Comedy Reviews

ALICE! YOUR THYME IS UP - Birdy Chick-Chick

Birdy Chick-Chick | credit C.S.Stevens

In this frenetically ideas-packed show, two Victorian sisters, Helena and Sophia, go in search of their lost sister, Alice. This Lewis Carroll-esque beginning leads to travels through time, inspired silliness, and more puns and wordplay than Crackerjack on speed. An amusing Black Beauty sequence, a party scene where the audience are urged to 'Pass the Duchy (Original Oatcakes) to the left hand side' and particularly a sequence where Sophia and Helena find themselves at a nightclub, where they equate the dance moves they find there to visual references from their own time, all provide some well rehearsed comic moments.

However, while the show is agreeable and funny, sometimes it took some odd directions. Certainly I got lost when the sisters moved out of the Victorian milieu to become characters from a pulp fiction novel and was mystified by another involving a lascivious security guard. Maybe inevitably, with such a weight of ideas flying around (like the bees dangling on wires around the stage), not all the ideas are yet fully formed, but the performances are consistently entertaining in this amusing comic concoction.

Robbie Carnegie


Amadeus Martin

Having begun his set by pointing out the strange atmosphere in the room as he walked on, Amadeus Martin preceded to dispel any such feeling, blending cultural references with playful rudeness to create an impressive hour of stand up. Tackling issues from race and class to the Northern Line and bravery, his material is wide ranging and combined with his energetic and cheeky style of delivery, will have you sucked in and laughing almost instantly.

Martin's wit, in particular, marks him out as a strong performer. Seemingly unafraid to move into unprepared territory by involving the audience, he develops running gags and off the cuff twists and turns that add intellectual sparkle to an already hilarious performance.

The experimentation with props in the set initially seems to add little, and a sceptic might suggest that the occasional hiccough with his flip charts might bring down the show a little. On the contrary, however, the small thought of visual stimulus (particularly Martin's own artistic 'works') is a great addition to the show, and the slight teething troubles in the method come across as nothing other than endearing.

To sum up, Martin presents a professional show with a cheeky edge and witty material. Definitely worth seeing.

Charlie Newport

BARREL OF LAUGHS - Underground Venues

Barrel Of Laughs

15th July

The show opened with compere Tom Crawhaw who was absolutely fantastic. He interacted with the audience, talked about the local area and introduced the show perfectly.

The Wizards of Odd came on first and at the beginning the audience was trying to work out what was happening as the two gentlemen stood there each holding a red box and waiting for a song to end, however once it had ended and the act began it was brilliant. They did a magic trick with the boxes which we can't quite work out and it was all very informal. There was an ongoing joke between Aaron and a member of the audience and at times we felt like it could have been unscripted. They also did a magic trick which involved two audience members, and waving a napkin and a handkerchief in the air, which was very clever.

Mark Leeson was a stand up comedian who in our opinion wore a very nice t-shirt! However his act was not as popular as some of the others, although it was different and creative we're not entirely sure if it was appropriate for the audience. The jokes were a little bit unsuitable for those watching who were mainly middle aged couples who laughed politely but with less enthusiasm then they had for the other acts.

Teakshow came on and started talking about ornithology, posh tourettes and an audience zoo. The comedians were interactive and made the audience laugh but again with less enthusiasm than for the others.

Danny Pensive started his act by singing a song about goldfish which was pure genius! Then he told us everything that he was not, 'I am not Frodo Baggins from Lord of the Rings' etc. He then proceeded to read things out of his diary, he got a lot of laughs and was clearly a very popular act; he was possibly the best of the night! Absolutely brilliant!

Ruth E Coban came on as the last act and was a proper stand up comedienne, getting a lot of laughs and interacting very well with the audience. She swore a bit which may put people off but it was very well done. Ruth ended with a song which was just fantastic and everybody liked her a lot!

Overall we liked the show and think people should go and see it!

