Craig Hill excited to make his Alhambra Theatre in 2019

Craig Hill 2018 (Pic: Steve Ullathorne)
Craig Hill 2018 (Pic: Steve Ullathorne)

Craig Hill is first in and out of the theatre after every show.

Hours before his audience arrives, you’ll find him pacing out his show – I once spotted him alone in the Beveridge Suite walking through his routines in preparation for that night’s sold out show, in the same way a band will soundcheck until it is happy with the set up.

“I want to be ahead of the audience – to be at my sharpest,” he explained. “Nobody wants to see the rubbish side of you!”

And with the final applause still bouncing around the theatre, he barrels off stage and down the aisle to be in place to say thank you and good night to every single person in his audience.

What started as spontaneous idea in Kirkcaldy has become part of his show which bounces with energy from start to finish.

“It had been a fantastic show, and I wanted to say thank you to the audience.” he recalled.

I also realised it was interesting for me, because on stage I can’t see many people, and it was also just a nice thing to do.

“The more I did it, the more it became part of the the night.”

Kirkcaldy has been one of Craig’s regular stops in recent years, but 2019 sees him head west to the Alhambra Theatre for the very first time.

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“I’m a wee bit excited,” he admitted.

“It is a beautiful old theatre, and I’ve really love going to see and play in these venues.

“I’ve never seen inside it, never been before but really looking forward to my visit.

“I never would have thought that comedy would taken hold on the theatre circuit, but it has, and the more I tour, the more I really love finding out about these great old venues.

“Greenock had a fantastic old theatre which they couldn’t save. The new one is wonderful – down on the river with big glass windows – but you don’t realise how lucky you are as a town if you can keep places like the Alhambra open.”

The 2019 tour is based on the show he launched at the Edinburgh Festival Frin ge last August – but one that has been developed and extended.

Posters for “C’Mon the Lads” may well have had Craig kicking a football, but don’t expect much talk about Match Of The Day or 4-4-2 formations.

The show is what he does best – a riotous mix of audience interaction, and razor sharp stand-up.

He opens and closes with a high-tempo music number, and the energy levels simply don’t drop – I can only think of Jason Byrne as a stand-up who can match his sheer on stage.

It may look and feel spontaneous as he bounces off the feedback from folk across the audience, but he plate spins all their stories and comments with incredible speed, while also bringing out his own batch of stories and observations from his travels.

“People ask me all the time ‘where do you get your energy from?’ It comes from the audience,” he said. “I thrive on it.

“And it’s infectious. I have as much fun as the audience .”

The tour also gives Craig the chance to flesh out his Fringe show well beyond the standard hour timeslots that are rigidly enforced at festival venues.

Last year marked his 20th successive Fringe, logging another 23 nights of stand-up in 25 days – and he packed them in every night.

From opening night to final curetain, he remained one of the ‘must see’ shows in a city packed with incredible performances.

“I love the Fringe – why would anyone take a break from it?” he said.

“There is always a buzz about the first night. You’ve done your preview shows and are really excited about finding your feet.

“The order of the show changes a fair bit – you find that some bits work better moved back, or maybe a gesture or link gets a better laugh here.

“There’s also getting the balance between chatting with the audience and also what else you want to do with the night. The more fun the chat is, the more it grows and grows.

“The beauty about going on tour is thst you do a much longer show.

“It is off the cuff chatting to the audience but you can get some great, classic stories and characters out of it, and people are willing to play along.

“Folk who sit in the front row have either never seen me live before, or they are up for it!

“I like to relax and have fun, so this longer show really suits me. I like a crowd!”

And if you do pick a seat at the front, be prepared to also get up and dance!

Stand-up meets disco every night at a Craig Hill gig as he gets someone up for a high tempo boogie to round things off.

“I started doing it when I was playing comedy clubs. I got the energy levels up right away which I wanted – once you do that, you are up and running.

“And if you get som eone willing to just go for it, that’s the golden ticket!”

Craig Hill is at the Alhambra Theatre, Dunfermline, on Friday, January 18.

Ticket details from the box office or online at alhambradunfermline.com