After an hour with Abi Roberts, I found out more about her private life than I know about some of my closest friends. And that’s what she’s all about. Body parts and bodily functions feature prominently in her script and she’s certainly not shy about sharing stories of her sexual exploits with strangers. This show is most definitely one for adults.
The subject matter stayed at the ‘down town’ level for most of the show, concluding in a countdown of Abi’s wildest and most explicit stories with one in particular drawing gasps from the Buxton audience. But for me, it is her diversions into impressions and songs where Abi’s talents lie. Ranging from Sandi Toksvig to Liam Neeson plus a vocal take on a jazz instrumental, these segments were funny without the shock factor.
Abi is full of energy and her candid style worked well in the intimate surroundings of the Barrel Room. She created a good connection with the audience, even managing to get the small and fairly reserved crowd scatting and singing.
If no holds barred tales of sexual exploits tickle you, then why not spend a night downtown with Abi.
The folks at To Be Continued… are becoming Buxton Fringe regulars and that's good news! This year it is the turn of Peter, Caroline, Mark and Eric to give us hours of fun!
The premise of improv is, well, you know that already. What you get are four accomplished players who are excellent at working with the audience and their suggestions however weird they might be, including a cow as a murder weapon! Fast and furious action and reaction is the name of the game and TBC don't disappoint.
They have a number of devices/games which help of course, such as the 3 headed conversation, which I suspect is how many customer service teams work… and 'sculpting' which seemed to really get the audience laughing! The level of fun is high and so is the audience participation, so be prepared.
TBC have been called 'nonsense-mongers', I'd have to agree with that, this is pure nonsense and absolute fun. The team are back over the weekend and I recommend you get yourself down to seem them a.s.a.p.
Ian Parker Heath
Andrew Watts is a likeable, posh, 40 something ex-lawyer from Devizes (the Buxton of Wiltshire) with intelligence, wit and charm. This show features him over- analysing the ridiculous conundrums of modern parenting, in particular the competitive elements and the “many-layered guilt”, as he talks about looking after his 18 month old son in middle-class south London.
Watts is an engaging performer, with an interesting take on modern family life. He is, by his own admission, a bit of a geek who loves to research – first dating, then parenting - in books and on the internet; he is a spreadsheet lover who knows a lot of interesting stuff, which he works really effectively into his comedy. He pokes fun at the sort of committed, educated parent who goes on web forums and chat rooms – anxious, slightly older first-time parents like himself.
Watts opens by demonstrating to the audience how the simple whoopee cushion has been replaced by a battery powered gadget that plays a multitude of sounds. Now he carries a photo of his son in the wallet where his condoms used to be. He worries about doing the right thing and observes that the first 3 crucial years of a child’s development are, ironically, the years that no-one can remember.
There is a lot of excellent material in this show – from dating, gender stereotypes to marriage and middle-age. I especially enjoyed comments on New Zealand hecklers (who shout in agreement) and the idea of parenting “as chaos theory”. I liked the observation that while many excellent sportsmen are September babies, many comedians are born in August. Watts definitely had the audience on his side with his self-deprecating observations and insights. The show moves from being an exploration of the kind of parent Watts wants to be, to moving reflections on his relationship with his own father (who sadly died of cancer) – the sort of sporty, confident man that non-sporty, book-loving Watts could never be.
The show was a little rough around the edges, in a charming way; Watts’ delivery was possibly a little fast in places and he lost the train of his thought, at times, and had to refer to notes, but it really didn’t matter. It is still clearly a work in progress. However, the audience of 22 in the Barrel Room – a very good turnout for a sunny mid-afternoon slot - were definitely enjoying the ride and there were some loud guffaws at times – and no hecklers. I would definitely watch him again.
Underground Venues 25th July
Andy White was a late booking at Underground Venues - replacing a comedian who had had to cancel. A bit of a rough deal for Andy getting the last gig on the last night in the Pauper's Pit. However he is a trooper and gave the audience a good late night show.
Most of the set was about becoming a father - from the necessary business of making the baby - through to the experience of going to the nursery. Andy apparently waited until his 40s before becoming a father and reflected on how - incredible as it might seem to teenagers - sex could become a bit of a chore. To the extent that he once faked an orgasm so that he could watch "Newsnight".
There was nothing groundbreaking about Andy's style, subject matter or delivery but he is a confident and assured performer who has an engaging personality. The next time he comes to Buxton let's hope he gets a better opportunity to show us what he can do.
Now in its 10th year Underground Venues is celebrating a decade of bringing us a host of entertainment and 'Barrel of laughs', a mezze of comedy, has been one of their success. Tonight was no exception, with 5 very different but enjoyable comedians. Hosted by UV's very own Buxton born and bred/Brixton living Tom Crawshaw we were off!
