Comedy Reviews

AN AUDIENCE WITH YASMINE DAY - Jay Bennett

We were privileged to be in the audience for the Jasmine Day Spectacular on Saturday night.

Ten thirty pm is not the most promising of start times in sleepy Buxton but those of us who attended were rewarded with a bold performance by a superstar. Jasmine Day is a superstar- she told us so herself.

Jay Bennett played Jasmine not as a tribute act to Jasmine but as a tribute act to Jasmine by Jasmine. The self regard of Jasmine was equalled by the confidence of Jay as she belted out power ballads, brought herself to tears singing a Phil Collins number, sang a song from ‘Chess’ using only vowels and blended seamlessly into jazz . One song was sung ‘as the artist intended’ (under a ghost sheet) and being an artist of ‘exceptional talent’ she used superstar- licence to change song lyrics and ‘make them better’.

She involved the audience to a considerable extent with sing-alongs and props which created a relaxed and comfortable experience and helped the audience to be receptive to the humour of the show. We were all waving candles to some songs.

Underneath the Jasmine Day persona Jay Bennett actually has a very fine voice and the parts of ballads she sang with less self mockery were delightful.

I always admire the confidence of actors who take on a one-person show but for an actor to build her persona up as ‘the best’ even in self irony is to invite being knocked down. Jay avoids this by sheer talent and it will be interesting to see how and what shows she develops in the future.

Brian Kirman

GEMMA ARROWSMITH: EARTHLING - Gemma Arrowsmith

A romp through the history of the Voyagers 1 and 2 journeys with some interesting facts (scientific and otherwise) thrown in, sketches focussing on the oddities of humans and opinions gathered from Gemma Arrowsmith’s internet survey. Earthling is an eclectic and entertaining performance.

The backbone of the show is the Voyager space programme which blasted off two spacecraft from Earth over forty years ago. Aboard both, are golden phonograph records containing sounds and images from Earth. The scientist responsible for compiling the golden records was Carl Sagan. Both crafts are still up there. Maybe one day they will come into contact with other beings.

Gemma starts with the premise that an alien species has found the golden records, decoded them and are trying to decide what to do about us. We, the audience, are being lectured to by The Scientist who is telling us about humans and asking for our help in trying to decide whether to investigate us further.

In this pacy show, sketches are interspersed with facts about the golden records and about the scientist, Carl Sagan.

In the sketches we meet a myriad of characters, each illustrating Gemma’s sharply observed observations of human behaviour and talent for mimicry: the mother, over-proud of her child; the American weather reporter giving us the ‘mass shooting forecasts’ for the week; the girl who will only wear pink and the TV programme in which millennials have the opportunity to win their parents’ lives. Lives in which they will own houses, cars and live without student debt. The significance of what we see is explained in pseudo-scientific tone by the alien.

Gemma reverts to herself when giving us facts or showing slides of opinions she has gathered through her internet survey. She makes excellent use of technology. The large screen and slides shown are appropriate to the story line. The screen is almost a character in itself. If science had been this entertaining when I was at school, I would have studied it at A-level.

Gemma is a highly talented comedian, writer and actor who engaged well with the audience. There was lots of laughter and a feeling of warmth that did not just come from the outside temperature. The mix of science, theatre, facts and funny lines works well.

And as for the conclusion - are Earthlings worth investigating further? You will have to go along tonight to find out.

Viv Marriott

TWONKEY'S NIGHT TRAIN TO LIECHTENSTEIN - The Twonkeyverse Players

As a general rule I don’t read reviews of shows or performers I’m going to see on the Fringe, I like to go with an open mind, but in the bar before the show a couple of Fringe regulars suggested I should be prepared . . .

Well, what to say. A thoroughly inventive, imaginative, and crafted piece of surreal humour enfolded before us. Dipping in and out of characters and themes we were treated to crazy ideas, songs, audience participation, puppets and one of the most interesting shows I’ve seen at the Fringe in a while. Not always laugh out loud, but always entertaining if last night’s audience was anything to go by.

If you like you humour somewhere out there in left field, if you want to know about Michael Stipe’s new job and what a Transylvanian Finger Fantasy is, get down to the Clubhouse tonight for the second show. Not entirely perfect, just a couple of small kinks to iron out, but otherwise a lovely show of whimsical wanderings.

Ian Parker Heath

THE KAGOOLS: KULA - The Kagools

Over the last few years, physical theatre duo The Kagools have become firm favourites of the Buxton Fringe crowd. Wordless, this pacamac-clad pair, draw audiences into their surreal world of knockabout comedy, facial hilarity and audience interaction. Their latest show continues this tradition, as polished and slick as anything they’ve brought before.

In Kula the Kagools are being bothered by two troll-like beings (the Kagools again, this time with fright wigs over their hoods) and the narrative follows our heroines’ attempts to be rid of these pests as well as to get the key allowing them the chance to head off on an epic road trip.

That’s the story, but as ever, it is a structure into which the Kagools’ unique brand of physical comedy can shine. Moving between live action and filmed sequences, and sometimes interacting between the two, their attention to detail is as ever supreme. With only their faces on display, the Kagools clearly know ever expression they’re making – nothing is left to chance, apart from in the use of audience members who form an intrinsic part of any Kagools show.

Kula receives late-night performances this year, and it is a little ruder than some of their more family friendly shows of the past, but would not trouble parents too much. There is still an innocence to their act, even when slightly saucy.

