A few of the departing audience bumped into Terry as he was leaving the venue. He shook his head and said, “Sorry, that was a bad gig.” It seems that he’d tried to compress a 90 minute show into an hour with the result that some of the structure and flow was lost.
Well only he knows the truth there. He seems to be an honest man – but also a ‘Recovering Catholic’ – and the sense of guilt and the need to ‘confess’ are an ingrained part of his life. So whilst there might not have been the uproarious laughter we might have expected from this performance, there was plenty to think about. And that isn’t a bad thing is it?
Terry entered robed as an Irish Monsignor casting ‘holy water’ about the place. This did terminal damage to my reviewer’s notepad. Having discarded clerical dress Terry talked for an hour mostly about his childhood and how a Catholic upbringing had left him forever with a sense of guilt (whether he had ever done wrong – or simply had ‘wrong’ thoughts), an inability really to enjoy his success (because it was surely undeserved?) and warped his perception of women (the Mary Magdalene/Virgin Mary dichotomy revealing all women as either whores or virgins).
As an audience we didn’t have to accept Terry’s self-analysis – he maintains that he was simply trying, as honestly as he knows how, to explain the damage that Catholicism has on individuals brought up to believe that they were essentially sinful and dependent on God’s mercy to avoid damnation.
At times this seemed a little one-dimensional as an autobiography. Other influences have been important in his life – his father was a staunch trade unionist and shop steward, for example, and this clearly shaped his worldview. Terry’s account of the pressures to be violent and delinquent in inner city Manchester – where kids would get beaten-up for having skid-marks on their pants at Monday morning swimming lessons – also seems a little one-sided and doesn’t quite explain how he was able to pass the 11-plus and go to grammar school (even if it wasn’t – being a Catholic grammar – such a great place to be as a teenager).
Probably some of the audience were hoping for a bit more on Terry’s life in the world of TV and Radio. Perhaps he’ll come back to Buxton to do the full show – and perhaps do himself justice as he sees it.
A good sized crowd turned out to see Slow Left Arm, who are Mark Rolland and Dom Riley. Despite the name, cricket does not feature in their sketch show but it does suggest the sort of slow, languid and deliberate style the duo are developing.
The show follows a sort of theme, the dysfuntional relationship between what you might think are a mis-matched pair of young men, at least one of whom might be 'somewhere on the spectrum' as they say. The tension between the two as they gently bicker over who does what and when is, as we have seen in many double acts, a central plank of the comedy. This is not altogether a bad thing as we've seen it work so well, and this pair are setting out their stall in the comedy market place.
Mark and Dom take turns to deliver their pieces and for the most part this works well. Their timing is good, even if the occasional fluffed line makes a guest appearance. I especially like the fairy-tales with alternate endings delivered by Dom in a deadpan style. Cake features too, and that can only be a good thing, although you do have to volunteer in order to get some. So be warned.
If I have any criticism, it is that the finale needs to be a little stronger perhaps. Chatting with other audience members afterwards, there was a feeling that this was the weakest part of the show. That said, there are some very nice touches in the show, and the audience enjoyed themselves which is the point isn't it?
Ian Parker Heath
Shakespearience is a hilarious and hugely entertaining piece of comedic theatre, which follows a young woman called Steph’s adventure when she becomes cast ashore in Shakespeare Land. Steph in true Shakespearian fashion disguises herself as a boy called Steve after trying to fend of the amorous advances of Richard III. Throughout the piece Steph encounters Shakespeare’s heroes and villains and becomes caught up in the fight to stop the villains from trying to overthrow Shakespeare the ruler of this land. Three’s Company deliver a piece that is hilarious, entertaining and very clever with the piece’s plot becoming an amalgamation of many of the Bard’s storylines.
Shakespearience is a new piece of writing from Tom Crawshaw and it wonderfully weaves Shakespeare’s memorable characters, plot lines and famous dialogue into 45 minutes. Crawshaw crafts a witty and clever piece where the central character feels as if she is in a Shakespearean play and the audience too feel they are caught up in a Shakespearean plot. The writing is particularly strong when Steph’s speech slowly drifts into iambic pentameter and she begins to sounds as though she’s reciting a soliloquy. This moment is well judged because the audience like Steph become caught up in the extravagant beauty of Shakespeare’s language. It perhaps makes the audience question whether we treat Shakespeare’s language too reverentially instead of allowing it to breathe.
The five cast members in this piece are tremendously funny and a joy to watch. Emma Nixon as ‘Steph’ the piece’s central hero is wonderfully comic with her disbelief and dismay when she is introduced to Shakespeare’s characters one by one. The audience similarly experiences this disbelief because of the appearance of so many famous characters appearing on the same stage at the same time. Nixon’s disgusted expressions as Richard III flirts with Steph are fantastically captured and as an audience member you feel uncomfortable alongside her. Liam Webster as the ultimate villain Iago is comically hilarious to watch especially with his sly delivery and chuckles of delight when suggesting a way to be rid of Shakespeare by accusing his wife of adultery.
With her husky, sultry delivery, Paloma Oakenfold was hilarious as Tamora Queen of the Goths especially when suggesting killing Shakespeare by putting him in a pie. As the moody prince of Denmark, Yaz Al-Shaater's sudden transformation into a lovesick Romeo was wonderful to watch because of his instant infatuation with a cackling and scowling witch played by Chloe Van Harding. The performance by both actors was particularly hilarious to watch because of the exchange of longing glances between Hamlet and the Third Witch.
Overall Shakespearience is a piece that is hugely entertaining and humorous because of the tremendous performances from the cast. The piece is wittily written by Tom Crawshaw and is wonderfully funny. I highly recommend Three's Company’s Shakespearience because it will make you literally cry with laughter.
