Comedy Reviews


This show does exactly what it says on the tin: there’s good humour, funny and well-described observations of aspects of Russian life, and a stand-up approach which engages well with the audience.

Abi Roberts spent a year studying singing at a conservatoire in Moscow, bounced somewhat unexpectedly into both Russia and the Russian language in the days when life was hard(er than now): the teaching, the daily life, the generosity… and the airline – all of these, and more, are described and mimicked, and with a compelling Russian accent when required. But it’s not all about Russia, and we get to know more about her background with good-humoured commentary on growing up in Swansea. There’s also a good deal of astute development from comments drawn from the audience, and it’s obvious that this isn’t a set-piece narrative but a show which builds on the warm relationship she develops with the audience.

She has also drawn inspiration from taking this show into Moscow in recent months: a rare and brave expedition, given that stand-up as a genre is still quite unknown there.

These first-night attenders almost all had some connection with Russia. She says this is unusual – normally people come just for the fact of the jokes and her lively and exuberant character – but she made their associations into a fully coherent part of the show.

Funny, warm-hearted, finely-observed – and she’s got a good singing voice too.

Michael Quine

ABSOLUTE IMPROV! - To Be Continued...

The idea behind Absolute Improv is four actors (Peter, Steph, Caroline and Will) act out various sketches based on topics shouted out from the audience. Each sketch has a different structure but they often involve rapid changes of topic which mean that the actors have to change both the subject matter and the mood very quickly.

In the "explorer" sketch one actor went out of the room and the audience was asked to suggest a "place" , a "danger" and a "weapon". When the actors returned the others actors mimed the audience suggestions. This was a bit like charades. In this case they had to mime "defending Dove Holes from a Giant Boris Johnson using a small plastic water pistol" which required some very amusing mimes.

In the "emotional roller coaster" sketch the actors collected a long list of emotions, film genres and worst birthday presents from the audience. Two of the actors then improvised a scene that changed rapidly when different items from the list were shouted out.

My favourite sketch involved a volunteer couple in the audience who were asked a few questions about themselves and then the actors attempted to act out the story of the couple's relationship. The couple were give an bell to ring when the actors got it right and a horn to honk when they got it wrong. This involved a rapid changes of story when the horn was honked.

The show has a lot of energy and is very funny and entertaining. The unscripted nature of the show makes it exciting and the players are very talented actors in addition to their ability to do rapid improvisations. I thoroughly recommend this show as a fun way to spend an hour at the fringe.

Each show is different and so you can expect to see different sketches performed as well as different topics suggested by the audience.

Alex Watts


Alex Kealy's standup routine is based on his personal life, topical news items and visual jokesparodyscartoons that he had prepared and displayed on a screen next to him.

He started the show with a variety of alternate titles and possible film poster parodies of his show. He then did some jokes based on failed relationships and subsequent depression. Somewhere in there there was a connection between the fall of Saddam Hussein and his first kiss , the difference between young Etonians and young Estonians and a discussion of the worlds worst cocktail.

One theme of his show was the referendum and he returned several times to Farage's denial of the promise of NHS funding with footage of that denial and also joke reactions to the denial in the style of "Have I got news for you". Later he showed a spoof film with himself playing Farage role mimicking that news footage.

The show continued to cover a wide range of topics including why Ted Cruz didn't beat Trump to the US Republican nomination and teaching maths. Alex also defended his comments about Jeremy Corbin when challenged by a member of the audience.

Alex finished the performance by thanking Brexit for providing most of the material for his show.

Alex Watts


As Alfie Moore is a serving police officer (albeit on an extended sabbatical), I wasn’t sure what to expect from ‘Getting Away With Murder’. Would it be a laugh-a-minute hour of policing puns or a session full of useful tips should I ever need to eradicate a particularly irksome acquaintance?

In fact, Moore sets out his intentions right from the start. His aim is indeed to help you achieve this goal which, as he says, is cheap at the £8 admission fee (less for concessions). However, he also stated “what happens in this room stays in this room,” making things a little challenging for this reviewer!

The scene was set amongst the dark confines of the Underground Venue cellars of the Old Hall hotel. The words ‘Police Crime Scene’ and the outline of a body were plastered across the wall and police crime scene tape protected the stage.

The show was full of information about police procedure but don’t be alarmed, it is all delivered in his conversational style with a twinkle in his eye and with elements of gallows humour as witnessed in his BBC Radio 4 Comedy, ‘It’s a Fair Cop’. His eighteen years as a police officer has furnished him with a wealth of anecdotes and his real-life experience enables him to draw in the crowd with his observational comedy and vast knowledge of psychopaths past and present. Interesting facts included the top 5 murder towns in the UK (You will be surprised!), the top 5 weapons and his favourite lines of defence used by suspects.