For all the modern technological trappings of their shows, Claire Ford and Nicola Wilkinson are a classic comedy double-act, their on-stage relationship veering between love and rivalry as with all the greats. Long may they continue.

Robbie Carnegie

JULIET MEYERS: YEAR OF THE DOG - Juliet Meyers

Juliet Meyer’s two opening gags were, “Don’t work with animals, children or Harvey Weinstein.” and, “It’s a bit like being in a double act but one has to make sure the other has had a poo.” The other, to whom she refers, is Homer the dog – appearing on stage and described by Ms Meyers as, “The little f**ker,” which for some reason got quite a titter from the audience. As did each and almost every other mention of south-central body parts and their various emissions. Anyway, back to Homer; a Portuguese Podengo breed – apparently they come in medium (medio) and large (grande). Homer is a ‘medio’ and a lovely-looking one; searching eyes, friendly and calm disposition, ears at alert, neatly groomed, a dog you would want to introduce to your parents - not really ‘the little f**ker’ one might imagine. Homer is a dog not fazed by stage or audience. He looked around the backcloths – both sides, walked across the stage a couple of times, shook hands politely with someone on the front row - every bit the seasoned actor - and then unobtrusively lay down while Ms M told amusing tales; some dog-related, some not. One was about her Brexit neighbour who asked why Ms M had to go and adopt a foreign dog.

The audience learnt fairly early on in the show that Ms M was a cyclist and that, “Traffic lights mean f**k all.” Hmm, glad we got that one cleared up.

Much of the rest of the show was, like the body parts, south-central orientated, this time South-Central America and a cycling holiday; interesting anecdotal travel stuff and amusing. Homer then came back into the limelight and did a little piece that involved selecting a beef jerky jar by sniffing – but it didn’t really work and when Ms M was onto her next piece he quietly went and selected what he should have done in the first place and sat down and ate it. The end piece was a touching little routine – a test to see how much your dog cares about you. The idea is that you clutch your chest, fall gasping to the floor and lie there looking dead. The dog is supposed to show great concern. Homer duly stood up and approached the prostrate Ms M - most likely because she had fallen on the beef jerky jar. Well, as Ms M advised herself at the outset – never work with animals, children or Harvey Weinstein. Could it be Harvey W for next year’s show?

Jim Marriott

AIDAN GOATLEY: THE VICAR’S HUSBAND - Aidan Goatley

There was a warm welcome from the staff at the Scrivener’s Bookshop and from Aidan Goatley himself who led us upstairs to our seats. Scrivener’s Bookshop venue helped to create an intimate, quirky and learned atmosphere. The audience number was 10 which was the maximum number I think the space would allow. This small number helped to make the audience members feel a part of the act.

This was an enjoyable show which succeeded in being funny with many creative twists and interesting and creative stories. The main idea that his wife is training to be a vicar and he is an atheist, became the background for many interesting and funny ideas such as his attempt to make an audio book of the bible for his wife.

He moved on to several other subjects such as Poundland, Christmas Turkey and a self-deprecating account of his shows on a cruise ship.

I would like to hear Aidan Goatley tell some ghost stories at the Scrivener’s Bookshop as I feel sure he would be good at it.

I would certainly recommend going to his other shows.

Roger Horvath

ALEX KEALY: MONETIZE THIS! - Alex Kealy

Alex Kealy is an engaging and likeable individual and his opening theme of issues concerning his relationships (or lack of) had the audience warming to him. His show covered politics, London, mental health, Brexit, capitalism and politics again, including Trump, and delivered several ‘laugh out loud’ moments, particularly with some skilfully worked analogies.

Alex gave the audience the impression that he was nervous. This was reinforced by hesitations and a staccato delivery. Whilst this can all be part of the comic’s ‘style’, it also affected the delivery of some key lines. He constantly referred to his notes and overall the performance lacked fluidity.

There is no doubt that this man is perceptive, intelligent and funny; great company if you had a few drinks with him in a bar. He has some great ideas and when he hones his delivery he will make a lot of people laugh. I look forward to seeing Alex again at next year’s Fringe.

Vernon McGarey

NICOLA WILKINSON: HAPPY - Nicola Wilkinson

Goodness knows we all need a bit of a pep-up these days. Our lives are relentlessly complicated, with our countless choices, it seems, making us less, not more content. Time to get back to simple pleasures, perhaps?

Going through a similar thought process was the spur to comedian Nicola Wilkinson to begin to list the things that made her happy – and her list is at the heart of this delightful stand-up show. Stationery products, gravy, karaoke, pub quizzes, pies … nothing sophisticated here perhaps, but where has sophistication got us? We all need basic enjoyment and in Happy, Nicky supplies … she even supplies pies.

Nicola Wilkinson has a natural ability to communicate with an audience. The show completely breaks down the fourth wall between audience and comedian, with Nicky effortlessly engaging audience members in conversation, drawing amusing facts from them in a non-confrontational way, and getting them to join in with a succession of parlour games, quizzes and world record attempts. Sometimes shows involving audience interaction can be awkward and cringe-inducing – here everyone was completely at ease, a testament to Nicky’s skills.

And, after a long, tiring week, the show accomplished what it set out to do, with the audience going home buoyed up and, as the title suggests, happy.