The Adventure Machine is a genuinely hilarious piece of performance that takes the audience on a magical and marvellously comical adventure to the imaginary world of Crystal Moon. We follow a young girl who leaves her foster home and embarks on a quest with a dwarf named Leslie to slay an evil dragon. The young girl and her new friend Leslie go in search of four pieces of a valuable map in order to defeat the dragon. Three’s Company deliver something here that is not only hilarious but a really engaging and interactive experience for the audience.
Three’s Company made it interactive from the very beginning of the production by handing each audience member a set of cards labelled with the letters A, B and C. We were actively encouraged to hold up one of these cards and this allowed the audience to actually shape the direction of the piece and even name our heroine Philippa after one of the audience members. Three’s Company's decision to have the audience use the cards to determine where the characters would travel to, from a tavern filled with Pirates to a Fairies party, is a wonderful feature in the production. As an audience member I felt that I gained even in a very small way a sense of power over the character’s fate in the piece. This left me feeling entirely immersed and as though I was encountering this world for the first time, just like the young girl whose journey we were following.
The performers gave brilliant comic performances especially Tom Crawshaw, the narrator, who wittily delivered excellent one liners about the evil Queen having extraordinarily powerful vision but still having CCTV installed. These one-liners were fantastic at continually drawing the audience back into the absurdity of the piece. The three performers who became an array of characters from Pirates to Fairies, were excellent at capturing the strangeness and ridiculousness of these characters and the worlds they inhabited such as the Pirates' Tavern. The quick transformations from these bizarre ridiculous characters were wonderful to watch because entire new creations appeared before the audience and it felt like an entirely new experience was being crafted for us each time.
Each time the performers placed their hands into the costume boxes to grab props or clothes, they allowed the audience to engage and become part of this story world that they were shaping in the space in front of us. I found this piece hysterically funny thanks to the performers wonderful characterisations of these ridiculous characters and also the writing that was full of brilliant one-liners and jokes. I highly recommend ‘The Adventure Machine’. It is a piece that will leave you beaming and giggling in equal measure.
Kelly Kingham’s stage persona is a difficult one; neurotic, needy, nervous (and that’s just the ‘n’s). His delivery, too, takes some getting used to. It’s all fits and starts so that the moment a sense of comic momentum is built, he reverts to playing with the microphone stand in awkward silence. It’s clear Kingham is trying out new material for Edinburgh – he says as much – but as an audience you never feel completely at ease; as if you’ve stumbled into an embarrassing confession, or ineptitude, or both.
Kingham, however, is certainly not inept. Although a relatively inexperienced stand-up, he definately has skill. His delivery rescues some hoary old chestnuts and he manages to get good laughs in a difficult early evening slot with a slim audience.
His material, too, is difficult to classify; sometimes he’s old school of the “my wife is so fat …” persuasion, sometimes quite dark and edgy. He did manage to find a new angle on the old cliché of prison bum rape, which in itself suggests a comic with a very original slant on old comedic set-ups.
The problem I had with Kelly Kingham is the same problem I had with Frank Spencer, to whom he has been compared. Both performances, while undoubtedly knowing and skilful, just felt, at times as if one was being asked to laugh at mental illness. On one level it is quite liberating to use depression as a basis for comedy, but on another it can put the audience in the role of the school bully. One is never completely sure whether one is laughing at or with Kelly Kingham. In a performance shot-through with pathos, maybe the bathos of the down-beat ending was a step too far, but it did demonstrate where the audience sympathies lay; wholeheartedly with Kingham.
Maybe Kingham’s acting is too convincing, and thus too unnerving. He did, at times, put me in mind of Gethin Price in Trevor Griffiths’ seminal play, Comedians; all pent up anger and stripping away of comic pretence. I feel were he to wrap the whole act up in a stronger narrative then the persona and character would make more sense because it would have a context to exist in.
This feels very much like a work in progress, and for a man who’s only been doing it for three years that’s not surprising. When Kelly Kingham finally nails his stage persona, drops the old school gags and finds a way to connect on a personal level with his audience, he will be very good indeed, and what’s more, a genuine original. I hope he does make that leap. At the moment, whilst enjoyed by his audience, his likeable presence and excellent delivery is carrying his act.
The difference between an amateur zoo keeper and an actual zoo keeper is purely financial, this zoo keeper does his animal keeping for free. Perhaps incorrectly billed as Comedy (Theatre I'd say), The Amateur Zoo Keeper is a surreal one-man show about a lonely divorcee voluntary zoo keeper who's only friends exist on Facebook. In a bid to create his dream zoo, his animal encounters, all accidental of course, often lead to a hairy run-in or two with the law and subsequently several encounters with various unscrupulous lawyers.
On this occasion the writing by Nick Brelsford was stronger than the performance (also by Nick Brelsford). The show is littered with gems of witty, insightful humour and pitiful tragedy. Unfortunately the show was plagued by nervous energy, possibly down to the first night jitters, but as the show progressed the uneasiness seemed to fade from Brelsford's eyes and mannerisms. On the whole the performance needed more vocal control, many moments were whispered and often internal, followed by abrupt yelling. Brelsford also directed much of the early moments to the floor, again this could be down to nerves.
The show is punctuated by projected slides, which vibrated and wobbled at the start (I think the Old Hall were using the washing machine again) but provided handy visual aids and some very funny and silly gags.
Overall a little more confidence would make this funny, fast and smart script go a long way. There is loads of potential, in the tragically weird life of an amateur zoo keeper.
The theme of family life holds a lot of promise in a comedy show and Bill is a likeable man with a friendly Liverpool accent and his ramblings were mildly entertaining. Bill’s life is certainly complicated - straight out of a Jeremy Kyle show - with children, stepchildren and adopted children in his life. He shares his frustrations and observations by relaying tales of his family and certainly covered a lot of subjects, some of which struck a chord with members of the audience.
