As part of the Faversham Eye’s plans for total global media domination, in coming issues we will gradually roll out extended coverage of foreign news, with selected reports from places as far-flung as Seasalter and Teynham. As we expand our base of operations, our network of correspondents could one day stretch to Sittingbourne or even the Isle of Thanet.
We begin with dispatches from Sheerness and Canterbury:
Review: Stewart Lee
Canterbury Marlowe, March 16 2020
With the inevitable coronavirus lockdown imminent, it was fifty-fifty whether seeing Stewart Lee's latest live show Snowflake/Tornado at Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre was worth the gamble.
Pre-show, the atmosphere was distinctly uneasy. From the people opening closing doors with feet and elbows, the girl queuing for drinks with a scarf wrapped around her face and some of the most thorough hand-washing observed in any men's toilets anywhere ever, this was not a typical evening crowd.
By the time the house lights dimmed, the Marlowe's 1,200 seat room contained around 500 people, a strong whiff of rubbing alcohol and an immense metaphorical elephant, which Stewart wasted no time addressing.
“Thank you for coming out. I wouldn't have done it,” he said. “I hope you enjoy it and the risk you've taken is worth it.'
Despite what what was clearly “ an unworkable situation: terrified people in a half-empty room”, Stewart insisted the sold-out yet severely underattended show must go on – largely for contractual reasons.
And what a remarkable show it was, performer and audience laughing in the face of an unseen but impending armageddon. “It's like doing standup in Chernobyl,” Stewart observed, deciding that in whatever future awaits us, he will only tour in times of virus: “I must perform all my shows against a backdrop of doom.”
When that might be, nobody could guess. His acclaimed show, Snowflake/Tornado, was scheduled for two nights in Canterbury with dozens of national tour dates booked well into summer. But we all knew this was Stew's last stand – until post-pandemic Britain returns.
Rarely can a performer have felt more among friends. “The weak ones are self-culling,' he said riffing on how the outbreak had 'thinned the herd' and 'cut out the dead wood,' leaving him playing to a self-selected 'elite' of hardcore fans.
Laughter in the dark is Stewart's stock-in-trade. And the darker he got, the harder we laughed, strange waves of borderline hysteria carrying him on joyful flights of improvisation.
A large part of Snowflake/Tornado is concerned with his place in the comedy business and a world veering sharply to the right. It's brilliant stuff, performed with a playfulness at odds with his default onstage character, 'The Comedian Stewart Lee'. A petty, neurotic misanthropic loser in the Tony Hancock tradition, the persona is a sort of Frankenstein's monster created from all the nasty things his critics have ever said about him. Critics who often pretend to misunderstand the joke, in order to attack him for cash in right-wing tabloids. Critics like Tony Parsons, who gets a lengthy forensic pasting for nonsensically describing Lee as “the rancid tip of a cesspit”.
But the best moments of this extraordinary show come when he drops out of character and off script to talk to us in his own voice about the surreal circumstances of the night.
“Thanks for coming out,” he says winding up the gig. “But don't do it again! Now go home!”
And we do, not knowing when we will ever see anything quite like this again.
Five stars *****
OVER THE WATER....
Even before the coronavirus lockdown emptied Faversham's streets, everybody's favourite ex-councillor Mike Cosgrove was keeping an unusually low profile, his absence leading to widespread speculation that the self-published travel writer may have sailed away to begin a new life abroad. Rumours that the erstwhile Swale House mover and shaker has relocated overseas to take up a high-profile, client-facing appointment with a major furniture supplier are currently under investigation by the Eye after eagle-eyed reader Paul Steele from Minster on the Isle of Sheppey captured these pictures in Sheerness High Street.