Robbie Carnegie

CLAIRE FORD: UNBOXED - Claire Ford

Claire Ford is well known to Buxton audiences as one half of physical comedy double act The Kagools. As such, those attending her new stand-up show might have thought they knew what to expect from her solo outing – knockabout silliness, perhaps, or broad character comedy. Instead, Unboxed is decidedly unexpected – a confessional, deeply personal account of Claire’s life and, in particular, her complicated family dynamic. At its heart is her relationship with her father, a cardboard box merchant who saw Claire as the heir to his packaging empire.

As well as being an extremely personable and droll stand-up, it is worth remembering that Claire is, first and foremost, an actress, and in Unboxed it is the vignettes when she is in character that are the most effective: Claire the little girl meeting her father’s new lady friend for the first time, Claire the 15-year-old being chatted up by older men at a nightclub. She has a mastery of facial expression and timing that makes these one-sided conversations so powerful: funny and also increasingly unsettling.

Unboxed is currently undergoing substantial retooling and thus is something of a work in progress at present, leading on the first night to multiple technical hitches. However, despite these issues, this show – about family love, loss and sacrifice – is a profound and poignant piece from an accomplished comedy actress, refreshingly unjudgemental and exceptionally truthful.

Robbie Carnegie

ROB ROUSE: ARE YOU SITTING COMFORTABLY? - Rob Rouse

Rob Rouse had the audience in the palm of his hand and rolling in the aisles. He overran his timeslot as he treated us to a good natured stream of consciousness about his life in intimate detail. He had perfect rapport with the audience managing to build a camaraderie that encouraged surprising confessions from them.

I suppose that he must have had a script of some sort but it felt like he was making it up as he went along and the audience was hanging on every word. I don't want to give away the punchlines of his jokes although they may well be different for every performance.

He covered the following topics which are all pretty standard subject matter for a comedian. Male middle age in all its glory; His previous life as a Geography teacher; The antics of his kids; Caravans; The antics and hygiene routines of his dog; and a recent rectal examination that he underwent.

The thing that makes Rob stand out is the WAY that he covers them. He is a very physical comedian in every sense of the word. He acts out all the scenes that he is describing and he squeezes (pardon the pun) the maximum possible humour from stories about bodily fluids and human indignity and he is such a lovable character and such a funny man that you can take safely take your granny along. In fact there were a fair few grannies in the audience come to think of it.

He is probably the most famous performer in this year's fringe in that he has been on TV a few times. He has another show on the 15th July that is sure to be a sellout. Buy your ticket early.

Alex Watts

MY FRIEND TONY AND THE TINY CIRCLE OF LOVE - TMT

I’m never quite sure what to expect from a one-man show. There’s no safety net of someone to help out if you forget lines etc, and I’ve seen that at this year’s Fringe. Despite, or because of, the small audience Nick seemed a little nervous as he began the show, but we needn’t have worried as he soon warmed to the task and off we went . . .

We all have one apparently, a circle of love. It holds all the things we love. X has a large one, whilst his good friend Tony has a small one. Size matters it seems. One’s circle of love has its opposite – a circle of hate. It’s a correlate. This is the crux of the show as Nick explores what he, Tony and the rest of us love and hate.

Some of the things to look out for:

63%

Schrodinger’s salad

Izal (you have to be of a certain age)

Hot cheese paradox

What unfolds is a gentle, wry look at what we love/hate and the often-fraught relationship between the two. I’m sure you’ll recognise many of the traits and foibles author and actor Nick Brelsford has corralled into this engaging piece. The audience loved it and I’m sure lots of you will too. You can catch Nick performing again on the 10th, 14th & 15th at the same venue.

Ian Parker Heath

MIKE RAFFONE: BRAIN RINSE - Rinse Productions/Mike Raffone

Mike Raffone describes himself as an eccentric entertainer, committed to giving quality entertainment to his audience. He is different and original and provides quality - in bucket loads.

Whether Mike is in Pavilion Gardens captivating a large audience sitting in the sun or in the intimate setting of the Old Clubhouse, he is the consummate professional whose work is thoughtful, thought provoking, polished and above all very entertaining.

The show starts with a large red screen on the stage upon which are written the words ‘Brain Rinse, Puppetry of the audience’. Mike, aka, the ninja, comes on stage and promises us a transcendental experience through which we will discover our own inner ninja through the process of joining in. Those last two words are enough to strike fear into the hearts of most British audiences but do not worry. It quickly becomes clear that we are in safe hands. For the majority, the participation is through laughter.

Mike’s show is well-structured with the performance being enhanced by a soundtrack of appropriate music, skilfully linked to the action by Charlie, the sound man. The ninja invites the audience to meet three characters from his past who have helped him discover his own inner ninja.

These characters are helped by members of the audience. Mike’s long experience in this type of theatre coupled with a sensitivity for the feelings of individuals means that only those who want to go up on stage are selected; Mike is constantly reassuring. As he disappears behind the screen to change costume he tells us, “Don’t worry. I’ll be here all the time to protect you.” The faces of those selected to go on stage are testament of how much they are enjoying the experience and the number of photos taken by their friends and family in the audience are an indication of their delight at what is happening.

The show ends with the ninja becoming Mike once more. He tells us that nothing is real, it has all been a show. But there has been a real, shared and very enjoyable experience. The show works on many levels and in different ways for different people. Brain Rinse will make the perfect post-carnival entertainment. I urge you to get tickets for Mike’s next show on the 14th at 5.30pm.