There was an element of chit-chat with fashion playing a large part, reflecting on clothes, beards, tattoos and kids names, to name but a few. An amusing tale of a visit to a Disney store was met with some knowing smiles; Bill tried to engage some chatter but many of his comments were politely resisted. This reliance on audience participation let him down as the material wasn’t solid enough to provoke a strong reaction. Another night with an alternative audience may yield different results, but there needs to be more depth, perhaps even controversy to the topics. Bill reflected at the end that he found the show ‘therapeutic’ which was not quite what I expected or how it was billed, but the potential is there.
Underground Venues (further show on 19 July at 7pm)
This was good fun. I think Amadeus enjoyed it; a vocal audience enjoyed it. Though some expressed the thought that actually God created Buxton and the show’s premise was simply wrong. This was a good way to end a long Friday on the Festivals.
This was the premiere performance and even if it wasn’t the slickest show the hard-working Amadeus quickly established a good relationship with the audience which was on his side throughout.
The starting point in the show was Amadeus’ need (many years ago) to explain to his Polish penfriend, Pavel, that Brixton was a safe place to visit. Amadeus has now taken on the task of being an unofficial ambassador for what he believes to be a misunderstood community.
Using some general starting points – history, geography, local residents and so on – Amadeus seeks to persuade us that Brixton has played a long and important role in British life. He makes connections between Sir Walter Raleigh – a Brixton resident – and his own adolescent attempts at impressing a would-be girlfriend. He suggests that [Sir] John Major’s use of a Brixton connection to extend his political appeal to the black working-classes was a trick that David Cameron might borrow. Mischievously Amadeus offered that Cameron would claim to be of mixed race.
In keeping with his self-determined ambassadorial role it is probably true to say that this show will work best beyond the metropolis. Trying to ‘sell’ Brixton presumes that we haven’t already ‘bought’ it.
I never lived in Brixton – but did live nearby. It is a place that I have a lot of respect and affection for. Amadeus suggests that the place should become independent, have its own currency and so on. From memory the usual rules of the road were suspended when it came to driving the local streets. Of course recent ‘gentrification’ of Brixton has started to change the character of the place and the nervousness that some people may have had about going there will gradually evaporate. So in a way this show is about capturing a moment, of a community in transition. But don’t worry too much about that, just enjoy it.
“The good the bad and the unexpected”, does exactly what it says on the tin. The improv comedy set in the Wild West brings gun loads of enthusiasm and energy.
The audience decide much of the background of the plot, including which characters are the good the bad and the troubled, and from there the mayhem beings.
The actors, although a little cautious to begin with, quickly found their step, becoming more dynamic as the piece progressed. But it was the energy between the actors, including the quick firing witty dialogue which was where the laughs could be found. The sound effects throughout were also a nice touch- check out the saloon doors- and the characters Dakota and Miss George were especially strong.
I was a little disappointed that the audience participation was restricted to just the start of the piece and the Mid West accents didn’t always survive the adlibbed script, but if you want an easy chuckle and some good sound silliness, I would recommend this show.
The Market Place (venue 99)
Sit yourself down and fasten you seat belt, oh that's right you haven't purchased one yet! Welcome to the world of Trans World Air Tours or, well you know the acronym don't you? Budget airlines give you so much more don't they and Claire Cogan tells us so.
This is just one of the set pieces she brings to The Loft in the Market Place to liven up the Fringe. Punchy and observant she had many members of the audience shaking with laughter throughout her charachter driven show. It is in that style so associated with Ms Grenfell and not a series of 'gags' linked together. I especially liked the 'local' touch with 'A Leprechaun Abroad' and you will believe a leprechaun can use a zip wire. I didn't fully get the Eurovision section, but not being a devotee of that and teenage pop is just something I'll have to live with.
Coming in at around 40mins the show is just about the right length and the mix of material is good and very well presented by Claire. I'd happily go see her again next year and I'm sure last night's audience would too. She's on again tonight (19th) so get on up to The Loft for some Saturday night fun!
Ian Paker Heath
Where does she get her energy from? Lolie Ware from the start of the show envelops you in her motherly, teacher arms.
A diminutive, fulsome (more of that later) figure in a red flowered dress and with orangey-coloured hair, she just starts talking.
Although larger than life, she immediately disarms us by passing through the audience a picture of her dad who has Alzheimers and for whom she has been caring/nursing for six years.
Her mother, for whom she also now cares, travels with her on her show dates - Edinburgh, USA etc. We learn that she broke her spine whilst falling off a stair lift (no names no pack drill), is shacked up in a Buxton B&B and will be in the front row on Saturday night.
Now this might not sound like a barrel of laughs, but Lolie's over-the-fence chat is full of gentle humour and sometimes flamboyant language to emphasise a point. Her props consists of a wheelchair - which is presumably why her mother is tucked up in the B&B for the night - dolled up in lights, a side table, a photo of her dad and an award - I think for best comedy carer!
Lolie tells us that she get a mixed reaction to her shows - positive comments from some of her NHS audience as well as some brickbats from others who feel she should be at home with her charges. As she says, she works for charity and makes no money from spreading the word that there are many good people caring, nay! saving money, for the nation by providing their love and attention.
I happen to know what she does in her spare time - she has acquired a radio station in Staines providing show music during the day and comedy in the evening and she also writes a blog and has 1,000 followers. So if it ain't for money what is it for then? A love for her parents and the human spirit and a desire to show that a girl who is a carer can also be sassy and fun. I left the Arts Theatre feeling oh how I would like to be folded into those ample bosoms of care.