Eleanor Button and Katie Gibbs

CHARACTERS - Joe Fairbrother

Joe Fairbrother | Characters

Paupers Pit

"When I say ring my - you say 'Bell'! This audience 'shout out' was one of the highlight's of Joe Fairbrother's 60 minute routine that seemed to rely on cajoling the hapless audience members to participate, and as a result turns out to be a hit and miss affair. It's never easy to produce comedy gold in the tea-time slot of 6.15pm when the good folk of Buxton are probably having their evening meal - but there were a few gems to savour; from the Brummie swingers outing by coach to Leamington Spa - ("have you packed the wet wipes and the batteries?") to Christopher Turner the Cycling Proficiency Assessor from Wakefield with an unhealthy obsession with Jayne MacDonald - any excuse to flash up a close up perma-tanned photo of Dame Jayne is Ok in my books. The set was interspersed with radio Jingles and a pre-recorded story time session warning of the dangers of the Chuckle Brothers. There were some comedic flashes of inspiration and originality (we had that Anneka Rice twice - once at the beginning of her career....... and once at the end of her career!) and I had a faint reminiscence of early Coogan with the mix of 'characters' and voices on offer, and the small but appreciative audience certainly lent their support. Comedy is the trickiest of forms to negotiate and at time the waters were smooth and then came the wave. If you like character based comedy as opposed to stand up- this is the show for you. Go on, ring his bell.

Jason Hudson


Danny Pensive - In York

Underground Venue

It is often said that from humble beginnings mighty oaks grow...or something like that anyhow. What is certainly true is that pure comedy gold has been discovered in the persona of sweet and gentle Danny Pensive. John Cooper's creation has the wide-eyed innocence of a small child viewing things from a simple perspective, but not simply accepting what he sees at face value. Like the most inquisitive infant, he questions almost everything he witnesses and seeks answers with a challenging purity, finding a seriously funny angle at every turn.

His love of goldfish, his beloved Nanna, mate Dave and postcards amongst many other things take the audience on a naïve journey around Britain with the expert commentary of a seasoned tour guide. The ingenuity of the delivery is matched only by the gems unearthed along the way.

Cleverly written poetry, silly songs and concise entries in Danny's Diary tell us:
why only Lords and Kings should have bouncy castles?; and
that the Lea & Perrins factory should have an outlet shop?; and
Brighton's pigeons are the most aggressive on the south coast; and
how to make an ashtray from an old smoke alarm?

Danny expresses his dearest hope to "go everywhere and see everything." He surely will and it is only a matter of time before you see his pudgy bearded face and enjoy his loveable charms on a TV set near you. In the mean time, catch him at the Buxton Fringe and join him for this happy ride that will eventually lead to the Scottish capital later this summer. As Danny himself would explain, "Buxton is now on me map alongside Edinburgh. Not literally next to each other mind you, but because they both have super fringes...just like cowboy's trousers!"

A must-go-see comedy highlight!

David Carlisle


Ed Reardon: A Writer's Burden

Arts Centre - Auditorium, 21-22 Jul 5:30pm to 6:45pm, 23 Jul 7:15pm to 8:30pm

Come on Buxton. What's the matter with you? A barely half-filled auditorium is just not good enough for one of the Fringe's real coups - Radio 4 comedy star Ed Reardon, whose brand new show is previewing here before going on to Edinburgh and a nationwide tour.

Created by Christopher Douglas, jobbing hack Ed Reardon is a delicious character that will appeal to middle-aged grumps everywhere. We sense his mood from the start as we hear him off stage asking 'where do I go' and complaining that they are 'always so depressing these places'. Increasingly desperate calls of 'Mr Reardon to the stage' do nothing to hurry him along and indeed why should he stir himself unduly? As he points out later: 'The literary muse is no respecter of the Pavilion performance schedule'. Still later we find out that he has sacrificed a 'potentially lucrative interview with Berkhamsted Jobscentre Plus' for this gig (are you ashamed yet Buxton?)

