John Thompson

Review: Barry Castagnola, Quincy & Danny McLoughlin – HiFi Club, Leeds

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Barry Castagnola

The newly refurbished Hifi Club in Leeds is rightly one of the city’s top nightspots, as they do a good job of hosting pretty much everything. This praise extends to their weekly comedy sessions, which regularly offer good bills and the sort of genial atmosphere that really allows the acts, and audience, to enjoy themselves.

Last Saturday’s compere was the impressive Danny McLoughlin, whose high energy and ease with the audience throughout was a real treat. His brazen style went down well, too, as he seamlessly flitted between audience interaction and strong material. Possessing the golden skill of taking any subject thrown at him and passing amusing comment on it in a flash, McLoughlin kicked the evening off in fine style, as his cheeky persona kept tabs on his bold delivery.

After this fine start to the night, McLoughlin handed over to imposing Londoner Quincy, who offered a contrasting stage presence. Quincy’s huge physical frame is juxtaposed by a softly spoken lilt and disarming grin, which underpins his laid back storytelling style. The meat of Quincy’s material focused on his life as a single father and the challenges of teenage sons becoming men. His observational style worked well and his material on fatherhood, from the slightly atypical stance of a single father, was positively received with punters – but Quincy really hit his stride taking on the dilemma of being a ‘pervy parent’. At times, however, it was his delivery that stopped him from really storming the room, as his studied pace and quiet delivery – whilst affable – caused the energy to sag at times in his set.

Following a break and a brilliant ten minutes of absurd social class commentary from McLoughlin – where despite the well trodden subject matter, he managed to keep his jokes fresh and funny – he handed over to headliner Barry Castagnola to wrap up proceedings.

A natural performer, Castagnola offered a superb set, high on entertainment and energy. Blessed with an infectious smile, Castagnola was high on big laughs as he mixed safer material about grappling with the changes of life in the mid thirties with some edgier punch lines that took swipes at love, heartbreak and prime time TV. This was by far his strongest material and the odd audience gasp was soon eclipsed by laughter and applause. In particular, a routine about taking ecstasy in questionable surroundings was as well observed as it was astonishingly funny, with Castagnola’s acting abilities shining through. This was a slick, upbeat set that showcased his many talents, including a couple of deft impressions, which left punters grinning as they headed for the exits following a quite frankly top evening of entertainment in Leeds.