Currently riding high on Radio 4’s It’s a Fair Cop and bound for Edinburgh with this latest show, Alfie Moore is an assured comedian whose 18 years’ stint as a police officer in Scunthorpe has given him plenty of comic material as well as natural authority on stage.
There is nothing bumptious about him however. On the contrary he is rather self-deprecating, exposing the gap between his fantasy cop life modelled on that of maverick detective Andy Sipowicz from NYPD Blue and his prosaic actual career, hemmed in by acronym-ed rules and regulations and endless training courses in politeness.
Contrary to the impression given by TV shows, most police work is not about solving murders and Alfie’s cases have included a spate of knicker thefts and, the subject of this show, a serial flasher described as wearing nothing but a shower cap. As he points out, that really was all the description he needed but police procedure and jargon required a non-threatening and politically correct code to sum up his ethnicity – Alfie jokes that IC3 means ‘Orange Essex’.
As a species, Alfie points out, the flasher is far from necessarily harmless, his actions hinting at worse to come when he finds the courage, so Alfie’s pursuit is relentless, but frustratingly it is not so easy to secure a conviction. In Friday night’s show, I think some of Alfie’s genuine exasperation spilled out with the result that towards the end he either lost his train of thought or was caught unawares by his own emotion. My hunch is that it was the latter – for all the gags, I think he really cares about the work carried out by beleaguered police and though this commitment was good to see, it sometimes got in the way of the comedy.
Overall though, this was an enjoyable and revealing night out and there were plenty of laughs to be had as Alfie’s deliberately meandering set covered anomalies of the law such as the fact that a 15-year-old is not allowed to buy a gold fish without an adult present, yet can shoot it, catch it with a rod or eat it at a restaurant no problem. I also liked his account of a police interview with a spiritualist and the awkward moment when she was required for the tape to provide assurance that there was no-one else in the room.
You can catch Alfie again at Underground Venues on July 24 (8.30pm) and July 26 (10pm) and I would suggest booking as last night’s show was pretty packed out.
In the finest traditions of the Cambridge Footlights Review, The Dead Secrets troupe of two girls and three guys performed very cleverly written sketches with dramatic interpretation and romantic sensitivity. This was a case of the 3Rs: Random, Random and Random. There was no chance of being bored as the show flicked from one absurdity to another, each as charming and unconnected as the next.
To give a flavour of the content would give away the show’s allure and the cast’s charisma, but I breach no secrets if I simply ask things like, “How should someone properly deal with an unexploded cake?” or “I’ve just invented the bullet-proof vest with only two unfortunate fatalities, what else could possibly go wrong?”
They were slick with the interchanges between sketch and occasional video input. Also, they were tuned-in, well-turned out and t’riffic in delivery. The historical interpretations (real and mostly imagined) provided bizarre backdrops to scripted comedy of the highest quality.
Put reality on hold, suspend belief and immerse yourself in their next show. Your badly behaved inner-child will love you for it!
Caimh (pronounced “Queeve” and definitely not “Kame” or “Kevin!”) had certainly done his local research and found out just how important cycling had been to the area because Le Tour de France passed it by. As it happened, only half of those who had bought tickets to the show turned up for it. Undeterred, he displayed his comedy bravery and let rip on the unsuitable use of Lycra, thus potentially alienating half of those who bothered to show up – including Jill the Cycling Instructor and the two cycle tourists on the front row! His gamble and charm paid off, audience revolt avoided and entertainment started.
Ostensibly the show was about moving South, from Manchester to London, but his style and range of subject took the White-Haired Irishman (a passable human pint of Guinness in his black outfit) through a comedy glossary of daft and funny things, eminently bonkers and laugh-out-loud mad.
It was not a slagging-off of the South of England, nor a rant about “us” and “them,” but a vocal tour down there and back at ninety miles an hour. He’s sure that Ipswich doesn’t really exist and that Lord Lucan and Shergar are probably hiding out in the lesser populated parts somewhere nearby.
In a show not advised for kids, Caimh was a whirlwind of spellbinding gaggery diluted only by the charmingly soft Irish tones while spinning and counter-spinning silly recollections about a mugging, moving-in, mounted Police and Modern Parenting (the 1950’s Guide to).
This show and its delivery is so fast, if you don’t move equally speedily, you’ll probably miss it before it sets Edinburgh alight.
Appropriately enough the sound of The Ramones’ 1980 hit This Is Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio usher us in to Roland Gent’s show. The 50’s American nostalgia as depicted in the song, though, seems a million miles removed from contemporary community radio, and not just geographically.
Roland Gent tells his autobiographical story as a journey, a journey from darkness into light; from discordant sound to rock ‘n’ roll radio.
A huge, likeable presence, Gent, at first seems nervous, which it is at odds with his physicality, emphasised as it is by his hooped t-shirt and very low ceiling. The paucity of the audience may account for his nervousness, but he never makes the mistake of blaming those who turned up for it being a small house. He is an inclusive comic, making sure that everyone is involved and having a good time. Several times he checks that his audience are comfortable with filth; it’s just as well they say ‘yes’ because filth comprises some of his best material. There is unalloyed joy in hearing (once again) the Today programme mispronouncing the name of the then Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. Gent trumps that with equally hilarious examples from Radios 2 and 5.
Stand up is, quite possibly, the hardest of all the performing arts because it relies on a degree of personal exposure; of establishing an instant relationship and rapport based on your own personality. Thankfully, Roland Gent’s personality is both likeable and very funny; and for all the bluster and swearing you sense there is a genuine empathy with those who have no escape from the depressing Salford estates where the community radio station is based.
What Gent does is create a temporary community out of his audience, and that temporary community celebrate together tiny victories as the Daily Express, Cabinet ministers, and various other powerful institutions are shown up for what they are. We are united in our ridicule; it may not change the world, but it makes us feel better.
