Comedy Reviews



A wet Saturday afternoon in Buxton in July would give anyone a desperate longing to be cheered up. This was clearly the motivation for a packed house at the Underground venue to see The Totally Improvised Musical from CSZ Manchester.


There seems no point in describing the ‘plot’ of the show since it will never happen again, but in essence it arose from an audience member’s suggestion that it should centre on an Extremely Conservative Snowman. Naturally enough, logic dictated that the snowman should be played by Dalu - the only black member of the cast. He was created one winter in Buxton, was encouraged to seek election and seemed happy to promulgate some very right-wing views. Bearing in mind he was made of snow, the denouement involved a fairly obvious and uniquely local way of eliminating him.


The show had its rousing opening number, as befits the tradition of musicals, and cast members took turns all the way through to create the show tunes and lyrics. The group clearly had a great rapport with their audience so jokey references to Buxton’s climatic idiosyncrasies, Brexit, Derbyshire Life, politics, - getting policy advice from the ‘Mogg-dude’- and reviving David Bowie to do a voice-over, were all well-received. It would be fair to say the show did not play on the finer sensibilities of its audience, but then Improv should be about about wit, cunning, spontaneity and stagecraft. This Totally Improvised Musical certainly entertained and satisfied its audience and showed every sign of being able to do it again, and again, and again, and….


Graham Jowett









Aidan Goatley first appeared at Buxton Fringe last year and made a big impression with a one-off show and his chairing of Imaginary Porno Charades. This year he brings something a bit more family-friendly, in fact a show about family and specifically his father and himself.

Fathers and sons often seem unable to communicate directly, they find some other medium through which they converse. For Goatley and his father, it was films and in this, his classic show, Goatley investigates their relationship through the films they watched together. His dad was a Royal Navy Chief Engineer, he fixes things, whereas Goatley for all his impressive heft and macho appearance (he looks like the reviewer - Ed.) is perhaps not so alpha as all that.

The ten films are a great selection of classics, and maybe not so classics, that anyone can engage with – even those with 21st Century tastes – and enjoy the references. Even if you don’t know a film, Goatley is fantastic at bringing them to life. He knows exactly what is memorable and amusing about each film, his observations on his relationship with his dad are spot on and universally recognisable, and there are lovely digressions about his relationship with his daughter through the films they share. There was laughter throughout, and marvellously touching moments, even though, as he stresses, his father is still alive.

10 Films with My Dad is a very funny and very lovely hour in the company of someone absolutely in command of his material, which will go down well with anyone tired of Works in Progress. Go and enjoy.


Stephen Walker



Jody Kamali's well written and clever show was performed in his pyjamas. It was a deeply personal performance embedded with complexities of his family, tales from his upbringing and his 50% Bristolian and 50% Iranian heritage.


The show was very well coordinated with a variety of well timed voice overs, sound effects and music. He had clearly taken a long time to develop this dynamic, visual comedy, dramatically bringing stories of his life to the stage.


It was clear that Jody enjoys performing this original show, as did everyone in the audience! He explores the complexity of love and relationships in an entertaining way that was relatable for everyone present. I loved the way he believably portrayed a range of characters using accents, body language and physical theatre.


I would highly recommend this life-affirming, brilliant show from a very talented actor. His final performance is on the 22nd July 7pm- 8pm at Underground at the Clubhouse. It is definitely a Buxton Fringe 2023 must see!


Alice Featherstone



A stuttery start to the comedy spectacle as the audience learns that headline act, Alice Fraser won't be coming. Whispers hinted that something big was going down in London, or was that just someone's joke at her expense?


Master of Ceremonies, Jon Pearson popped up like a willing junior school librarian to help smooth this lumpy crisis into a slight ripple. He quizzed the audience about their jobs as the last chords of Bowie's Queen Bitch melted away. "So, you're a carpenter?" he says. "And what is your favourite joint?" he asks.


If comedy is the driving force, the angular form of Tom Little is its second- to third-gear movement. Hyper-speed delivery, the embodiment of Peter Rabbit with amphetamine inducement, Tom is Cumbria's second most famous celebrity. It turns out that Peter Rabbit is the first most famous!


Ricky Balshaw takes the baton, but he struggles to hold it as both his hands are tightly clutching his balance sticks. Ricky has cerebral palsy, not the usual starting point for a comedy routine, but he instantly finds his feet, metaphorically and actually. This silver-medallist Paralympian is made of strong stuff and powers through a show, part giggle and part educational. Warm, honest and open hearted, he provokes and teases in equal measure. Using the word 'spastic' is difficult, but appropriately judged in prod and result, action and reaction.


Alice's stand-up stand-in is Duncan Oakley. Bespectacled music man of mirth, he twists the melon of merriment and twangs his guitar strings to his daft ditties. Open to attack is young love, getting older and passing away - all of life is there to be mocked. Peppa the pig gets the flick-knife treatment and scrotal juggling is set to become an Olympic sport under his guidance. Stubborn, focused and fearless, just like his headstrong Daughter!


I'm still smiling as I write this. Happiness spreads like a nice stain.


David Carlisle


MOLO-PROV COCKTAIL - LU Comedy Institute

Four students from the University of Lancaster Comedy Institute (LUCI) present a wide-ranging set of sketches mixed with improv sessions. Just why did Tolstoy take so long to write Anna Karenina? What exactly is Mary Berry cooking today? The audience provides prompts for different improv games which are performed between sketches.


Particularly good is a game in which an improvised scene between all four performers is reduced by one actor (by audience choice) each time it is performed. This time it was a haunted house horror sketch which got funnier and funnier as the cast was reduced. Another good improv game involves an audience-provided prompt which is developed into a story and then jumps backwards and forwards in time. This time we had the sad tale of the boy who was mistaken for a horse. But because it's improv, when you go it'll be something completely different!


The performers work well together in this high-energy show which ran smoothly and kept the audience giggling. The inventive sketches were well put together and amusing, but the show really came to life in the improv sessions. LUCI is an active comedy society in Lancaster, and it’s great to see student comedians developing their skills in improv. The appreciative audience reaction will hopefully encourage them to return to Buxton in future years.


This early evening comedy show is an ideal way to start your evening’s entertainment. There are only two more chances to catch them at the Green Man Gallery - next shows on 21 and 22 July at 6pm.


Georgina Blair



Last seen at the Buxton Fringe in 2016, comedy duo Max and Ivan have received multiple comedy awards from us but more to the point have been acclaimed at festivals across the world as well as on TV and radio in shows such as ITV2’s Deep Heat, BBC2’s W1A and Radio 4’s The Casebook of Max & Ivan.


