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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.