Viv Marriott

ACCIDENT AVOIDANCE TRAINING FOR CUTLERY USERS - LEVEL 2 - Ian Crawford

Following last year’s attendance at the Buxton Festival Fringe and a suggestion from the reviewer that it was ‘vital he comes back to Buxton’, Mr Ian Crawford, cutlery safety advisor, decided it was his duty to return to train Buxtonians and visitors to the heady heights of Accident Avoidance Training For Cutlery Users - Level 2.

Since the dawn of time humans have extracted natural resources from the earth to create objects for their own use – and so cutlery was born. However, it is only now that the true dangers of cutlery are fully recognised and Mr. Crawford believes it is his duty to prevent the 4 or 5 cutlery related deaths which occur each year.

We have all been to those training courses, those seminars which are compulsory as part of your working life. This show was a parody of one of those: the Powerpoint presentation, the litany of ‘facts’, the promised certificate of completion which can be used for CPD, CV or application forms, and the affable yet dry trainer and the cheesy slogans (“Think once, think twice, think fork, spoon and knife.”) In fact, we were all promised a Certificate of Completion in the post following the session.

Crawford compared the dangers of cutlery use with chopstick-related injuries and also used cutlery danger case studies to illustrate the potential risks. In fact, those of a nervous disposition should be warned that some of those illustrations were quite graphic! However, he can rest assured that his efforts are not in vain as he is surely training a new generation of cautious yet confident cutlery users.

But that was not all! We were also honoured to have an extra training session by Roy Windsor, national and international biscuit expert, “the custard cream of the crop”, and author of such thrilling titles as ‘Birth of the Great British Biscuit’, ‘Did the Romans have Biscuits?’ and ‘Shakespeare and Biscuits’. His aim is to share his passion and to impart his wisdom on the social and cultural impact of biscuits. During the show you come to understand that there is a link between the two men but I will leave that for you to discover.

Ian Crawford is a fantastic character and had the audience rapt from the start with the content and delivery. Roy is a new character and so not as fully rounded as Ian Crawford yet. However, he shows great promise and I, for one, will look forward to watching as he develops in his training career.

Ian Crawford will be returning to Buxton Fringe for one last training session on 22 July at 4.15pm, Underground at the Old Clubhouse, and I have heard rumours that Roy Windsor will be joining him. Can you afford not to attend?

I still haven’t received my certificate.

In memory of Francis Marie Turner (1970-1986)*

Sian-Elin Flint-Freel

*audience members will understand the reference

10,000 DECISIONS (PREVIEW) - Robyn Perkins

Robyn Perkins is an established comedian on the UK circuit, a presence at Edinburgh since 2013 who regularly performs and MCs in London (Top Secret Comedy Club etc.) and at a wide range of festival and events. Her awards include finalist in the English Comedian of the Year (the only American to achieve this!) and in Funny Women and winner of the Comedy Cavern: Judge and Jury Award (all 2014).

Robyn made her mark with audiences in 2013 sharing personal loss and grief with ‘honesty and wit’. She has since garnered much critical acclaim being: ‘witty and sharp’ and ‘exceptionally charismatic’ with ‘engagingly chatty delivery’. Robyn has ‘refreshing directness and plenty of feisty humour’ and is ‘sharp, insightful, touching, but above all really, really funny’.

Recently Robyn has had decisions on her mind! Last year she took her one-woman show Robyn’s Bad Decision Time to Edinburgh. That exploration of her worst decisions left one reviewer feeling he could have listened to her talk about her past all day. Her life experiences provided ‘enough ammunition’ to carry a ‘solid hour of comedy’.

This year her focus is on why we make the decisions we do and whether we can decide to be happy – great topics for a performer with a scientific background and a talent for ‘ridiculously unfiltered comedy’. Robyn delivered a beautifully-crafted, slick and very funny event. She created a rapport with her audience that was second to none – we were warmly greeted, gently challenged and encouraged to engage in shaping the show.

After some quick win, crowd pleasing forays into family life, being single and politics (the B-word and, you guessed it, the T-word!) Robyn guided us seamlessly through aspects of decision-making, what constitutes happiness and some underpinning neuro-science. She has an energetic and pacey style, carefully balancing facts and reflection with quirky personal anecdotes and imaginative audience participation.

Robyn gave us wordplays and quick-fire one-liners, peppered with punchlines. She returned to her key themes and lobbed in surprises – the names of cocktails, some dating slang and (my favourite) the notion of tolerance quotas. The audience responded with gentle laughter pretty much throughout and lots of laugh-out loud moments - with sustained and highly appreciative applause after the final punchline.

Robyn is in the middle of this show’s UK tour and takes it to London this week. Fortunately she returns to Buxton for one more performance on Sunday (15th). For a highly entertaining, thought-provoking and strangely feel-good outing get your tickets now!!

Sandra Jowett

ADAM VINCENT: STUCK IN THE SUBURBS WITH YOU - Australian Stand Up Adam Vincent

Everybody knows the Tony Hatch written theme tune for TV’s Neighbours and assumes that Australia is the home of the best ones, but Adam Vincent will convince you that Bedford houses them. That includes his non-traditional modern family.

He’s the ‘bloke next door’ who has an awful lot going on behind twitching closed curtains, and I mean “awful!” Not stuff to generally talk about in public, but Adam does: he shouts loud and proud about daft stuff like the versatility of nipples, prison tactics (should you unexpectedly find yourself imprisoned) and how to negotiate with a gunman holding a favourite family member hostage. Hilarious and unpredictable.