Their latest show has been eagerly anticipated and begins intriguingly with a screened Zoom call between them in which they consider how to make their big entrance. Ivan favours the “vibe of us flying on stage” but dries up when asked how he might achieve that: “I know like we can’t literally…” In the event they do manage it - sort of - to the delight of the audience, but slightly less welcome is the fact that the ‘winging it’ does not stop there…


There is a really excellent show in the making here but the heart sinks when the paper scripts come out, certain visuals fail to show up and the fluffs multiply. Happily, they are never less than funny even when apologising. “I should maybe read the lines or maybe digest them before spewing out something that isn’t in the script?”, suggests Ivan at one point. Meanwhile Max manages to weave their collective failings into part of the show’s thesis about different psychological types - lots of graphs come out to help plot who is “passive risk” and who is “active safe”.


Ivan has recently become a dad (one reason for their underpreparedness and the fact that Max ended up scheduling a Zoom meeting entitled ‘Argument’), and fatherhood is key theme of the show as they bring in their own dads, present through video, to talk about their distinct approaches to life. Ivan’s Argentinian dad has had a particularly colourful past including spells as a freelance treasure-hunter, crayfish farmer, unlicensed timeshare salesman and Romanian prison inmate (those last two not unrelated). So there is certainly a bit of “risk” in the genes and Ivan plays up to this with plenty of comically gasp-inducing moments including flashing passport and bank details up on the big screen.


Sensible Max turns out to have had some adventures too, notably a horrifying/hilarious time in Thailand during Covid. It is a great story and there is plenty to enjoy in the show throughout, from their brotherly rapport to the life-enhancing song and dance act at the end.


That’s all folks for Buxton - and there are hints that the pair are rethinking their showbiz future generally - but we do know that they are off to the Edinburgh Fringe and it would be fascinating to see what evolves from this work in progress. Whatever happens, a lucky Buxton audience has had the chance to gain an insight into the creative process of two of the country’s finest comics.


Stephanie Billen



Buxton Fringe must be getting a good reputation amongst drag acts. We have our regular Kate Butch, we have Annie Sup, Crudi Dench and of course Angela Bra. And these performers deliver good shows and get full audiences.


The structure of Angela’s show follows the departure of her two daughters for Uni, Debbie and Daphne (the ‘double D’ Bras) and Angela decides to have a party.


Whatever misgivings the audience had soon dissolved as Angela quickly established a rapport with the audience and everybody (yes, everybody) joined in with choruses and seat dancing. There were also a few astute observations about the dominance of social media and another about shopping and forgetting her ‘bag for life’ and having to buy another; resulting in two bags of guilt.


In all of Angela’s songs and monologues (New Rock anyone?) the one I will remember was her extended fantasy about Freddie Mercury opening a cheese restaurant instead of joining Queen. I will not be able to prepare cheese again without singing, “I want to grate cheese” to the rhythm of ‘I want to break free’. Try it.


There was only one performance at this Fringe which is surprising as this was a fun show and a real crowd-pleaser but Angela is becoming a Fringe regular so there may be more opportunities next year.


Brian Kirman



Growing up as an migrant in the UK from Zambia is not easy at the best of times. Growing up as a Muslim when your dad sends you to a Catholic school must be even harder.


So life can be hard to negotiate and language too; 'up skirting' turns out not to be your uncle sorting out the skirting boards, as she first thought. Don't worry, early in the show Ishi shows us a clever homemade prop to sort out this little problem. It's quite ingenious and very effective. A few jokes ensue about the way some men like to stand.


Ishi also tells us tales about her life and loves at university including someone in the Navy called Andrew, no it wasn't that one; this this man was sweaty. There was a nice aside about the Netflix hit Bridgerton that featured a man that everyone seems to like.


So what about the strawberries of the title? Well the hot summer came and they just appeared at the same time as her comedy career was taking off at Brighton Fringe. She deserves to get even more popular at Buxton Fringe. Ishi has a friendly, likeable style and her show features some great little costume changes including a fabulous strawberry outfit. Plus who can resist an attractive comedian in sparkly rainbow leggings?


There was one last costume change as she donned a more traditional outfit for a final Bollywood-style dance presented with homemade subtitles


Ishi Khan really does bring the sunshine and the smiles to this year's Fringe. You have only got one more chance to see this show: Saturday 10pm at Underground - go along and experience the sunshine, smiles and strawberries for yourself!


Robert Harrison



If there is an award for the silliest show at the Fringe then this would be a strong contender.


The basic idea is the well know parlour game 'Charades', but the subjects are twisted with a ‘porno’ angle. So, we have: 'Let it Be(DSM)', 'Shaving Ryan’s Privates', 'Fiddle Her on the Roof', 'Down on Abbey' etc etc. You get the idea.


There were two teams of three and the format was mixed giving variety to the show. So one person presented to the team, then to the opposing team and so on.


On a number of occasions the audience clearly knew the phrase when the panel didn’t. One set had an audience member present to their adopted team. All great fun and with an inventive interpretation of the words.


The finale was a quick-fire round of successive words which finished the show on a high.


The show started late at 10pm and was much enjoyed by a younger audience than at many Fringe events. There is another show on 20th July; best to have a drink or two first.



Following their adventures with zombies in 2022, Kate Butch and Crudi Dench, return battling a new supernatural threat. Somehow becoming the UK’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, Kate and Crudi travel to Transylvania, where the host of their Airbnb has a terrifying secret.


When a show has a fabulous lip-synch routine to Scooch’s Eurovision banger, Flying The Flag, you know you’re in for a fun night out and Drag Queens v Vampires delivers. The chemistry between Kate and Crudi is hilarious and the audience interaction is spot-on. Extra characters appear in the form of Crudi’s Romanian Aunty Van (in puppet form), Eurovision journalists (played by members of the audience in dodgy accents) and the Count himself, Dr Acula (taking the human form of a hapless audience member brought up onstage to seduce Kate - with a voice added from offstage).


It’s all very silly, and also very funny – as slick as we’ve come to expect from a Haus of Dench show, but with enough spontaneity and rough edges to keep it fresh. Drag Queens v Vampires has sold out for its run at Buxton, but if you get the chance to catch it in Edinburgh, you’re in for a treat.


Robbie Carnegie



It’s rare to find a stand up comedian who actually stands up and, err, tells jokes. The ‘post modern’ comedians have a theme on which to hang their show and give a context to their stories. So too does David McIver who deals with his experience of the Wellness industry. This industry is ripe for satire and David takes this on from a position of knowledge - we learn that he undertook an Msc in Therapy


His style is completely self-deprecating. He involves the audience and develops good rapport, but while he has some good gags this is not a strong joke-driven show; more wry-smiles-of-recognition and warm reflection. He supported his act (confession?) with short videos and soundtracks and you could almost think of this show as a mild group therapy session.


