Comedy Reviews

KATE BUTCH IN WUTHERING SHITES - Kate Butch

In 2017, Kate Butch made her Buxton Fringe debut and – seemingly out of nowhere – became the hottest ticket in town. In 2019, she returns, facing a full house and high expectations. This, as she wryly comments, is ‘the difficult second album’. Luckily, though, Kate is no one-hit wonder, as her latest show proves.

Faced with the task of following up her first hit show, Kate is putting together a jukebox musical based around the songs of her idol and almost namesake, Kate Bush. A student of the jukebox musical, Butch is determined to shoehorn as many hits into Bush! The Musical as she can, no matter how tangential their lyrics may appear. This leads to an hour of hilarious audience interaction (I was brought up on stage to play James, the central character’s faithless husband), comically honest observations on Butch’s life and stunning musical interludes.

As with An Audience with Yasmine Day earlier this Fringe, the art of doing comedy that includes songs is to be really able to sing – and Kate really can sing. Equally crucial is to pick the right songs, and Kate’s knowledge of the Kate Bush back catalogue is brilliant. As any Kate Bush fan knows, for all her genius, there’s also plenty of eccentricity that is ripe for affectionately humorous comment. As well as the hits, she interjects a trippy sequence of excerpts from the extremely difficult fourth album, The Dreaming, and references songs including Hammer Horror, Kashka in Baghdad and James and the Cold Gun. But, just as in her first show, Kate isn’t afraid to play some songs straight, with a beautiful and touching rendition of And Dream of Sheep.

The packed Clubhouse audience came expecting something special, and they got it. This is a joyous, life-affirming, very funny show. Whether you’re a Kate Bush fan or not, you will love this show, the work of a genuine Buxton star who continues to amaze. As Kate Bush would sing, ‘Wow! Unbelievable!’

Robbie Carnegie

TWONKEY'S TEN YEAR TWITCH - Twonkey2019

Mr Twonkey’s world is a strange and wonderful place. A bit like a dream - things, places, people and ideas appear together that in the real world are separated by time and space.

From a stage seemingly cluttered with random pieces of card, bags and toys a strange tale emerged. We saw Leonardo da Vinci, Pattie Boyd and Neil Diamond’s snakes and ladders jacket. We heard a song about lighthouses with music featuring an accordion on which are balanced an assortment of marine creatures. We were offered Twonkey’s own revolutionary idea that marks the end of PowerPoint as a means of presentation.

Mr Twonkey’s famous wheel of fortune featuring pink knickers, a rubber duck and Count Dracula was revived. And then there were sundry wigs and puppets, large and small. Do you get the idea?

Actually this is probably the most accessible and polished Twonkey show yet. Believe and surrender and you just might be transported.

Keith Savage

THE LAUREL & HARDY CABARET - Lucky Dog Theatre Productions

The Steve Coogan/ John C Reilly biopic Stan & Ollie has reignited a nostalgic love of the routines of Laurel & Hardy. As established in the film, the duo toured extensively with stage versions of their sketches, and it is this that is recreated in this loving tribute.

The duo are brought to life by Tony Carpenter and Philip Hutchinson. Carpenter captures Laurel’s diffident clownish persona, pricking the pomposity of Hutchinson’s more worldly Hardy. Together they bring to life sketches such as Birds of a Feather (in which Ollie is visited in hospital by Stan) and Men o’War in which Stan & Ollie, dressed as sailors attempt to buy two girls sodas in a bar. The sketches are punctuated by musical interludes, as ever generally delivered by the more musically accomplished Hardy.

The packed house at the Arts Centre Studio were brought together by a love of Laurel & Hardy and Lucky Dog delivered exactly what they wanted – polished, affectionate and joyful renditions of this classic material – and, at the end of the show, the audience spontaneously joined in with a singing of On The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, a fitting end to a nostalgic, thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Robbie Carnegie

AMADEUS MARTIN: RETRO FIT - Amadeus Martin

As if to emphasize he is a Buxton Fringe regular Amadeus appeared on stage wearing ‘fringe-orange’ socks with matching tee shirt.

His show was presented openly as a trying out of new material and as such he worked from a script. He referred to this frequently - possibly as a comic device, “No, that didn’t work. Strike that”. Amadeus struck chords with his description of areas around Buxton and his parallels with ‘Game of Thrones’.

Amadeus has a reputation for rapport with his audience and this was clearly in evidence. He was supported (helped out) by some members who had brought along an American visitor – who had to have jokes explained to him. Oh, how we love laughing at Americans. Other audience responses were gratefully picked up by Amadeus but not always followed to a conclusion which was a shame as the audience was ready to participate. It seems that he was playing away from his strengths, which is brave and maybe what some artistes use festivals for.

Also on 20th July.

Brian Kirman

BUSTIN’ THE BUBBLE COMEDY NIGHT - Grist To The Mill and Off The Kerb

Went to see Chris Kent at Bustin' The Bubble last night and was disappointed that I won't get the chance to see him again here this year because I honestly can't think of a more enjoyable way to spend an hour and twenty minutes in a pop-up theatre. The second Bustin' the Bubble show on the 19th July will feature a different comedian Peter Brush.

There's no rolling-in-the-aisles laughter with Chris but his show is all the better for it. He engages with his audience and tells simple day to day stories of everyday things - taking his son to nursery and encountering a racist barber, although not at the same time - in a deadpan Cork tone. His raconteur-style suits his material and it was refreshing to see most of his humour aimed at himself rather than at other people.