A great comedian requires good stories, versatility, timing, vision and believable crowd-pleasing happy-chappy characteristics. This show has them all wrapped up in some very clever and challenging writing. Grab a ticket before he sells out in Edinburgh.

David Carlisle

CHEATERS: A PLAY ABOUT INFIDELITY - KinkyBoot Institute

One evening, after a night at Wetherspoons, Kevin and Dave bring two married women back to Dave’s home for one thing, and one thing only. Not only are the two women, Alex and Jess, married to other men, but Kevin and Dave also have wives.

The scene is set when Cheaters: A Play About Infidelity starts with a David Attenborough-esque style voiceover explaining how cheetahs are able to redirect and target another prey very quickly.

What follows is a fast-paced farce where secrets are revealed, a few home truths are told and the whole concepts of marriage, monogamy and fidelity are challenged.

All four actors remain on the stage throughout and the action flits between pairs (in different combinations), meaning that all the performers are continually on show and do an excellent job of evolving the characters and plot in the background, be it a silent finger-pointing argument or an awkward fumble, as the main action continues.

Without giving too much of the twists and turns of the plot away, Dave (played by Dan Sheader) and Kevin (played by Lewis Charlesworth, who also is the writer/director) are very different characters. Dave is a brash and loutish builder, whereas Kevin is more unsure of himself. However, each is set on ending the night in bed with a woman who is not their wife. Alex and Jess, played by Kathryn Stirton and Danni Swidrak, are also good friends who are poles apart in character. Jess is loud and seemingly sure about what she wants whereas Alex, despite having an alcohol-induced bravado, is much less certain of her reasons for being there as the night wears on.

Sheader embraced the role of the macho and very drunk Dave with gusto and his flair for physical comedy stood out, but he also captured moments of showing a kinder and more thoughtful side to the character. Charlesworth’s facial expressions brought many laughs and he encapsulated Kevin’s slightly gauche personality well. The brazen and slightly intimidating character of Jess was portrayed comfortably by Swidrak, and Stirton conveyed the flits between drunken flamboyance and melancholic remorse in a way that fostered the audience’s empathy.

The escalation in this frenetic tale of twists and turns brought with is an increased momentum and there were many gasps from the audience as they wondered what was going to happen next.

Credit also to Rosie Phillips as Julia, Paul Fraser Smith as John, and Janet Lilley as Dr. King — all confident performances, but to explain who they are may be too revealing.

This is not a play for the prudish or easily offended as there is plenty of adult content, strong language and innuendo; however, be assured that any particularly saucy activity is hidden behind a screen with a sign saying ‘Not Suitable For Buxton’ — a nice touch!

Cheaters marks Lewis Charlesworth’s debut as an actor/director/playwright and shows great promise in his new role.

Sian-Elin Flint-Freel

AMADEUS MARTIN: A HISTORY OF PET HATES - Amadeus Martin

Amadeus is no stranger to the Fringe, and he made a welcome return last night. His latest show is hate-filled. Well it would be given it’s a history of some of his pet hates.

As you might expect, many of his pet hates are things that many of us might identify with, the sort of stuff that fills our lives these days, you know, text messages from your significant other and the like. His range of hates stretched back many years, and included Lucozade. Remember it in a large glass bottle wrapped in bright orange cellophane? Yes, that stuff. If you do, then this show’s probably for you.

There are some nicely observed turn in the show such as social differences between ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ Buxton, but also a few flat spots which need attention. The audience was appreciative and enjoyed the show. I for one will recall that image of Elton John for quite a while! Amadeus has another show in the Fringe on the 21st if you want to find out what that image is.

Ian Parker Heath

HARRIET KEMSLEY: SLUTTY JOAN - Harriet Kemsley

This last year has provided a seismic change in sexual relations, with the #MeToo movement causing men and women the world over to examine their behaviour, past and present. This is at the heart of Harriet Kemsley’s new show, Slutty Joan. ‘Joan’ was a construct of a group of academics, created in two forms – one with few sexual partners, one with many – to discover whether women reacted differently to her depending based on this information. Harriet identifies with the second Joan – and, in ebullient, joyfully unapologetic form looks back over some of the relationships in her life (her first male friend, for example, is now a notorious misogynist). Ultimately the show strays from the comedy path into darker #MeToo territory adding a reality to what could have been perhaps overly larky considering the seriousness of the subject matter.

This is still a work in progress, and not all the new material is fully formed yet. As someone of an older generation, some of Harriet Kemsley’s references passed me by, but there is much to enjoy, laugh at, ponder and respect in this funny, thought-provoking, topical show.

Robbie Carnegie

BEHIND THE AGONY - Charles Adrian as Ms Samantha Mann

Ms Samantha Mann hits the boards in Buxton once more; this time with her snap-close handbag full of awards as well as tissues (“…there’s only five left in the box, so hold back if you can”) and an assortment of odd things for which only maiden aunts have a use. Dressed like Mary Poppins and straight as a stick, Aunt Samantha sashays onto the stage with all the fuss and fidget of the slightly dotty aunt. She speaks with the nervousness of one who’d rather be quietly taking tea with the vicar but then again never fails to hang a barb onto the end of sentences that start so sweetly. Charles Adrian has studied the character of this maiden aunt to a ‘T’ and absolutely pulls it off; Aunt Sam is convincing, just almost believable, white lace gloves and all…. and very funny. Advice is her trade; dispensed freely, dispassionately and always with a hint of those things you would like to say, but don’t… so, on the subject of allergies try, “Just pull yourself together.” On love, and whether you can love someone without liking them? “Of course, just think of your parents.”