So, if you have a spare 45 minutes go and see Roland Gent’s show. He deserves to been seen by more people; this would be electric with a full house. Providing you’re not offended by words that rhyme with sock, duck and hunt, you’ll be in for a liberating and uproariously comical evening.
Incidentally, doesn’t Max Clifford’s Tiny Penis sound like the name of one of those post-punk bands John Peel used to have in session on his show?
The thing I expected from this show, given the title, was a bloke with a twiddly moustache, cravat, and waistcoat sitting with a glass of whisky lamenting something along the lines of; “Ahh, yes, women. Funny things, aren’t they? Oh, go on then, they can have the vote. It’ll keep them quiet.” Luckily, I was actually completely wrong for once. The show comes in the form of an hour of very lovely, very funny stand-up comedy from a man who seems to be a much nicer version of Boris Johnson, that doesn’t spout Latin in answer to questions he doesn’t have an actual response to, but that does use a lot of ‘alienating’ cricket metaphors.
Andrew Watt’s advice is not aimed at women. He states at the beginning “I’m a middle aged, white man. I have nothing for you.” The advice is for the men (hence the show’s title.) I should point out that this doesn’t mean the show isn’t extremely entertaining for both genders, it’s just extremely refreshing to listen to a man who understands women are perfectly happy getting on with their lives without any extra criticism. He goes to great lengths to ensure there is nothing misogynistic in his routine, and that he doesn’t generalise women, although much of his work is aimed towards the heterosexual type. The result is a rather apologetic version of much of Caitlin Moran’s books.
He explains the ups and downs of being married to, and having a baby with, a Professional Feminist through cricket and physics metaphors, coming across like a nervous science teacher trying to get a good Ofsted report. Much of his humour comes through taking extreme or bizarre situations and normalising them. He’s a good mix of slightly angry and slightly confused. His work is well written and relatable. He’s not here to police women; he’s here to stop men from being totally stupid.
Although he occasionally seems to take the struggle of women to be his own struggle, he doesn’t treat women as fragile. A lot of jokes come from his attempts to simply stay out of women’s way while they pave the way forward themselves. My main worry, as a raging feminist, is that at some point he might hit his head on the ceiling. He’s really, really tall.
His work is good, solid observational comedy with the right amount of ranting. Recommended to any men who aren’t quite ready for Germaine Greer, and any women who really want a bit of a giggle at the expense of the patriarchy.
I loved this show.
So what’s in it? Well getting a date of death obviously, but you have to wait a while for that. Before that there’s that Phil Collins, not the actual one, but you hear snippets of songs and learn of his role in the low point of Nathan’s life. There are other comedians too . . . are they better or is it that they just sell more tickets? No bitterness there then. There’s more of course, and it is all woven together into a great evening’s entertainment.
From the contrived opening to its sentimental closing this show is full of ideas, wit and work. Nathan has clearly put a lot of time and effort into this and it shows. His timing is spot-on, and has enough confidence in his work to go with some improv en-route – especially if you’ve been to see an improv show just before seeing him.
Destined for that other Fringe, there is one more chance to catch Nathan (13th) and this is the best thing I’ve seen at this year’s Fringe. There’s also the offer of £5 to members of the audience at the end of the show. What’s not to like?
Did I say I loved this show?
Ian Parker Heath
Maxine Jones is on a mission – to become visible again after living for a quarter of a century (sounds longer that way doesn’t it?) as an exile and mum in Ireland.
Unappreciated by those around her (male children) and those she left behind (erstwhile husband) Maxine decided it was time to strike out for the territory occupied by normal people (er . . . men?) and stake a claim on her life again.
From challenges such as finding just the right card for Mother’s Day, through no to Christmas with tinsel and lights and on to an encyclopaedic knowledge of Lidl’s stock and aisle arrangement she raises questions and issues around gender roles in a gentle yet probing way – asking nicely ‘why do we put up with it?’ The ‘we’ in this case is invariably women as men are the ones who create these conditions.
A wry, and yes gentle comedy show which is more R4 than C4. The audience loved it and it was almost a full-house in the Barrel Room to boot. You can catch ‘Invisible Woman’ without the aid of special specs at the same venue until the 16th.
Ian Parker Heath
At the end of their show Mr Morgan and Mr West specifically asked that should we recommend their ‘Parlour Tricks’ to our friends, urging them to attend the event for their personal amusement and amazement – rather than relying on the reporting of others, that may be unreliable or untrustworthy in some way – then our encouragement and endorsement should come without precise elaboration with regard to what it was that we saw or may have heard.
In 21st century language – though you will understand and appreciate, it is to be hoped, and this revelation does in no way breach our solemn vow and pledge to Mr West and Mr Morgan not to reveal in any detail what it was that we saw, heard or in any other way sensed during the course of the hour (if indeed it was an hour) that we shared in their company – this report should contain no ‘spoilers’.
So we say this – by way of inducement – in the hope that you feel that your acquaintance with Mr Morgan and Mr West should prove to be a valuable and exciting experience as, indeed, it was for many of us this night: we say, expect to see scissors, watches, ribbon, lamps and silhouettes. More we dare not say for we are ladies and gentlemen – and we keep our word to the gentlemen who so plainly are Mr West and Mr Morgan.
Mr West and Mr Morgan are also available for your education and entertainment in the Pavilion Gardens on the afternoon of 13 July as part of an event entitled Fringe Sunday.
There is nothing more we can do than to urge that you avail yourself of this final opportunity this Buxton Festival Fringe to witness for yourself the magic – that is witty, polished and provides considerable amazement – of the time-travelling duo called Mr Morgan & Mr West.