I won't go into too much detail as Chris's show deserves to be enjoyed without spoilers but what I will say is...don't be late.

Paul Goff-Deakins

NATHAN CASSIDY: OBSERVATIONAL - Nathan Cassidy

Nathan Cassidy, Comedy Award winner in 2014 and nominee in 2015 and 2016, returns to the Buxton Festival Fringe with a new show for 2019.

Nathan’s decision to engage a personal trainer and his sometimes awkward, developing relationship with him provides the thread that runs through the performance. He also weaves in his experiences of modern children’s parties (and modern children), his childhood friendships, life in Hackney and social media. The performance culminates in a cleverly delivered finale.

Nathan is an enthusiastic comedian whose show is well-crafted and delivered at a good pace. Like many good comedians, he uses situations that the audience will be familiar with and can relate to. This enables Nathan to connect with his audience, who were kept entertained and amused throughout, with everyone leaving the venue with a warm feeling and a smile on their face.

Vernon McGarey

STEVE VERTIGO - MURMURATION: WORD ON THE TWEET - Steve Vertigo

I suspect there’s a reason why his name is Vertigo… but enough of that, what you get with Murmuration: Word on the Tweet is a well thought out, well delivered and thoughtful show. Not only that, but it’s funny too.

Beginning with a Murmuration – here’s a tip, check-up what it is - we are taken through an often surreal world of the unusual and at times strange. There are a few twists and turns along the way, with curious characters and demanding questions. Steven Hawking, Starlings, stalking and self-love challenge your ideas about decorum and data.

Clearly Steve has put a lot of work into the show, and we are rewarded with something that keeps your attention. Yes, it is a little different to the norm, but that’s what makes it good. I bumped into a friend after the Barrel of Laughs show at the same venue who thought the slot he did there was darkly comic, slightly disturbing but interesting. I couldn’t put it better myself.

The show returns on the 15th so get yourself there!

Ian Parker Heath

DESPITE EVERYTHING, PRICE STILL INCLUDES BISCUITS - Naomi Paul

Well I was not going to miss a show with biscuits in the title, and what a good show it turned out to be and not just because of biscuits!

If you like a good poke at the soft underbelly of modern Britain, this is the show for you. From the new Birmingham library, or more correctly Library of Birmingham, to ‘Prevent’ and all points in between, Naomi Paul doesn’t miss her targets. Including the B word of course. Some are obvious if you think about it, but that doesn’t stop the poke being funny. Perhaps this show is unsuitable for those of a conservative or gammon disposition! There’s even a chance for a sing-a-long. All this and you get biscuits too, what’s not to love?

The show is infused with a nod to her Jewish/South Wales/North London/Birmingham heritage and performed in a relaxed, gentle style. The audience loved it and so did I. A big thank you to Green Man for bringing Naomi to town, and you can catch the show again on the 13th and 17th at the same venue. Don’t miss it!

Ian Parker Heath

ISA BONACHERA: THE GREAT EMPTINESS - Isa Bonachera

Imagine having a dream job. Now imagine that dream job requires decades of effort just to reach the merest possibility of even being considered for selection. Now imagine after all this you find you are not American and therefore are ineligible. What do you do? Well why not become a stand-up comedian?! Nationality not a hindrance!

This show is the story of such dedication, disappointment, and desire. Some of the latter though, isn’t to do with getting into space aka The Great Emptiness. Isa takes us from a small town Catholic school in southern Spain to the heights of…well you need to see the show. Lots of highs and lows haven’t dampened her spirit or her resilience, and we got a good show out of it.

The audience enjoyed the show, and it is never easy doing comedy in a second language. There was a little uncertainty at times but that didn’t really spoil the flow of the story. Bravo!

Isa returns with the show on the 21st at the same venue.

Loved the shoes, gotta get me some!

Ian Parker Heath

HARRIET BRAINE: LES ADMIRABLES - Harriet Braine

In her latest show, Les Admirables, Harriet Braine sets out to ‘shine a light on some amazing women’, specifically women scientists. Inspired by her two scientist grandmothers, Harriet sets out to celebrate, educate and entertain. A screen at the back of the stage is used to project images of Harriet’s fledging acting career and photos of the women she is celebrating. Harriet cleverly links her own history to that of the women scientists she is celebrating and for each woman she has written a song.

Harriet looks at how women are portrayed in the visual and dramatic arts and starts with the premise that men have names but women are only ever representations; virtue, liberty, a statue. She alternates poking fun at how women are portrayed in visual and dramatic art with facts to prove just how much women scientists have achieved and contributed.

Harriet is a talented writer, musician, singer, mimic and observer of human foibles, her own included. She is at her best singing her sharply observed, well-written songs. Harriet managed to link Bach, St Matthew and Pontius Pilate; if you want to know how you will have to go to the show. The resultant interaction with a member of the audience, sung in the style of Bach was Harriet at her best. Her mushroom puns are also gold medal standard.

The audience for this performance were enthusiastic and supportive, laughing at the many jokes, groaning at the puns, and enjoying the original songs. The combination of a small intimate venue, biographical material, chats to the audience about which jokes to include and even the occasional technical mishap sometimes made this feel more like an informal evening with friends.

Harriet set herself a massive task with this show. There is information to impart, songs to sing, jokes to tell, family history to share and a message to impart. The result is a lively, amusing and informative show.

