An Evening at the Dukes

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We make our way into the darkened theatre, bizarrely decorated with hanging clouds and giant pocket watches, permanently stopped at twenty past four. No, this isn’t a production of Alice in Wonderland. It’s actually ‘Barnbox’; an evening at the Dukes Theatre that is dedicated to live entertainment.

And entertainment there certainly was. After a late start, first to the stage was singer-songwriter Jo Gillot, a university student with a unique style. Her acoustic guitar playing was calming and almost lulling, contrasting with a distinctive voice.

Before the second act began, the audience, consisting of all stages of society, was treated to a brief extract read from ‘American Psycho’. Apparently, this wasn’t part of the plan, but because the performance poet and compere, James Knight, who was meant to be filling in the gaps had failed to reach the venue in time. Still, it gave the evening a literary air.

When the first band, ‘Hows my Pop’ hit the stage, it was obvious there was a following within the crowd. A strong rhythmic beat characterised the band’s energetic style, which has also been seen at Pendle bar.

After a short interval, James Knight arrived, merging with the fairytale theme of the venue in his long red cape. Throughout the night he treated the audience to poems on subjects as far ranging as trying to pull indie girls and consumerism.

Next up was Kriss Foster, author and singer of such comic songs as ‘Dale Winton’ and ‘Morecambe’. It may sound strange when described, but there is little funnier than a man in a leopard costume singing an ode to Vimto (or at least, there was by this time. Alcohol may have been involved for much of the audience). Especially when he has pictures drawn in crayon.

After riotous applause, there was another short break while the next band, ‘Uncle Jeff’ set up their equipment. During the lull, we were entertained by the father of the ‘Uncle Jeff’s lead singer, who proceeded to eat two raw eggs, shell and all, on stage.

By the time the second band of the evening came to the stage, the crowd was well and truly revved up, with some people spontaneously starting to dance to the more upbeat songs, sitting on the dance floor during the slower numbers.

So as you can probably see, the variety of entertainment offered during the night was vast, meaning the cliché ‘something for everyone’ rang true. One audience member described the night as “an eclectic mix of music and mayhem” yet pressed that he hadn’t liked every act. Another said “it was a great night. It’s nice to do something different, something other than clubbing”.

I shall certainly be going back to any other ‘Barnbox’ events, as will, I imagine, the vast majority of the people who attended.

If you would like to check out any of the acts mentioned, all (except, unfortunately, for the egg-eating father and James Knight) can be found on Myspace.

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