Moore’s show relied on some audience participation so be aware that you may be called upon to answer some questions if you put your hand up at any point or are seated in the first few rows. Despite a full house, the audience was a bit reluctant to take part but Moore managed to engage certain individuals to illustrate police investigative procedures, much to the delight of the rest of the room.

This isn’t the first time Moore has appeared at Buxton Fringe and I can see why he is welcomed back with open arms. He admitted that, in part, the show is trying out some new material prior to Edinburgh. As a result, there were a couple of instances when he lost his train of thought for a few seconds. However, these were few and far between and did not impact on the audience’s enjoyment, which was evident from the frequent belly laughs, along with some nervous laughter when some jokes were a bit close to the line. There was also some swearing, so be aware if you are easily offended.

Moore told the audience that he has to decide whether or not to return to work in the police force by August 1st. My advice would be not to return to the day job, you have too much to give to the world of comedy.

Overall, looking around the room it was apparent that a fun night was had by all. As Moore delved into police procedure for investigating murder, I started to wonder whether he would deliver his aim of telling us how to get away with murder…you will have to see the show to find out!

As I write, there are still tickets available for his final show on the 14th July. Book now as you never know when the information may become useful!

Sian-Elin Flint-Freel


First night 11th July

By its very nature an improvised show is different every performance and so a review can only be of a specific show. The first night of Bang! Bang! started at 10pm; late enough for most of the audience, and perhaps the cast, to have had a drink to get in a relaxed mood.

The show depends on contributions and suggestions from the audience – which was readily forthcoming - and the quick wit of the performers which was, frankly, patchy. While the dialogue was wholly improvised there was a framework of prepared situations and games on which the team of five improvised. One of the most successful was the set up in the absence of a cast member who then had to be led by the team and the audience, wordlessly, to find the agreed phrase. Some others were less funny but the cast’s interactions with the audience were entertaining - not least when explaining to a young woman the meaning of ‘perambulating’, and gently to a more elderly woman what a ‘cock ring’ is.

The Pauper’s Pit was half full for the first night, which isn’t too bad for a wet Monday evening at 10pm. There will be more shows on the 18th and 19th at an earlier hour of 7pm and bafflingly offer reduction on ticket prices for children.

Brian Kirman

BARBARIANS - Ben Van der Velde

Ben Van der Velde brought his likeable brand of zany comedy to the Barrel Room (Underground Venues) on Saturday. As he put it, having gigs in 'underground bunkers' is just what it would be like if comedy was illegal.

Van der Velde began by mischievously analysing the audience, making snap judgements about the "Viking in row three," and identifying what was either a family, or the "saddest school trip ever". He went on to explore something of the primitive, ape-like way we judge others in order to survive. This flight-or-flight response to new people, or those from other 'tribes', shapes the way we interact with our increasingly multicultural world.

As someone who is mixed race and Jewish, Van der Velde looked at ethnicity and religion, and their relationship with current politics in the wake of Brexit, and the recent refugee crisis. His eclectic stories veered from the prospect of giving his future son the lady-killing, fantasy football-winning name of 'Giovanni Van der Velde' (he should!), to deciding the future heir to the British throne through a Game of Thrones-style duel to the death. And whilst we're on the topic of the Royal Family, why are we spending billions on 'breeding' the future monarchy? Surely we would do better by spending this money on developing eugenics to create some kind of cross between a bear and an eagle - a real king. That would make Brussels listen! Other topics covered included ISIS, the Quran (no, sorry, I mean Quorn) and the smart move of marrying a lawyer (particularly for a comedian).

It was clear that what we saw was a 'work-in-progress' preview before taking the show to Edinburgh Fringe. A few bits of tightening up, and more confidence in the material would stop Van der Velde worrying so much about whether or not certain jokes will work, and enable both him and the audience to relax a little more into this appealing, topical show. Catch it again on the 10th and 17th July, 5.45pm.

Annie Osborne

BARREL OF LAUGHS - Underground Venues

Barrel of laughs has been going for nearly a decade now, and has gained one of the best reputations in the Fringe over that time for fun, silly comedy. When I arrived at the show I was hoping for just that, and I was certainly pleased.

Good comedy requires energy, and the main thing I got from the show was the massive amount of that in the room. MC, and fantastic stand-up in his own right, Amadeus Martin, began the show with his infectious oomph and good audience relation, getting us involved in his clowning straight off the bat. The show really does work better if the audience is involved, and Amadeus got that off to a great start.

Bang Bang, an improv group, were our first act, who filled the room with their pure fun silliness. Fun is definitely what I’d assign to this group, their rapid ability to create humour really making for some interesting and hilarious action. Even when the audience was less cooperative (the entire show works best if you are completely so), they still managed to make a joke of it, something indicative of great talent.

Ruthie Colburn was probably the most energetic act, her mad zeal creating some very funny stand-up. Ruthie told some rather uncomfortable stories, but through her contagious vigour, made them hysterical. Her performance was great fun, and although she doesn’t have a show this year as the other acts do, I wish she did, as she was terribly funny.