First up were To Be Continued… and a sample of their Absolute Improv! show. Now I had seen this the other night, and they were excellent, so have a read of that review for an idea about the full show. They are Peter, Caroline, Eric and Mark and they kept up their fast and furious pace. Full marks to them as their physical style can't have been easy in the space left in a very full Barrel Room! They got the audience going nicely for the next act . . .
Who was Caimh McDonnell, another veteran of the Fringe here in Buxton. Caimh (pronounced Kweeve) gave us a thoroughly enjoyable time with his tales. I couldn't see anyone in the venue who wasn't laughing. The EDL might like to hear his theory on why there'll never be Shariah law in the UK and it seems we have Newcastle girls to thank for that! Caimh is clearly on top form and I hope to go catch his new show before the end of this year's Fringe.
Next up was Maxine Jones, with her tales of a woman of a certain age . . . when the children are more or less independent (are they ever?) and just remind you of your ex-. Maxine was trailing (is that the right term?) her new show Full Circle, and if gentle, observational humour dragged out of life with three ungrateful sons, a demanding mother and life in a foreign country is for you, get down to see it soon.
Amadeus Martin. What can I say? Historian extraordinaire perhaps? Brixton's very own observer of facts historical and social bought us a glimpse into his opus 'God Created Brixton' with an array of nicely turned observations and twists in the tale. He also challenged the audience's language skills, but they just about got through the test! In turn they were rewarded with a fine, polished performance from another Fringe regular whose full show is on again tonight and next weekend, and on the strength of this it would be worth getting tickets before they sell out.
Rounding off the evening with her tales of cross-cultural connections was Sajeela Kershi. We might not all have had relatives kidnapped by inept wanna-be jihadists, but we all have parents/siblings/relatives who can more than hold their own in the 'making your life stressful' stakes. Religion too, but don't hold out for a conversion for despite her shallowness Sajeela is firmly sat on the fence. Today is your last chance to catch Shallow Halal at this year's Fringe, I can recommend it.
Ian Parker Heath
Beasts is a fitting name for this sketch group, who are wild, unpredictable and untameable. Their sketches are normally centred around physical humour; karate chopping bread and pastries, wearing homemade costumes (or not wearing anything at all) and jumping around the stage as if a CGI killer whale. They know how to work a crowd, and indeed there are often moments when they wade into the audience, whether to hand out party poppers or to make sure everyone has just understood the joke. You feel that their optimal audience is the late-night crowd, as they are most likely to be swept up in the rowdy and boisterous fun, but there is enough inventiveness here for anyone to enjoy.
Although there are a couple of scenes that are cleverly funny, this group veers more towards shocking punch-lines and outrageous physical moments. Subtle this is not, but the wacky in-your-face humour causes mild hysteria in the audience in places. The strongest sketch of the night was the gay pirates scene, a brilliant mixture of creativity, anticipation and absurd sword fighting, and had me laughing uncontrollably throughout. Occasionally the sketches could do with being a bit tighter; cutting some of the length to reach the punch-line quicker, but this is still a very strong show. Go in there expecting a good time, and you’ll certainly have one. Just don’t eat any of the bread.
Fully suited, with fresh flowers in button hole Nick Brelsford, the writer and actor in this piece greets his audience outside the Church venue and shows them inside like the perfect wedding usher. This is Nick’s story a story of the desire to be best man and the rules and laws involved in becoming one.
Nick tells his story in an engaging manner with no real use for props or gimmicks (apart from a skilfully used towel and a bottle of bubbly to toast the Bride and Groom). He reminisces, he laughs at his friends and himself as he takes the audience with him on his journey.
His monologue is littered with many rules about how to be a best man, and how to be a man in general! As a female I had no idea that a man’s world was bound by so many rules. However, as I understood it there were three ways in to becoming a best man; friends, reprocitity and family were your best chances. Nick was struggling with these in his life! Another rule that really stood out was ‘do not let Martin go to the bar after 10’… it was likened to not feeding a Gremlin after midnight or ‘all hell would break loose’, I think that both men & women have friends this rule could be applied to!
One point I would give is to turn the hall lights on if it’s overcast outside as it was a bit gloomy inside the church hall!
This is a gentle tale of one man’s journey, it is an enjoyable piece. Oh, and now I know that there are two types of man…superman & fisherman…
Who doesn't love Boris? He is, as the Fringe programme tells us, “Britain's favourite comedy-politician”. He's cute, cuddly and adorable isn't he? These are the values with which he has steered a quite remarkable course through the choppy waters of British politics, aren't they? Seemingly not if we are to believe Tom Crawshaw's new work.
Our eponymous hero has it seems taken a break from his two part-time jobs to present this 'play' at both the Buxton Fringe (where he hopes to win an award for best comedy) and that other place. The play is 'autobiographical', with Boris, aided by an anonymous narrator, taking us from his 'umble beginnings at Eton to, well who knows where…. Anyway, we bear witness to the birth of the legend and the hero's rise to fame and more fortune. Of course, he benefits from a classical education and the friendship of Cameron (minor) along the way. Cameron (minor) does get the blame for some things you'll be pleased to hear.
