Review: Katherine Ryan: Nature’s Candy (with Jeff Leach) – Newcastle Stand
Jeff Leach is a square peg in a round hole. Tonight he supports Katherine Ryan, our butter-couldn’t-melt headliner. It felt wrong from the off (how does his confessional style fit with Ryan’s ultra-optimistic outlook?), and it proved to be the most bizarre of bookings.
Perhaps as a result, Leach almost-immediately misjudges the room. He opens with an aggressive ad-lib about fucking a bloke in the front row back at his caravan, and follows up with a similarly insistent note about his odd appearance – a white vest and skinny jeans, if you were wondering. First impressions? It’s just nerves. When he moves into his material-proper he’ll win us over.
But he doesn’t, and that points to a deeper problem with his act: the audience seem to be – well – a nuisance, something ‘in the way’ of him performing his material. Take his disastrous altercation with a heckler, who misses a visual gag about former X-Factor contestant Rylan Clark. A quick telling off would’ve probably done the trick. But Leach becomes too involved in the situation, as he tears into the heckler’s mate – who earlier had tried to diffuse the situation. Had Leach taken the incident in his stride – as a more mature comic might have – he may have earned a stay of execution.
By contrast, the immediately-likeable Katherine Ryan knows how to work a room. She might deviate from her script sparingly, but when she does it’s with good intentions, transforming material on celebrity culture and sexy time into something surprisingly warm and personal.
That’s Ryan all over, though. In the same way that Heat magazine keeps her posted on the Kardashians, she affords us a fly-on-the-wall show about her life; her failed marriage, her ill-health, her not-so-favourite blowjob banter. She even breaks the so-called comedy golden role of talking about her daughter, who sounds just as funny as Ryan is.
On stage Ryan might come across as a cheeky teenager who always wins the argument with her parents, but behind the scenes there’s much more intelligence. There’s a hidden moral code that focuses on women in the media – Beyonce and Rihanna – and Ryan questions their influence and their responsibility.
As far as observational material goes, this is up there with the best. If she keeps this up, Ryan might well find herself immersed the celebrity culture that keeps her awake at night.
Date of live review: Tuesday 9 April 2013.