Next up were The Dead Secrets, an act performing that underrepresented genre of improv murder mystery, something I adore. Once again, their silliness was delightful, and although they could have been a bit slicker in their improvising, their comic talent shone through, making even that part of the joke. Their satire and silliness went hand in hand for a great act.

Our final act, George Zach, was a very funny man. His jokes and timing were fantastic; he seemed to really understand comedy. His act centred largely around his being Greek, which with his comic ability made for quite some hilarity. A very likeable character, who made even somewhat difficult or uncomfortable topics highly endearing.

The acts are generally a little unpolished, but really, that just adds to the fun and humour of the evening, and makes the audience feel more at home.

All in all, ‘Barrel of Laughs’ makes for a very entertaining evening, providing you come in with plenty of energy, and even if you don’t, you’ll gain it through the show, and gain plenty of good ideas for what to watch next.

Alex Paul

BEASTS - Beasts Comedy

Not a conventional sketch show where a scene is set up and driven to the punch line and then on with the next, this show is a loose construct around a supposed ‘MR BUXTON’ contest. Three guys, each very different, compete in a variety of events for this coveted title.

There is a talent contest, a ‘whose the fastest contest’, and a bit of music amongst others (did you realise how few rhymes there are with BUXTON?). Like many interactive comedies the front row was avoided by the audience except one brave man but this didn’t stop the actors climbing the chairs and getting amongst the crowd. This was an energetic show and even with the late start (10.30pm) the Pauper’s Pit had a reasonable crowd.

Some of the ‘sketches’ were adult but not crude and anyway were justified by being funny. They may tone this down for the second and final performance on Saturday 23rd at 2.45pm when there are child concessions available.

It must be difficult to premier your show just as the festival is winding down but the guys have been busy touring with BEASTS as revealed by a very funny slip up where they referred to the MR EDINBURGH contest. They were brought to account by the audience.

In summary, a fun show and a good way to finish the fringe festival.

Brian Kirman


I liked this show. It was warm, witty and well thought out. Being of a certain age, say approaching 60, I wondered what all the fuss might be about. Is 60 the new 40? What was in store? Well, quite a bit it seems.

Charmian was the perfect host for this tour through the impact of soixante. She took us by the hand, firmly but fairly, and led us the to the promised land of comedy – laughter! There were insights which were general and some which were more gender specific but equally funny. Hair came into it of course...

The heart of the show is our host looking back at her younger self at key ages, and this is opens a rich seam of humour. Can't tell you too much as it gives the game away, but we enjoyed it. People were laughing. Result.

Charmian delivers her show at a good pace and is at ease with the audience, no nervous, restless pacing here. There's another chance to catch Charmian doing a mirth-filled 60 minutes of 60 on the 16th at the same venue. I'd recommend you go.

Ian Parker Heath


Katie Mulgrew's Sabotage replaced the advertised show.

I went to this show with a slight feeling of trepidation as I knew nothing about who or what I was going to see. The act I was originally going to see had dropped out and all I had was a named replacement. Needn't have worried though as although Katie had stepped in at the last minute, she proved to a hit with the audience.

Katie hit the ground running after bravely fighting her way down the A6 from Manchester on a wet Friday afternoon and facing a trip back to do a show at the Frog & Bucket the same evening. And for what? Well, Katie gave us Sabotage! If it had a subtitle it would be “How having a baby has totally ruined my life and given me my greatest joy!” The show is based upon some of her experiences and observations as a first-time mum, and as you can imagine, or indeed remember, this provides a rich seam of material.

From Health Visitors who stay two hours and talk about contraception two weeks post-partum to a bemused husband backing away from her as if she was an angry bear in the woods, Katie painted a vivid picture of the trials and tribulations of motherhood. It wasn't all bad of course, but it was funny. Which was good.

Katie had the audience with her from the off, which given the circumstances is a testament to her skill and talent as an artist. She had a good rapport with Richard on the front row, and the rest of us too. Delivered, yes I know, at a good pace and only a couple of stops to get her bearings again, Katie gave us a good show we all enjoyed. Let's hope the punters at the Frog & Bucket thought so too! Sadly this was a one-off show, but perhaps there's a chance of a return next year?

Ian Parker Heath


From Hong Kong flings to budget hostel bedbugs, George Zach’s ‘Confessions of a Homeless Sex God’ delivers all the glamour and grime that its title promises. Embarking upon his alarmingly believable tale of life as a hand-to-mouth comedian, Zach is immediately endearing: ‘the pay is shit, but I love it’.

This charm somehow succeeds in transforming his tales of deviancy (depraved even by Russell Brand’s standards) into perversely heart-warming accounts of youthful experimentalism. Even the most conservative of audiences will be left wondering why they ever shunned such a rewarding substance as Ecstasy, or declined to dabble in the morally-fulfilling act of BDSM.