It is not even as if Reardon is paid anything like as much as his two sidekicks, Nicola and Josh (Nicola Sanderson and Nick Caldecott), who seem able to conjure up £45,000 for the odd BT commercial. The two thesps are there to fulfil Reardon's artistic director's requirements for a 'performancy type thing', acting out vignettes from Ed's life in the great tradition of Theatre in a Basket, the company that once helped him bring his Incredibly Amazing History of the Industrial Revolution to a lucky school in Matlock (see how Derbyshire gets all the best premieres).

Though Reardon finds plenty to fault in their performance, they don't do a bad job at recreating excruciating moments such as Reardon being seduced by the housemaster's wife (actually that bit was supposed to be cut) or Reardon meeting the love of his life while dancing at one of Martin Amis's far-out Ladbroke Grove parties. Best of all, they enact a scene from Reardon's ever-lucrative 1982 episode of Tenko, though quite frankly Ed's own impression of an evil Japanese laugh is so powerful, so intense, so disturbing that perhaps the writer extraordinaire should seriously consider a life in the theatre.

Reardon never puts a foot wrong. Christopher Douglas, by contrast, does forget one line on this first night, which is a shame as it reminds us with a jolt that this glorious rant is scripted. But no matter, that is the price we pay for seeing a true premiere. There are more funny lines here than there are types of footwear in Reardon's Ladybird Book of Shoes or complaining emails about '12-year-old asininity' in his bulging outbox, so make haste and get your tickets now. After all, if we don't support him it will just mean more desperate sales tactics from Reardon as he threatens to sell stuff from his personal archive in the foyer. Mind you, it will be a lucky audience member who walks off with his treasured early carbon of a death threat to Jenni Murray...

Stephanie Billen

EDWARD EALES-WHITE - Whitebone Productions

Ed Eales-White | credit: Adam Corbett

Pauper's Pit 11 July (and again on 12th)

(Warning: contains spoilers)

Fringe regulars will remember Clever Peter the testosterone driven comic quartet. Well, Edward Eales-White is one quarter of CP and, to my tastes, all the better for it.

The premise for this new show is familiar enough. Kenny drinks Kronenbourg daily at his local and he wants to introduce you to other regulars. They are a bunch of losers but it is to EE-W's credit that these characters are not presented just to be assassinated. Pathetic as most of them are, all have small hopes and dreams and we can't help but hope that they will see them realised. (Though the point of the pathos is, of course, that we know success is for any of them is unlikely).

Apart from Kenny there is the husband who is sure that his wife has a string of lovers - if only he could catch her at it. There is Colin, the Pigeon Poet, who will live long in the memory and may be worth the admission price alone. There is the gym instructor whose yet-to-be-equipped gym consists of a tin of baked beans. There is Lee Guinness (formerly Cunningham) who had a girlfriend once. Who almost has a second girlfriend but finds it hard to choose between her and Guinness.

There is the young schoolboy who wants help with his homework - but his parents aren't there for him. (He wants to be a footballer like Joleon Lescott - an ambition of sorts). There is the actor who stays true to his art - unlike the traitor Branagh.

This is comedy with a heart; there are many more hits than misses and EE-W's comic timing is perfect. He gives immediate life and substance to the characters he introduces.

In the end Kenny returns to remind us that we need role models, champions. He has found his in Kronenbourg. Where will you find yours?

Keith Savage


Victor Barstool - legend in his time

Alan Charnley and Co.'s outrageous show with its mix of comedy and original songs is now set to become a traditional part of the Festival Fringe.

This year the audience at the Grove Hotel was treated to 16 original, well crafted, songs, written by Alan Charnley and Jim Lampard

The songs were sung chronologically, loosely telling the bizarre life story of Victor Barstool from his first job as a Burger Man through his career as a Rock Star in America to his downfall through alcohol and paranoia. The songs were introduced and interluded by Deidre Costello, as his wife, Wanda Lutz, with her absurd tales of Victor, humorously contrived to link to the next song.