Viv Marriott

TOM PARRY: PARRYOKE - Tom Parry

Tom Parry, nominee of the Edinburgh Fringe 2015 Newcomer award has named his new show PARRYOKE. The OKE at the end of his show name is obviously a play on the words Joke and Karaoke as last night we were treated to both, with some hilarious new material that he is taking to Edinburgh this year. Tom is a nice vibe comedian, amiable, no need to lock up your daughters or have the wife cover up her ears. With a very relaxed presentation you soon join him in the fun of his presentation.

Now in his 38th year he informs us that he has been going to more weddings than festivals this year and that is the theme of his new material. The programme promises us that there will be funny nonsense. The show lives up to its reputation. He goes through the whole gamut from the food at the reception to Dad dancing through to family Christmas presents and even stories about Shane Ritchie.

A romp through a very enjoyable hour. Tom is "OKe" by me!

Jonathan Rowlands

REALITY SUCKS! - Nav Chima

Fresh from somewhere in America Nav Chima bought us some wistful, surreal musings on life in the far side of reality. With faint echoes of New York artists such as Joan Rivers and Laurie Anderson, a parade of talking animals and objects, strangely uncaring people and dream-like situations slipped by in front of our very ears.

Her delivery was low-key, almost whispered and apologetic which for some audiences, or even TV, would be great, but on occasion she was fighting against the rain on what is in effect a big tent. The show’s flow was also interrupted by her frequent looks at her phone for prompts.

I know you can’t pick your audience and I’m not sure if her target audience is young, but in the main it was the younger people in the audience who laughed the most, and who got the cultural references. Someone who was less young felt obliged to ask who Seth Rogen was after one section, but that’s the risk we all take when we go to shows.

Ian Parker Heath

JAMES MCNICHOLAS: THE BOXER - James McNicholas

What a shame this was the only performance of this show at this year’s Fringe.

When you have a member of the family who was a world champion, at what doesn’t matter, it can be a burden. James McNicholas showed us how it can also be uplifting, even if it takes a while for that to happen.

James’s grandad was Terry Downes, a boxer in the late 1950s & early 1960s. He became World Champion in 1961 and retired at the age of 28. Which was about the age James got started… and therein lies the story. How do you compete with that? The answer, unsurprisingly is, you don’t. Flitting between portraying his grandad and himself, we had an honest account of two lives and the interaction between them. Told with wit and charm, we were held in grip of the story, which even if you didn’t like boxing, was eventful and at times exciting.

In a story spanning almost 50 years and no end of trials and tribulations, we were treated to a show that was personal, but not in the superficial way we normally see from comedians, thoughtful, humorous and well performed. What more do you need from a show?

Ian Parker Heath

LADIES ANTEBELLUM: A MIGHTY FINE ADVENTURE - The Dead Secrets

What to say without giving away the plot? Mmmm, don’t think that it will spoil things if this brilliant adventure is described as a romping madcap tale featuring kindred spirits with a gimmick and brilliant disguises, the Whitby Militia, dangerous sheep and undelivered post.

In the Southern States lies Pyramid Corner, home to Annabelle and Mary-Lou, women not allowed to have dreams. But they do - these girls just wanna have fun. And they take us along for the ride as Themla and Louise meet the Dukes of Hazzard.

This is the genius offspring of clever new writing and supreme comedic characterisations, with moustaches, postal pouches and a jade brooch thrown in.

Mighty fine Fringe fare, more refreshing than the zestiest lemonade on the hottest day in a Southern swamp. Enjoy it and slake that comedy thirst!

David Carlisle

JIM CAMPBELL: BEEF - Jim Campbell

They used to say, “Look out, the Campbell’s are coming!” Now, there’s another one. However, this one wants to remove any obvious personality flaws to acquire inner peace. Why is another question.

Jim plays on his Scottish heritage but not too much, it’s just one thread in this particular tapestry of life. Others too are familiar, teenage angst, heartbreak and self-deprecation for example although they are joined by others including being a baby again but with all your memories. Together they take you into Jim’s inner world. There are some nice touches in there, including walnuts, oestrogen air fresheners and cheekbone privilege and whether it can be acquired. The questionable Campbell heritage returns at moments you may not expect and there’s an insight into how at least two of the Scottish clans infiltrated the food industry.

Jim was quick to create a rapport with the audience and took them with him on the journey, and everyone looked to enjoy the show. There was the occasional flat spot, but we won’t hold that against him. This was his only show here in Buxton, but he’s off to that other Fringe soon.

Ian Parker Heath

VINCE ATTA: MASSIVE ATTACK - The Comedy Agency

Surviving a heart attack Vince Atta takes his life in his hands and come to the Fringe. His show is a lead-up to that point, by way of heartbreak, foolishness, racism and Manchester. A busy life.

As with much comedy, this show is founded on experience, real or imagined. Much of it you think is real, but with a pinch of imagination. Much of it made the audience chortle, some of it made them think and a little bit tap their toes. There was even an ‘aahh’ at the end.

Vince has a lively and energetic show which bounces along its route stopping occasionally to break into song – hip hop influenced toasting disco perhaps? The songs are topical and relevant to the theme of the show. People next to me were tapping toes it must be said. There’s even an account of a TV appearance on First Dates and how this has improved his chicken consumption.

So, there’s a little bit of something for everyone it seems. Judge for yourself as he’s back on the 16th & 23rd again at the Old Clubhouse.

Ian Parker Heath

21 YEARS IN SHOWBUSINESS! - Rob Rouse

Rob Rouse is probably the best known, most established comedian performing on the Fringe this year. He lives in the High Peak and we can, at a pinch, claim him as ‘ours’.