Stand-up shy readers needn’t be afraid to attend this one- Zach is quick to assure that his show doesn’t rely on the dating nightmares and career mishaps of his audience to pump out the laughs.

For one, he has more than enough calamitous tales himself. But more importantly, his show is a story- slick from the start, Zach unspools his entire saga from the Starbucks raspberry muffin that ultimately changed his life (kind of). There’s no room for gags at the audiences’ expense amid this exquisitely balanced chain of blunders.

And so, while George Zach may not be glad his girlfriend broke up with him this time last year, we the audience can certainly thank her: had she not kicked him out, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy what is both a hilariously endearing and laughably harrowing journey through one man’s struggle for a place to kip.

Freya Palmer


This new show of Kemsley’s does not disappoint, it is filled with light-hearted, joyous humour orientating around the things happening in her life. The style of comedy was natural which is refreshing to see within this genre.

Kemsley interacted with her audience from the start to the end of the show, she was able to relate well to them and was able to create humorous anecdotes about them or their career. The content of the show was relatable to every day life that meant that there was something that everyone in the audience would find funny. Although the content worked well some anecdotes may have ran on for long.

This show has something for everyone. Kemsley is a fresh new talent and definitely one to watch in the future.

Phoebe Alderson


Underground Venues 9 & 23 July

Let's get to the important bit. The Dead Secrets are doing just one more show this Fringe.

There are only 45 tickets. Get one before it is too late.

This is the third year that the Secrets have come to Buxton and the troupe of 5 has rapidly built up a following for the high-energy and intelligent brand of comedy on offer. Previously we have been treated to slightly absurd and very physical sketches. This year’s offering is different in that the hour-long show is improvised - though it is securely rooted in a formula that gives a high chance of success.

The starting point is a 1930s murder mystery - imagine The Mousetrap. We have a detective and four characters - 'types' suggested by the audience. For this show we had a confidence trickster, a scientist, a pirate and a femme fatale. Also at the suggestion of the audience events were centred around a zoo in a dark wood in Buxton. And so the Case of the Peg Leg began.

An hour later one of our characters was duly dead and a murderer and motive identified. The Case of the Peg Leg solved and written up. Along the way we had had some groansome puns - the murder was attributable to a dish prepared by the Zoo chef - some inspired clowning - the pandas and monkeys being a gift to some of the more elastic Secrets - and some friendly banter about a presumed rivalry between Buxton and Ashbourne.

The Dead Secrets maintain a relentless pace - no leisurely drawing room investigation or interrogation this - and the show retains a sketch-like feel. They are wise enough to know that keeping things moving is the best way to ensure a flow of ideas and reduces any risk of stagnation. As a group they necessarily have a high level of trust in each other and it is occasionally apparent that one feeds another ideas or lines to sustain the story. Impressive is the verbal fluency and imagination - without any need for 'bad' language such as might be induced by any sense of panic - and the ability to engineer a story line that more or less made sense.

This was perfect Saturday night entertainment. Many thanks.

Keith Savage


Underground Venues (10)

Imagine you are French. Imagine you are a woman. Imagine winning a million Euros and still not being happy. Now you are getting close to Ms Cailly's world. The show is the story of one woman's foray into the male dominated world of professional poker via an unhappy childhood, teenage angst and more.

Ms Cailly apologises for her accent but compared to one of my supervisors some years ago who spoke just like Inspector Clousseau, its not a problem. Other than that there is some play made of the language difference and is used effectively. There are as you might guess, many references to France and French culture and these sometimes miss the mark if the audience reaction was anything to go by, but overall the audience were right there with Lucille.

The show is possibly designed to be a warning about the pitfalls of gambling, but there is more to it than that. Love, life and the French tax regime all play their part. If you don't play poker, don't worry, the rules will be explained to you as if you are aged 5.

You can catch and/or follow Ms Cailly on social media, but be warned the #HTBAPM displayed on screen in the show is Pokemon, not Poker related. The show is on again on the 11th and 12th at the same venue.

Ian Parker Heath


An unscripted and unscheduled appearance by Caspar Thomas lulled the audience into a calm expectation of a magic show, with ropes and hankies and everything steady and relaxed. It turns out Caspar is a friend of Jerry and really was a gift!

Then, something resembling the human form of a Marabou Stork appeared (not using a magical term here) on stage and described himself as God from beyond the universe. The next hour passed in a fuzzy blur of foul words, vile comment, sexist, racist and just about every other –ist rant cleverly wrapped around some brilliantly observed humour. As Jerry himself said: “I’d be on TV if I didn’t swear so *****ng much!”

Then I was asked in no polite terms to stop taking notes for this review as Jerry “don’t allow that as reviews are ****!” Do I respect his wishes? Absolutely not as folk seeing him at a future Fringe event need to know exactly what to expect.

