Preview: Freerange Comedy Festival’s rock climbing, beer and chaos

Kate Feld
Barbara-Nice freerange comedy festival

Forget ordinary stand-up: Barbara Nice, Bob Slayer, Al Murray, Alun Cochrane, Jimmy Carr and friends go native in Kendal.

Brace yourselves: the Freerange Comedy Festival is back and it’s bigger than ever, extending over ten days and seeing a host of comedians converge on Cumbria, performing at festival hub Brewery Arts Centre as well as smaller venues and outdoor locations around the South Lakes. What makes Freerange different from other comedy festivals is the effort organisers make to programme events that really engage with the area, rather than just getting in a bus-load of comics to run through their any-city shtick. A case in point is Barbara Nice’s Magical Tour of the Lakes. Comedian Janice Connolly’s career ignited when Peter Kay spotted her in the finals of the Manchester New Act of the Year competition. He promptly asked her to appear on Phoenix Nights where she gave memorable performances as the devoutly religious Holy Mary. Other television appearances followed, as well as pantomime roles and a live tour in character as Barbara Nice, the cheerful mum of five from Stockport who travels the country dispensing warmth, wisdom and malapropisms. It will definitely be interesting to see her take on Lakeland.

This is al fresco comedy – audiences are told to wear clothes they wouldn’t mind getting muddy

Those looking for locally-grown laughs might also want to check out Bob Slayer’s Humphrey Head Bash. Slayer, a regular at Freerange, is known for his truly free-ranging antics; last year he presided over a comedy club atop Gummers Howe that involved the comedian attempting to paraglide. Audiences are told to expect “sea traversing, rock climbing, beer and chaos” and to come wearing clothes they wouldn’t mind getting muddy. Sounds invigorating, eh? The al fresco comedy will be followed by drinks at The Priory Hotel in Cartmel.

But if you’re more into the traditional comedy setup, rest assured there will be plenty of talented jokers appearing onstage over the course of the festival. The full line-up includes pub landlord Al Murray, Simon Evans, Alun Cochrane, Chris Ramsey, Jason Manford and up-and-comers Peacock & Gamble. This year, you also can take in a Father Ted-themed dinner show at the Castle Green Hotel, watch Jimmy Carr at Lakes Leisure, or ask What Would Beyonce Do? with Luisa Omielan. Unusually for a comedy festival, Freerange will also be catering to the younger members of the comedy audience with Comedy Club 4 Kids, a rowdy and silly cabaret show designed just for kids aged six and over. Sounds good to us. Why should grown-ups have all the fun?

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