Former chapel in Robin Hood’s Bay reborn with new twist on black comedy

Comedy night: Robin Hood's Bay is hosting a Comedy in the Dark event next month. (Picture: Ceri Oakes).
Comedy night: Robin Hood's Bay is hosting a Comedy in the Dark event next month. (Picture: Ceri Oakes).
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Next month a converted chapel in Robin Hood’s Bay will host a comedy show that will take place in complete darkness. Chris Bond finds out more.

Stand-up gigs have been played at some weird and wonderful places over the years, including on canal barges, in former factories and even a fudge shop.

But how about a comedy night in a historic chapel in one of Yorkshire’s prettiest seaside villages... in complete darkness?

This might sound like the start of a Monty Python sketch, or something straight out of the League of Gentlemen, but next month that’s just what is going to happen in Robin Hood’s Bay which will play host to the first Comedy in the Dark event in Yorkshire, following a series of sell-out shows elsewhere in the UK and Europe.

It all came about when Oliver Jones, director of a new North Yorkshire arts organisation called Landfall met Sarah Scott, owner of the Secret Seaview Chapel and the former Swell Cafe, in the picturesque seaside village.

Landfall is run by the same people behind Deer Shed Festival – a family festival held just outside Thirsk – and its creative director Megan Evans says the comedy show is part of a wider plan to bring more arts events to the coast.

“As with Deer Shed, we hope to transport to the coast the type of performances that break from convention and challenge both the performers’ and audiences’ traditional ideas of theatre, comedy and art,” she says.

“All of our events are intended to be wholly collaborative and experiential for audiences, and the local North Yorkshire community will remain, as it always has, at the heart of our ideas.”

Comedy in the Dark was pioneered in 2008 by a company called Big Difference Productions, and since then the shows, where the comics perform on stage in pitch darkness, have grown in popularity with well known comedians such as Sarah Millican, Kevin Bridges and Greg Davies among those that have taken part in the past.

Next month’s line-up features Lloyd Griffith, Barbara Nice, Dave Morgan and Sarah Bennetto and promises to bring something a little different to a village better known for its fossils and clifftop walks than experimental comedy.

It will also bring something a bit different to the venue itself – one that never ceases to impress visitors.

Sarah Scott, who took over and renovated the chapel this year, says she was smitten the moment she first laid eyes on it. “It’s on the edge of the sea wall and when I went in to have a look around it blew me away. I just fell in love with the building.”

It certainly has a rich and eclectic history. Dating back to the 18th century, it was a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and since then it’s been used as everything from a boys’ school and a wartime hostel for the army, to an artist’s studio and a cinema. “So many people have said to me they’ve been coming here for years and never knew this was here. It’s Robin Hood’s Bay’s best kept secret.”

Hence the change in name. And while Sarah’s already doing a brisk trade in wedding bookings for next year she hopes events like this can help entice more visitors to Yorkshire’s stunning coastline.

“This is a thriving community and though there are lots of music gigs there’s not much in the way of comedy,” she says. Which is why she was keen to get involved in this.

“It’s comedy in a chapel so it’s a bit unusual. I think there’s an appetite among people for these kind of shared experiences. I’ve spoken to some of the villagers and they like the idea and hopefully it will be something a bit different.

“It should be fun and something for tourists and locals because we all like to have a laugh, especially in January.”

Comedy in the Dark takes place on January 27 in the chapel above the Secret Seaview Cafe. Tickets cost £12 (plus booking fee). Go to www.landfall.org.uk