The delivery is rapid, rapid, forest fire, machine-gun fire fast. Almost too fast to appreciate the humour lying low under several torrents of bile. But it is there. There are no targets left unaddressed: women, religion, young people, Donald Trump, disabled people and you can probably guess the rest, but the reader may recall he was “right about Jimmy Savile” and therefore deserves to be given an audience. However, that audience must know about the extremely offensive content.

He is a truly adept magician, incorporating a bewildering array of top drawer card tricks. It is almost as if a switch has been flicked as the engaging magician character, evidenced by the famous top hat is released and the foul-mouthed, fuzzy-haired, spitting love-child of Iggy Pop and Vicky Pollard is put to bed.

David Carlisle


Underground Venues (venue 10)

Jonny Pelham brings us tales. Tales from his teenage years. Tales from his life. You know the sort of thing. Nothing new there you might think. Well there was something a little different.

Tales from his childhood in Bradford. At a time when questions are asked about the value of multiculturalism, race and immigration and the post-Brexit Britain yet to be forged, Jonny gives us a glimpse into the world of minority – in this case being one of few 'white boys in the school'. Whilst not an academic exploration of race relations in an inner-city setting, he does use the differences between him and his Bangladeshi friends as a source of tales about boyhood. They sound both familiar and different. In-groups and out-groups are there as you might expect. This part of the show was was the strongest

Slightly less successful were more traditional comedy staples. Nipples make an appearance, as does trying to get a date with a girl – never easy for teenage boys. There were some neat touches throughout the show and Jonny was at ease with most of his material.

One thing that could be changed is the repeated references to Edinburgh, and “a work in progress”. The audience has paid to see a show and don't expect to be told it isn't quite ready and what may or may not be in the next or future shows. Rehearsal pays.

That said, the audience enjoyed themselves and laughed on cue. Jonny is on again on Monday 11th at the same venue.

Ian Parker Heath


An audience of dog lovers warmed to Juliet Meyers and her rescue dog Homer last night as she explored the nature of unconditional love, the search for her inner wolf and why society feels it is OK to be obsessed with your child but not your canine.

This was by her own admission a work in progress and the show, which is bound for Edinburgh, will be even better when she tightens up its structure. However there were plenty of laughs and Juliet’s engaging personality meant that the odd hesitation was quickly forgotten. As someone whose life has recently been turned upside down by a puppy, I particularly related to her description of Homer’s slightly suffocating “unconditional love” - “I feel like a cult leader” - and the embarrassing incidents that only a dog can manufacture (Homer disgraced himself by nuzzling underneath the blanket of a breastfeeding mother in a cafe).

It was also interesting to hear how she came by Homer, choosing him from a rescue centre where the manager regularly walked 40 rescue dogs and, memorably, a wolf with self-esteem issues. Originally from Portugal, Homer was originally left at a vet with instructions for him to be put down. No wonder he relishes his new life with his besotted owner. For her part, Juliet occasionally fantasises about a Kill Bill scenario whereby a vengeful, sword-wielding Homer goes in search of his abandoner growling: “You thought I was dead…”

She explains that purebreds never appealed. “Muts are like real women. Crufts are all a bit like Miss World”, she says. Comparing pedigree dogs to upper-classes “bred together to have no chin”, she says: “Even the royals mixed it up a bit. They got Kate Middleton in to stop them all biting each other”.

Juliet, who has written for Sarah Millican, 8/10 Cats and Mock the Week, is an irrepressible gagster even producing a topical knock knock joke about Theresa May, but there is also some depth and even pain in her show as she questions why she had a secret hankering to take on that rescue centre wolf and how cultivating some unconditional love of your own can lead to your finding a new courage within yourself as you prepare to do anything to defend your pet, even if that means being as socially embarrassing as him.

Homer, incidentally, behaved perfectly throughout the show - perhaps too perfectly. I wonder if she might consider a bit part for my bounding puppy to rough things up a little?

Stephanie Billen


This show was a must-watch for me. I have many fond memories of sitting in front of the TV with my father, watching the comedy genius that was Tommy Cooper and straining to hear his rapid patter over my dad’s guffaws which often ended in coughing fits. I was one of the millions who watched, stunned, when he collapsed in a live TV performance over 30 years ago and was devastated to learn that I would never be able to watch the great man in person. So it was with curiosity that I entered the dark confines of the Underground Venue to see whether John Hewer could honour Cooper’s legacy.

On first impression, Hewer bares little resemblance to the iconic comedian, apart from the bow tie and the trademark fez. However, with a cheeky side-glance here, a shrug and a throaty cackle there, he morphs into Tommy Cooper, probably the result of spending many hours watching old footage and practising his craft in front of the mirror.

