Invisible Dot Club: By The Sea (4 stars)

Invisible Dot Club: By The Sea

Stellar line-up like to be beside the seaside

The Invisible Dot’s secret venue for tonight’s gig is revealed to be the Portobello Town Hall, which, when you think about it, makes a lot of sense – it’s the only venue in the seaside suburb big enough to hold the few hundred people boarding buses on George Street. The large auditorium, with its folding chairs in the middle and balconies up above, has a kind of old-time music hall ambience, which is enhanced by the haze from an unseen smoke machine and the brass quartet kicking off the show. As they play a few bars, the audience is happily surprised to learn the identity of the secret special guest compere who walks on stage: it’s Daniel Kitson.

The bearded funnyman, enjoying a night off from his five star show at the Traverse, is on top form, bantering with hecklers and poking fun at the tradition of audience interaction with a brusque, ‘Right. You. Name.’ The stellar line-up don’t disappoint either: Kevin Eldon and Tim Key take different approaches to comedic poetry, and Josie Long contrasts her bubbly, let’s-all-have-a-hug shtick with some cutting political commentary. The only let-down is Colin Hoult, assuming the role of a script-writing squaddie: while his Hostel-spoofing movie premise is laughably brilliant (‘he’s got all these knives taped to his fingers: bread knife, army knife … pizza cutter’), the character wears thin long before Hoult leaves the stage.

The highlight of the night is headliner Stewart Lee, whose decision to respond to a heckler with a solid minute of silence results in something akin to magic: laughter ebbs and flows around the hall like the tide as each member of the audience marvels at Lee’s boldness and unflappable composure. The rest of his set, while extremely good, pales in comparison, and he has the common sense to wrap it up soon after and leave us on a high. Everyone files onto buses for the return journey into town, the music hall vibe of community and shared laughter alive and well.

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