Full of confidence Ruth E Cockburn happily announces herself from the back of the room and then sashays down between the tables to the stage. She is very personable, warm and disarming with her current material and reminds me of a young Julie Walters with fizz.
This is an ideal artist for the fringe because if you want to see a performer just before she has made it, beginning to make her way in her career and trying to find out what works for her then see this artist.
She is obviously still working out as to whether she should present herself as a clever comedy singer/songwriter with good stories foremost or as a talented story teller, with plenty of scope to further develop characters - like her mother - that also sings clever comedy songs. I enjoyed her and so did the audience. Watch this space!
Fringe regular Gary Coleman brings us another slice of dysfunctional tales that are modern life. Dogs, children, families, marriage, misinterpreting game-playing and more all come in for a spot of chuntering.
As Gary warned us, the show is still being fine-tuned for that other Fringe of which we shall speak no more, but on this evidence there isn’t too much more to do – unless of course he’s holding something back! The show moved along at a good pace and was delivered confidently despite his slight misgivings. The audience clearly enjoyed themselves and gave as good as they got!
Giving you the jokes/material in detail now would mean you wouldn’t need to go along for yourself, so I won’t. What I will say is that get down to the Barrel Room and have some fun! Gary’s back on the 16th and 23rd so make a date.
Ian Parker Heath
Having been introduced to the Buxton Fringe Festival through the Barrel of Laughs show some 2 years previous, I was full of excitement and anticipation about recreating that first wonderful experience, and the evening did not disappoint. Taking place once again in the magically atmospheric Barrel Room of the Underground Venues, Barrel of Laughs provides an opportunity for some of the Fringe Acts to showcase their material and entice viewer to their show.
Glancing around the room prior to commencement, it was clear to see that the audience was made up ofa variety of individuals from different age groups, this lead me to mentally set the challenge for the evening ‘Oh you have your work cut out for you’ I thought ‘find something to make each and every one of us chuckle’ At which point our enthusiastic compere Tom bounded on stage. Although I cringed a little upon hearing one of the Buxton jokes, which I remember for 2 years previous, Tom quickly redeemed himself with a series of witty quips which suitably warmed up crowd for the first act. To Be Continued an improvisation act, drew the short straw as first act of the evening, however they provided a great introductory act full of enthusiasm, animation and of course humour.
Swiftly following was John Cooper, a more traditional stand up act from the North East. After the high velocity act of To Be Continued, John’s entrance was a little subdued but despite a couple of terrible heckles John quickly moved into his act with a little ditty followed by tales from his everyday life. John soon had the audience lapping up his jokes and I personally felt like I was “down my local” with an old friend, filling me in on his hilarious week. John has an ease and relatability about him which makes him extremely watchable. Concluding the first half was Oliver Meech, whose eye catching promo posters I’d glimpsed in the bar prior to the show. Oliver bounded on stage conducting a lot of flailing and quickly began his act with a little cheesy joke, this unfortunately served the opposite purpose than intended but this was quickly recovered as Oliver moved onto what he does best - magic. Utilising audience participation to enhance his show, Oliver performed some rather impressive tricks and provided a great alterative to traditional stand up.
The second half opened with Ruthie Cockburn and her guitar. Ruthie, another traditional stand up has an air of Caroline Aherne or Zoe Ball about her. Providing good honest working class girl humour,Ruthie uses songs to add a different dimension to her shows. Ruth managed to engage with the audience quickly and with great ease and at certain points within her act had audience members snorting withlaughter. Concluding the bill was another North East fellow Gary Coleman. Unlike Ruth, John took a little while to acclimatise to the room but was in his stride within mere moments. As the laughs began to reverberate around the cellar Gary’s confidence began to grow and the whole audience were soon jiggling in their seats with laughter. Gary’s real life observational humour provided him with a great opportunity to draw upon the audiences own experiences and despite some rather uncooperative interaction Gary did not falter providing a great whistle stop introduction into his very humorous life.
I began my Friday evening with excitement and anticipation and after 5 acts and 1.5 hours of grinning like Crack Whore Barbie (Ruthie’s word not mine) a rather sore jaw, surely there can be no higher accolade for a comedy night? A great show to kick start the weekend.
When I left my first ever experience of Improv two years ago, I can’t exactly say that I was blown away. However, on this first occasion I wasn’t entirely aware of the concept and I will be honest, I didn’t quite “get it”, so I thought I should give it another bash, and boy I’m glad I did!
Peter, Paul, Eric and Nicola who make up Absolute Improv are clearly seasonal professionals at what they do. Throughout the show they took us (The audience) on a whirlwind Improv adventure, travelling the world and experiencing a series of wonderfully peculiar scenarios and meeting a cast of eccentric characters.
Absolute Improv is a high energy, fast paced act where the performers seem to be just as surprised by the unexpected twists and turns of the show as the audience. Obviously with Improv it is difficult to endorse all future shows, as each will be different to the next, however these guys have series of brilliantly imaginative and varied foundation sketches which will undoubtedly provide entertaining results on most occasions. Perhaps Absolute Improv won’t have you rolling around in the aisles with laughter but is will have you thoroughly gripped and entertained for the entirety of the show. An ‘Absolute’ Fringe gem. As long as this show continues to return to the Fringe, I shall continue to be a fixture within their audience.
Sold -Out! Oh the power of the internet! Oliver Meech's show was once again a sell-out that beguiles neh! bamboozles Buxton once again. The excitement and expectation from the audience was palpable. On his third successful return part of the audience was lead by a teacher from Manchester, who had seen Oliver on UTube, which was his rationale for booking some of his class into the show. Oliver has obviously been a teacher himself at one point and had all the likeability, appeal and skill to control what could have become a very vocal interactive audience. He had them on the edge of their seats with interest. If this was the first live professional show they had ever seen then this augurs well for the them as future show-goers.