It is a jam-packed hour and fans of Cooper will not be disappointed. All the favourites are there, including the magic tricks ‘spoon jar, jar spoon’, ‘bottle glass, glass bottle’, and ‘white hanky, white spots’, as well as a glut of the familiar jokes involving ‘the wife’ and trips to the doctor.

There was obvious warmth and affection from the audience for this well-known material and the frisson of excitement was palpable when a particularly loved pun was anticipated. Hewer built on this and formed a camaraderie through well-timed eye contact and engagement with the audience.

There was also a lot of content which was new to me, all delivered in the same quick-fire style and impeccable timing. Hewer was not thrown by a few instances of footsteps crossing the floor above and seamlessly incorporated them into the act with a few quizzical looks.

Hewer had solid support from Christopher Peters, who lent musical accompaniment and provided a musical interlude of a comic ditty in his dulcet tones. He also supplied not-so-subtle assistance to some of the magic tricks, thereby adding to their farcical delivery.

Obviously, nobody can perform Tommy Cooper as well as Cooper himself, but John Hewer does an excellent job at reminding us what we all miss about this comic icon.

Sian-Elin Flint-Freel


The premise of this show is very simple - two kagool-clad and completely silent women entertain us for three quarters of an hour with just a combination of facial expressions, dancing, the odd prop or two, some back-projections and a clever choice of records. The fact that it works so deliriously well is down to the consummate skill that Nicky Wilkinson and Claire Ford exhibit and the infectious enthusiasm they use to carry us along on their mad adventure.

Things start slowly enough - one of the women guides us to our seats, smiling and pointing, but we are soon divided up into two teams for a cheering contest and lots of clapping. It is immediately apparent that audience participation is very much required and we soon move on to an extreme version of this involving Mars Bars, full-on dancing and an exchange of bodily fluids for the lucky(?) few. One member of the audience is even transmogrified into a magic unicorn and crosses into the realm of film in some clever back projection. Though I'm not one of the "don't pick on me" brigade I often find this sort of thing a bit cringe-making unless done very well and it quickly dawns on us that the Kagools do this very, very well so we can all just relax and enjoy the ride. And if that means having the side of my face smeared with salsa dip as part of a slow-motion kiss or having to provide the kiss of life itself after an unfortunate drowning then so be it.

Throughout this whole family-friendly show, the comic timing of this assured duo keeps us deliciously entertained. See them while you can - Peter Storm gear has never been worn with such panache.

Dan Osborne

MIKE SHEPHARD: ZAZOU! - Ten in a Bed / Mike Shephard

Mike Shephard is a London based writer and comedian who has written for BBC Radio 4's The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4Extra's Newsjack and the award-winning Comedians Theatre Company. 

Mike brings his latest stand-up show Zazou! to the Buxton Fringe for an energetic, fast paced hour of comedy encompassing a wide range of topics. Mike cleverly intertwines satirical comedy and observations on political themes, history and a host of other thoughts and opinions. It is intellectual comedy with bursts of rage and irritation.

In today’s political environment there is a lot for Mike to feed from, but he doesn’t over egg it and always leave a moment for you to figure out the impact of his thoughts and observations. This means his timing has to be impeccable . . . . and it is.

Other key themes of the show are Mike’s very Britishness (or Europeaness!) and the influence of 1970s and 80s films and sitcoms on creating the man you see standing before you. There is lots for everyone to identify with.

Its fast paced, very clever, challenges the interpretation you have of events and needs you to have your wits about you to keep up!

Thoroughly enjoyable.

Louise Neilson


This is a review from his 2015 show

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.

Rufus McAlister


Underground Venues (venue 10)

Ms Mann is no stranger to the Fringe and with this helping of 'help' she may have found her metier. As you might expect from the title, the show centres upon the agonies of the audience and your soon-to-be favourite Agony Aunt and part-time librarian's advice on resolving them.

Audience participation then, is essential and there's a lot of it. From revealing your personal dilemmas, up to and including invisibility, to chatting to your fellow audience members, one is expected to overcome that bastion of Englishness – reserve. Do not think of this as therapy in public, think of it as as an exposé of the mores of Middle England.

Witty and delivered with an assured confidence, Charles Adrian has created one of those characters you'll remember after the Fringe has finished. The audience last night loved the spinster-librarian who is a member of that long tradition of much put upon ladies who take an almost forbidden delight in sniping at those whose manners are, how shall we say this, strained. Remember the continuity announcer from the late Victoria Woods shows?

If I was asked to describe the show in a sentence it would be this. Charming with an acerbic underside. If this sounds like your cup of tea then there is another chance to catch Ms Mann and seek her advice on the 23rd. Help is at hand!

Ian Parker Heath

NATHAN CASSIDY: 42 - The Rat Pack Productions Ltd / Nathan Cassidy

Underground Venues (venue 10)

Take 42 things that are positive in your life. Get a member of the audience to choose 10 of them at random and use them as the basis of the show for the next hour. Simple really.

