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Village Music & Drama

All-round entertainment

Posted on February 17 2009 at 3:23:10 0 comments

Village Show Review: Malcolm Stent: 30 Odd Years
Artrix, Bromsgrove

Considering the following that this all-round entertainer enjoys, there was a certain restrained – verging on subdued – atmosphere as we entered the theatre. Perhaps those in the know knew what to expect from their court jester.

This ‘tax exile’ from the back of Saltley Gas Works started to regale us with his life as an entertainer since turning pro in the early 70s. The ever-present guitar adorned his usual garb of rugby shirt and jeans, interspersing reminisces with songs and jokes.

Many will have heard of this personable Birmingham lad, if not for his stage shows, then probably for the successful collaboration with Don Maclean on plays like Back to Back and Wait Till Your Father Comes Home.

The early 80’s saw Malcolm’s ten-part radio series called The Barmaid’s Arms, and a hit with the song Saturday Night in the Bull Ring. Talking of which, another claim to fame was his opening of the latest reincarnation of this city centre shopping extravaganza and, although not overly impressed with the finished product, he did have fond memories of the original, some two attempts back.

His roots are based in folk music, admirably displayed this evening. In all, some 12 songs peppered the evening, including a touching rendition of Going Far Away and a delightfully hip medley of skiffle – a heady mix of folk, jazz, blues and country made popular by the late Lonnie Donegan. At one stage I caught myself singing along – whilst working at PYE Records, my father used to bring home these popular EPs (like big CDs,  but different - ask your mother).

The Artrix is an intimate theatre of 301 seats and particularly ideal for Malcolm’s matey approach as he fielded requests for songs. Bob Bignall, of Bromsgrove Folk Club fame and a Bromsgrove Arts Alive member (forgive my blatant and unprovoked mention of BAA), was spotted in the audience and typically wished to engage whenever possible.

Over these last 30-odd years, Malcolm has performed with our own Jasper Carrott, Jess Conrad and Joe Brown, been a member of the Timoneers band,  made regular pantomime appearances and is involved in many charitable works.

Much material is based on parts of his native city now long gone: the Ideal Homes Exhibition at Bingley Hall, the arrival of Father Christmas at Lewis’s Department Store and the Back to Backs. Thankfully, he resisted the phrase “Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be”, but I lived in fear until the inevitable encore.

Family life plays an important part in his performance, with much nodding from sections of the audience when his stories of obvious affection shone through. Occasionally slightly rude punch lines were transmitted well in advance, but nevertheless he was always rewarded with appreciative laughter. His concluding offering was definitely risqué but a real humdinger and even I joined in the guffaws!

I must mention the support trio of Colin Campbell on piano, Keith Slater on drums and a myriad of other instruments, and finally the ‘aspiring’ youngster, Dan Sealey of rock group Ocean Colour Scene, on bass guitar. (My companion for the evening said that Mr Sealey’s father or uncle was godfather to a friend’s daughter whose wedding we attended last summer. Like you, I wasn’t that impressed either).

Having read this far, you may be asking yourself if I actually enjoyed the show. Well, Malcolm is an excellent light entertainer who can, by his very nature, pull you into his almost lost world and easily gets away with an element of corn that under other circumstances may have you cringing.

Review by Keith Woolford

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