You can just see Oliver as another Brian Cox personality on the box.
There is no need for me to tell you what his show consists of apart from magic, jokes, memory feats, clever mechanics and of course 'moving forward in time'. The whole show which includes audience participation moves along at a fast clip. One word of warning don't try one of his physics examples at home, which includes a jar of rice and a drumstick, unless you have a handy dustpan and brush ready. The show is magic or as they say in the street markets “watch me hands very carefully - they never leave my wrists!”
You never really know what to expect as a Fringe reviewer, descriptions in programmes can be misleading on occasions. This is, however, one of those shows that ‘does what it says on the tin’. Cats and pictures of cats is what you get. Pictures of cats – cute cats, sad cats, angry cats, weird cats, love cats – they were all there and had the audience ooooing and ahhhhhing.
With ne’re a glance to T S Eliot, John Cooper leads you gently through some episodes of his life in which cats have played a part, and quite frankly, some where they haven’t. Don’t worry though, because they do re-appear very quickly, sometimes coming to the rescue of their ‘owner’ (and I use that word advisedly).
In much the same way as there is a popular dog vs cat divide, John answers this and raises the ante with kids vs no kids. Now I’m not a cat person as my wife will attest. We have a brood of four, and I seemed to be in a minority in the Barrel Room last night surrounded as I was by cat lovers but I didn’t fear for my life!
The show moves along easily and the audience go with the flow and have a good time. If you like cats this is the one for you, and if you don’t there’s still something for you too. Enjoy.
Ian Parker Heath
A plausible and entertaining character who draws you in through awkward introductions and fumbled stories, utilising a small space to create moments of absurdity compounded by a perplexed audience.
You’re in a cellar with a man dressed as a spinster librarian who punctures his act with mimes of a rabbit eaten by a fox, surrounded by an audience who aren’t quite sure what’s going on; you’re going to end up laughing!
Sometimes you’re unsure as to why you’re laughing, but you are! Perhaps it is due to the mixture of earnest character and subtle humour, which subtly weaves Poetry and Spoken Word moments into the comedy. Then again it may be the enjoyment that comes from watching an audience’s reserved and puzzled reaction to a character who revels in drawn out silences.
This is an attempt to reach the comedy gold of catharsis, where your laughter subsides to reveal a glimpse of raw openness. The cry for empathy and pathos was there, but perhaps not fully realised as at times you could see these moments coming. It would have held more impact, perhaps, for such moments to strike an audience numb in the midst of their laughter.
The asides and indirect comments held greater impact than the obvious humour such as the CD slip, and some of the timing of the tap dance with eye contact that held expectation, which at times was predictable.
So many subtleties within the character are oddly drawn together in the tap dance at the end, which seems to represent a sort of regression, a tipping point between comedy and pity that reveals an insightful character study of the ignored child of detached parents.
The thing is you all know Ms Samantha Mann in some capacity. You work with her, or perhaps she was the aunt you were forced to spend afternoons with, and although you laugh at her dithering ridiculousness, you come away wondering about her life and the disappointments and great losses she has endured.
You may also leave wondering how would Ms Mann deal with a more boisterous audience? Is there an edge? Does there need to be an edge? Certainly in my experience certain self-assured members of the audience were quickly, and amusingly unknowingly, cut down by the wry tongue hidden behind the bad perm. But maybe on the whole the audience avoids derision because they personally know the character from their own life—His character becomes so believable that you cannot bear to offend her.
In this, his debut solo pre-Edinburgh show, Simon adds to his inner demons with a few dates at Buxton’s Fringe. Not only is it a time to try out his material, it provides the perfect opportunity to get to know the dark side of audience participation.
With a personal welcome to all present, Simon charms and squirms his way through a rollercoaster of confusion about just what he has become..or at least that is how he views himself when looking back. He’s good at some things, like painting a visual sketch or re-telling a life event in glorious detail, but accepts that he’s not so good at loads of more important things like relationships and commitment.
This tech-savvy show is steeped in OHPs, flipcharts, histograms and even a space invader. It charges around at breakneck pace, occasionally to the detriment of the joke (probably burning hot with anxiety being solo and debut). Charming and engaging, Simon soon settles to his chosen task of delving into his personal issues and why he considers himself bad at dealing with the majority of them.
This is very much “toilet humour” and is deffo not for the kids, but it is a giggle-friendly fun romp from birth to present day through comedy meltdown. There’s even a couple of songs and a serenade or two.
Is Simon worried about his obsessions and their impact on his future life? You bet! His demons may be winning, but the game is not over yet. See how he aims to win them over in this comedy frolic through the difficulties of growing up.
This show is in the comedy section – and that is the right place for it. This review is unlikely, however, to focus overmuch on the comedic elements of Alastair’s show.
Some starting points: Alastair is 23, he was born and grew up in Grantham (home of Margaret Hilda Roberts AND Sir Isaac Newton). He studied politics and philosophy in Liverpool – the city where he now lives. He first voted in 2010 and was persuaded that Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats had the policies he most agreed with. He now feels betrayed. But he still thinks that voting is something we should do (contrary to Russell Brand) – but who can we vote for? Alastair has comedy heroes – one of whom is Stewart Lee.
Your reviewer is nearly 61. He first joined the Labour Party in 1974. Resigned in 2003 (after Bliar declared an illegal war on Iraq). He rejoined in 2010. Voted for Ed Miliband to lead the Labour Party and was elected to High Peak Borough Council in 2011. At times he also feels let down and disappointed by political leaders and wishes that voting seemed more significant. One of his comedy heroes is Stewart Lee.