For me the joy and fun of the show starts with the lovely Alan Charnley himself as Victor Barstool and his flamboyant selection of personalities as he performs his songs. Each song creates its own world, with caricatures brought to life through the madness of the lyrics and the tempo and style of the music, including Rock, Folk, Latin, Country and some quite moving ballads. The audience participated with gusto in 'The Pulling Song' sung to the tune of Carmen.

The songs I personally enjoyed the most were 'Fallen Stars' and 'Ladder to the Stars' which, respectively, closed the two parts of the show, but when an encore was demanded, at the end, it was 'I Wanna be a Burger Man' which the audience requested and it finished the evening off on a high.

This type of show is not everyone's cup of tea and in no way does it to aim to be anything other than a madcap collection of songs written and performed for the sole purpose of giving people a fun evening with friends and over a pint or a glass of wine.

I look forward to your next year's production!

Martin Wood

FREDA SHITTINGTON - Freda Shittington Productions

Freda Shittington

Puppy love...Don't be put off by the slightly dodgy-named iconic dog and male trainer Freda; this is a comedic cabaret adventure orchestrated by the genius of straight-forward, warm and gentle, Matthew Chappell. Expecting hell-fire comedy, I was greeted with a kiss, all warm and blossom red on my cheek, like pretty much all of the rest of the audience. And it was a true joy to meet, greet and get up close and personal with such an amiable character as Freda for almost two hours of fun, frolics, quizzes and doggy-fuelled nonsense.

Old Dog...The evening started with a star turn by Freda's friend, the antipodean Ralph Horris. Looking just like our fave bearded Australian painter and quirky singer/Stylophone promoter, Ralph quickly got to grips with Buxton's poor summer climate to encourage a raucous sing-a-long of fun Aussie numbers like Jake the Peg, Court of King Caraticus, Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport and Stairway to Heaven. We even learnt how to speak just like Ralph, with all the actions too! Audience-participation-a-plenty! New Tricks...And then came Freda. Forget all pretensions of shouty, barky, command-driven dog training espoused by Barbara Woodhouse and the like. This is fun, fun, fun all the way with quizzes, daft catch phrases and expansion into far-flung esoteric places such as those told about by fellow-northerner, Peter Kay. A pedigree performance from Stockport's version of man's best friend: Freda - you're bitchin'! Stay...for a while and learn about Marzipan Annie, the unsafe use of trampolines, the pain that bunions and haemorrhoids inflict, crowd surfing, male agility training, doggy-style dancing and Jason the Alsation (he's one of Freda's dogs: others include T, K & Max, H, M & V... you get the idea and'll learn about the rest!). Roll 0ver...Freda's Husband, Derek keeps his distance from the show. He doesn't really understand what doggin' is all about despite his own curious investigations. She has too big a heart to explain. Or does she just protect him from his own stupidity. You be the judge. Beg...You'll beg for an encore, just like we did, having so much fun, you won't want the night to end. Leave...When finally the act comes to a close, sadly you will have to go. Down! Let Go! Leave it! Now! So don't growl and don't wail. You will take such happy memories with you of a brilliant show, you'll chase your tail all the way home! Dancing doggy-style, just like that act off Britain's got Talent!

Stay happy all you puppies!

David Carlisle, Buxton Drama League

Hydro Tea Rooms, Spring Gardens, 15 July 2011


Henning Wehn

Germany's self-styled 'comedy ambassador', Henning Wehn, a doyen of the Radio 4 panel-game circuit, arrived on to the Pavilion Arts Centre stage to suitably uplifting Teutonic music. With his goofy grin and thumbs-aloft enthusiasm he soon won over the large audience with what he freely admitted was a try-out for his upcoming 'Edinburgh trade fair' run.