I had seen Rob in another show with Helen Rutter, his wife and mother of their two children, earlier this evening. Funny In Real Life is a sometimes excruciating examination of the extent to which a performer can legitimately draw on, and claim for their own, the experiences of friends and family. He doesn’t come out of that very well. It was going to be interesting to see if Rob’s solo show had changed much in the light of a fierce and justified feminist critique.

As it happens just one questionable routine survives and is part of the ‘new’ show. Rob wants to discuss sex toys; who has them, how do we use them? In the earlier play Helen argues that Rob doesn’t know where the boundaries of privacy are. His version of it is that comedy is a suitable vehicle to explore our anxieties.

Rob would not have survived so long as a professional comedian if he was not good at his work. He brings energy to the stage, he wants to be our friend - though his determination to use the experience of some audience members to illuminate his stories is not always welcomed by them. In most of the stories he is the victim, the subject of ridicule. No one is harmed in the making of this comedy.

It’s fair to say that most of the audience had a good hour with Rob. The laughs come freely and easily. For some the fart and toilet jokes are overdone; maybe he is going for the easy laughs. He is a cleverer and better comedian than he shows himself to be at times.

Keith Savage

HOW TO BE A WORLD-CLASS POET IN UNDER AN HOUR - Andy Gilbert

Poetry. The artistic writing of lofty thought and impassioned emotion. Often deeply romantic and overly verbose. Written only by reflective and silent types that enjoy smelling flowers on a summer’s day. Such are the misconceptions of poetry and poets alike. Andy Gilbert’s How to be a World-Class Poet in Under an Hour stands as testament to this.

His poetic performance is anything but stereotypical flower-smelling and sentimental lamentation (except when it comes to his deceased cat, Garry). Instead, Andy merges the art of poetry with comedy to create a brilliantly hilarious and originally artistic performance.

Adopting the persona of educator, the self-proclaimed ‘Professor of Poetry’ takes his stage. In character, our teacher introduces one of the key principles that defines poetry: rhyme, and we all participate in a seemingly easy contest of couplets. But this clever construct doesn’t just ensure pupils’ progress, it provides another comedic layer that proves an entertaining trend throughout the performance.

Becoming a poet isn’t an easy task, but the professor makes poetry inclusive through a series of manageable steps within a lesson-like structure. His relationship with his pupils can be described as mocking (especially if you’re from Matlock), but like any good teacher, Andy also aims to encourage his classes’ creativity, believing that poetry really is for everyone: ‘the young, the old, the incarcerated’, and the intoxicated- nothing, it seems, is a barrier.

Whilst moving between the indelicacies of ribaldry and the observational humour of everyday life, Andy covers a wide range of amusing and relevant topics, all varying in success. Through one of the more triumphant sections entitled,

The Power of Poetry - Changing Lives, rappers of today, Kanye West and Stormzy, go head to head in a battle of the verse with Romantic poet, Lord Byron. This educational anecdote comments on the younger generation of today and questions, are rap and poetry so dissimilar? Andy will help you to decide.

In Method Poetry, another particularly entertaining component of the show, Andy tells of how taking on other personas and perspectives is an essential part of becoming a world-class poet. And as an advocate for equality, he chooses to write a poem from the perspective of a woman. His poem, I am Woman, comments on parking, daytime telly and what women really want to say to men. Now, he may not be completely successful in accurately portraying the life of a woman, but he is undoubtedly successful in making his audience laugh- in fact, constant laughter characterised this performance.

In a different part, Andy broches the darker theme of death and dying, and in another, he encourages the class to channel negative energy; not to get angry, but to get creative and write poetry instead (a great tip for stress relief actually!). Andy covers a broad range of areas that he successfully sculpts into entertainment and enhances with his own poetic work.

It wasn’t always clear whether Andy’s true talent lay in comedy or poetry (because he does both so well), so you can imagine that I was shocked to learn that this was Andy’s first ever performance, and that he doesn’t really have a history in education, poetry or comedy. Regardless, this professional performance was reflective of a truly talented poet, comedian and individual- a must see for next year.

Finally, to the big question: did Andy’s pupils meet the lesson objective to become world-class poets? Of that, I’m not completely sure. However, he certainly amused and entertained – full marks all round for Andy.

Alice O’Malley

MAISIE ADAM: WORK IN PROGRESS - Maisie Adam

The clue is in the title, so I wasn’t at all surprised to join this Edinburgh preview show and help round off a few edgy comedy moments for those lucky Fringe-goers north of the border. Having said that, this is a near-finished product of polish, timing perfection and puns-a-plenty.

Maisie captures attention with her warmth and occasionally twitching physicality. A natural yarn-spinner, she heaps layer upon layer of cheeky northern chat that is both engrossing, educating and blooming entertaining.

Built around alliterative the concepts of mugshots and mistakes or celebrities and cock-ups, Maisie asks if one mistake should ruin a life whilst reporting the inventor of the phrase “no way José!”

Catch her before she ascends north to the upper atmosphere of Fringe comedy; you’ve even got a chance to help improve an already brilliant stand-up show.

David Carlisle

OLLIE HORN: PIG IN JAPAN - Ollie Horn

Energy and personal engagement abound in Ollie Horns comedy show; his material, based primarily on his experience of being a western foreigner in Japan, was quick, clever and interesting.

Despite arriving what I believed was 5 minutes early a friendly rapport had already been established between Horn and his 8 audience members and it was this relaxed relationship that not only set the tone for the rest of the performance but was also what made it both appealing and humorous. A relatively unknown name, though perhaps not so much in Japan, I think it’s safe to say every viewer was rather surprised by how genuinely funny and personable Horns performance was. 