David has a likeable stage presence, mainly because of the self-deprecation and the audience was on his side throughout. If you feel you like you would benefit from the warm bath of wellness session he has another show (thankfully not as late as the first night) on 18th at 8;30pm – lots of time to get home afterwards and have your cocoa.


Brian Kirman



Well, after a slight delay due to technical difficulties beyond the President's control, we were introduced to a character who, if he were real, would probably be the darling of ... best not go there, but you can imagine the potential audience for dictator material!


President Obonjo is the exiled former leader of the Republic of Lafta, although he himself believes a western conspiracy is keeping him from his rightful position. We were informed of this by the President himself who was polite and dignified throughout the entire audience. We learned of his troubled history, his relationship with the truth and with fellow world leaders. Mostly we were told about how unfair it is that President Zelenski of Ukraine is liked and he is not. A conspiracy he tells us.


A lesser man would have buckled in this kind of political career pressure, but he's made of stern stuff. He has a degree in Military Coups from Sandhurst which of course we all hold in high regard. No, he is not a buffoon! He told us so. He could do much for Britain if he was in power, and it is clear our governments anti-terror campaigns have left their mark in his proposed strategy and tag-line 'See it, say it, shoot it!'


The President could only stay for one night in Buxton and is going to Edinburgh soon where he assures us his audiences with members of the public will be tip-top after this rehearsal. The technical people there had better get it right or they will join a long list of people who aren't seen around any more.


I assured the President he'd get a two and a half star review at least. Mostly to get my family released. Thank you Mr President.


Ian Parker Heath



Tom Crawshaw, Yaz al Shaater and Michael Grady Hall back on stage together as Three's Company is box office gold and meant a full house at the Old Clubhouse. So it was a shame for them that they gave away all the tickets for free to this live recording of their podcast, Adventure Department.


They introduced themselves with some reminiscences of how far they've come since they first started doing comedy upstairs in the Old Clubhouse together 20 years ago, and ran through what to expect from the podcast. There's such an easy camaraderie and sense of fun between them that it is a joy to be in the same room.


Then we were off on their Halloween special, Screech, and suddenly the thunder and lightning of the weekend seemed appropriate. They fell into their usual personas for the podcast, Tom the pedant, the slightly gormless Yaz, and Michael, who's acting is so good he scared even himself. Joining them on stage was another firm Fringe favourite, Rob Rouse, bringing his anarchic energy to the podcast through a rather scary voice distorter.


The podcast was as much fun as you'd expect, as they worked through a series of horror tropes, escaping from cupboards, creepy woods and abandoned sheds, before finally being confronted by their terrifying nemesis. You can catch up with it online sometime soon. If I had to guess I'd say round about the end of October.


What you'll miss is all the fun after the podcast as they re-recorded some bits and pieces - all of Yaz's lines according to Dylan in the tech box, who nearly stole the show with his sarcastic and passive aggressive interventions. A particular highlight was Yaz's attempt to pronounce Stanislavski with the help of Rob's aide memoire involving Stan Laurel, Stannah Chairlifts, lavatories and skiing. I do hope there's a blooper reel.


Thanks all, it’s always great to have you back!


Stephen Walker




On a rainy Buxton evening the compact Rotunda Squeak tent provided the perfect setting for comedian Stephen Catling, who likes to get close to his audience. The show involves lots of audience participation from the start as Stephen covers a range of topics from the absurd (just how do crabs clap?) to the serious (Stephen’s experiences in various workplaces), combined with a variety of physical gags using a range of props.


Alternative comedy is not necessarily straightforwardly funny. Stephen characterises himself as a high-energy surrealist clown, and it is important to appreciate this show as a lively example of absurdist comedy. Some humour in the show does depend on individual audience members’ reactions to Stephen’s interactions with them, but this is line with Stephen’s high-risk approach to comedy.


Stephen was awarded a Keep It Fringe bursary for 2023 by the Edinburgh Fringe for shows which capture the ‘defiant spirit of the Fringe’, and is taking the show up to Edinburgh next month. Stephen aims to be unlike other comedians, and this is a great chance to see this unusual absurdist comedy before its run in Edinburgh.


Beehavioural Problems: Something, Something Autism is on again at the Rotunda on Sunday 16 July at 7.45pm


Georgina Blair




Ah ha! I hear you cry, what is this thing called 'Badger'? Well, turns out it's Donna Scott, originally from The Black Country but now residing in Northampton. Bit of a a change you might think? Well yes, but she hasn't lost her love of where she comes from.

The name we focused on was DUDLEY! Ever been there? Well as you might imagine, not many of the audience had and they were hard pushed to name any of the town's tourist attractions and from there we were whisked through why Dudley is not Birmingham, orange chips, what about that castle and more. There was a long section (I use the terms wisely) about recent health issues and her dalliance with the NHS and treatment which had its humorous moments but also some serious ones. We learned the name for a body part which only women have - no, not that one - and we were even helped out by an audience member who was clearly a doctor with some of that tricky medical nomenclature. Thank you, sir!

It was the kind of show, part comedic, part self-revelatory, which isn't funny all the way through, might have some difficult subject material, but is nevertheless entertaining. It wasn't the ideal venue/ audience but Donna made the most of it. This was her only appearance at this year's Fringe. Let's hope she comes back.


Ian Parker Heath



This is the kind of show that a Fringe attracts, something that is quirky, distinctly odd and very left-field. Whacky even. Here's why.

Imagine having the idea that your fascination with a fictional TV baddie (Daleks) can be the basis for a comedy show. How would that work? Well, getting hold of a Dalek could prove tricky; next best thing...? Why, a soft toy based on this character of course, and so our hero was born. The rest, as they say, is history.

The show takes a sideways look at a range of subjects such as art, films, advertising and beloved cartoon characters through the lens of the possible career choices of a soft toy 'mini-Dalek' which gives us a 'what if they were evil' trope.

Throw in some visual gags and illustrations in a powerpoint, some songs played on a ukulele and a guitar which involves some theatrical dashing around and a spot of audience participation and there you have it - the show.

It looked like this was the first time Grant had done the show in real life and he was a bit nervous, his remote didn't work and he had it notes to hand, but the audience helped him get through it all.

The show is on again at the Green Man Gallery on the 16th.


Ian Parker Heath



It’s an attractive idea – to create a show of two halves … the first half looking at events that took place on “this” exact date however far back, and then to explore precursors and consequences while the second half homes in on the town where the performance is taking place.


