The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the tag “comedy”

Punel Show

There’s always going to be potential for a very diverse – and possibly sparse – audience when performers decide to slip in an extra show  when it’s meant to be their day off. The two extremes are: the super keen Twitter users only too glad to hot-foot it along to a Free Fringe hot-ticket and those who haven’t heard of the performers and have wandered in by chance.

Out of the seven audience members I think two of us were in the first category; two in the second; two open to debate and one was Darren Walsh’s mum-in-law. There was another couple at the start but they were definitely in the second category and made a hilariously inept phone-assisted escape when they decided after five minutes it wasn’t for them. (I’m not sure what they expected – the name of the show pretty much tells you everything you need to know. It’s a panel show with puns)

Also did they not know they were in the company of punning royalty with Darren Walsh and Mark Simmons as hosts? Those of us who know and appreciate their work (and use Twitter) were a bit stunned by this point. Great comedy, packed houses so far in the run, seven people in the audience today – really? I think the hosts were stunned as well but they were far too professional to call off or give us a stripped back show. I can’t be sure what happens on other days but I can’t imagine having any more fun than we did.

I don’t know if it’s a bit silly to try and describe the set-up of an essentially silly show but here goes. Darren and Mark are team captains each with one panel member in the shape of a guest comedian. On the day there was Fraser Geesin (quite grumpy but I think that’s his comedy persona) and the excellent and completely bonkers  Trevor Feelgood (I believe he’s a resident panel member so that’s a treat on its own). There are rehearsed puns, there are ad-libbed puns and much general silliness. The fun and games extends to the whole audience but as we were seven this was probably inevitable. It was a bit like being at the best family get-together – if you’re lucky enough to have some top-notch comedians in your family.

Of course it will be different each day and you may have to fight to get in. But I’m sure you’ll have a gloriously fun time – I know the seven of us did!

(Review for 16 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/punel-show

 

 

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Jonathan Hearn: Jontitled

The charmless stark Cowgatehead room has ordinary lighting  and the settling down music is a selection of whispy girl cover versions of soul classics and the original Me and Mrs Jones. So there’s no obvious clues as to what to expect from Jonathan Hearn. Fey mummy’s boy or Mr Afternoon-luvva-man? Forgive me for describing the practical concerns but I’m a great believer in setting a mood. And when you’re doing comedy and the audience don’t have a clue who you are or what you’re about things like opening music, visuals and making an entrance do help.

Jonathan comes in and turns off the music (he has no tech support) and tells us what to expect: mild and gentle humour with three  expletives used (as a warning to a young teen in the audience). There will also be some other stuff including catchphrases, call and response and even some puppetry. On the stage there’s a large picture of Jonathan riding a huge magpie in front of a full moon, and there’s a few bits and pieces by way of props lying on a table. We’re still not getting many clues as to his USP though.

I would guess at whimsy and probably some shaggy-dog tales. Those are there but there’s also some one-liners, mild rants, surreal segueways and the promised (naked hand) puppetry. So a bit of everything then. That kind of thing can be fantastically funny when delivered at a break-neck speed by a larger-than-life character but when we’re still not very sure of our host’s identity it can just be a bit puzzling.

Jonathan seems a very likeable young guy and I’m thinking when he goes into actorly mode that’s giving the biggest clue as to where he’s coming from. There was also a lot to like with his material but it was a bit all over the shop. And it didn’t inspire much confidence when he made it an early finish. It could have been down to mid-run blues so don’t let me put you off going. It was a perfectly enjoyable forty minutes or so and there was no shouty ranting or audience degradation. Always a plus!

(Review for 15 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jonathan-hearn-jontitled

 

 

Laurence Owen: Cinemusical High

Laurence Owen’s Cinemusical was one of the big hits of last year’s Fringe. With all the popular (deliriously happy full houses) and critical (Malcolm Hardee award winner) acclaim resting on those shoulders – can the man do it again? Oh yes!

This time round it’s the 80s teen flick serving as inspiration. Now I have to ‘fess up and say I was more Betty Blue than Breakfast Club in the 80s but I know the main tropes and I did enjoy Heathers so I’ve seen them pulled apart. Laurence’s incredible talent though is he can take quite a niche theme, write narrative lyrics which border on an Asperger’s attention to detail and set it to a score which sounds both familiar but fantastically fresh. Put it through the Laurence Owen feel-good-factor-machine – always cranked up to eleven – and you’re guaranteed a level of entertainment that’s almost freakish for a one man show.