Henning has a nice line in looking at the idiosyncrasies of the British as seen from his unique viewpoint, and also in looking nostalgically at his homeland, and it is this material where he is on surest ground. Whether discussing British swimming pools, his delight at finding an Aldi store in his neighbourhood, the disappointment of Eurovision song contest acts no longer singing in their native tongues, and especially a description of a British oom-pah band called the Herr Flicks, he hits the comedy target.

However, about halfway through, it felt to me as though his comedy progress faltered. There's often something that occurs with songwriters, that after gaining success writing about their lives, you find that they now only write songs about being songwriters, since that's what their lives now consist of. To some extent this disease effects Henning as he starts to fill much of his show with comedy material based on his experiences performing comedy. In terms of the recognition factor that observational comedy needs, no doubt it will get a response from his comedy peers in Edinburgh, but it often failed to get a response from a more mixed Buxton crowd.

Being a German in Britain, Henning is well placed to note that the British view of Germany is based almost exclusively on the 12 years of the Third Reich. As such, he is certainly justified in making jokes based on this period, but is on dangerous ground tackling subjects which, to a PC audience, could sometimes be a bit close to the bone.

Henning comes across as a jolly character whose infectious personality carries him a long way. To use a footballing analogy this was something of a game of two halves, but no doubt once Henning has honed this show for Edinburgh, he'll end up winning it on penalties.

Robbie Carnegie


Max & Ivan

In the annals of literature, the characters of Sherlock Holmes & Dr Watson must be two of the most often played - from Basil Rathbone to Benedict Cumberbatch, performers have put their own stamp on the great detective. And alongside these 'straight' versions there's also always been a rich vein of comedic parody - in Buxton alone there's been two such productions in the last couple of years - a rosta to which comedy duo Max & Ivan now prove a welcome addition.

Like the Basil Rathbone Holmes films, where the partnership were often pitted against gangsters or Nazis, Max & Ivan transport Holmes & Watson to 1920s Chicago, where they come up against Al Capone (as well as an old nemesis) and along the way encounter gangsters' molls and a shape-changing, javelin throwing thug and also, inadvertently invent the Charleston.

Without costumes, props or sound effects, Max & Ivan keep the whole thing going at a dizzying pace. Character follows character, gag follows gag. They are fantastically energetic, throwing themselves (and each other) around the Paupers Pit stage with a speed that's exhausting even for the audience (certainly for this audience member - in fact, if I have a criticism, it's that there's almost too much here - perhaps ten minutes less would have perfected the show - leave them wanting more, guys!)

But maybe that's just me. The packed house lapped up all that Max & Ivan did and cheered them to the rafters. There's only one more performance of the show, so if you like your comedy physical, full of invention and often plain bonkers, catch it while you can.

Robbie Carnegie

I PREDICT A RIOT! - Alfie Moore

Alfie Moore

Further Performances: July 22/23 10:30pm Underground Venues - Barrel Room

Tonight we were entertained by a Police sergeant from Scunthorpe talking about the history of public discontent from 120BC to today.

No, this wasn't a history lecture on public behaviour, it was an anecdotal stand up comedy act which exposed our social need to revolt against the injustices of our authorities. From riots at Roman Chariot races, facing up to a tank in Tiananmen Square and the antics on football pitches, (including those of the police), Alfie Moore discussed the idiosyncrasies of social rebellion from both sides of the battle line.

Alfie Moore is a Sergeant in the police force of Humberside. He's been in the force for 12 years. But, despite this, within a few minutes of meeting him, the audience relaxed in the company of this lovable funny man.

Alfie is a great story teller, relating incidents and accidents from his own experience mixed with deviations from history and connecting them to current and recent events. He is the perfect after-dinner speaker.

His stories are sometimes close to the knuckle and sometimes quite scary, sharing a few of his more vulnerable moments. But his philosophical take on it all will surprise you and there lies his humour.