We had two performers as well as the host/chair Richard Pulsford (should have been three but one fell away). What worked well was that this day, St Swithin’s Day, turned out to be the wettest, rainiest day the region has had. On July 15th 971, the bones of St Swithin were removed from their resting place on the order of Aethelwold, Bishop of Winchester, and placed in a shrine inside the cathedral. Then it rained for 40 days, which gave rise to the legend. As one might expect, there were many references to this day’s storm in amongst a wealth of nuggets of information.


The two performers, Scott Alsop and Donna Scott, came with their prepared material – he with St Swithin, she with a portfolio around Mary Queen of Scots who visited Buxton at least seven times. All three had come well prepared with their research for 15 July for this one-off performance. We heard many detailed facts along the way – Buxton has the third oldest weather station in the UK; Mary Queen of Scots, who as we know visited Buxton, liked monkeys; Buxton had a major tennis tournament from around 1880 just at the time that Wimbledon itself started. There were off-the-wall themes too – Tom Thumb, as an example, and linked to that “who was General Tom Thumb?”


This was billed as Comedy but for this commentator it was more like an informal history lesson with jokey interventions. The low-key presentation involved reading off paper or screens with the many Buxton residents in the full-house audience joining in to correct or expand the local material, making this a truly collaborative entertainment.


Michael Quine



A few years ago comedian Dave Bibby came up with his big comedy idea, to present his own one-man performance of Jurassic Park. On the evidence of his opening scene it would have been very good. However, life has a habit of derailing plans, and the arrival of a baby into his household put paid to his concentration and commitment to the task. Instead he has put together a show combining an attempt to retell the Jurassic Park story, while also celebrating the joys of fatherhood.

Baby Dinosaur is a very entertaining show. Bibby is a comedian of enormous energy and drive, powering the audience along with his enthusiasm. He utilizes audience participation deftly, with everyone being dragged in to throw in lines of script in a way that’s fun, rather than threatening to the assembled crowd.

The Jurassic Park element of the show is strong and accessible, and the fatherhood element is heartfelt and touching. If I’m honest I could have done without the political jokes which aren’t his forte and feel shoe-horned in – the show is strong enough without them. Bibby is still working up the show (although it’s in a much more polished state than some ‘works in progress’) so it may be that this element disappears in what is a very entertaining, personal show.


Robbie Carnegie



“The old ones are the best”, goes the saying, but the great thing about Richard Pulsford is that he is constantly coming up with new jokes. Hence the many accolades he has received including becoming UK Pun Championships Winner 2022 and being selected for Dave’s Top Ten Jokes at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019, 2021 and 2022. Among the well over 100 jokes shared with an enthusiastic audience at the Rotunda’s new Squeak venue was his 2022 Edinburgh Fringe winner: “I sent a food parcel to my first wife. FedEx.”


Pulsford is a familiar face at the Buxton Fringe and has a great relationship with his fans who truly appreciate a gig packed with one-liners and excruciating wordplay. Here in Buxton as he geared up for his Edinburgh show, we got to hear him trying out a few new things including an exchange with an audience member that moved from “Do you like atoms?” (no reaction) to “Do you like protons?” “Yes?” followed by a brisk and brilliant: “That’s enough of the small talk”.


Puns are not everyone’s cup of tea and though the vast majority of this packed audience were royally entertained, he lost a couple of people who left the tent amid much fumbling of the zipped entrance in the hammering rain. Pulsford took it all in his stride likening it to “a bad camping holiday”. I enjoyed these asides and his interactions with us as he gauged our response to new puns. Whilst much of the humour was fairly scattergun, there were also times when jokes were cleverly linked and the use of slides was also a nice touch, adding variety to his presentation.


Pulsford had to rush off afterwards to present It Just So Happened - An Alternative History Show at the Green Man Gallery, but it is a tribute to his popularity that he was waylaid by several people wanting to buy signed copies of his book of 600 plus jokes, The Punball Wizard. I guess we’d all like to have such a repository of jokes at our disposal, the sillier the better. I’m hanging onto several, including a good one for the pub: “Why are there lots of small holes around the outside of my dart board - am I missing something?”


Stephanie Billen



Four Weddings and a Breakdown eh? Well, that could be a challenge couldn't it? After all it is a well-trodden path. But there's a twist here...

Phil Green was, a decade ago, of an age where there's often a fork in the road of life, but his take on it has us comparing intergenerational lifestyles, achievements and rivalries and what has happened in his life since. A major factor in his life and the breakdown is displayed for all to see from the very start of the show, but you have to be of an age to spot it...

Elsewhere in his life, and back to his dad joke, is his family and their support for him during this time. His mum, well she's a mum, and therefore supportive and sensitive. His dad? You'll love the text message interchange between him and his dad, a classic!

Yes, age features a lot and it helps if you know or understand what millennials etc are. If you don't, you might be a bit flummoxed by all this stuff and it seemed the audience here were a bit bemused by it all.

Don't get me wrong, it is a show with lots of ideas and jokes, he's even thrown in a dad joke. But every show needs the right audience and I don't think we were it this time. However, Phil is taking the show to Edinburgh and I'm sure it'll be a hit there.


Ian Parker Heath









Sasha Ellen comes to Buxton claiming to look like every primary school teacher ever and with a show about break-ups, dating and Deliveroo. After the end of a long relationship – a remarkably mature ending, young people these days, so thoughtful and considerate – she finds herself trying to find love in the modern world, back on the dating apps, and regretting mocking others for using them during the five years she was in a relationship.

A Buxton audience is perhaps not Ellen’s usual demographic for a show about dating and Deliveroo, but she is an accomplished performer, her energy levels and cheerful demeanour are infectious and carry us along with her.

The rather one-sided interplay Ellen has with the only young single man in the room is sweet and very funny because her core material is on the uselessness of young men, which comes as no surprise to those of us with teenagers. Though where she thinks these men should look to for role models on how to improve their surroundings is something of a surprise.

There is some great material on the search for a new place to live post-break-up, and Ellen’s characterisation of her new flatmate is very funny and it would be great to see her develop more of this because she is very good at it.

Ellen’s choices in life often come down to the desirability of a potential mate versus the reliability of the pizza delivery. But can a girl have it all? Sasha Ellen is very funny, this new show is very nicely constructed indeed and promises to be a hit, catch it while you can.


Stephen Walker



Straight from his brother's wedding to us. That's dedication for you. Lined up with coffee, coke and a certain Irish stout, we were off on the trail of 'Calm' and John's search for it. Of course, a comedy show isn't going to be about the successful search for inner tranquility, is it?

And lo, it came to pass that John is something of an angry not-quite-so young man these days, but the roots of this problem lie in a past somewhat troubled by 'the Troubles' and a childhood growing up in Newry. Mind, compared with where the family came from, Newry's quite the cosmopolitan metropolis. That might account for some of the genetic issues the family have ...