However, mea culpa is the phrase you'll hear more than once, both in this work of fiction and in real-life I suspect and throughout the play we are reminded of events which we have perhaps forgotten. Some might say that we should be reminded more often, for Mr Johnson is one of those teflon-coated figures to whom nothing sticks and our media-driven collective memory is short. Tom Crawshaw has taken the opportunity to do just that in this excellent show.
The cast is small, just two, but no more are required. David Benson is entirely believable as Boris and Alice McCarthy as Helen (et al) is not at all phased by the at times frantic goings-on of our lead! The production is sharp and the whole team deserve a round of applause.
The venue was full and the audience most appreciative, and on leaving there were many 'excellent', 'that was very good' 'really liked that' to be heard. So all in all I think Tom and the team have a success on their hands.
Ian Parker Heath
‘Bride and Prejudice’ brought to mind a stand-up comedy based around Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’; this initial confusion over what the act would involve was entirely my own fault having not completely taken in the description. I was expecting arrogant, stoic characters and was presented with Caimh McDonnell who with his friendly demeanour although not arrogant or stoic was certainly quite a character. The act was literally about brides and prejudices. McDonnel having recently been married, regaled the small but eager audience with tales of amusing encounters with loud, oh-my-goshing Americans (hilarious and worryingly accurate impressions galore) from his honeymoon, his own blunders when booking a surprise mini-moon (no, I had never heard of one before either!) and the entertaining international relations between his Irish Catholic parents and his Ghanaian Baptist in-laws. Though a few of the jokes would be more relatable and therefore more amusing to those members of the audience in long term relationships or those who were/had been married, most jokes were centred around aspects of marriage that everyone would be familiar with and could relate to in their own way. One of my favourite examples of this was his tale of his stag do; I think after last night not one member of the audience will suggest an English vs Irish paintball match. I will leave the ensuing chaos to your imagination.
Caimh started the evening out as funny but as he warmed up and became more at ease, the act escalated to laugh out loud hilarious. Some members of the audience were crying with laughter by the end and I was convinced that the man in front of me would fall of his chair if he didn’t stop laughing so hard. Overall I was very impressed not only by the quality of the comedian -often it is quite hard to cater to a broad range of people as there was in this particular audience – but by the fact that his show relied on actual humour rather than the shock factor of crude and controversial jokes to generate a laugh. This is something that I find lacking in a lot of modern comedians and it shows that Caimh has a genuine talent for comedy.
A loud entrance ushers in Chris Fitchew and his show. It doesn't get any quieter after that. The tone is set for his tales of growing up in Derby, seeking fame and fortune in London and his reluctant return to the town of his re/birth.
Chris is gay - is that relevant you wonder? Well yes, because it colours the whole show and underpins his stories. There are many references to popular culture, growing up in the 80s, royal weddings, celebrities and pop music as emotional signposts. Music features strongly, and he's not averse to belting out a tune, sometimes with a somewhat changed lyrical content. You are expected to join in the singing and antics which adds to the fun.
Loud, and at times frantic, Chris pulled the audience along with him, managing to overcome the occasional flat spot when people didn't connect with a tag line. As the show has an early start on Thursday and offers child tickets, be warned, there is a song which I suggest would not be suitable for a younger audience.
The audience, for the most part, enjoyed themselves - especially 'Chazza' and her husband on the front row who rarely stopped laughing. I cast a sly glance a few times and people were smiling and laughing, which is what you would expect at a comedy show. It wasn't my cup of tea, but I was in a minority of one.
Ian Parker Heath
Underground Venues 8th July (further shows 15 & 22)
Danny promises that after his show you will have laughed plenty and feel like you can do anything. That's setting the bar pretty high, and if he falls a little short then that is not a failure. I learned this from Danny: be positive, always find ways of saying "Yes".
Danny is from Sunderland: don't call him a Geordie - that might be a challenge too far even for a positive thinker like him. He did some Lifecoach classes at the beginning of the year and is now generously sharing what he has learned with the rest of us. Pay attention and you will learn how to get your life in balance and how to get to live that dream.
The miracles of modern technology - getting Skype in the Barrel Room! - enabled Danny to talk to Iannis in Greece and achieve more than the European Central Bank has managed. At a more mundane level Danny may have helped Scott play more music and eat more Cheddar cheese (albeit at the expense of his family).
At the end Danny taught us how to relax and to rid ourselves of negative and unhelpful thoughts; instead we focused on what made us laugh.
I left glad to have been in the audience. You may do too.
