SEVERAL gin and tonics down, I’m sitting loosely in second row – the layout is cabaret-style, after all – and my eye wobbles to a WET PAINT sign.
Nobody takes any notice of it. Performers leave the stage with white smudges on back pockets.
It isn’t just me who chortles at the bog-wall-esque tiling – we are in the bowels of High Bridge – extending either side of the sardonic stage-set artwork.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the realm of stand-up.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is opening night at The Stand, born at 5.12pm on Tuesday evening, and delivered by a glittering City Council Completion Certificate.
Comedy is on six nights a week, and the upstairs bar and café/restaurant serves its tasty wares every day.
For the smokers, there’s a terrace between this beautifully decorated daytime den and the underbelly below.
My gut says the air in the basement is already impregnated with laughter.
The opening night comedians, including Jo Caulfield, Vladimir McTavish, Simon Donald, some Suggestibles and Gavin Webster, set a precedent of bitter and biting comedy.
The richness of this giggly potion comes from a Tyneside reinvented from industrial powerhouse to cultural hub.
There’s the irony of an artistic space of Baltic proportions – in Gateshead.
There’s that wild cultural contrast between hooray Henry in Jesmond and the West End boy with a bull terrier on the end of a length of washing line.
But most of all, there’s an enormous appetite for laughing.
At The Stand, you’ll see big names. Phill Jupitus, Johnny Vegas and Rory Bremner are already booked, and more leading lights of the national and international circuit will continue to come.
That’s because The Stand is by a group of friends, for a group of friends. They started it for a laugh, and it has grown to be a venture now with three outstanding venues.
But the founding premise remains. First and foremost, The Stand is about laughing – and that’s all a comedian wants, no matter how renowned.