Improvisational talent and quick thinking comedic prowess were clearly areas in which Horn excelled; his responses to various on the spot situations, including both technical and human confusion, fuelled what I would regard as his most amusing work. This impromptu comedy meant Horn’s show felt rather idiosyncratic and intimate; in spite of references to other performances of the same material it was easy to believe we were getting a one off, personally relevant experience. It was these tailored tangents that gained the most laughs, the later material, though still funny was more likely met with a smile than a clapping off hands.

The comedic core of the piece rests on Horns engaging self-awareness and self-deprecation, there is no trace of pretension or inflated sense of own talent but rather an understanding that his comedy is not the best thing you’ll have ever seen, and that the situations he has found himself in aren’t to be taken too seriously. Almost all his work is derived from his own experience; of Japan; of Oxford University; of biscuits measured affordability against taste (everyone knows it’s got to be Jammie Dodgers despite whatever Horn may claim) and are supplemented by videos and graphs perhaps not best suited to be shown on the small corner of wall space available in the Hydro. Sprinkled throughout the material were snatches of Japanese conversation and advertising slogans that only added to the variety and pace of the stand-up; not only did I leave having enjoyed Horn’s comedy but I also now had a more multi-layered understanding and interest in Japanese culture and how they regard the west, one I really wasn’t expecting to gain from such a routine.

While the performance was highly energetic it had very little hope of matching the downright bizarre setting fairy lights strung around the room had been put on. Random flashes of cheap and gaudy colour were perhaps much more suited to an 80s rave than Horn’s act and they did deter from the piece in that when they went off you couldn’t help but focus on them.

Though the venue was undeniably inappropriate, Horn’s stand-up talent shone through and I wouldn’t be too surprised if, in the future, he also becomes big in the UK.

Anna O’Boyle

ALFIE MOORE: FAIR COP UNLEASHED - Alfie Moore

The much loved comedian Alfie Moore made his annual visit to the Buxton Fringe to reel off one-liners and tell us stories about his time in the police force as well as educating us when the opportunity arose.

One of the things that we learned was that the policeman manning the front desk is nicknamed the FSQ officer because they have to deal with silly questions from the public. We also learned about the National Decision Making Model which more simply put involves gathering information followed by carrying out a risk assessment. This model was particularly relevant to his true story about the evening he spent with a fully-costumed circus clown in Grimsby capturing four lions that had escaped from the circus. It is a great story with some very funny one liners.

I recommend that you see him to hear it for yourself if there are still tickets available for his second Fringe performance tonight (Sunday 7th July). If you can't see him tonight then catch him elsewhere or, who knows, he may also tell the story on the radio one day.

Alex Watts

ACCOMPLISHED LADIES: WORK IN PROGRESS - Accomplished Ladies

Regency England. A period of polite society. A time ruled by elegance and etiquette. An era of codified behaviour and strict social structures. Enter: Elizabeth and Jane.

These two characters seem to embody all things Regent: they are in want of a husband; local gossips; keen followers of fashion. They are sensibility and femininity, bonneted. But appearances can be deceptive, and these accomplished ladies don’t quite conform to the norm.

From their first moments on stage, Elizabeth and Jane (Georgina Thomas and Phoebe Hitt), deviate from expectations of the time with some less modest and more indecent, quips. Interlaced with these mischievous puns, is conversation of a much more serious nature: Mr Right. And it is through the opening material, that the pair begin a successful ridicule of the gender strictures of history.

Then, a change in costume and the audience are transported in time, from one moment in history to another, and so the comedic sketch continues- only after bonnets have been untied, and ribbons unlaced that is, but such are the toils of fashion, and this is Georgian England! And although quicker transitions would have helped to benefit the flow of the performance, the wait proved worth it, and this is a work in progress after all.

Now to the court! Welcome to Tudor England and my favourite sketch of all. Men are, of course, still the hot topic of conversation- one particularly royal man in fact. To win the favour of King Henry and his courtiers, Elizabeth and Jane practise the art of seduction. The two attempt to master enticement through laughing and singing, and although it appears that Jane could do with a little more practise when it comes to the singing, Phoebe and Georgina clearly make an expert choice here. The musical interjection’s success is two-fold: not only does it sustain the audience’s interest, but it heightens the comedic effect of the sketch emphatically. And the laughter? Simply contagious. This is a scene that certainly does not require progress, and a clear favourite of the audience, who are captivated from the start by the all-important question: is Jane the Jane for Henry?

Throughout the performance, we also accompany Elizabeth and Jane to Elizabethan England, where the pair await hanging, accused of witchery. This is another particularly strong scene that leaves the audience bewitched by humour.

Framed by two male historians, who return to us again at the end of the performance, we are given more than just a good laugh- Phoebe and Georgina provide us with a connection between women of the past and women of today, they allow us to draw parallels and celebrate differences and therefore, maybe without even realising, this duo achieved more than they set out to do.

This debut performance was an utter delight and it is a truth now acknowledged, that the Buxton Fringe is in want of a return! A must see for next year.

Alice O'Malley

99 (FIRST WORLD) PROBLEMS - Andy Quirk and Anna J

Two comedians presenting first world problems through the most logical of music genres: rap.