The story is pretty much The Breakfast Club (I think, see above) with five main stock characters: the popular girl; the nerd; the ‘bad’ sassy girl; the jock and the goth girl who doesn’t say much. They all get their own character-setting song which collectively serve to propel the (intentionally) predictable-but-hugely-satisfying-all-the-same story-line along. A lovely touch though – which just may become a Laurence Owen trademark – is the uplifting finale as delivered by a completely unexpected icon from sci-fi/fantasy cinema.

You may be asking can one man really play all those roles convincingly? Yes, actually. As well as being a ridiculously talented composer, musician and singer Laurence also has fine acting chops. Watch him become the sassy bad girl with a subtle change of tone and physical stance and be totally convinced. The Hollywood originals may have been created in one dimension but with his musical breath of life each one becomes a multi-layered character study. And -this is the cleverest bit – the musical motifs are so richly informed and full of love for the subject they manage to encapsulate every bad boy, bad girl, loser, outsider you’ve ever seen portrayed as they underscore the narrative (I particularly enjoyed the Officer Krupke from West Side Story influence used for ‘the jock’)

You know the joke about Andrew Lloyd Webber audiences whistling the tunes before going into the show? The great thing about Laurence Owen is he wouldn’t think it an insult if you said it about his work. But for my money – Laurence is a lot more subtle and a lot more talented. As with last year’s show this is really becoming the hot ticket so get along early to make sure you can get in.

(Review for 16 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/laurence-owen-cinemusical-high

 

 

Luke Benson’s Big Night Out (In the Afternoon)

I usually make it a rule not to go and see people I’ve seen before at the Fringe – however good they were. I broke that rule big-time the other day when I had my Super Tuesday of seeing five shows all featuring tried and trusted performers. I know that sounds a bit like faint praise or the equivalent of slipping on a pair of comfy shoes but sometimes you just want impeccable entertainment and guaranteed good times – don’t you?

It was a couple of years ago when I first saw Luke Benson at the Fringe. And out of the stacks of comedians I’ve seen before or since he was definitely in the handful people  I expected to see on the telly at some point. Then I thought – am I the comedian here? If your only access to comedy is through the medium of TV (and for a lot of people it is) you could be forgiven for thinking there’s only a few big names who are capable of dishing out the laughs. Of course that’s not true. But they may have put in years of hard slog playing to tough crowds and learning their craft. Again, probably – increasingly – not true.It’s criminally tragic how certain comedians don’t get seen by a wider audience. And Luke Benson is one of those certain few.

Luke has played the tough gigs and tales of which were included in the show I first saw him in (Luke Benson Makes Something of Himself). This time round the main theme is alcohol. The beautiful thing about Luke’s material is it’s never one note. There’s no simply – isn’t drink great? – and have I got some drunken escapades for you…  He touches on how drink can change us – for good and bad – but he never abandons the laughs to start on anything remotely resembling a lecture. Luke’s far too good for that. Instead he weaves the personal and the thoughtful in and out of the fantastically funny material which includes stuff about Geordie nights out, awkward family relations and his giant-of-a dad’s propensity for keeping little dogs.

So we’ve got great material brilliantly performed. Is there anything else? Well, Luke seems like a genuinely nice guy and his style is very much like your funniest mate but without the pushed-onto-a-stage-shambles of a performance. He’s stand-up professionalism to his fingertips and knows how to work – and look after – an audience. Maybe he’s too nice to be trampeling over other comedians or has too much self respect to climb the greasy pole and ‘make it big’ but all that aside – if you want fifty or so minutes of guaranteed laughs, good times and a nice little glow that lasts for a while afterwards get yourself along to the Banshee Labyrinth at 16.20.

(Review for 16 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/luke-benson-s-big-night-out-in-the-afternoon

 

 

 

Bob Blackman’s Tray 2

What can I say about Bob Blackman’s Tray that I haven’t said already? Furthermore how can I convince you to go and along and see them?

As ever the guys are keeping well below the radar of the thundering Fringe PR machine that propels and destroys performers in unequal measure. There are no posters, there are no flyers. The promotional pic is a silver-coloured paper plate. Of course if anyone wanted to explore further they could Google Bob Blackman and find out all about northern humour. They could then go along and see Bob Blackman’s Tray, get some more references (Charlie Drake, Roger de Courcey, Bernie Clifton) and maybe do some more research. Then they’d realise that BBT is a brilliant distillation of old time Variety shows, working-men’s clubs and classic kids’ telly. I guarantee they would laugh themselves silly as well.