Aunt S shares her personal agonies, “Just me, Tennyson (my rabbit) and Mill On The Floss.” Asked about Facetime she replies, “I don’t want time with your face.” And this is it; delivered by Charles Adrian with pace and not a beat missed.

On Buxton… Aunt S notes that there is a beautiful Opera House here but nobody knows why! She observes that when it comes to getting locals to ‘open up’ it is not a huge success; she suggests that may be because there is something in the water.

For the finale of the show, Aunt S reads out the ‘agonies’ filled in on little green cards by the audience at the start of the show; it’s here that Charles Adrian shows his flair for ad-libbing – snappy, witty, hilarious, lightly outrageous and always sharply-observed. Comedy at its best; peals of laughter from the audience.

Jim Marriott

DARREN WALSH: MASSIVE PUNT - Darren Walsh

Underground at the Clubhouse was heaving with people on the hot Saturday night of Darren Walsh's laughter-filled show! Darren Walsh began his performance with a video sketch, introducing the audience to "Punt Airlines" with Darren playing the character of 'The Pilot'. Signs such as "laugh" and "culturally inappropriate" were scheduled throughout the evening to give people an idea what to expect!

Darren drew the audience in by asking each member where they had last been on holiday and replying with incredibly fast puns and jokes about each place, all fitting in with show’s theme of holidays, airlines and summer. Darren included hundreds of one liners and random laugh-out-loud jokes, as well as amazing, well prepared songs and animated videos. Darren had obviously put hours of effort into the show and it was definitely noticeable with his many different props, sound effects and animated videos. His sharp-witted personality shone through throughout the performance and his obvious love of making people laugh and have a good time! Darren’s take on observational comedy was definitely all his own, as he used props and singing to animated videos to address subjects such as "The one guy that gets up at every house party with a guitar". His observational jingles and the way in which the audience’s laughter encouraged his puns and his quick humour, made for a perfect combination! As the imaginary plane brought us back to the Underground at the Clubhouse, the audience helped to land it - marking the end of the show!

The show was incredibly fast paced, and with every second of the hour-long show spent laughing at Darren’s ridiculously random puns, jingles and one liners, the show is definitely a must see for anyone who enjoys a laugh! Darren is performing Darren Walsh: Massive Punt at 2:30pm on Sunday 8th July at the Clubhouse. I would definitely recommend this laugh-out-loud show filled with pure nonsense!

Alice Featherstone

ROSS BRIERLEY: ACCUMULATOR - Ross Brierley

I really enjoyed the zany if slightly unpolished delivery of this show. Ross acknowledged that it was a preview for Edinburgh and handled his first heckle - from a childhood friend! - with the aplomb and quick wit of a seasoned performer, instantly putting the small audience, in a very warm studio, at ease.

He invited us to explore whether it's funny to joke about gambling! Apparently it is!

Ross moved quickly through this central question, with plenty of puns and some good bad-taste jokes, a number of great gags and lots of quick-witted ripostes to good-natured, random questions and comments from the audience. The show included some fairly amusing visuals which didn't always work, a solid source of humour in itself.

He shared some personal experiences, snippets of information about his gambling lineage and journey into this 'profession'. Along the way he debunked a few myths, told some stories about gambling's various forms, and explored its downsides in a gently humorous way.

Although he admitted the whole thing needed a little polish, the songs in particular were funny and creative - a throwback to his punk youth perhaps?

All in all, very entertaining and well worth an hour of anyone's time.

Katie Barrett

COL HOWARTH - ID EGO SUPEREGO - Col Howarth

Technical hitches didn't put off this fast-talking, good-natured Mancunian and instead we got treated to some glorious ad lib. (It was just a shame that what I feel sure would have been his extensive preparation of added audio visual features will only be see by the lucky second night audience or first night returners.)

Col has a very natural, warm and spontaneous delivery style and his questions direct to the small group of bold, vegetarian psychotherapy students and graduates (seriously!) got everyone instantly laughing and participating - no mean feat! Building happily on good-natured heckling, Col instantly found the common ground amidst common or garden experiences - highly relatable, funny and so true!!

Witty and intelligent, Col's show has plenty to keep the chuckles going and some proper laugh-out-loud gags!

He kept the energy going and our spirits high with plenty of humorous personal anecdotes, real or imagined but all hilarious, and amplified with outlandish impressions and facial expressions. Likeable, humble, cheeky at times, Col is often the willing butt of his jokes giving his show a wide and authentic appeal to adults of all ages and backgrounds, wherever they might be from!

Katie Barrett

BARREL OF LAUGHS - Underground

Barrel of Laughs, which regularly sells out, is one of the best bargains at Buxton Fringe offering a chance to see a variety of stand ups and comedy acts over one fun-packed evening.

Every Barrel of Laughs is different of course. I was lucky enough to attend the fast-moving and entertaining first night compered by the ever witty Tom Crawshaw and featuring Owen Roberts, Steve Day, Nathan & Ida, Omar Ibrahim and Ms Samantha Mann.

Tom immediately put everyone at their ease and had some great local jokes for local people, suggesting at one point that we give the acts a “true Buxton welcome”, in other words “Ask them where they come from and then say: ‘Ooh, I couldn’t live there…’”

Owen Roberts bounded on stage a little like a small child, which turned out to be highly appropriate as his show is entitled: “I Let a Six Year Old Write My Show”. Given that the only other idea in his brainstorming notebook had been something about a man who ate too many raisins, this began to seem not such a daft plan and the audience enjoyed hearing about the little girl in his life with her homework demands and quirky sense of humour. His style here seemed conversational and low-key but I think that is quite misleading - have a look at the review of his show to see what a live-wire he really is when channelling the mischievous Isabella.