As with many people from Ireland, he found himself moving to England, and indeed Buxton for a while, but we'll gloss over that bit, shall we? Anyway John found himself a wife, and luckily for John she has a fetish for ... anyway there were problems with airport security, religion, the wedding disco and more.

All of which go into making an entertaining show, confidently presented by John and enjoyed by all. His second and last show is on the 15th. Support your formerly local comedian and get down to the Old Clubhouse.


Ian Parker Heath


BARREL OF LAUGHS - Underground

Now in it's 18th glorious year, Barrel of Laughs returned to the town of its birth to generous applause. Compered by the ever-present Tom Crawshaw, half of the team which created the show all those years ago, last night's offering was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The format hasn't changed as it works so well - the audience is treated to previews of half a dozen acts performing at the Fringe. Part-marketing, part-standalone show, it has stood the test of time and is a firm favourite with Fringe-goers.

First up was John Meagher, Edinburgh prize-winning comedian, with the show 'Calm'. We were delighted to find out about John's recent wedding, his family of, well, quite a few really and interestingly his wife's fetish. Any more on that would be telling. Delivered with a relaxed, yet pacy style, you can catch the next (and final) show tonight - 15th July - so don't miss it!

Dave Bibby gave us a rousing glimpse of his show 'Baby Dinosaur' which we were assured contained no dinosaurs. What it does contain is a lot of laughs. The age of the audience, i.e. are you over 25, was tested by their ability to finish well-known TV commercials. We passed them all, it must be said. With the audience firmly in his grasp it looks like a great show which you can catch on the 15th 16th and 17th!

Phil Green took us into the world of inter-generational misunderstanding and helped us see how relatively easy it is to feel sorry for people older/ younger than you. And why you shouldn't. Beware, this show contains a dad joke. Phil is on his way to Edinburgh, but you can catch him again tonight (15th).

Fringe returnee, and often to be found working behind the scenes, Dylan Howells regaled us with family stories - why are they such a great source for comedy? Amsterdam, and why you might not want to cover up your brother's visit was just part of the show, as was his near-death experience. Oh, it seems his ageing punk-rocker mum was in the audience ... more from Dylan and co-star Joe Sellman-Leava in their show on the 19th & 20th.

Sasha Ellen was our only solo female comedian, but hey, she was good. This really was a warm-up as she had her first show at this year's Fringe straight after Barrel of Laughs! The joys of jogging alone as a woman, apps that spoil that and the question of just who is a pervert propelled us into the show. She may be small but she packed a punch! Sadly, her only other show this year is tonight (15th) - squeeze it in if you can!

The evening ended with the lovely Black Liver - purveyors of comedy songs, and a bit of banter it must be said. We were treated to three songs from their 'Soiree of Black Liver' show. They made us laugh and even gasp on occasion even in this shortened version of the show. What a great way to finish the evening, thank you again! If you'd like to see more of them they're playing again on the 15 and 22nd. Go!


Ian Parker Heath



Tommy Cooper was an absolute one-off and John Hewer’s affectionate tribute gives a real flavour of the original. The bumbling and the large and clumsy stage presence were captured perfectly and we were treated to an hour of pure silliness – tricks that worked, tricks that didn’t (they weren’t supposed to!), a stash of one-liners that Tim Vine would be proud of and a variety of comical tales involving dressing up and hats ... and, yes, the classic bottle-glass routine is there.


The real Tommy’s comedy was absurd, his humour always gentle, never cruel or crude and our Tommy stayed faithful to this. It felt very nostalgic and is suitable for everyone.


Tommy was supported on the piano by Christopher Peterson who gave us a rendition of a Richard Stilgoe/ Peter Skellern ballad – unexpected and pleasing!


We were a small but appreciative audience on a wet Buxton night. Tommy deserves a full tent – go and see him.


Janet Payne



Most of you missed it!


I'd heard a little about Edy Hurst's show last year and made it my mission to see it this, and I was not disappointed; what a wonderful, thoughtful, bonkers show it is! Here's why...


In a serious, almost academic way Edy has examined the phenomena associated with a late 19th century publication, ranging from dodgy copies re-locating the events to Boston (Mass), to careful use of Google maps to plot all the locations in the original book to of course the Jeff Wayne effort and beyond. That in itself is really interesting and a lot of it was unknown to me.


Add to that a strong twist of comedic entertainment, a helping of graphics and a dab of audience participation and hey presto! You get almost an hour of non-stop mirth and giggles - probably the most I've witnessed at the Fringe in a long while!


Yes it is cheap and cheerful, but that just adds to its charm. Yes it is silly in places, but if you are of a certain age and spent your Saturday mornings watching a certain 'children's' TV show starring Chris Tarrant et al you'll know what this was like. It was all great fun and I and the audience loved it.


Such a shame this was the only performance this year. Seek out a scrapbook version on the podcast provider of your choice.


Ian Parker Heath



Firm Fringe favorites Angela Bra and Annie Sup brought their Disco Divorce Party back to the Fringe for one night only last night; it had been rebooted for 2023 with some new numbers, based on true stories, or so the girls tell us.


Performing in Rotunda's new venue 'Squeak' the evening had a delightfully intimate feel, with the audience feeling like we were actually on the girls' night out with Annie and Angela.


Forty, (newly) single and ready to mingle, the duo took us on an evening of musical comedy celebrating friendship and new beginnings.


We set off on a bar crawl packed with quips, put downs and laughs, where the puns came thick and fast. The music was full of make-you-want-to-get-up-and-dance tracks from the 90s, sometimes adapted with Angela's and Annie's own highly amusing and clever spins on the lyrics - Tina's Party Bingo (Lola the Showgirl) may be an even better story than the original Copacabana.


Some of the puns were expected but no less funny for that as they were delivered with perfect timing. There were lots of other laugh out loud moments as Annie and Angela offered each other (sometimes unwise) advice, and looked back on some of the key moments in their friendship, the disastrous holiday in Ibiza for example.


There was lots of interaction with the audience; we were encouraged to join in the dance moves and predict the punchlines to some of the jokes. The audience clearly loved it with plenty of spontaneous applause, and a queue outside after for a photo opportunity with the duo.


This was a very fun evening with a feelgood effect that will stay with me for some time; in fact I don't think I'll ever hear Barry Manilow's original lyrics again!


This was the only showing of the Divorce Party but Angela will be back in Squeak with her new show Angela Bra Microwave on 20th July - don't miss it.


Carole Garner



Award-winning comedian Hayley Ellis has an impressive fanbase including Sarah Millican, Jason Manford, John Bishop, and Russell Howard. With this calibre of talent and an inkling of her comedy style we knew we were in for a good night. This ‘work in progress’ show was anything but, and it was great to be a part of the process for Hayley fine-tuning her set. Even the accompanying faint jingles of the Morris dancing troupe outside complemented the jovial mood of the audience.