The terms surreal, absurdist, anti-comedy are always bandied around during the Fringe. A lot of times it’s shorthand for ‘not funny, but we’ve got a degree and have studied Lecoq in Paris’ or some such poncy crap. Bob Blackman’s Tray can’t be doing with any of that. True – it is surreal in the way that the host of characters (played by the two guys) appear and disappear before our very eyes like apparitions from a past where times were tough and we laughed at daft things. Daft, silly, uncultured? I’ll tell you what’s uncultured – all the bland nonsense that clogs up the TV channels and rinses The Fringe of any originality. Sorry – rant over. (If you want to see a classic rant look no further than BBT’s Trevor Never still campaigning for winter in-door bowling facilities in the Kirklees area)

The bottom line is – would Bob Blackman’s Tray be something you’d like? Well – I’ve seen them a few times now and audiences have been young and old; people knowing what to expect and people who didn’t have a clue beforehand; various nationalities. We all have something in common now – we’ve all had the Bob Blackman’s Tray experience and we’ll never be the same again.

Wonderful, nostalgic, truly original and very, very funny. Get the experience.

(Review for 16 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bob-blackman-s-tray

Ed Aczel’s Foreign Policy

If I’d Googled Ed Aczel before going to his show I would have discovered he’s an anti-comedian. Not necessarily a bad thing as Count Arthur Strong also is – apparently. I have to confess I still have love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name feelings for the Count which the strangely anodyne TV series couldn’t destroy. All that obsession with the mundane and the everyday and ‘will he sodding well just get on with it?’ routine so rooted in classic northern comedy is always a winner with me.

Ed Aczel doesn’t appear to be from the north – but I won’t hold that against him. He’s an older gentlemen with more than a passing resemblance to the BBC radio presenter James Naughtie (if using a radio reference for a visual reference isn’t too anti). His style is deadpan and minutiae-obsessed.

I’m not sure if the show itself is anti-comedy. I’d say it’s more deconstructed with Ed signposting the stages of a ‘successful’ comedy routine – the set-up, interaction with the audience, some edgy bits, the uplifting finale – and taking them to levels bordering on the ridiculous (an exchange with an audience member on his shopping habits goes on for a very long time). Therein lies a serious timing issue – with people running off for trains/toilet/other shows – as the show tipped over the hour mark.

There are videos (which are good and professionally done) and pre-prepared surveys and questionnaires which are used to riff with the audience. But even with all the prep it depends on the audience on the day and whether they’ll provide good comic value (I think we were quite middling). I’d say – if you’re up for it – go along. It could fly, it could bomb – it’s up to you.

(Review for  14 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/ed-aczel-s-foreign-policy

 

Adam Hess: Feathers

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Adam Hess. As he’s performing under the Heroes@the Hive banner I was expecting something quite out-there or perhaps expletive-ridden. Instead Adam Hess is a very polite and well spoken young man with a well constructed and professional routine.

I should have known when Adam stepped onto the big room stage at The Hive and made reference to the rank smell (try playing the Bunka next door… ) that he wasn’t an habitue of venues like this. This leads into a bit about how his parents came to his show the other day and didn’t quite ‘get it’. His parents are a touch eccentric and provide good comedy fodder throughout the show. As does a recurring image of a bald pet parrot – hence the title. The main set-pieces however are – hooking up with a girl he knew from university and their (semi) disastrous first date – and – a (completely) disastrous job interview.

There is much nervy paranoia about social situations and overthinking the situation ad absurdum. ‘How do you politely leave a conversation you haven’t been taking part in? and ‘How to cover up a dodgy stain on a sheet without your new date noticing?’ That – along with the embarrassing parents – is a touch Jack Whitehall. But glad to say Adam is totes less annoying.

All in all though – a very engaging and enjoyable 50 minutes (or thereabouts). And apart from the occasional F-bomb and talk of bodily fluids a pretty much family-friendly show.

(Review for 11 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/adam-hess-feathers

Adam Hess – Feathers

Candy Gigi: If I Had a Rich Man

Sometimes I feel quite mischievous and want to recommend something entirely inappropriate for a Fringe Virgin to go and see. And when I say Fringe Virgin I mean someone who may have seen a Fringe show of the ‘£20 a ticket for a pale male stand-up from off the telly’ variety but has never experienced the ‘true’ Fringe.

