StarSearch: the final. Of all things.
Andrew Mickel21 April 2012
We have been avid attendees of StarSearch, the flagship event of new club Deansways in the basement of Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, scratching up two heats of the talent show before seeing Thursday's final.
Considering this is the first regular night for Deansways, the format has managed to find a slickly unslick DIY aesthetic to pull together a tight show. (Strictly speaking, it ran many years ago in Camden with Trevor Lock and Paul Foot, but it's been resting a while.) There's the sharp-suited host, Trevor Lock, who anchors the show on stage and gives the acts some support if they're taking a rollicking from the judges. There's sixties-era Corrie extra Hatty Ashdown gossiping with acts backstage on an easily-distracted handicam.
There are three big-character judges, led by by the other-worldly Ross Lee (and for the final including the only agent who could out-flamboyant his client Louis Spence, Colin Evans, and Chris Dangerfield). There's an incompetent tech guy, some free Polish food from one of the audience and a woman doing a sketch of the judges. There's a venue done up like a ship, a bar whose most exotic drink is Newcastle Brown Ale, and Karl Schultz laughing like a drain throughout the entire show. It's really quite a lot take in.
Actually, it would be much too much if it wasn't for two crucial elements. First there's the not-exactly shy and retiring Harry Deansway, who runs the night and club and is clearly trying to set himself up as an impresario of the east. Fair play to him: it takes nerve to start up something from scratch, and there's certainly room in the area for more shows. And here he's stuck right into the action to make it fit whatever his vision is, even strutting across the stage during the winner's announcement to order directions at Lock.
And then there's the acts themselves, who give some focus to the circus going on around them. Given the amount of formatting in the night, there's only actually room for four acts, most of which have turned up on TV talent shows for people to laugh at.
Which is where the one obvious problem with the show comes in: the age-old talent show conundrum of working out whether you're laughing with or at the acts. There's no doubt there's some pretty vulnerable people on stage here, but they seems to be having a lot of fun. Each finalist's turn is prefaced by a video of the contestant made with Pappy's Mathew Crosby which seems to skirt the line of acceptability more tightly than any other section.
The thing that probably saves the show from the worst possible excesses of the format is that the judges and hosts do get what could be easily ostracised characters involved. The judges in particular seemed to make effort to chat with contestants outside the structure of the show, and the fact they aren't bundled straight out into the cold does seem to make the difference between this and a cheap-and-cheerful TV talent show. Then again, I can't tell whether there really is a difference, or whether it is just such a fun night that I want to pretend there is one.
I've gone to StarSearch with several different people and every one has ended up asking themselves the same question. Still, this is probably the most fun comedy night I've been to since last Edinburgh, although that doesn't really mitigate the problem with the acts.
It sells itself as the talent show lover's talent show, and it's not wrong: the pros and cons of the format are here in a nutshell.
Your rating: None
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