The Dead Secrets have created The Curiositorium, a show about a collection of strange people and creatures. In a way, however, the show itself is a ‘Curiositorium’ of different styles, tones and techniques. The humour is sometimes dark, sometimes silly, the show itself veers from being a sketch show to a set of character pieces. The show has a clear structure and plot, as a museum curator has to overcome the traumatic memories of events years ago to enter the labyrinth, going further and further in until she finds the Dream Snatchers. Of course, this meant that a whole host of bizarre and unrelated characters could appear, but it added an element of security to have a clear direction in the storyline. It was a sketch show, but with a narrative arc and the central characters fleshed out more.
The performances were all full of energy and enthusiasm, and it was clear that the performers were completely enjoying themselves, perhaps spurred on by the full house. The humour was often a bit dark and morbid, but most of the time just plain weird. The moments of silliness were stronger; the Curiositorium owner’s dead mother coming back to check up on him and tell him that she has bargained his soul away was my favourite bit – it felt quite Monty Python-inspired, and you could imagine Terry Jones and Michael Palin playing the roles. Other highlights included the museum curator breaking down every time she heard the word ‘risk’ and the semi-paternal relationship between the mad scientist and his botched creation/assistant. The scenes sometimes lacked a bit of a killer edge, however, preferring to become weird rather than take one extra creative step to make the strangeness hilarious. All the same, there was something for everyone, and there were so many scenes and characters that there was more to enjoy than not. Different parts of the audience seemed to find different parts of the show funny; the laughter wasn’t generally unanimous, which highlights the curious diversity this troupe has to offer.
This was a one-off show so you've missed it. A shame that, because it was high-energy quality comedy from a pair that have worked together for long enough to know exactly what they are about, yet still relish the chance to perform.
If you saw Max and Ivan in W1A when they were required only to say "Brilliant" from time to time you would have been surprised by the quick-fire dialogue, the torrent of ideas and the cast of dozens inhabiting the world of Sudley-on-Sea where our heroes are town guides.
Sudley isn't much of a place and its inhabitants live small, sometimes petty, lives that amount to little. There is Billy, who has never been kissed; the couple that in 30 years have never known passionate, unbridled sex; a father and son who can barely talk to each other or acknowledge their achievements; the alcoholic who harbours a dark secret; the old blind man who depends on an equally old dog for company. These - and others besides - are not happy people; and life is about to get much worse (and very short) when an accident at the nuclear power station threatens to destroy Sudley.
Can anyone save the town or its inhabitants? Who must die? What other terrible secrets can be revealed?
Over the course of 70 frantic minutes these questions are, after a fashion, answered. Some of the comedy is physical with a lot of face-pulling, some of the jokes and puns are happily dreadful and if you don't care for one sketch - well, another is fast behind.
Whilst The End is essentially comedy at its core there is a humanity - you come to believe that Max and Ivan care for the characters that they have created and presented to us. A terrific late night show.
f you’re looking for a pleasant, Fringe evening out with friends and family, you can’t go too far wrong with Alfie Moore. Many avid Radio 4 listeners may recognise him from his show “It’s a Fair Cop”, a comedy show where he puts the audience through a police situation. His stand up show, which he is currently touring up to Edinburgh, consists of new material, and things taken from the radio series. Despite this, he does still often pause to read from notes, which is a little disappointing – it is nice to see lines memorised when paying to see a professional comedian.
However, the show is reasonably fast paced. Moore takes us though a few stories from his own eighteen years in the police force, and mixes in jokes about current affairs police issues. Is it right to call a policeman a pleb? Are the crime statistics made up? And can you really trust a man called Dave? The show had a very good reaction from the audience, many of which had either seen him live before, or at least listened to the radio show. And it has to be said, the show was packed. I very much recommend booking tickets in advance if this is high on your priority list of things to see. “Shoehorning” doesn’t quite cover it. By the time all of the audience were in, a couple were sitting on milking stools, effective on the stage. Alfie Moore is popular; get there on time.
The show is definitely an enjoyable one. Moore tackles difficult topics such as institutional racism without making them offensive, and manages to make it light hearted, while thought provoking. He has no trouble with poking fun at himself every once in a while, and makes it clear that while there are problems within the police and justice system, selling them off would make this issue significantly larger.
Moore is a talented comedian. He has clear delivery, good pace, and a nice connection with the audience. As soon as lines are learned, this really will be a fantastic show to see. Just remember to book in advance, and if in doubt, there are police on standby.
Underground Venues 12th 14th 15th July - 5.30 to 6.30pm. 13th July 7 to 8pm
Oh boy, the last time I reviewed something in the Barrel Rooms it was just me and the comedian! Tonight it was almost standing room only!!! Excellent – we were not disappointed. Easy to see why Rob Gee has won accolades and awards across North America.
