Review: Split Festival 2010
With six local comedians sandwiched between a selection of top Northern musicians, you could be forgiven for suggesting the comedy on show at Split Festival this year was merely a token gesture by festival organisers. Thankfully, though, the performing comics didn’t feel like an irrelevance whilst on stage, with a few thousand people crowding around Stage Two on Saturday to see MC Tony Jameson, Sunderland’s own Nick Cranston, Tom Tolson and headliner Steffen Peddie.
And, to be honest, all the comics did rather well considering their unconventional surroundings – Peddie especially, who put in a fine performance, judging his audience perfectly when choosing his material. Tony Jameson returned to MC, and was a friendly host of not only the comedy section but the festival as a whole. Nick Cranston got a round of applause and a pair of knickers after his set; his topical material on Raoul Moat and Sunderland footballer Titus Bramble certainly went down well. Tom Tolson’s five minutes on stage, however, didn’t appear to contain any jokes, though maybe that was due to the time restraints imposed on him. It would be very unfair to judge him on the two or three minutes he had on stage at Split 2010.
Sunday brought another two Northern comics in Hilarity Bites New Act of the Year Andy Fury and opener John Whale, and also a higher quality of comedy. Fury bantered well with the audience much like Peddie on the previous day, and his closing joke about boats appeared to galvanise the reluctant crowd; whilst John Whale’s set was, as ever, extremely wordy and crammed with satire. From a personal point of view, I enjoyed Whale more than any other comic over the weekend.
Surely next year, though, festival organisers should make as much effort with the comedy as they did with the rest of the weekend’s entertainment. Split 2010 was an excellent festival on the whole and great for the North East music scene, but there is room for improvement. Relocating the comedy to the acoustic tent (which wasn’t even used after about 5pm, I might add) may have been a wise move – it’s certainly something to think about for next year – and investing in a wider range of comedians would have been extremely advantageous, too. The six acts on show did very well over the weekend, but even they would admit they aren’t the best comedians the North East has to offer. If Split Festival organisers are serious about showcasing top local comedy then they could do a lot worse than replicating Peter Vincent’s blueprint for the Stockton Fringe – now that’s how you promote festival comedy.