Originating from 'the absolute nothing of Great Britain', Connah’s Quay in North Wales, and its limited three Trip Advisor accolades, this self-confessed OCD worrier took us on a journey of her life with all its trials and tribulations.


Suffering from the paternally inherited dry eye and the skin texture of a shar pei dog (her words I hasten to add, not mine – and also not true!), Hayley’s energy is instantly likable and relatable. She imparted useful Jif Lemon self-defence advice from her mum for the mean streets of Manchester, and teased us with a potentially pending Beverley Callard-esque exercise dvd entitled ‘OCD to OMG’ following a recent bout of low body confidence and a perplexed Personal Trainer. With her stories about her inability to channel her OCD energies into housework, the natural progression of swapping holidays in Ayia Napa for visits to National Trust properties, how she counselled her friend through being hexed by Brian from Lidl, and how she maintained a poker face opposite a suspiciously well-dressed Blackpool fortune teller, she had the whole audience laughing from start to finish and we could easily have sat there for another hour. With the intriguing promise of a free departing gift on our way out, it was only mildly disappointing to discover it was a flyer for drinks with Chorley Dave and his limited music provision.


So are the thoughts in her head as funny when she says them out loud? A resounding yes! With the odd ‘F bomb’ here and there, this is observational humour at its best and there was nothing to offend or set your teeth on edge. Sadly, this is the only performance by Hayley at Buxton Festival Fringe 2023. If she returns next year this is an absolute must for your itinerary. Failing that, catch her on one of her current tour dates, you won’t be disappointed.


Karen Wain-Pimlott


AR THA SITTIN’ COMFORTABLY? - I'll Have What She's Having Productions

There is only one production of Allan Bennett at this years festival but if you feel the need of more lugubrious Yorkshire accents and monologues you could do worse than this production by a drama collective whose stated purpose is to encourage women ‘of a certain age’ to write and perform.


A full Green Man gallery enjoyed a dozen short pieces which varied from the poignant to the satirical and the simply humorous. Introduced by Sarah Smith - a geordie - the ladies spoke without reserve in fresh honest Yorkshire accents without attempts to sanitise to standard English. The exception was Gemma Windle’s pastiche of an airline pre-flight announcement.


I particularly enjoyed Sarah Carrat’s poem “The leader of the Taliban’ where she invites Islamic extremists to judge the cake competition at her village fete. The mix of tone between subject and character sold it. Another favourite was Chris Dawson’s ‘Bogeyman’ which was a little more extended than the others but was wryly funny. Another bitter-sweet monologue was Gemma Windle’s delivery of ‘The show must go on’ written by Beverley Ward, which used humour to deflect from a marital breakdown – think of the sadder bits in ‘Shirley Valentine’. The finale was ‘Medium to Well Done’ a double hander send up of psychic mediums written by Gil Burns (with Sarah Carrat) which poked fun at the gullibility of people at seances.


These are some of my favourites and I am sure each one in the audience had their own.


There is another performance on 14th July which is already booking heavily so don’t delay getting your own tickets.


Brian Kirman



Marc Adams brings his BMW to Buxton - but in this case it's as the title for his show 'Bavaria's Most Wanted', which looked like it is the sort of show just made for a Fringe.


The show does what it says on the publicity copy and from the start is packed with "off-beat humour, visual gags, music, props, and Kraut-work". There are lots of one-liners, entendres and more as Marc gives an almost whirlwind blast of comedic content ranging from dodgy card tricks to swallowing whole Salami. There's music, dance (very loosely defined!), yoga and an abundance of Dad jokes - enough to satisfy the most ardent fan.


It was all delivered at pace and with barely a pause for breath - except for the yoga bit obviously - and the audience loved it and before we knew it, time was up! Watch out for a long and stable show where audience participation is guaranteed - you have been warned!


Ian Parker Heath



You know that feeling at the end of a loooong day when you've got to get up, go out and see a show...can I get my sorry ass in gear?


So, Black Liver. This was my first time, despite them having become Fringe favourites and award nominees. A musical comedy duo? I had my doubts but was open to persuasion, and boy did they persuade! I've got to say I really enjoyed the show, and so did the rest of the audience judging by the laughter around me.


'A Soiree of Black Liver' is a kind of 'best of' with new bits thrust in there, so if you haven't seen them before it's a great introduction to their work. Their songs and skits cover a range of subjects and themes with a sharp eye for detail, wit and imagination. From raucous laughter to a sharp intake of breath they had the room covered. I don't think there was a dry eye in the house by the end of the show.


Ruth and Keith adeptly give you something to smile about when you think of delicacies such as scampi & banana fingers linked with party swingers...yes hold that thought! Office work, parents, learning to play an instrument and more get the Black Liver treatment to good effect and if you're look for a good Fringe night out then see this show!


Yes, it is worth dragging your sorry ass out to see!


Ian Parker Heath



Benji Waterstones’ show is not your regular ‘stand-up comedy’. His show is based on his experiences of working as an NHS Psychiatrist and this has clearly provided him with a rich vein of material. He finds great humour in a variety of awkward, desperate and, frankly, crazy situations, including his own tribulations that the work produces.


This is not just about the people that he encounters but also the system in which he had to work. Whilst this may not seem like a laughing matter, Benji presents it all with sensitivity and in ways that the audience can relate to.


He kept the audience fully entertained, and engaged throughout - and in some parts, horrified. There was time for audience participation and it culminated in a funny, heart-warming conclusion.


The show is presented as ‘work-in-progress’ in preparation for the Edinburgh Fringe and with a few rough edges smoothed off, this show will be a real winner.


Vernon McGarey



In a change to the usual, Nathan Cassidy bought two shows to this year's Fringe, and sadly this was the only performance of the second. Amnesia looped around the trope of the total memory loss of his childhood and how it led to this.


The state that he, and probably most of the rest of us are in, is one of perplexity at some of the forgettable and shallow instances, foibles, paraphilias and technological no-nos which form part of life these days. Have you ever stopped to wonder? Well, no, most of us don't, but Mr Cassidy has and has woven it into a splendid web of shallow forgettable nonsense that will make you groan with pleasure. The denouement (thank you Barry Norman, I always knew I could use it one day) is as ever a delight and illustrates just how much work goes into making an instantly forgettable show with absolutely no connections.


The audience lapped it up with oohs and ah's a-plenty, we survived crashing sounds of god-knows-what-it-is-until-the-lights-go-up, and triumphant music drifting in from beyond. Another excellent show from Mr Cassidy. Still, we'll have to wait until next year for more.