Rob’s experiences from his 11 years as a psychiatric nurse in UK and Australia have given him a cast of thousands telling their stories. Unique, funny and thought provoking – some not so funny when you think about them! We are taken through a night shift on an acute ward at the turn of the millennium. Drunks, depressives, psychotics and staff (at first glance not a cast you would expect to entertain), but entertaining it certainly is.
Clever use of the ‘voice of God’ introduces us to the various cast members and their plight to illustrate the point. I particularly enjoyed the song at the end as did the rest of the audience.
Great show, really enjoyed it and well worth a visit. Get your tickets early though – if last night is anything to go by it will be a sell out every night. Well done.
In her latest show, Full Circle, Maxine Jones chats conversationally with the audience on the subjects that interest her: her lack of a pension, her life in Ireland, her mother’s unguarded comments, her sons’ behaviour and about the way, in her late 50s, that she has become more aware of the cyclical nature of life.
Although the show maybe lacks ‘belters’ in the joke department, Maxine’s observations are enjoyable, her delivery friendly and her personality winning. By her own admission there were a few missteps along the route (I’d stay stick to your own life as source material rather than her feelings about the Royals), but Maxine’s good company. You may also get to win a game of pass the parcel, a pleasure lost to many of us for decades!
In “God Created Brixton”, Amadeus Martin taken the audience on a hilarious journey, though Brixton history with many social commentary based detours, and the odd pause to translate something for the white middle class of Buxton along the way.
Martin’s show acts almost like a travel guide to Brixton and its surrounding area, otherwise known as ‘Don’t Go To Croydon’ (which is fair enough). He touches on how it came to be built, the arrival of international communities, Brixton being posh, social unrest, and asks why you would ever need to go aboard to see the wonders of the world, when Brixton can easily match them step for step.
Martin is accompanied through the show by his two glamorous assistants Karen and Steve. Who are Karen and Steve? Who knows? They could be anyone. They could be you. I’ll just mention that if you have been to Brixton before, you may well be better off sitting near the front.
Martin is a very talented comedian. Despite the occasional stutter, or train of thought lost due to first night nerves, one never feels uncomfortable or awkward. He makes a quick, self-deprecating joke and the show swiftly moves on. It was fantastic to see such a large audience come out for the first night, and so it might be a good idea to book tickets in advance. The show is warm and light hearted, hopping in and out of various different topics, and using them to all link back into his beloved Brixton.
There was energy in the room right the way though the show, which makes one giggle in a space as small as the barrel room, but it keeps the show flowing, and keeps the audience on their toes. Martin is a lovely comedian to be in the room with, never cruel or unnecessarily harsh. He is observational, and fast paced. He makes light of the differences between white people and black people, and it really does go down a storm to the middle class of the High Peak.
Amadeus Martin makes for a lovely evening out, one of my personal favourites from the Fringe so far. He is in for a fantastic run, you should consider being a part of it.
This performance was very funny. You are taken on a journey of surviving adolescence and a tribute to old computers with plenty of music and laughter. A very cleverly scripted combination of songs and time travel, along with some of the worst Dad jokes ever – be ready to groan! This is a perfect production for the Fringe, original, witty and entertaining. Songs about programming and being normal certainly struck a chord with the audience who were hooting with laughter. Then further fun reflecting on the absurdities of acceptable technology in the 80s that merge, no collide, with a view of the future that does not end in nuclear meltdown!
What is so great is that Mike and Steve really do enjoy themselves and you feel you are included as old friends when they share all their thoughts and observations. We sat in the back room of The Hydro which is a lovely location but the time travel may be restricted with a larger audience, so use your imagination. The gift of a free CD and badge will encourage you to look them up and seek them out for another performance. Highly recommended and I am still singing “hey, hey 16K….”
Underground Venues, 17th July (further show 18th).
I saw Juliet in Buxton a few months ago on a comedy bill when she was the only woman performer. I wondered if the slightly testosterone driven environment worked against her style and material and I was glad of the opportunity to hear her in total control of events. That said I am not sure that she felt in total control - clearly the birthday celebrations in the adjacent bar were a distraction for her if not the audience.
So it may be that the themes and thread of her narrative were broken once or twice but, unlike many stand-ups I have seen in the Fringe, she had more material than she needed and gave her audience full value.
But what were the themes and threads? For the most part it seemed to be about who and what we are and how others see us and label us. Towards the end of this performance, for example, Juliet talked about how people respond to her self-labelling as feminist. Now she lives in London and you might have supposed that in the metropolis people would be a bit more sophisticated than out here in the sticks but, she says, it still happens that people assume that she must be a lesbian - but are too timid to ask her outright.
We also heard about a friend who thought of himself as being outside conventional social milieu and demonstrated that by his body piercings, tattoos and awareness of other cultures. Rather than being alternative he was, it seemed, simply a poseur. Now I don't know if these characters are real or imaginary - like her invisible evil son - but I didn't quite believe in them, and I think this matters.