Martin Wood


Lab Monkey Productions | In Pursuit Of Miss Adventure

The Pauper's Pit, 7th July. Further performance on 10th, 16th, 17th and 24th

Johnny Façade makes a welcome return to the Fringe with a brand new show. In Pursuit of Miss Adventure is about how hapless Johnny plans to find the woman he needs to complete his life. Given his scientific background it is not surprising that Johnny has a carefully worked-out strategy designed to narrow the field and quantify the virtues of the women he meets. He doesn't do spontaneity.

If you've seen previous Façade shows you'll know what to expect: a bit of magic, some mindreading, wordplay, statistics and seldom answered questions. The whole thing is skilfully brought together with a witty slideshow integrating pictures, graphs and the music of the Spice Girls. Whilst the show is new, the jokes and cultural references are hardly cutting edge. But you'd not expect the geeky Façade to be up-to-date.

The magic requires scissors, keys, padlocks, playing cards and some audience participation (but nothing to feel threatened by).

This was the premiere performance but it was fluent and confidently delivered. Some elements of the show were a bit bolted on rather than fully integrated into the adventure narrative, but such is the Façade charm you won't really care about that.

Oh, and congratulations to Mr & Mrs Pritchard.

Keith Savage


James Sherwood | credit: Ed Moore

Underground Venues - Barrel Room

again on 22nd July at 7pm

Forget about the title of this show; intriguing as it sounds this show is about 'What does it mean to be a good or a bad person'; more specifically 'Am I a good person or a bad person'.

In his usual format of stand up and song, James Sherwood introduced his theme (an awkward and nervous start), explaining his dilemma and then moved to his keyboard to play a medley of songs from which he hoped to find definitions for 'good' and 'bad' (relaxing both himself and the audience). He then returned to his stand up role to talk about his own, good and bad attributes.

For me a good comedian, (i.e. one where I can laugh out loud) must have and show respect for the objects of their humour. Doing this gives me permission to laugh. The subject of the majority of James Sherwood's stories was himself and so there was plenty of good stuff to stretch our lungs. I loved the way he occasionally use the language of 'The Sun' to deliver the stories but the vocabulary of 'The Guardian' to flourish the punch-lines.

Apart from the opening medleys, he performed three songs and the second of which was call 'Beverley Tring'. I was moved by the story of Beverley from her childhood of junior school pranks but which developed to a very touching tale with a moral.

Apart from some very clever jokes, at which I laughed heartily with the rest of the audience and which I will probably have forgotten by the morning; there were two elements of his show which I will never forget. One was the ballad of Beverley Tring and the other was the final, climatic, song which was glorious. It's worth going just for the finale.

Martin Wood


credit: Andy Hollingworth

Barrel Room, 7th July. Further shows 8th and 10th (and Fringe Sunday).

This is a whirlwind 30-minute show from the Manchester-based quartet, making a return to the Fringe. I made no attempt to count the sketches but I doubt if one was longer than a minute and some were just seconds long. This gave an intensity to show - KB don't wait for audience applause, that would slow the ride.

The writing is crisp, the performances are wholly committed and the show is delivered with confidence and energy. KB use a soundtrack and the choreography is spot-on. I was touched that young people such as KB knew about Norman Greenbaum and worked Spirit in the sky into the mix.

The sheer relentlessness and pace of the show meant that no real characters emerged to love or to hate - perhaps with the exception of the drug-dealing teacher. I would have liked to have got to know some people in the sketches a bit better.

The show contains some blasphemy, 'language', may offend the middle-classes (but not you) and has some recommendations for the cosmetic use of semen. Targets include Pippa and Clegg - so no one is going to object to that.

Keith Savage


Elis James

Underground Venues, 14th July 2011

Elis James is a regular on the Buxton Fringe and each year his profile is rising, now with a regular slot on Nick Hancock's Radio Five show 'The Back End of Next Week' and an upcoming appearance on Dave TV (he's very nervous about it). This time he was previewing his new show for Edinburgh.