Steve Day, a former award nominee at the Fringe, says he is Britain’s only deaf comedian and wrings plenty of comedy from his mis-hearings as well as his facility for interpreting other people’s unofficial sign language - he gave a great impression of his son’s rap gestures translating them as: “I failed all my exams!” Very assured and funny, Day used Barrel to introduce himself more than his show but I’m confident that his Adventures in Dementia at the Arts Centre Studio will be well worth checking out.

Nathan & Ida was a breath of fresh air. The exuberant character comics, Nathan P Grassi and Ida Persson from the Fringe award-winning Dead Secrets, were playing Nathan and Ida Hardwerker, veteran “New Yoik” hot dog stand owners with great stories to tell about a life they persisted in viewing as terrific but that sounded pretty tough. Radiating warmth and with the ability to take on other characters with ease, they offered something not exactly joke-filled but refreshing, occasionally poignant and full of fun.

This was a hard act for Omar Ibrahim to follow especially as his Cosmic Clown show involves a fair bit of soul-searching about the human condition. Announcing that he was available for “nihilist weddings” he alighted on myself and my husband to renew our vows with an unflinching script that was lot more realistic than your average, cosy ceremony. Maybe it is my age, but it really was quite bleak! However it is fair to say that the rest of the audience laughed uproariously and I believe Omar when he indicated that it really was impossible to convey in a short slot what his full show had in store for us.

Who better to mop up any audience angst than agony aunt Ms Samantha Mann (the brilliant Charles Adrian). This award-winning performer is well worth catching. She had a lot of fun with the audience’s problems and is at her best when allowing her impish cynicism full rein - I loved her comments about the “little bits of gouging” that have been going on at the Crescent over a great number of years.

There are two more Barrel of Laughs to enjoy so do pre-book. They make very enjoyable shows and offer great tasters - just bear in mind that they are only tasters and the full shows are very likely to offer something very different. Happily UV was offering a great deal last night for £5 tickets for comedy shows booked that night by Barrel audiences.

Stephanie Billen

STEVE DAY: ADVENTURES IN DEMENTIA - Steve Day

A thoroughly entertaining hour in the company of engaging comedian Steve Day. He puts comedic elements together so well – timing, tempo, expressiveness, character portrayal, gentle pathos (never overdone); and delivery with self-effacing charm. Steve’s hour is spent in tribute to his father who is suffering from dementia, or as Steve puts it, “has played the game of life’s Snakes and Ladders but landed on the cruellest snake of all.” There were so many laugh-out-loud throwaways – he described his father as, “Burt Reynolds with a comb-over and a Ford Cortina.” His mother, he said was attracted to his brick-layer father because, “Her head was turned by the straightness of his wall.” Plus, many very amusing anecdotes about his own childhood, untainted by technology because, “We thought the Web was for spiders.” Childhood revelations included his discovery that, “throwing a ginger kid in the nettles wasn’t a cure.” Glad Steve’s got that one sorted.

Steve’s niche is that he is Britain’s only deaf comedian and, in his words, “If there are any others, I haven’t heard.” In that great British manner he sees humour in life’s set-backs , depicted so well in his enactment of the Boots hearing-aid assistant carrying out her sales transactions through the medium of modern dance – it’s worth going to his show to see for this alone… not to mention his one-man impersonation of Pan’s People.

Given that Buxton has recently seen the axe drop on its hospital’s dementia ward, the show has a special poignancy for those locally who care for Alzheimers sufferers. In this light and for anyone wanting comedy from the heart and a good laugh, it really is an absolute must–see.

Jim Marriott

OMAR IBRAHIM: COSMIC CLOWN - Omar Ibrahim

Omar Ibrahim is a nice chap who has visited Buxton to teach us ancient wisdom and help his audience to find enlightenment. I am not sure about the connection between clothes and enlightenment but in order to become a guru he needed to sport an oversized jacket with a paper doily pattern over his red and gold shiny waistcoat.

Omar discusses a range of enlightenment topics including how to be empathetic; the connection between ethnicity and enlightenment; the effect of legal contracts on enlightenment; how to find enlightenment in the home counties and , most importantly, what to do if you are telephoned by alien beings to explain enlightenment on earth when you are in the middle of watching the football.

Omar's show depends upon audience participation and he is charming and easygoing. His first show was late in the evening and Omar had spent most of that day on the bus from London and he admitted that he was a bit tired. Just think how much fun the show will be after he gets a good night's sleep.

Alex Watts

A FETE WORSE THAN DEATH - Karen Sherrard

A brilliant concept, wonderfully executed: Karen introduced us to two very different, equally hilarious characters, transporting us back to the valleys of South Wales for this tongue-in-cheek tribute and homage to her home.

Dear old Eirys Evans host of the fete, pillar of the increasingly disparate local community, regaled us with her update on not so savoury goings on in the unpronounceable town and the highlights in store for us... Not least the appearance of TV celebrity Esme de Flange (inspired by Charlie Dimmock perhaps) with her outrageous, almost innocent, continually innuendo-filled, X-rated, absolutely filthy humour.