Once or twice Juliet pushed at our assumptions - implying, for example, that Cherie Blair may be married to a war criminal and her material on the diversity of the Muslim experience may need a little sharpening.
All that said I enjoyed this hour more than any other stand-up I have seen on the Fringe this year and with reference to my initial question about how she came across solo, rather than on a male-dominated bill, well I don't know that it made that much difference. That's another hypothesis that needs revisiting.
A salty sea captain (Letty Butler) pulls a prize catch from the sea – a fish (Lucy Pearman). The fish is looking for the fabled River Island, where she can go to the nightclub Boys R Us and find a boyfriend. The captain is looking for the Potion of the Ocean which will help him forget his tragic past. Their quest takes them past Karen & Peter, mad fish-eaters, singing crabs and Ronan Keating until a tsunami intervenes.
This hilarious, utterly bonkers show is a complete delight. Both performers have a self-effacing, natural comic timing which, augmented by a wide range of costumes (over baggy body stockings) and awful punning that is irrestistible. Whilst not a family show (there’s a bit of swearing at times), Let Progress Luce allows the audience to connect with their inner, grown up child. Letty and Lucy apologised at the end for this being a work and progress, but you wouldn’t want it to be slicker. It’s knockabout nonsense is shambolically perfect as it is. Catch it (like the fish) while you can.
Back just one year after winning 'Best Show' award at last year's Fringe, Nathan Cassidy brings to Buxton his latest creation 'Back to the Future I & II. In fact it is two creations and last night's show was part one.
As you might imagine, a certain film franchise features fairly strongly in the show and you might do well to wrack your brain, or even watch it on fast forward to remind yourself of the plot. Some of the twists and turns in the show bear no relation to this of course, but it adds to the overall theme Nathan has woven into the story. At it's heart is the seemingly simple question of “what's the one thing that has really changed over the past 30 years”. Sounds serious, but I think you'd find it hard not to laugh at the possible contenders and the overall winner.
His timing and delivery are spot on and Nathan has, like last year, put together a show which clearly highlights his abilities to produce a coherent and structured work. I don't think it quite has the punch of 'Date of Death' but this was a new audience and they enjoyed it if laughter is the measure of success.
I saw this in adult company, and there are adult themes in it, which given its title may attract younger people, so you may want to think twice before taking the kids along. That said, his next show is Part II, so I can't tell you what it has in it. But as it's in the Future. . .
Ian Parker Heath
Is it magic? Or is it comedy? No, it is magical comedy! Soon to be released upon the magical fringe that tickles upon the outskirts of Edinburgh.
I arrived at the venue not knowing what to expect from an improvised magic show, but expected to see an entertainer on the tips of their toes awaiting the next direction from an audience keen to send the performance in any number of different and doubtless awkward and esoteric directions. I was not disappointed. And it was fun as a result.
A wise person once said, “Dreams are magic” or was it “Magic lives in dreams.” As an audience we couldn’t quite remember and that allowed us to explore all possibilities with the gentle goading of storyteller Meech.
With the help of the audience prompts, we learned how Oliver battled an evil genius with nothing but a paper clip, sweaty sock, a sticky pot of Vaseline and a smelly old shoe. This was his nemesis, a challenger who wanted to take his magical crown.
The next show won’t be the same. That’s the thing about improv, it could be better and probably will. Dreams are magic, seldom tragic: they just need to be dreamed.
Aside from the comedy element were some seriously good card tricks that could easily have been overlooked.
Find your inner Gandalf or inner Tommy Cooper – they’re both in evidence in this fun and uplifting show. A jolly jape with you, the audience responsible for how it ends.
The waif-like comedian stands astride the stage and tells his audience, “I do comedy. I used to work in an office. I done Edinburgh last year, but only half hour shows. This is my first hour-long show.” For some reason, this gets a laugh and the laughing continues throughout. Seems like he’s found a good way to spend an hour.
A show about death from a self-confessed, paranoid and sceptical hypochondriac 30-year old seems like the perfect recipe for a good giggle. And so it proved. The BBC New Comedy Award Finalist details how to stop the progress of the hands of time, how to save time and how to cheat death. Or so he thinks!
Why does he go to bed dressed as a pirate? Why does he hate the game of Monopoly? Why can’t he relax in a text? And why does the dog in the title of the performance troubles him so much? Death has all the answers.
This engaging writer for Radio 4’s ‘The News Quiz,’ takes his audience on a gentle ramble through his life and future death. Some say that the best comedy is self-deprecating, observational and just plain funny. It is. This is.
Trying out new material for his forthcoming Edinburgh shows, Peter will have already learned what works well with an audience, what doesn’t, what he needs to speed up or cut short to save time! Can time really be saved? Or should it just be spent wisely…like using an hour to watch his next performance?
This charming and engaging romp through the highs and lows of Phil’s life and work contains adult themes and is perhaps not suitable for young comedy-goers. Although the audience was small, there were hoots and hollers-a-plenty as the fun was unleashed with warmth and charisma.
