Reviewer: Jo Beggs
The institution that is Mother’s Ruin, now a well established part of Contact’s regular programme, is always an eclectic mix both in terms of acts and quality, and December’s offering is no exception. As usual, there’s a big crowd, squeezed into Contact’s foyer space, enthusiastically keeping the bar staff busy and revved up for a good night out. That’s great news for Dick N Debs, first up and compering the evening. It’s a lacklustre start but the crowd want entertainment and go with it, and they’re well rewarded when Dick N Debs introduce the first act. Jackie Hagan has just had her leg amputated, and as it’s nearly Christmas she’s given it a bit of a festive makeover with tinsel and lights. It’s a pretty unique opener and she follows it up with plenty more great material, mostly off script storytelling with charm-laden, perfectly timed delivery.
It seems like it’s ladies night. Hagan is followed by a beautifully crafted comedy storytelling from Manchester’s own all-girl quartet, Eggs Collective. There’s actually only three of them here tonight but they deliver their usual well-crafted, sharp performance and it’s a treat to have them back in the second half as a trio of bedding clad, cardboard haloed nativity angels with a twist.
It wouldn’t be Mother’s Ruin without Timberlina, and Tim Redfern’s bearded, uke playing drag lady ends the first half of the evening. Tonight’s offerings fall a bit flat, the material under-rehearsed, the songs a bit pedestrian, and following the first two great acts really isn’t an easy task.
By the second half the crowd are getting harder to please. Always a challenge in a cabaret line up, the acts which require a bit more decorum struggle to hold the audience’s attention. Vintage Fair favourites, The Bobbysocks dole out some great three-part harmony tunes (from 1940’s favourites to Guns’n’Roses) but fail to get the attention they deserve. Despite tons of charm and talent, it’s hard to follow up comedy with boogie-woogie. Gerry Potter, filling the final slot of the night, suffers something of the same inattentiveness, as he gloriously performs a handful of poems, bringing some poignancy to the proceedings that gets a little lost. Potter, once the north west’s favourite transvestite poet Chloe Poems, has hung up Chloe’s gingham dress and found a second voice – it’s his own – and it sounds wonderfully sincere. New and old poems take flight, blending working class anger with human insecurity, gentle comedy with heart-breaking sincerity.
Dick N Debs are back to complete the night with a half-hearted comedy dance routine that makes poor use of some flashy props (big floaty wings and a leaf blower…leaving that with you to imagine the scene) and makes for a tame, disappointing finale. But there’s plenty to like, as usual, about a night that always delivers some moments of magic, and some acts that feel like real finds.