Ian Parker Heath



Henry Churniavsky came to the Buxton Fringe last year with his solo show. This comedy compilation show proved a joy and a welcome break from the thunderstorms.


Henry has a very friendly style. His performance in the upstairs room at the Green Man offered the perfect way to shelter from the storm. With his laidback south Liverpool wit and accent, what's not to like? And show the man "Jew respect", he's a grandad now too!


As the crowd was quite small the audience interaction felt more like natural conversations.


He had brought a few mates along all to raise money for a couple of mental health charities. First up was Roland Gent telling tales of old TV programmes and lots more besides, again enjoying gentle banter with the friendly audience.


Next up was Jill Corey with stories about dating when older, and finally Jon Fitzpatrick with reverences to TV programmes of yesteryear again. It went down well with this older crowd. By this time we had all dried off and the sunshine had come out.


Fresh from her appearance at Fringe Sunday, Angela Bra also came along. Still looking amazing despite the storms, Fringe favourite Angela sang amusing songs and her jokes went down brilliantly as always.


Henry has quickly become a Buxton Fringe favourite. His solo show earlier in the day with tales of his medical procedures and journey through life was a sell out. With his dry Liverpool humour and friendly style, we hope he will be coming back to Buxton for many years to come.


Both his shows were building awareness and raising money for great mental health charities: Young Minds and Jami, of which Henry is a patron. Henry's two shows were both on Sunday. Hopefully next year he will be here for longer. Below are links to both charities:


Robert Harrison



Jewish Liverpudlian comic Henry Churniavsky is a proud grandfather – or Zaida – and he wants to tell you all about it, in this quickfire mix of observational comedy and near-the-knuckle one-liners.


Henry looks back over his life, from romantic conquests at school, through marriage and fatherhood, and finally to older age and grandparenthood, all seen through the unique prism of his upbringing. Like many of his generation he looks with some astonishment at the degree of micromanagement modern parents have to go through, from which nappy to buy in Aldi to the arcane specifics of which teat to use on a baby’s bottle, compared to his own experiences of just getting on with it.


As well as the warmth of these observations, there’s also a lot of gags as likely to elicit groans as laughs, whether discussing circumcision or prostate examinations. Henry is an accomplished performer who works his – sold out – audience well, and all for mental health charities.


Robbie Carnegie



John Tothill gave us a polished performance despite this being billed as a try-out for Edinburgh. He took us on a flight of fancy based on the premise that pleasure ended in 1535. He goes back to the days of an indulgent boy king fulfilling all his whims. Comparing himself to this except for the wealth, the power, the jesters and pretty much everything else..


To his credit John addresses the issue of presenting a show “in progress” saying he argued with his agent that the fee should be low to encourage attendance and give him maximum feedback. This was not, however, acceptable to his agent. The flaw in this argument was that the agent doesn’t exist.


John’s show took us to Wittgenstein, Catholicism, Queen Mary (who’s first act as Queen was to de-criminalise various forms of sexual pleasure – I need to look this up). We had Crazy Golf, Florence Nightingale, HINGE (another to look up), gym bunnies as crypto-fascists. And Occam’s Razor (if there is a choice between two ideas go with the simpler one – I looked this one up).


Quite a trip. He even played the clarinet – which he had used as an excuse for missing out on so much pleasure as a teenager. Fortunately he wasn’t bluffing and played well.


His next show on 9th is at 10pm but go along, otherwise he will just be practising his clarinet alone.


Brian Kirman


IMPROMPTU SHAKESPEARE - Impromptu Shakespeare Improv Company

Impromptu Shakespeare have become one of the stars of the Buxton Fringe in recent years and the capacity crowd at Underground on Carnival afternoon showed they’ve lost none of their appeal.

The concept is simple: on entering, audience members are given pingbong balls with a word written on it (mine was ‘Quill’) which we’re then encouraged to throw into the trousers of one of the performers. From these trousers, four balls are withdrawn, and the words on them provide the plot points for what follows.

In this performance the themes of ‘Rejection’, ‘A Bishop’, ‘A Fly’ and ‘A Fairy’ were expanded into a slick, funny and very clever creation of a Shakespeare pastiche that the audience adored. I particularly enjoyed Beeblesloth, the Fairy disguised as a Fly, whose dialogue hits the correct Puckish tone throughout.

Improv can be a very hit-and-miss affair, but Impromptu Shakespeare are masters of their craft, managing to make what is unquestionably hard to do well, into something that seems easy, and the jokes continually hit their targets. It’s easy to see why Buxton audiences have taken them to their hearts.


Robbie Carnegie





A dictionary defines a pun as ‘a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings’. Darren Walsh has been mining this vein of humour for years, and on the evidence of his latest show, there’s still plenty more when that came from.

In 3rd Rock from the Pun, Darren adds an extra level to the playfulness that characterizes his work, by employing AI programs to create visual puns on top of the verbal ones. These often eerily not-quite-real images add an extra dimension to a show which takes astronomy and the history of the world as its theme.

There’s an innocent enjoyment in this style of comedy which Darren adds to by his likeable personality. The show is billed as a Preview and although – by his own admission – it slightly peters out without a punchy ending at present, it remains a highly entertaining and relentlessly gag-filled hour.


Robbie Carnegie



If it's July in Buxton, then it's Fringe and that means we welcome back the multi-award-winning comedy talent, Nathan Cassidy. I'd say star, but it's clear from his life story here that the stardom, enjoyed by such luminaries as his grandma's favourite comedian Phil Wang has eluded him. But Nathan is not bitter. No siree Bob.


Instead he has poured his energies into this show of 50, that's right, 50 jokes. You can count them. Each joke has a little something from Nathan's life. From his humble, mostly fatherless beginnings, we were taken through some of the highs and lows of this ordinary life. Hear about learning to ski down broken escalators in shopping malls modelling himself on his hero Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards, how his son suddenly understood the value of an opposing thumb and how privilege has become his watchword.


Love was never spoken of, at least to him, by the male figures in his life, but his grandma; well she was something different. A shining beacon when all else was...


But enough of that. If you've seen Nathan before you'll have a good idea of what to expect. If you haven't, where have you been? Each show is an intricately woven piece which always ends in a place you did not see coming. There are layers, dead-ends and red-herring galore as usual. A friend said after the show 'he's on form isn't he?' Indeed he is.


Fifty is only being performed one more time here in Buxton - 9th July 2.30-3.30. Do yourself a favour and go and see it. You will not be disappointed.


Ian Parker Heath



Breakfast? At 12am? OK, brunch then.


Jester’s Dublin is a loose collective of comedians who ad-lib their way though discussions on current and not too current affairs. On this day there was a feckin' Irish flavour. Audience participation is encouraged and awful puns required. Eejits welcome.