An adventurous sort, Phil spins a yarn as good as his Mum’s woollen Superhero costume (made for him to address one of his earliest “big ideas”). Interlaced with genuinely daft life experiences are the truly humorous tales – he really is a good story-teller!
He clearly explains the links between apparently unconnected things like:
• Kirk Douglas’s lesser-known Son, Eric and the Greatest Heckle of All time;
• Shaved hamsters and the foibles of unprepared dating; and
• Jenny Powell and the Brain-fart Principle.
Now then, here’s the Big Idea…oh come on, you didn’t really expect me to spoil the fun did you? You’ll have to pop along to Phil’s next show to find out for yourself!
It wouldn’t be the Fringe if we didn’t have at least one show that was utterly bizarre and ultimately made no sense. Victor Slung (sic) duly obliged with a series of scatological parlour games that hinted at some sort of ecological theme. We had a blindfolded ‘hunt the rhino’ , an ‘eat the aphrodisiac’ involving whipped cream and bananas and a board game that featured cardboard rhinos in a forest of broccoli. Victor’s audience was small (nine, not including the reviewer) which was just as well as it enabled everyone to join in. If you were sat at the side, it could be difficult to work out what exactly was happening most of the time.
There were some ‘stand up’ interludes, but due to the loudness of the music and Victor’s omission to mike up, it was often difficult to make out what he was actually saying. Most of the ‘jokes’ were deliberately awful, but nonetheless well received. There was a genuinely funny one about sharks and bailiffs which the otherwise enthusiastic audience did not actually laugh at.
One was able to catch that Victor is apparently responsible for the slaughter if thousands of Sumatran rhinos as a result of an episode of erectile dysfunction, something that he appears now to regret. As stated above, there was hint of an ecological theme to the show, but the final denouement did leave some of the audience in a state of confusion regarding this aspect. Notwithstanding, in the bar afterwards they all stated that they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves. It’s difficult to see how this could work with a decent-sized crowd; most would be mere bystanders to the fun and games. I took the liberty of asking Victor how his gig might work with a full house – his reply indicated this is a problem that he has yet to confront.
First of all, some context. The Room (so I’m informed) is a 2003 movie directed by Tommy Wiseau, a film that has become something of an internet sensation, due to its sloppy scripting, poor performances and ridiculous plot twists.
I’d never heard of it, but clearly Two Spoons Productions had (in order to create this musical rendition of it) as had a significant proportion of the audience who found the show hilarious. The advertising blurb says that whether you’re familiar with the film or not, you’d enjoy it, but I’m not sure that’s quite the case. In order to appreciate the difference between bad stage acting and good actors skilfully pretending to be bad, you have to have some idea of what it is they are emulating. Only in looking it up after the show did I start to appreciate it more.
There is no question that there was talent in the cast: Joe Beaumont’s impersonation of Wiseau himself, Laura Anderson’s sex siren, Louise Jones in a host of female roles and Buxton’s own Marcus Crabbe as a conflicted hunk especially delivered studied performances of dead-eyed amateurism – a clever trick to pull off. But the show’s relentlessly in-jokey momentum is one that will either have you in fits or stony-faced. Sad to say I was in the latter faction (personally I felt these actors could find a more worthy vehicle for their abilities), but considerably more of the audience seemed to love it, judging by the gales of laughter throughout.
The songs were catchy and (especially the more rap-styled ones) well delivered, accompanied by a reliable guitar and bass duo.
At the end of the day though, I guess I’ve never been great with orchestrated cultishness – I remember being vaguely embarrassed the first time I saw Rocky Horror – so the very fact of that the audience are given plastic spoons to throw at the stage was enough to set me on edge. There is no doubt that this show is one to be loved, or hated, in equal measure, rather like the film on which it is based. See it for yourselves and find out which camp you fall into.
Sajeela Kershi brings us comedy from Karachi to Surrey in Shallow Halal, and as you might expect with such a title, religion (and not just Islam) gets a look in.
However, that is not all, what you get is a cross-cultural, inter-faith exposition on quite a few aspects of the human condition. Or life as we know it. Parents, relationships, obsessions, airport worries and taking control of the burqa are just some of the steps in this journey. Some are familiar to a typical Fringe audience here in Buxton where minority groups are under-represented, others were not. The Karachi police for one. Of course, I can't give too much of the game away, but money may or may not be needed to cover admin costs.
At times the performance was a little confused and rambling, with notes being read, but the audience were not worried by this. On the other hand there was plenty of chat between Sajeela and the audience, with a strong rapport between them; and with laughs aplenty this is just what comedy should produce!
That said, at its heart the show highlights many of the common experiences that we as people encounter, from whatever culture we come. For that we should encourage more shows like this to the Fringe. Shallow Halal is on Fri/Sat/Sun at the same venue. Put this on your list of things to see.