Many people say they don’t vote because politicians break promises, can’t be trusted, and are corrupt or don’t understand ordinary people. Political satirists play on this and reinforce our doubts about the political process. As a result, in part, fewer of us vote. [In 1950 over 80% of the electorate voted at the British general election. The figure next year will be nearer 65%]. A further consequence is the rise in the ‘protest’ vote – some will interpret the vote for UKIP this year as a desperate gesture rather than a vote of confidence in a party with just one policy.
So, what is to be done? [This is for Alastair – 85%, 15% or much less?]. Well perhaps our politicians need to be more human. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage might be pompous buffoons and upper-middle class asses (alright, they ARE those things) but their frailties (adulterous relationships and a reliance on drink) make them human, just like us. Cameron, Clegg and Miliband somehow seem fake and artificial. Where is their ordinary humanity?
In the strongest part of his show Alastair Clark argues as follows: all adult men masturbate, therefore David Cameron masturbates. Mrs Cameron knows that David does so, she says, why don’t you tell everyone “I am a wanker”? It would show that you are human.
I think we know the answer to Mrs Cameron’s hypothetical question. I like Alastair and I want this show to be a success. I admire his determination to tackle a subject that most comedians refuse to take seriously. I do wonder if this joke isn’t funny anymore.
Further shows 17 & 20 July at Underground Venues
The small compact stage in the Barrel Room was covered in plastic sheeting, reminiscent of a scene from ‘Dexter’, I feared for the worst. Just what was in store for us? Well, and evening with a couple of characters created by Joe was off and running.
We were treated to a pair of creations who made the audience laugh and wonder quite how they came into being. First up was perhaps the reincarnation of Mrs Bates – yes that Mrs Bates. If you are uncertain about your grammar skills then beware, she will find you out and you could be sorry.
Morgan though is the star of the show and specialist pet bereavement counselling has a new star. With his unique background (rabbits did for Morgan what the She-wolf did for Romulus and Remus) Morgan offers support as you’ve never seen before. With a hapless victim, sorry, recently bereaved member of the audience, Morgan shows how his Bafrican (yes it’s a new one on me too) heritage melds cultures together to help resolve grief. Well, that’s the theory!
Everything moved along at a good pace and the climax, I use the word advisedly, of the event had people in tears. This is a show that had the audience laughing out loud, but be warned – you are expected to join in; if you don’t then it won’t work. The show is Edinburgh-bound but you can catch it twice more here in Buxton. Everyone had a good time, including Joe and for that we should thank him.
Ian Parker Heath
Direct from the recent great Yorkshire start of the Tour de France comes Scott Bennett's tour de- his Yorkshire father Roy.
Young fresh faced Scott bounds onto the stage to give us, in an hour of high energy, the full and I do mean full history of his family's upbringing by his father Roy. Including all Roy's peccadillo's with regard to being a canny Yorkshire man when it comes to piling it high at a Carvery. We were regaled with Roy's skill of mounding the perimeter of a carvery plate with a wall of sausages leading to the eventual vertical tower of broccoli in the middle. In fact during his current theatre tour Scott has built up a loyal group of carvery tweeters. You can even tweet young Scott @scottibee with pictures of your carvery plate creations. Presumably he is going to publish a photo book on the subject.
Until last night, I did not know there were so many ways of finding humour from ones mother and father. Obviously I was brought up wrong. One elderly gentleman, who from the way he laughed, I first thought was Roy, but later turned to be an ordinary paying customer was heard to remark to his wife of 34 years? ( or was that when my hearing aid gave out! ) "E that were better than you can see on the telly"
Next show 21st July 2014 at Underground Venue (10) 9pm -10pm
The trio ( two men and a 'woman' ) rush on to stage looking like they have been or are heading for their public school Gym. I make mention of their black shorts and white tennis shirt tops as that is the maximum amount of colour ( except the language ) you will be able to feast your eyes on. Three chairs and the minimum of number props if you exclude (did I or did I not see?) one of the three's private parts, accompany the mad dash fun.
Constantly keeping you off balance, the consummate actors race through their funny, weird, short vignettes. Their energetic acting intensity is full on and one is amazed to find that a full hour has slipped by. You are forced to listen intently to catch some of the the punch lines whilst the material seems to arrive in no logical order. Ah you think now I get it, but immediately they will throw you off balance with a non-logical passage of humour. I and the audience enjoyed it and I would certainly see their show again as you get the feeling no two shows are the same!
And in fact they have a second show on 22nd July, 7.30pm at Underground Venues.
A guilty pleasure … I’m something of a Eurovision Song Contest fan – in all its gaudy, camp, weird glory. And pretty much every year at some point in the show there appears a glamorous Eastern European torch singer, belting out something unintelligible with the utmost seriousness and sincerity. And such a performer is Russian chanteuse Sharnema Nougar, the star of His and Hers Wild Vaudeville. Imperious of bearing, bedecked in a red, sparkly, low-cut dress, Sharnema enters the room as if she owns it – which indeed she does. Whether playing the ukulele, singing Elkie Brooks numbers, or producing kitchen implements – unfeasibly – from her tight-fitting gown, Sharnema is every inch the star of the show. This is a brilliantly sustained comic creation.
She is abetted by Leo Conville, luxuriant or hair, leather of trouser, who acts as her back-up singer, special effects man and warm-up act. Leo’s at his best when on stage with Sharnema – including a very strange, slightly Kafka-esque monologue about turning into an insect; he’s a little at sea on his own, particularly in his operatic exchanges with the audience … it’s always hard to get audience participation out of a sober crowd – expecting them to respond in song is pretty much impossible.
Ultimately, however, this is Sharnema’s show and she holds the audience in the palm of her hand, as surely as three of them struggle to carry her in one of this likeable show’s most memorable moments.