As a preview the show was a bit shambolic but James is affable company and was able to keep a friendly audience onside through the occasional fluffed gag and check of his notebook. His style is rambling autobiographical anecdotage and there's some good material in there as he moves from his childhood in South Wales to his first steps as a stand-up comic.

Elis mined his childhood for stories about misdemeanours in the swimming pool, problems with boiled sweets and his first kiss at the Christian Youth Club, set off with perfect shared cultural references - Um Bongo, Cagney and Lacey. An image of unfortunate ineptitude was played up to in tales about paint-balling while under the weather and a bizarre confrontation with Jim Rosenthal. He was slightly discomfited by a young child at the front of the audience, but I thought he handled it well; perhaps he should take Megan to Edinburgh as his sidekick?

As a show it will be much more polished when it reaches that other Fringe but tonight went down well and in fact the end of the show turned into a bit of a workshop as he elicited audience feedback on the material and discussed different ways of telling the stories. Perhaps I should have written it all down and that could've been the review...

Steve Walker

MAGIC? REALLY? - The Wizards of Odd

The Wizards of Odd | Magic? Really?

Well yes, but mainly comedy. Hapless and haphazard magic provides the background for comic routines.

Jonti and Aaron are an engaging couple of fools who happen to be quite good at magic but play it for laughs. The opening routine is clever and messy and in fact the stage gets messier and messier as the show progresses. A lot of the effect is achieved through quick-fire interplay between the two and here the Barrel Room, often ideal for magic and/or comedy, lets them down. The lack of space and a rake means that one's head can be positioned to see one of the performers between those in front but not both so impact is lost. It might be possible to arrange the seats to mitigate this.

Their version of the centuries old linking rings trick claims a Guinness record for linking 14 rings so that's another first for Buxton Festival Fringe. More rings would be possible with more participants but would involving the audience give the game away? There is plenty of audience involvement by the way. Seriously comic was the human ventriloquist's dummy routine but the dummy didn't seem to mind. Others were involved in clever mind reading and daft card choosing tricks that looked until the very last minute as if they would be complete failures only to triumph in the end.

All in all a gently entertaining hour. 'Tis a pity there's no matinee, I think kids would love this show.

John Wilson


Isy Suttie | Pearl and Dave

Arts Centre Studio 10th July 2011

Isy Suttie brings her hilarious Edinburgh-bound show to Buxton and inaugurates the Arts Centre Studio in fine style. She's still tweaking it - giving us a glimpse "behind the magician's cloth" as she says - but I would say she has two fully-formed comedy creations in the shape of Dave, a Matlock accountant living with his Mum, and the object of his desires, Pearl.

But before we hear their story we get a glimpse into her own Matlock childhood - how, for example, a day out would entail a trip for a burger in the nearest service station where they'd "watch people go on holiday" and wonder in awe whether they might be going all the way to Derby. The story of how she strikes up a pen-pal relationship with Dave who lives closer than the post box is by turns touching and comic, but we are soon on to Dave's pursuit of Pearl.

Their tale is told mainly through song which can be a tricky medium but Suttie carries it off effortlessly, pinning down the story from their initial meeting in Butlins in 1997 through a reuniting courtesy of Facebook to... well, you'll have to catch her one remaining show on the 23rd July to find out how it goes but from the off we are rooting for the socially inept Dave.

It is a tribute to her assured handling that not only is the relationship believable but Dave is brought brilliantly to life - with gruff voice, motivational asides to self ("come on, Dave!") and assurances that he would easily take on the Gladiator Wolf if it came to a fight.

You would think his quest was hopeless - Pearl lives in Guilford and is married now and has Elgar's Nimrod as her favourite music. But she is searching for something better - a place in which "nobody asks where the iron is or where to put the bins". They progress from Facebook through email ("Smash to mash") and Skype and even meet half way between Matlock and Guildford ("in a pub called the Milford").

