If you’re a comedy fan and struggling to find the time in your August electronic planner to make it up to the Edinburgh Fringe, then prepare to get very happy, very quickly.
The Stand Newcastle is today announcing it will be bringing some of the top names from the Scottish capital’s month-long comedy marathon down to perform on Tyneside throughout August - saving us the 250 mile round trip.
The Newcastle Alternative, as they are calling it, will see a steady stream of Tyneside visits from comedians temporarily residing north of the border, which are sure to go down a storm.
Last year’s big Fringe winner (she won the Foster’s Comedy Award and has a terrific fringe to boot), Bridget Christie heads up the cast of big-crowd-pulling talent, which also includes her husband and stand up legend, Stewart Lee; acclaimed Irish comic and actor Dylan Moran; Never Mind The Buzzcocks team captain and top drawer comedian, Phill Jupitus; the wonderfully chaotic Canadian, Tony Law; his fellow countryman, Glenn Wool, who is bringing his greatest hits with him; alternative comedy queen Josie Long; the multi-skilled Andrew Lawrence; Craig Campbell who has just had his most successful tour to date; Danny Bhoy, who has scheduled his last Fringe preview show on Tyneside; and surrealist Simon Munnery who will be tunefully celebrating Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
All of the above will be among those peppering the end-of-July and August schedule at the venue, which has nestled itself nicely in Newcastle’s High Bridge since opening at the end of 2011.
“We’ve talked about doing it since we opened - bringing a flavour of the Edinburgh Fringe down to Newcastle,” says founding general manager, Rich Turner.
“But this year we thought, ‘let’s do it properly’.”
Booking 36 shows over 34 days and featuring more than 150 acts... it’s probably fair to say they’ve stuck to their mission - and then sprinkled a few cherries on the top for good measure. “It’s really something to celebrate,” Rich continues.
“We’ve had all the big names here doing their own individual shows since we opened, but to have them all coming in such a short space of time,... it’s really great for Newcastle and the region.”
And great for Tyneside branch of The Stand, which has a capacity of 300 - double the size of its elder Edinburgh sibling.
“It’s a good logistical problem to have,” Rich laughs at the thought of the busy August on the horizon before confirming there will certainly be extra people manning the box office phones on Friday when the tickets for the all the gigs go on sale.
“With lots of the shows we’re pretty sure it’s going to be a question of when they sell out, as opposed to ‘if’,” he says.
“We’re thrilled with the programme.”
As well as those not hailing from these parts, popular acts from the North East are also sitting nicely in programme, with the Weekend Shows seeing Alfie Joey leading the charge while also welcoming circuit favourites like Mick Ferry, Bennet Arron and Mandy Knight.
Newcastle-based improv troupe The Suggestibles will also be doing their off-the-cuff thing, while the increasingly popular regular gatherings, such as the Red Raw Wednesdays (a new talent night which currently has a waiting list running into months), John Scott’s monthly satirical round up: Sod The Tories (and Have A Nice Week) and the Gigglebeats Comedy Quiz will still be present and correct.
“It was important for us to ensure the regular shows that people have supported since we opened, remained on the programme and were nicely complimented by the shows which were coming down from the Fringe,” says Rich.
“In particular, it’s nice to see John Scott will also be supporting Stewart Lee, which is a great way of combining what we have here with what will be coming down.”
So can we expect this to be a regular thing to look forward to in years to come?
“I can’t imagine that this year won’t be a roaring success,” says Rich. “There’s such a great line up and there’s such a great appetite for good comedy in the North East.
“We’d love to develop it further. It’s such a gift to have Edinburgh just up the road really, so bringing a flavour of what is up there isn’t too hard, once you put your mind to it.”
Highlights from the Newcastle Alternative at The Stand this summer
Some highlights from The Newcastle Alternative at The Stand this summer
July 29: Danny Bhoy Edinburgh Preview, with support from The Lost Voice Guy, 8.30pm
A last chance to catch a preview of the new show by the acclaimed comic before it hits The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where he will perform 12 nights, for 12 charities. Tickets £10. @officialbhoy
August 2: Glenn Wool ‘Wool’s Gold’, 5pm
Glenn Wool has a comedy career that spans two decades with television and live engagements over five continents. He has performed seven different solo shows at the Edinburgh Fringe festival and numerous other shows at International Festivals around the world... and this year he’s doing his greatest hits.
August 4: Phill Jupitus ‘Shirking Progress’, 8.30pm
This Edinburgh Fringe, Never Mind the Buzzcocks team captain and QI regular, Phill Jupitus is promising to ‘truth bomb’ his way through an hour of laughs, ripping out his beating heart to staple it to his sleeve in front of the crowd.
August 5: Simon Munnery Sings Soren Kierkegaard, 8.30pm
Heard of Simon Munnery? Heard of Soren Kierkegaard? Heard of neither? Who cares? All you need to know is that a gifted comedian will be endeavouring to perform selected extracts from Kierkegaard’s writing, talk about them, and anything else that springs from there.
August 9: Josie Long: Cara Josephine, 2.30pm
Best newcomer back in 2006, triple comedy award nominee and cult optimist, Josie Long is back at the Fringe with a new show about love and being outdoorsy as a bear.
August 10: Stewart Lee: A Room With a Stew – Work-in-Progress (with support from John Scott), 8.30pm
Widely judged as being one of the finest stand ups the UK has produced, Stewart Lee returns to the work-in-progress stage ahead of recording the fourth BBC2 series of his Comedy Vehicle.
August 12: Tony Law: Enter The Tonezone, 8.30pm
Anyone who was lucky enough to catch Tony Law’s work-in-progress show at Jesterval in Baltic Square recently will be delighted to hear he’s bringing the finished article back to Tyneside in August. There’s nothing quite like diving ‘into the zone of Tone’ for an hour in the company of this life-affirming, multi award-winning nonsense-maker.
August 17: Dylan Moran, 8.30pm
Having enjoyed huge success as a writer and performer, it’s always great to see Dylan Moran back on stage with nothing but a mic for company. This is a work-in-progress show, which he isn’t even taking to the Fringe. High praise indeed.
August 18: Andrew Lawrence: Reasons To Kill Yourself, 8.30pm
Despite widespread success on the small screen and the airwaves, Andrew Lawrence, who debuted at the Fringe in 2003, has managed to maintain tales of his disappointing life and his own filter through which to see the world.
August 19: Bridget Christie: An Ungrateful Woman, 8.30pm
Last year’s big winner at the Fringe – who also counts Stewart Lee as a husband – will be asking and answering questions like: Why did people praise Michael Gove on February 25, 2014? What made Bridget lose control of her emotions at a casting for a yoghurt commercial? And which newspaper genuinely mistook Bridget for King Charles II?
Tickets for all shows will be going on sale on Friday, July 4. For bookings or more information, visit www.thestand.co.uk/whats-on/Newcastle or call 0844 693 3336.