The sold-out audience in the Green Man Workshop room was surprisingly relaxed and needed no prompting to join in. And the pubs weren’t even open. I was surprised to see a full house for such an oddball show but perhaps the 1200 to 1300 time slot helped fill the waiting time before the Carnival parade, or they were hiding from the forecast rain. In any case there was decent entertainment and there was a chance to vent off political frustrations and air bigoted/ deranged views in a safe environment. However it soon became clear that we were (as described in Matt Hutchinson’s show) “the Buxton-tofu-eating-wokerati”. The programme warns, ‘There may be some feckin rude words’. So, be warned.


There is another show (or should I say ‘therapy group’?) on the 9th also at noon. Since there will be an almost completely different panel don’t judge anything from this review. Sorry to waste your time reading it. Tomorrow may not even be raining. One thing you can be sure of, though; there will be Brexit.


If you get there a bit early you can see the art exhibition on the ground floor. Buy a gift for the family. Take home a souvenir. There are some nice postcards.


Carry on chaps.


Brian Kirman



Jake Baker is likeable, self-deprecating and most importantly, very funny. The appreciative audience warmed to him immediately as he embarked on his central theme of ageing, having reached the advanced age of thirty-three. His show covered many diverse topics such as social media, birthday presents and working in the arts before finishing with his proposals for the British Olympic team. His stories were well-observed and well-delivered and the audience could relate to many of his experiences and observations.


The audience at the venue was small due to a number of no-shows, which is a pity because Jake is an engagingly funny man who had us laughing for the whole sixty minutes and he deserves a bigger audience.


He has one more show at this year’s Fringe and people should take the opportunity to see him.


Vernon McGarey



A giant cauldron fills the stage of Underground Venues, from which emerges an unlikely figure in a robe and a wickerwork hat. This is Edy Hurst, who has recently been informed that he’s distantly related to two of the Pendle Witches, tried and executed in Lancashire in 1612. This knowledge has set Edy into a deep dive into the world of magic and witchcraft, which he feels may explain why he has often struggled to fit in.

This is a work in progress, signified around halfway through by the appearance of cue cards and the show taking an increasingly random turn as Edy tries out new ideas, including two musical dream quests, and an epic digression into the world of ‘90s Europop. Clearly some of these ideas may not make the cut in a finished show, but Edy is an agreeably engaging character with whom to spend an hour (or more – he’s very easily distracted). There’s the makings of something brilliant here, once the surfeit of ideas has been whittled down to something more focused.


Robbie Carnegie




WHEN I'M 64 - Jesters Dublin

Chris O'Neill's semi-autobiographical comedy show 'When I'm 64' was filled with quirky anecdotes and interesting happenings that have happened in his 64 years.


At the beginning of the performance, Chris advised us that "our purpose in life is to laugh". I personally think that this is a brilliant philosophy to have, whatever your age! The name of the show was not only the performer's age, but also the name of a song. Chris objected to lines in the song which perhaps 'haven't aged too well'! We were given an insight into his well-lived life, mistakes he has made along the way, and ultimately why he turned to comedy! Chris came across as a very genuine person, who cared for his audience. He wanted to get to know us and make sure we were enjoying his captivating and memorable stories.


Chris shared with us all the people he has been compared to over the years (some complementary, others not so much...!) The performance was honest and relatable. Even if, like me, you are not 64, you will be able to laugh along with some of the situations Chris has found himself in and learn how he has learnt from his mistakes. I would really recommend this show for a laugh-out-loud, "I'm glad I'm not the only one" style of performance!


Alice Featherstone



It is quite a surreal experience when the genteel, architecturally significant Buxton Pump Room morphs into a working men’s club for the evening.


An enthusiastic crowd filled the venue to witness this transformation as singer Alan Charnley, back on his feet following eight hours of life-saving cancer surgery 11 months ago, took to the stage with his trusty sidekick and master of ceremonies, Herbert Entwhistle (aka Alan’s brother, Chris). This was one of those shows that does what it says on the tin, wheeling out pop star after pop star in a bid to crown one of them ‘pop star of the century’, as voted by us.


Who was better: John Lennon or Cliff, Elvis or Abba, Elton or Boris Johnson…? Sorry, what?! Ah yes, the other extra dimension to this extraordinary night was the surprise appearance of several unwanted politicians. All this was achieved by Charnley through a combination of limitless performance energy, OTT costumes and liberal use of paper masks. The faintly spooky masks were used to great comic effect and for me at least proved weirdly liberating as I sang along to the catchy choruses thinking, probably wrongly, that I couldn't be seen by our gyrating pop star. On the minus side, the masks, or maybe the mics, or even the Pump Room acoustic, led to a slightly muffled sound at times.


I would have liked a more transparent voting system, but hey, somehow the clapometer/ artificially intelligent stage panda came up with a pop star of the century that we all endorsed. Along the way I found it fascinating to find out which legendary pop stars could survive the whole Doll’s House process. In my view Cilla, Lionel Richie and of course John Lennon came out tops. Hats off to Charnley for his game performance, versatile singing and swift costume changes as he celebrated the talents of some really great pop artists, ably assisted by an MC who was never less than supportive whether chucking out unwanted guests or joining in the performance with a blow up guitar - which he proceeded to play with his teeth ...


The next performance is at High Peak Bookstore on the 14th - another good venue for a no holds-barred party night from the award-winning Charnley and his team.


Stephanie Billen



Matt Hutchinson is one of the tradition of NHS doctors who moonlights with stand-up comedy. Some of them turn full time: Graeme Garden, Harry Hill, Graham Chapman etc etc. Matt doesn’t say whether this is his ambition.


He introduces his show with a video mash-up of the Windrush arrivals in the 1940’s and we learn his father was of that generation – arriving as a ‘British Citizen’. His father wasn't subject to the inhumane treatment of others because he had the foresight to get a British passport. Matt promises that the show will not be heavy or too political but issues of race recur; particularly with the ‘hostile environment’ of recent governments. He recounts with humour how he was arrested at a demonstration in London and is mildly irreverent to the audience calling us the ‘Buxton-tofu-eating-wokerati’.


His jokes were full of topical and youthful references (hip hop, garage anyone?) which he soon realised needed explanation to the Buxton daytime audience.


A number of famous people were gently sent up but some (Morrissey – he means you) were savaged. Kanye (West) didn’t come out too good either. Matt’s family also featured and he revealed the difficulties of having a one year old daughter which the audience could relate too. There was a little audience interaction but this could be developed perhaps.


Matt comes across as a warm personality and would be a great guy to sit and have a few beers with.


Brian Kirman