In Isy Suttie's hands how this relationship pans out becomes sheer comedy gold - don't miss it!

Dan Osborne


Rosie Wilby  | Rosie's Pop Diary

Underground Venues, 17th July 2011

Rosie Wilby spent the 1990s trying to be a pop star and keeping a diary about it - not a private diary but a regular column in the magazine Making Music. It's now defunct, but I don't think we can blame her for that and at least she's not going to jail. Now a stand-up comic, in which guise she has previously visited the Buxton Fringe, Rosie returns to this era for her new show.

The show takes the form of readings from her diary, commenting on the progress of her career, and singing the songs she wrote at the time. Wilby has a natural rapport with her audience, at ease in talking with them, and countering some unexpected responses well. The humour is self-deprecating, she muses that perhaps some of her titles didn't help - "Boredom", Everything is Wrong" - but the songs played during the show are very good and almost prove a contradiction to the patter. The 90s references are spot on as you'd expect - Tim Henman, Spice Girls - instantly recognisable for those of us that were there, and some funny bitchy references to the other bands around at the time, such as the drummer who joined Elastica.

The show runs the risk of falling between stools, is it comedy with some songs, or songs with some chat? It could do with a little tightening up as there is some loss of impetus towards the end, and Wilby needs to show a little more awareness of her positioning in relation to the screen she uses, there was quite a long period she spent with the Guardian masthead across her face!

This is an enjoyable show with a confident performer and if you remember the nineties music scene you'll find this a treat.

Steve Walker


Teakshow's Twisted Sketches

Teakshow's Twisted Sketches are a mixture of cleaver, witty and occasionally disturbing skits that subvert our perspective of the books we read, films we watch or our life experiences with a simple "What if it was like this..." I was taken through a variety of ideas and warped situations, never knowing what was going to come next which I found vibrant and energetic. Each scene is unrelated to one another however we are brought back to variations on scenes two or three times such as the bird watchers who like birds "in that way" or the classic, romantic, melodrama couple who reflect on how nice it would be to do naughty things, but can't because they live in a world of sexual repression. As an audience member I felt really included with plenty of eye contact and chances to be involved, which wasn't intimidating or embarrassing but fun and cheeky. The gags were articulate and clever in places, particularly the scene in which the headmaster of a school for wizards begins an assembly on a less positive note, after his wife was transformed into a moth in the staff car park. I chuckled as the head warned the "boys at the back" if she is not transfigured back again before their anniversary, letters will be going home.

The props left a lot to be desired, but gave the performance a feeling of play and ridiculousness, I am referring to an electrical brain gadget, used to rid a burly bobby from toff Tourette's, which turned out to be a bicycle helmet and an flashing, spinning hamster ball - brilliant!

The sketches remained very short throughout. The show opened with both actors off stage, attempting to hypnotise the audience, forgetting however that they had left their hypno- spiral at home, because they had been using it as a breadboard. I am glad to say that despite this and the time of night, at no point did my eyes feel heavy, or did I begin to dose off into a deep sleep. Jackie Stirling's weird, wild and wide eyed performance combined with Johnny Hansler's melodramatic and adventurous intensity was a recipe for hilarity. The hard working, experienced actors were fun and imaginative, combining physical comedy in their characterisation with bizarre dialogue and extraordinary scenarios.

Sometimes I found when the scenes were performed again with developed ideas the humour fell in the retelling and the best version had already been told the first time. Perhaps these scenes be restructured, to build up, rather than wind down. The rhythm of show was also a little unvaried, it may have been more gripping if they started slowly and then gradually built to a climax of absurdity, rather than lots of money-shots one after another. Similarly it may have been nice to experience a few longer quality gags and structure the show to fit together more thematically.

Despite this Teakshow's Twisted Sketches is a great show absolutely worth a watch

Sian Dudley