Review: Think Tank at The Square Tower in Old Portsmouth

Host Joe Wells
Host Joe Wells
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If nothing else you had to admire the willingness of the politicians to put themselves in the lion’s den.

This was the first in a proposed series of events blending comedy and politics.

The brainchild of local comic Joe Wells, each evening will have a theme – this one was education, three comics take a turn to propose a new policy fitting the theme, and it is debated by a panel of politicians with questions from the audience.

Before the politicos (Labour’s John Ferrett, Tory Flick Drummond and Green Tim Dawes) were wheeled out, Wells asked for a show of cheers for the various parties – there was a single brave soul for the Lib Dems, and a smattering for Labour and the Greens. It remained ominously silent for the Tories and Ukip. It also became apparent that there were several teachers in the near-full house.

For the comics, Grainne Maguire proposes abolishing the public school system, Gareth Richards wants to introduce higher pay for teachers willing to tackle the problem children, while Andrew O’Neill wants a radical shake-up of the grammar school system.

Richards won on the laughter front – possibly by taking it less seriously than others, while Maguire and O’Neill, who were not without laughs, provided the more thought provoking material.

When it came to the panel, Drummond couldn’t help but go into auto-campaign mode, which didn’t help in a room that was already hostile to her; Ferrett largely resisted the grandstanding, but also slipped into election posturing at times. Dawes seemed most at ease, even managing to raise a couple of chuckles of his own.

Unfortunately, despite repeat warning from Wells to keep questions succinct, some audience members struggled, and thought this was their moment.

Still, it was a more than worthwhile experiment. There were plenty of laughs and it provided plenty of food for thought.

I look forward to the next Think Tank.