FESTIVAL COMEDY | Dave Johns & Chris McGlade


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Two stars from Ken Loach’s award-winning social realist drama are heading to Edinburgh for the rst time in a long while. Murray Robertson hears from

Dave Johns and Chris McGlade about their new lease of life

A critical smash and multiple award-winner (including the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes) for its damning portrayal of Britain’s welfare sanctions regime, I, Daniel Blake was such an important i lm to Ken Loach that he came out of retirement specially to make it. Two of the i lm’s actors are veteran comedians returning to this year’s Fringe with a show apiece: Dave Johns, who plays the titular role, and Chris McGlade who narrowly missed out on the lead and took on a smaller part.

Listening to Johns speak so exuberantly about the experience, his enthusiasm is infectious. ‘I’m 61 and I won best newcomer at the Empire i lm awards!’ he marvels. ‘I beat Tom Holland the new Spider-Man who’s 22! The awards have been just crazy.’ For someone who has been working so hard for such a long time (earning plaudits as a comedian, actor and playwright), Johns seems genuinely astonished that it’s all come together, particularly at his age. Before I, Daniel Blake arrived he considered winding things down.

‘The comedy circuit in England at the moment is not as vibrant as it used to be. A lot of the clubs have closed. Good comics will always work but it’s not as regular as it once was. I took my daughter to Scarborough and there were donkeys on the beach. I started talking to a bloke and I thought about running donkeys on the beach, working the summer. And I’ve done 30 years of stand-up! And then this Ken Loach i lm came out of the blue and it’s given me a new lease of life. Not only has the i lm changed people’s perception of the subject matter of austerity, poverty and food banks, but it’s also changed my life. It’s taken me to a place that I never expected to be.’ Thinking again about his i rst full stand-up show at the Edinburgh Fringe this millennium, Johns has a back-up plan if it doesn’t work out. ‘I think I’ve got a nice show and I’m going to have fun with it,’ he says. ‘But if it all goes tits-up I’ll go back to the donkeys: I’ve still got the licence application!’

50 THE LIST FESTIVAL 3–10 Aug 2017

Comedian Chris McGlade has long been driven by a i erce determination to combat social injustice. In 2004, he took a break from comedy to lead a lengthy and fractious campaign, opposing the construction of a large housing scheme earmarked for Redcar’s Coatham Enclosure. ‘We fought this corrupted scheme, won in the House of Lords and changed the law regarding open spaces,’ he explains. ‘We uncovered corruption and scattered them to the winds.’ On his i rst Fringe show since 2010, McGlade explains how he approaches global concerns with a local slant. ‘I talk about all the things going on in the world and the things I see going on in our country but I always try to put a Teesside perspective on things. I called my show Infant Hercules because it appertains to the area where I’m from. William Gladstone came up to Middlesbrough in 1862 and said that it was the “infant Hercules”, like an industrial giant ready to wake up.’ McGlade compares this description of the area to former Chancellor George Osborne’s talk of a Northern Powerhouse. ‘When they closed our blast furnace in Redcar in 2015 I thought, well that’s a bit of a contradiction: they call us the Northern Powerhouse and they’ve gone and closed this blast furnace that had been open about 180 years. I’m proud of this area and I think we get done down. We’re always a poorer relation to the Geordies and the Mackems. It’s got lots of tragedy and lots of humour. I love the place.’

Dave Johns: I, Fillum Star, Pleasance Dome, 5–27 Aug (not 15, 22), 7pm, £12.50–£13.50 (£11.50–£12.50). Previews 3 & 4 Aug, £9.50.

Chris McGlade: Infant Hercules, Just the Tonic at The Caves, 3–27 Aug (not 14, 21), 11pm, £5 (£4) or Pay What You Want. See a longer version of this article at list.co.uk/festival