If you weren't there last night you missed a real treat. Cricket, dance, Harry Potter, the World Cup, chaos and Romeo & Juliet were among the items selected, so you get an idea of the range of comedic opportunities afforded to us. True to form, Nathan did not disappoint, and for the next hour much mirth was to be had. At times it was eye-wateringly funny and I don't think a single one of us didn't laugh as Nathan tried, desperately at times, to cope with the front row! It isn't often the front row plays such a part in events but last night was a classic. Then, not content with giving us such a great show, we were invited to be brave. So we were. We were led out of the venue and had a little dance and free Prosecco courtesy of our host! Seems we were spotted by other Fringe reviewers at this point . . .

This was the third time I've seen Nathan and each show has been put together with a great deal of thought and work. Last night showed that he doesn't just throw things together and hope something sticks. It has been rehearsed and tuned and it showed.

Just one appearance isn't enough, and if you missed it – tough. Easily the best comedy I've seen at this year's Fringe.

Ian Parker Heath


Nick Hall is a character comedian who performed his debut show at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In this, his latest show SZGRABBLE, he takes on the roles of over 10 characters in a fast paced, energetic, hilarious James Bond meets Scrabble tale of espionage, seduction and triple word scores.

Nick takes you and Arthur Fenchurch on a mission from a Reading library to the world Scrabble championships in Budapest. There is lots of intense high energy action along the way, as he introduces you to the many international characters that make up the extensive tale and weaves a fantastic side-splitting story.

The show is jam packed with a well written script that is well planned and well prepared. With a mix of fast one liners as well as building on and returning to his key characters, he engages the audience throughout and bursts into short spells of improvisation that show how quick witted he is.

All this and a fantabulous song about Scrabble! This thoroughly enjoyable show is well worth the ticket price as you can clearly see the preparation and passion that he has put into this show and you really do come away having had a good laugh.

Nick is back at the Edinburgh Festivals Free Fringe for 2016 and I would highly recommend this show to anyone attending and looking for something funny, original, fast paced, energetic and all in a jam packed hour.

Louise Neilson


James, a chatty and engaging Brummie chap introduced himself with the intention of doing a bunch of comedy stuff for the handful of us gathered in a corner of an art gallery; he had been to Buxton before and had performed at the Buzz Comedy Club, a very different venue and much more mature audience.

However, he diluted and distilled his comedy style perfectly well for the several younger audience members and what occurred was a great deal of family-friendly giggly fun in the style of an intimate chat with a favourite Uncle. Forgiving the odd-cuss-word, you could proudly sit alongside a child and both chuckle away at the same joke…and both understand and enjoy it!

You’ll learn such interesting things as “what it feels like to eat food after midnight as the “eat-by date’ expires” and how to survive a wedding when you don’t really want to be there.”

He’s taking this show to Edinburgh - well at the age of 39, it’s about time he took a risk on his comedy persona. I think he’ll do very well there. In fact, I’d like to send him merrily on his way with a personal recommendation for a Fringe Comedy Award – he gets my vote and my wife’s!

David Carlisle

SHIP OF FOOL - Rob Coleman

The Green Man Gallery (Venue 86)

'Ship of Fool' – singular you'll note, and therein lies the tale.

Rob Coleman, product of upper-middle class parents and an expensive public school education, gave us an account of his life and struggles which had something of the stereotype about it. You see it the media – plucky, courageous, and probably stupid Englishman, and it is invariably English, undertakes a mission/job/challenge for which he, and it is invariably 'he', is hopelessly under-prepared for, and fails. I know what you're thinking here . . .

Politics and Brexit aside, this was the tale of one man's so far unsuccessful efforts to row across the Atlantic Ocean. The genesis of this may well lie in his early life and the incessant bullying at school, or it may not, but Rob gave the audience a colourful account of his school days and how he came to have that sense of entitlement we have heard of when the subject public school boys comes to the fore. It played a part in how this obsession grew into something which has not quite taken over his life, but is a significant part of it.

Of course there is failure, what epic obsession doesn't? There is rebirth, of sorts. A return to the sea and success, after a fashion. There are plans for the venture to continue, with more money. 3,000 miles of rowing looms large for Rob, but I couldn't help wondering if doing the Ibiza-Barcelona trip 15 times might not be easier?

Ocean rowing it seems is a source of many things, from sore bottoms and toilet buckets, to the grandeur of nature. Our guide to what is for most of us an alien world – the question why would anyone want to do such a thing is never far from your lips at this show – lets us in to the secret world of ocean rowers with just the right amount of self-deprecation and toilet humour. The story is a familiar one, even if the subject isn't.

