentious, and Alex Holland, who began in Norwich before relocating to London and was a semi-finalist in So You Think You're Funny 2010. There will also be sets from Al Jones and Dan McKee himself.


Norwich Arts Centre, March 1, �12 (�10 cons), 01603 660352, www.norwichartscentre.co.uk

Mrs Barbara Nice is the comic creation of Janice Connolly — who played the cult character Holy Mary in Phoenix Nights, the series that launched comedian Peter Kay to stardom.

Birmingham–based Janice has been parading her alter ego Barbara Nice for several years whilst also maintaining a busy career as an actress and director in touring and community theatre. In her younger days, she fronted several punk bands, but nowadays she's more likely to be seen in panto.

A hybrid between Victoria Wood and Mrs Merton, Mrs Barbara Nice – Stockport mother of five - is worried that we are living in a world of ever diminishing friendliness where we keep our selves to ourselves, heads down afraid to catch anyone's eye. She wants us all to stand proud, be open and look the world right in the eye – or we won't feel the benefit!

Expect a friendly, inclusive atmosphere with home truths, great timing and unique comic insights into the human condition.