Camberwell comedian Jenny Eclair seeks solace in the local food and arts scene while trying out new stand-up material
Typical. It happens every year. As soon as the kids break up for the summer holidays, the weather starts acting up. If we could just keep the little blighters in class throughout August, then surely we’d put an end to this weather jinx?
Not that I’ve got time to loll about in the sun at the moment as I’m preparing a new stand-up show ahead of a big tour in the autumn. Basically this involves writing new stuff and trying it out at various low-key gigs around London for under a tenner a ticket so that punters don’t mind if you dribble and trip up over your own feet.
Much bigger names than me tend to orbit around the city doing much the same thing, so if you fancy a bit of pre-arena bargain comedy, keep your eyes peeled for who’s doing ‘warm ups’ at a venue near you. My favourite space has to be Battersea Arts Centre. There is nowhere else in the country quite like it. I first gigged there 30-odd years ago and, more recently, my daughter did a theatre management apprenticeship there after uni. During her year of training, she was taught the most valuable lesson that anyone can learn in a job – how to deal with a flooded toilet.
Preparing a new stand-up show involves trying out new stuff at various low-key gigs where the punters don’t mind if you trip up over your own feet
The elements seem to have it in for Battersea. Earlier this year the Grand Hall at the back of this majestic ex town hall caught fire. The smoke could be seen from our roof in Camberwell. They are rebuilding it brick by brick. Meanwhile, the rest of the building, with its bars and various theatre spaces, is fully operational. Don’t forget to put it on your cultural radar – the more tickets they sell for their various events, the quicker that Grand Hall, with its magnificent tea dances and pantos, will rise again.
I’ve finally made it down to two newish local fleshpots. First, the East Dulwich Picture House, which is almost great – it has two-seater sofas at the back, but the night we went they insisted on a bizarrely daft ticketing system, which seemed long winded and impractical! We also got stuck into a very tasty menu at the buzzing Camberwell Arms, although judging by what eventually arrived on our table, I suspect they ran out of bottled water and dashed to the nearest convenience store to fetch a couple of plastic bottles of very peculiar looking eau minérale. But really, who cares! It was all very delicious.
I also made a trip to the White Cube gallery in Bermondsey. I’m not a big sculpture buff, but the old man knows his stuff and we were both knocked out by Marc Quinn’s massive silver shells currently on show. The wall pieces are pretty naff, but it is a free exhibition, so just like a stand-up trying out new material, prepare yourself to take the rough with the smooth!