Ian Parker Heath


The Railway Hotel, Bridge Street, hursday 14th July

The premise of the show is that two singers, currently employed as a window cleaner(cue George Formby) and an unlicensed dentist, aspire to be rich and famous opera singers. Their method to achieve this ambition is a bit suspect as they variously upset their pianist and treat well known pieces like Nessun Dorma disrespectfully and humourously by changing the words to sing about how talented they are.

They then lapse into a wide range of comic songs including Flanders and Swan, Tom Lehrer, Dolly Parton (Dolly Parton?) and even Monty Python – who also provide the finale.

In truth the singers are already established and accomplished opera singers; Graham Neal (tenor), Jon Openshaw (baritone) and Robert Webb as the grumpy accompanist adds a kind of narration which holds the conceit together.

So as the whole show is a framework on which to hang comic songs it’s strength lies with the songs themselves and their delivery - which was consistently good. The pedigree of the performers meant that the song’s lyrics were delivered clearly (not always the case with comic songs) and the group introduced their own material; the best being the boy band spoof Love Song for a Non-Specific Girl although it has to be said the trio make unlikely teen heart throbs. There was also an unexpected intervention from a soprano, albeit a tone deaf one.

The venue lacked a little warmth and was overlit and a bit off the fringe centre but nonetheless was well attended for a first night and the show was much enjoyed by the audience. There is only one more performance – Friday 15th at 7:30pm tickets on the door. Get there early.

Brian Kirman


Stuart Laws is a stand-up comedian who made his debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013. He has his own production company ‘Turtle Canyon Comedy’, and writes and directs sketch shows, sitcoms and live shows. In 2015 he appeared on Radio 4 Extra in the Machynlleth Comedy Showcase.

This show starts with the revelation of the true title of the show, which is a nod to the Jurassic Park fans out there 'He was so preoccupied with whether or not he could, he didn't stop to think if he should'.

It then swiftly turns into a fast paced energetic comedy show where you need to have your wits about you to keep up with what appears to be nonsense and chaos. But this comedian and his hubris nature take you on an elaborate, sometimes surreal, journey of who he is and where he is from. He takes you back to his home town and reflects on returning to this place a decade after leaving. He cleverly intertwines themes that run throughout to lead you to the end, although there are times where you have no idea where you are being led to. He really can't go into it, but it's about paper rounds, a job interview, gilets, puffins and Mike.

What other comedian do you know who bases his set around puffins? He is certainly different and not your run of the mill stand-up comedian, but if you are after something buzzing with energy and a little off the wall he could be right up your street.

But is he who he seems? Is life as it seems? Take the roller coaster ride to discover more . . .

Louise Neilson


Underground Venues, 15-17th July

I looked at my notes for this show this morning hoping for some sort of revelation. Sadly that hasn't happened so all I can do is report on this extraordinary event as best I can.

Mr Twonkey is a veteran of the Fringe circuit and adjectives like 'bonkers' and 'weird' regularly crop up and I am not going to disagree. With a mixture of song, storytelling and puppetry Mr Twonkey introduces us to the disturbing and unsettling world and characters to be found inside his head (and in model form on the table by his side).

In the course of a bewildering and bemusing evening we encountered raspberry spaghetti, a voice trapped in a tree, the birth of Pinocchio, a chorus "The Zinc Tears of Jesus Got Me Thinking, Got Me Blinking." I don't think a spoiler alert is required.

Mr Twonkey also showed himself to be adept at mindreading. With the aid of one of Santa's elf's ship wheel "dripping with (Prymark) knickers" he was able to reveal with embarrassing accuracy intimate details of the lives of audience members.

A prize-winner in the audience also got a personal performance of Transylvanian finger puppetry.

I also have notes about the tragedy of Sandy - a rescue fair hook-a-duck. And it is just possible that Harry Houdini's widow, Bess, Stan Laurel and Lon Cheney (disguised as a draft excluder I seem to have written) feature in the show's climax. But by this point I might have been occupying a parallel world not far from Mr Twonkey's.

At the end he graciously thanked the "small, perfectly formed if terrified audience." I am up for a second visit - anyone care to join me?

Keith Savage


Paolo Ferrari, as the name suggests, has some Italian ancestry. He also has some Northern Irish too. He had problems with his parents whilst growing up (as most comedians seem to, don't they?) and they are both deceased.

There, a few facts. You can get these from watching his act over at the Cheshire Cheese for the next two days. What you'll also get is a rambling, blurry, distracting show, which is a style used by many comedians. Not to everyone's taste, and so it proved last night.

There were some nice touches and observations made such as don't have a domestic in a tent and could an act comment or review the reviewer (I said they could at Buxton. . . .) and I felt more could be made of some of these. There was some audience participation and those who took part clearly enjoyed themselves and continued to have some 'banter' with Paolo.

There weren't any jokes as such, and this did not appeal to everyone. If this kind of show appeals to you, then catch Paolo on the 15th and 16th at the Cheese.

Ian Parker Heath