Already in character Andy Quirk and Anna J meet you upon entry. The former a confidante of sorts for first world problems of the present day; the later a passive-aggressive, gormless yet enthusiastic counterpart. The question of ‘’What would you like your rapper name to be?’’ instantly shows the pair’s intention to induct you as a member of their ‘crew’, ready for all kinds of comedic interactions. This relationship between duo and audience member, built from the very beginning of the show pays dividends throughout, making the pair familiar, whilst opening the audience up for light banter and ridicule. Whether the focus of this be a person’s questionable curry choice or the extortionate ways of the meal deal (with Andy and Anna rightly pointing out to me that yes, it really should include my premium ciabatta). The show includes hits such as ‘’stuff you I’m driving’’ and ‘’stuck on hold’’.

The most relatable song was saved until last however, concerned with the ever-frustrating adventures that keys seem to go on only to end up in the most obvious of places. The show cleverly combines several genres from grime to 80’s pop, with the use of 1990’s new metal, in Andy’s own words being “the obvious style choice for a piece on social media’’. The strong relationship between Andy Quirk and Anna J is clear from the outset.

The awareness from one performer to the other within the songs makes for a polished performance. The interludes between these songs are a mix of audience driven interaction and small comedic sketches, the later of which is slightly weaker in comparison to the confidently performed rap segments. If the energy and assuredness with which the songs are performed could be transferred to the interlude and sketch-inspired portions of the show, then the overall performance would be even more hilarious and relatable.

By Rachel Catlin

BARREL OF LAUGHS - Underground

Seasoned Fringe regular Amadeus Martin compered a fantastic evening of five separate comedy acts playing to a packed audience.

A lover of Buxton Fringe, Amadeus has been around here long enough to have developed some great local patter about our idiosyncratic hotels and strange (sinister?) lack of black people. Friendly and supportive of his fellow acts, he did a fine job of warming us up.

Pun supremo Darren Walsh was on first immediately making the most of his great height with jokes such as “I’m in a long-distance relationship, she’s half the size of me” plus a stream of other gags inventive enough to tickle even those of us who thought we didn’t much like wordplay. Particularly clever was his use of sound effects and technology to create an almost three-dimensional punning experience. I also loved his use of the mike as a device seemingly able to pick up everything from the thoughts of audience members to interior monologues produced by his own body organs.

Young improv crew Foolish Bandits had a novel concept whereby the audience came up with an idea for a fable that they then enacted against the clock and with the active hindrance of their sabotaging technical crew. I think this will work better in the Arts Centre Studio where they will be performing their fast-moving, pay-what-you-can show, but their energy and comic timing was impressive.

Raphael Wakefield presented a short extract from his show Wengerball, charting the rise and fall of his idol Arsene Wenger. A gifted mimic, he was clearly someone who would have no problem peopling a one-man show with a host of diverse and entertaining characters. This was just a taster but a promising indication of his talent as a performer and writer.

Sasha Ellen was an immediately engaging presence with some sharp observational comedy on subjects such as her yoga retreat (led by a woman called Serenity with a T-shirt saying: “Shut up and squat”), having a competitive relationship with her nine-year-old sister and why it is imperative to sound uber-cheerful when announcing that you are single. Catch this funny performer while you can - last performance tonight (Sat).

Always a riveting performer, Gerard Harris won a Fringe Award last year and has two storytelling shows on the Fringe including the brilliant Attention Seeker. Here he came on with a string of jokes, the good, the bad and the ugly as you might say. Not all of them came off but that is sort of the point with Harris who likes to share with us the agony of his craft and indeed of his whole fascinating life. I particularly liked his surreal take on party politics: “I try to look beyond the left wing and the right wing to the whole chicken…”

I’ve said this before but Barrel of Laughs is one of the best bargains of the Fringe so book early for the next two on 12 and 19 July.

Stephanie Billen

CAST VS CREW - Foolish Bandits

It’s hard to believe that Foolish Bandits only formed in March this year, as their performance suggests a much more established improv company. Cast vs. Crew is a refreshing reworking of the formula, each show of which focuses on telling a single fairy-tale of the audience’s choosing. Once the story has been established, the three actors battle against the quick-thinking crew as they are purposely interrupted and derailed with inappropriate props, mood-defining lighting, and sound cues that send the performance veering from the floor of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire to the movie Psycho. While some of the actors’ responses to well-known tropes had the feel of being a little pre-planned, there was enough eccentricity and plenty of inexplicable deaths to keep the whole show feeling fresh and unpredictable.

Matt’s high-octane welcome immediately caught the audience’s attention and set the feverish pace, as he adeptly steered the good-spirited audience towards fleshing out the key scenes of a half-remembered fairy-tale (in this case Goldilocks) ahead of the performance itself in which he veered from a brow-beaten Mama Bear to an invasive next-door neighbour.

With a dedicated pair of crew providing props while another pair controlled sound and lights, the cast were constantly kept on their toes. Josh’s frenetic performance as an angry Baby Bear and, later, panicked Goldilocks provided him with boundless opportunities to riff hilariously on the nature of the laws of thermodynamics in a fairytale. Meanwhile the frantic ending saw an amusingly-perplexed Joe forced to take on the roles of both Papa Bear and Goldilocks in the same chaotic scene.

The cast themselves acknowledged the difficulty of performing the audience-chosen Goldilocks as an ensemble piece, since the story is dominated by a single character, but this is where the work of the crew really came into its own. At various points I noticed props-handlers Merry and Martin communicating to work out their next attempt to mischievously throw the performers into disarray. Together with Ed and Megan in the booth, they adeptly used the tools at their disposal (including the popular ‘change places’ motif and some creatively produced sound effects) to bring unexpected characters and plot-twists into the story. Consequently all the actors were able to share the load and provide a riotous piece of improvisational comedy.