Ian Parker Heath
James Sherwood has become a stalwart of the Barrel Room in recent years and his blend of self-deprecating humour, easy banter with the audience and, most particularly, witty topical songs has deservedly won him a loyal audience in Buxton.
James is preparing for a run in Edinburgh, so inevitably, a slightly unreliable folder of words makes an appearance, and as the performance goes on, is consulted more frequently. His topical (or topical-ish songs) are uniformly clever and amusing, on subjects from Ed Milliband’s respect for white vans, Methodist banker Paul Flowers and ‘Plebgate’. I liked his songs about headmasters (although being told that they were commissioned for a Headmasters’ conference makes them feel like they’re padding).
There’s something old-school about what James Sherwood does (he himself name-checks Flanders & Swann) but nonetheless, continually moving forward. Long may he return.
Stories About Love, Death and a Rabbit is an outstanding piece of character comedy. Charles Adrian Gillott plays Ms Samantha Mann, a single, middle-aged, middle-class woman: shy but excitable, restrained but wanting to let go, if only she could bring herself to dance. Her mannerisms are consistent, her frantic speech perfectly paced and the whole character brilliantly observed.
The humour is incredibly clever; whilst it is never rude, edgy or provocative, it feels distinctly mature. Gillott never gives any easy jokes, and certainly never hints at breaking character by suggesting there is a man under the wig, lipstick and glasses. Instead, he (or should I be saying ‘she’?) breaks many stand-up conventions, with the understanding of his character integral to the comedy. Samantha tells a joke, for example, that she bills as her favourite, and laughs at several points through it, with the audience unsure just where the punch-line is. Her delivery is deliberately scatty and tentative, and the first half of the show is a preamble to what she considers the main event. She tells anecdotes with little comments that in the context of her character make you laugh, even though you think to yourself “this can’t be funny”. Talking about what her rabbit is like when he is on heat, she says “he doesn’t know what’s rabbit and what isn’t: sometimes I have to leave the house”, and you can’t help but laugh. It’s funny because you are so immersed in the character, which has captivated you from the very beginning. I can’t hope to explain it; it is just wonderfully written and charismatically performed. There are poignant moments too, as Samantha gives poetic musings on death and living life with too much fear, changing the tone, but not at all out of place. She does not end there, though, and leaves us with a hilariously understated piece of physical comedy, which I won’t spoil. Gillott is clearly a talented comedian and comedy actor, and this is a class act.
I walked into the Underground Venue as an ordinary modern day adult but walked out a Victorian Guttersnipe. You may ask whether it was time-travel? Alas it was not but it was all due to the power of Ben’s imagination. Unfortunately it turned out I had been kidnapped by two vampires. What I was doing underground is a mystery to and to everyone else. STRUDELHEAD was a comedic ride with its contents being diverse, original and engaging.
The synopsis of STRUDELHEAD referred to Ben (comedian) “emptying his brain out” which happened on stage with an array of random jokes which were sometimes much funnier than the pre-prepared jokes. It was interesting to see a synopsis of a show match the show itself so accurately as we found out Ben literally emptied his head right in front of us as he spewed natural comedic flair.
The highlight of the show for me was his interaction with the audience. Ben made the audience feel amused and relaxed. This was impressive as Ben made it seem easy. It was good to see a comedian thriving on the interaction with the audience and creating crazy and highly imaginative scenarios using his audience as raw material.
Throughout the show history was a key comedic element varying from Victorian England to Ben’s own Jewish historical lineage. This at times was funny and at key points he made you feel like you were travelling back in time. The comedy at times became somewhat dark and uncomfortable which not everyone including myself appreciated that type of humour. However, other members of the audience appreciated it. Phallus jokes are as old as Shakespeare and Ben’s contemporary twist on this gives his new material a mind-bending dimension. Ben is an all round comedian offering every member of the audience something for their comedic taste.
An exciting comedian offering new writing on his journey and along the way making us laugh out loud.
Tina Louise Bradshaw is an Eastern Lifecoach from Great Yarmouth (originally Hull). She doesn't quite look or sound the part. Should Lifecoaches wear such high heels (or shoes so red and glittering) and should their mission be to help us "sort your shit out"?
Tina's approach was to introduce us to some proverbs that she had coined that would help us to recognise the truth and consequences of our own actions. Had Tina's best friend Marina been so wise she would not have slept with her best friend's fella. Tina is a bit on the flirty side - her offers of 1:1 sessions may be best refused.
Undoubtedly she has heart of gold and wants us all to fly like a butterfly - even if it is the caterpillar that does all the work only for the butterfly to take all the limelight.
This show debuts in Buxton. Tina has worked hard in putting it together. As she relaxes a little with her material and character it should be a cosy and affirmative experience for all.