Witty and brilliant, with perfect timing and saucy spontaneity, this queen of double entendre - who knew there was so much sexual content in the average garden?! - was the only person not vaguely embarrassed. Luxuriously lascivious, Esme didn't let up on her tittering audience and her willing accomplices.

Everyone in the small audience was treated to some very interesting, personally chosen raffle prizes - these alone were worth coming for!

Katie Barrett

OWEN ROBERTS: I LET A SIX YEAR OLD WRITE MY SHOW - Owen Roberts

Owen Roberts opened his hour-long comedy show dressed as a chicken, shouting, "I'm a chicken" and laying eggs on the stage with loud music and bright flashing lights. The three of us in the audience were slightly taken aback, and I found myself wanting to be swallowed up by my chair! Owen stopped his dancing and, making his way to the microphone explained to us why he was dancing around the stage dressed as a chicken. And that was because the comedy show was written by a six-year-old girl, Isabella. The 6 year old is his girlfriend's daughter, and she most affectionately calls him "Oval" because of the shape of his head and because when he first met her, she had forgotten Owen's name.

With Owen still wearing yellow tights, a white leotard, a feather boa and yellow rubber gloves on his feet it was quite hard to take him seriously but he explained the complicated relationship between himself and Isabella and the difficulty of living with a six year old. Owen introduced recorded voice-overs from Isabella so we heard her jokes, her child's view of the world and her current obsessions, including counting everything.

Owen's perspective was extremely relatable to anyone who has ever had contact with a child and seen their lack of respect for authority, and he perfectly depicted the creativity and imagination of a child's mind. Having first met Isabella when she was four, he described his expectations for their first meeting; feeding the ducks and how she would be fascinated by him. Yet the reality did not go exactly to plan, with Isabella waking him up by standing in the doorway clutching a bear and then jumping into bed with him. Owen shared with us her drawings and their conversations; it was very heart-warming and charming to see their friendship and Owen's obvious inspiration from such a wonderful child! As I was busy writing, I managed to escape the audience participation. Two other members of the audience had to contend with dancing around the stage in silly costumes and role-playing different characters prompted by Isabella’s ideas and requests for Owens’s show.

When explaining difficult situations in life such as death and relationships, Owen's perspective was touching and heart-warming, and his love for such a fantastic six year old who wrote the show was so lovely!

The performance overall was extremely heartfelt while being completely ridiculous and defying the way adults are supposed to behave. This one-man show was hilarious and showed how much a child can affect someone’s life! Next time Owen has writer's block, I don’t imagine he will be going to Isabella for help any time soon!

Alice Featherstone

STEVE VERTIGO: AS FAR AS I CAN SEE - Steve Vertigo

A shame that this was so sparsely attended as Steve is a genuinely funny man. It’s not often one finds oneself laughing out loud in a room with just 4 other people, but Steve’s scatological takes on life often left one with no alternative.

A self-styled Science researcher with no idea of what Science actually is (this is a man who thinks Peter Stringfellow invented String Theory), Steve’s imagination takes the audience through what can only be described as a series of parallel universes where percentages add up to more than a hundred and consciousnesses can be stored and subsequently blown up.

The pace did flag a bit three quarters of the way through, but he then closed with a superb surreal tale of going on dates with himself and then dealing with the fallout when it all goes wrong. If you are one of the many who missed his first show, then I can only urge you to get to his follow up - this man deserves big audiences. Just leave logic at the door and be prepared for an hour of splendid nonsense.

Fred Rolland

NATHAN & IDA'S HOT DOG STAND - Nathan & Ida

The eponymous Nathan & Ida have submerged themselves in the cultural milieu of 1940s New York to come up with an intriguing, sometimes even surreal, mixture of Swing Music, Jive dancing and light comedy to present what comes over as an old-time Hollywood tale of rags to not-so-rags.

These two talented actors take on a multiplicity of roles to tell the story of an immigrant couple who establish their own successful business on Coney Island against all the odds. They draw liberally on varieties of Brooklyn slang - at one point an exasperated Nathan inquires of his wife as to which country she actually comes from, so mixed is her dialect.

The narrative is apparently loosely based on a real story; this may account for what the reviewer felt was a certain lack of dramatic tension in the proceedings. Notwithstanding, the production is slick and the hour passed very quickly, The actors are engaging and likeable, the show is fun and the audience all left with smiles on their faces.

Fred Rolland

MANDY TOOTILL: TWIN PEAKS - Mandy Tootill

Mandy Tootill is a comedian who proudly describes herself as ‘a nob’ and ‘an idiot’. Like the jesters of old, this gives her a licence to speak the truth and to tackle taboos in a way that is both completely honest and also endearingly funny.

Nine years ago, Mandy was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent gruelling treatment involving chemotherapy and ultimately double mastectomy and reconstruction. But Mandy is not after sympathy, nor is there any talk of ‘bravery’ or ‘battles’. Mandy revels in the ridiculousness of the situation – being likened to an octopus when attached to various drips by another morphine-dosed patient, creating an imaginary friendship with her wig mannequin, Celine. Mandy never shies from the more harrowing aspects of the care she received, nor from some of the more colourful details of her sex life – some a bit ‘near the knuckle’ as someone once complained to her – but her delightful personality makes this not just palatable, but actually enjoyable.

On the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS, Mandy closes with a heartfelt tribute to the organisation that saved her life, in a show that is refreshingly honest, original, unsentimental and also, what it sets out to be, disarmingly funny.

Robbie Carnegie