The premise of the show is for the cast to reach ‘Happily Ever After’ within the allotted time, and it is testament to the work of the entire group that the frantic final two minutes were nail-bitingly entertaining for everyone.

This young group of improvisers from Sheffield offer an innovative format that provides a great platform for both cast and crew to work at their best, and it is clear that they all enjoy what they do. The show and its premise may be Cast vs. Crew, but as a company Foolish Bandits are very much all on the same team. You should go and see them.

Scott Allsop

SASHA ELLEN: PICKLE - Sasha Ellen

In her own words, she’s “small and angry” and about “90 per cent hair” but she’s also an engaging comedian whose show ‘Pickle’ has a way of making the audience laugh with her, albeit slightly uncomfortably. She starts the show by asking the audience to cheer if they’re in a relationship and then to cheer again if they’re in love...

The rest of the Pickle show centres on a mislaid boyfriend and pirate-themed weddings as well as exploring the perils (pickles?) of online dating. At what point does online dating become stranger-danger?

Sasha draws her characters very well, particularly her aforementioned boyfriend and there were a few genuine ‘laugh out loud’ moments. It’s hard to go into detail about a show that lasts just under an hour without giving too much away, and I don’t want to stray into spoiler territory.

The two things I took away from last night’s show were the delights of a little island somewhere in the channel called Herm (there’s no place like it, apparently…) and the importance of always hanging your socks to dry in pairs. Oh yes, and when someone starts a sentence with “Do you know what your problem is?” the answer is always “You”.

On the whole I found Sasha to be a skilled and self-deprecating comedian and likeable with it. All in all a very pleasant and lighthearted way to spend fifty minutes.

Paul Goff-Deakins

DARREN WALSH: PUNIMAL FARM - Darren Walsh

Darren Walsh is a joke-smith. Don’t go to his show looking for psychological insight. Go to his show looking for jokes. More specifically, go looking for puns.

In this case, Walsh has obviously felt he needs a hook onto which to hang his puns, so here he uses George Orwell’s Animal Farm as a theme around which to base puns based on farms – and particularly puns based on animals. Cows, sheep, pigs, horses, cats, dogs, budgies, dinosaurs … (his scattergun approaches exhausts the possibilities of traditional farmyard animals fairly quickly) nothing is safe.

Inevitably some puns draw a big laugh, some draw a groan, some don’t get much of a response at all, and on those occasions, Darren has a sheep noise maker used by a volunteer on the front row to fill the gap.

A couple of times, he strays a bit too far from his theme in his quest for material – puns about babies inspired by his own daughter feel a bit shoe-horned in. Ultimately though, this is a clever, witty, silly, hour of fun.

Robbie Carnegie

AN AUDIENCE WITH YASMINE DAY - Jay Bennett

I have seldom heard such unrestrained belly laughs from an audience as during the first five minutes of An Audience with Yasmine Day, in which would-be 80s pop legend Yasmine performs a hilarious rendition of Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart, with talcum powder smoke machine, pocket fan wind effects and cardboard windows. So well observed is the song, and so well defined is the character of Yasmine herself that right from the start, the audience is drawn into her world.

Yasmine is a brilliant comic creation, a failed pop singer who, cheated of a place in Bucks Fizz by her nemesis, Cheryl Baker, has had a career of never quite making it big. Still she remains optimistic, belting out songs with her own unique style, whether she’s doing a version of Eternal Flame with only the vowels left in, or just the backing vocal bits of Flashdance (What a Feeling).

The key to the character’s success is her deluded optimism. It is also the fact that Jay Bennett, in the role of Yasmine, can really sing. She has great comic timing, but also great musical timing – a duet of Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with a partner on the front row (in this case, me), was a masterclass in this regard. And a section where a man is brought out of the audience for a private rendition of I Think We’re Alone Now is hilarious.

The final section where Yasmine attempts a musical bringing together the various strands of her life injects a slight note of bitterness and poignancy which is slightly at odds with what has gone before, but Yasmine’s right back at the end with her almost, never-was 80s hit.

An Audience with Yasmine Day is an impeccably constructed, deliciously performed confection. Don’t miss it.

Robbie Carnegie

RAPHAEL WAKEFIELD: WENGERBALL - Raphael Wakefield

A show about football? Specifically about the Arsenal? Focusing on the career of Arsène Wenger? By a new writer and performer? This could be a tough sell. If you have any doubts let me try and dispel them, for this is a terrific show - tightly written and delivered with style and confidence.

As it turns out it’s not really a show about football - though if you don’t know what catenaccio is some gags might pass you by. And you could hardly expect to spend an hour in the company of a gooner without some unkind words about Gary Neville, Jose Mourinho and Tottenham Hotspur.

For the most part however this is the story of a man who gave the best years of his life to an endeavour only to be treated shabbily by a bunch of people without scruple or integrity. At this point our legal advisors urge caution and restraint.

Had Raphael Wakefield been writing an entirely fictional drama he would have had to invent a cast of characters. Happily (?) for him a bunch of grotesques exist in the real world. Stan and Josh Kroenke, Alisher Usmanov, Sir Chips Keswick figure as the forces of evil in this drama. What seems to bind them is a love of money and power for their own sake - that and a lack of the fan’s hopeless passion for ‘their’ team.

Football obviously doesn’t matter; compared with the prospect of planetary collapse what happens on a football pitch is inconsequential. But... In a way football - and a few other team sports - serve as both a stimulant and a palliative for many people.

And this is the point of Wengerball. It is not just about competing and winning - though Arsène Wenger could be a terrible loser - it’s about holding out the prospect of something memorable, special that rescues you from the mundane, the banal. At best Wenger’s Arsenal did that. Other cures are available.

Keith Savage

MIKE RAFFONE: BRAIN RINSE - Mike Raffone

Going to see a Fringe regular can present a problem, especially if they are an award winner. You have expectations. Thankfully these were met, and here’s how…

Brain Rinse has a simple plan – maximise audience participation, and Mike Raffone ensures that this is a success, and in no small part this is down to you, the audience. If there’s no audience participation, there’s no show. However, despite our number we had our own Fringe regular Sam Slide in the audience, so it was never going to be a disappointing show. Indeed, this was the first time I’ve seen Sam play a musical instrument other than a trombone! No clues as to what it was, if you want to know you have to go see the show.

Mike brings some key characters to proceedings who prompt action from us, all of it in good humour. While elements might have a familiar feel, you are drawn in to ‘have a go’ at making a bit of a fool of yourself, but therein lies the fun. Everyone is laughing with each other, not at each other, and everyone was laughing tonight!

This is a show for those of you who want to have some fun in an active way, not just sitting there waiting for the next joke to arrive. Do keep a look out for the phantasmagorical near the climax, and there are several of those to be had even allowing for the foam fingers of fondling.

The show is back on the 7th & 8th at the same venue. Please, don’t miss it.

Ian Parker Heath

A TENSION TO DETAIL by Gerard Harris - That's Enough Drama

Gerard Harris is a great storyteller with a warm and winning personality. He is witty and engaging but clearly finds it hard to sit still. He had removed both his shoes and his socks in the first five minutes of the performance that I saw!! As with all great storytellers the subject matter of his stories is less relevant than what he reveals about himself. The content of the stories in this show happen to include his birth, his ethnicity, his mother, the excruciating details of his many failures with women from the age of five onward, his reactions in a burning building and cooking a lobster in the company of a woman called Elaine.

However the real story is just spending an hour getting to know Gerard and, through that, understanding yourself a bit better. Everyone should go and see Gerard at least once which shouldn't be too hard since he has two different shows on at this year's Fringe.

Alex Watts

ATTENTION SEEKER by Gerard Harris - That's Enough Drama

I managed to miss Gerard when he was in Buxton last year. Since this show won him an award I made it a priority to remedy my previous failure. The first thing to say is the 2018 Fringe judges were right - Gerard is ‘excellent’, ‘best’ isn’t part of the Buxton Award vocabulary!

And while he calls himself a comedian and a joke writer he is, above all else, a compelling story teller.

Attention Seeker is the story of how Gerard came - in middle-age - to recognise the conditions with which he had lived his whole life. Others knew that he ‘had’ ADHD, but Gerard apparently didn’t.

As a school student Gerard and a friend wrote jokes. Gerard could be a disruptive force in class until the Latin teacher spotted a neat solution to that problem.

As adulthood arrived Gerard was faced with trying to work out what to do with this life. He concluded that comedy may be the best route but writing jokes, being a classroom comedian is a less than adequate preparation for standing on stage before hundreds of people who will cheerfully boo or refuse to laugh.

Gerard’s journey takes in Dublin, Canada and a Buddhist retreat. The story is absorbing, moving, generous and funny. This is the work of a writer and performer at the top of his game.

If you have seen Attention Seeker then catch Gerard’s second Buxton show, A Tension to Detail.

Keith Savage

ARCHIE HENDERSON: JAZZ EMU - Archie Henderson

It’s always good to find a genuinely funny show on the first night of the Fringe – it gives you hope for what’s to follow. Archie Henderson – Jazz Emu is one such show.

Henderson, a nervy, geeky presence onstage, is nonetheless an extremely winning performer, programming layers of vocals into a couple of synthesisers and a laptop live to create beats to which he puts his endearingly self-deprecating songs. From funk to Bond themes, opera to birdsong, Henderson has broken down the formulae of different musical styles and put them back together in well-observed pastiche of the form.

His comedy veers from the observational (the annoying laugh classical audiences do before they clap) to the surreal, sometimes within the same song. I particularly enjoyed his recurring joke about birdsong turning up in pop songs (‘80s electronic band … a raven!’) and his final flourish, a real group of youngsters’ Facebook conversation turned into an operatic quartet was a thing of joy.

Henderson’s opening song suggests that he does everything in his life ‘to an adequate level’. On the evidence of this show, he’s a lot better than that. It’s a delight.

Robbie Carnegie

ROBYN PERKINS: MATING SELECTION - Robyn Perkins

We all know that most people would say and do just about anything to show off to an audience at the Edinburgh Fringe and Robyn is no different. Whilst recounting her experience of a dating show at last year’s bigger brother to Buxton’s Fringe, she learnt some important stuff about love, sex, dating and honesty.

In rapid-fire American staccato babble, Robyn relates the complex rules in the game of love. Whether it is mating, dating or fornicating, she offers scientific guidance with witty logic and an occasional challenging twist.

The route to loving perfection is paved with hormones, pheromones, attraction and obsession. Like all great science, it’s just an experiment, but her help will make sure that it doesn’t blow up in your face.

This show will invite you to ask yourself some important questions about lurve, grab yourself an internet-enabled device to take part in the interactive show and vote away to your heart’s content. Go on, you’ll have lots more fun that way.

David Carlisle