Candy Gigi’s If I Had a Rich Man is definitely in the style of the true Fringe – in my book. Performing every day in the 1pm slot in the manky back room of The Hive known as The Bunka which ends up even mankier by the time it gets to 2pm. A raw chicken is splatted on the ground and pieces of cucumber are gobbed into the air (actually the scent of cucumber did improve the usual ambience). Various other props and costumes (including a fat-nude suit complete with saggy breasts and forest pubes) are used and abused. I was going to say – so are some audience members, but I really don’t want to put you off.

What’s the story? Well, Candy plays herself and her mother in their quest to find a nice Jewish boy for Candy to marry. The hapless/lucky audience members play the suitors. The chicken plays the baby. It’s a bit like a human Punch and Judy directed by the Marquis de Sade. It’s cruel, mad, filthy, great fun and extremely funny.

A running joke is that Candy desperately wants an award but all this disgusting carrying-on is going to scupper her dream. There could be something in that – Candy is a mega-talent with a singing voice West End wannabes would scratch her eyes out for. She also exudes the energy of a power station. But can she rein it in and ditch the potty mouth? She might one of these days when she gets discovered by Cameron Mackintosh  but until that happens take the exhilarating opportunity to experience a true diamond in the (very) rough.

(Review for 10 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/candy-gigi-if-i-had-a-rich-man

 

Previously on Maff Brown

It’s very satisfying when you go to a Fringe show and you don’t have to do any of the work. No ‘what’s your name?’ ‘where are you from?’ ‘what’s your opinion on.. ?’ Instead you can just sit back and be entertained. That’s how it is with Maff Brown. Of course there’s the general ‘where’s everyone from?’ at the start and he does enlist the help of a couple of guys in the front row later on in the proceedings. But we’re never in any doubt that Maff is in charge.

Maff is a seasoned professional and one of a growing number of comedians who used to do the paid Pleasance-type gigs but now prefer the Free Fringe. Good move as the Cabaret Voltaire big room was packed out with a very appreciative audience when I went along on a Sunday lunch-time.

There’s a rapid succession of one-liners with a lot of the material veering towards the laddish (he does have a recommendation from GQ). And he warns and worries that things may get a bit dark but honestly there’s nothing majorly offensive unless you get offended by jokes about Rolf Harris and how self-pleasuring becomes a chore when you’re a man in your forties (that seemed to mystify the young lads sitting along from me).

The whole ‘appropriate for the time-slot’ thing is always going to be an issue during the Fringe.But Maff addresses this in true cheeky chappie style noting ‘that’s one for the evening show’ as he rattles through his repertoire. Some of it’s cheesy, some of it’s a bit dodgy but most of it is very very funny.

(Review for 7 Aug)

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/previously-on-maff-brown

 

Bob Blackman’s Tray

2015BOBBLAC_2ASometimes you will find something different on the Fringe. Sometimes you will be visited by an enigmatic man wearing a pin-stripe jacket and a red balaclava who will sit silently in the corner of the room and use thought-waves to will you to his show. That show will name-check people like Charlie Drake, Bernie Clifton, Roger de Courcey... and will feature the ‘funniest men in Newcastle-under-Lyme’.

Apart from the thought-waves Bob Blackman’s Tray is astonishingly below the radar so the tiny Three/Free Sisters’ Staff Room (fast getting a reputation for class acts) at yesterday lunch-time was sparsely occupied. Never mind – those of us who were there can boast in future about the experience or else wonder if it was some kind of acid-spiked dream.

There’s Richard Drake (wearing the balaclava) who provides segueways of an existential nature – a bit like Peter Cook’s E L Whisty but with a Northern accent. The totally wired component is the other bloke who takes on the guise of Johnny Sorrow – comedian from yesteryear – and Trevor Never – outraged indoor bowls fan with a grudge against Kirklees Borough Council. Physically he’s like a cross between Bez from the Happy Mondays and the ‘Committee’ MC from the Wheel Tappers & Shunters Social Club for those who remember or who have maybe studied UK social history.

I don’t want to give too much away but imagine a working man’s club run by the Theatre of the Absurd or an end-of-the-pier at the end-of-the-world show. It’s like Vic and Bob before they got on the telly but with less props. It’s a glorious vinegar-soaked valentine to northern comedy. It’s Frank Randle, the Crazy Gang and of course – Bob Blackman. It’s delightfully unhinged but never steps outside itself with Johnny providing some cracking lines and Trevor showing how a convincing meltdown should be done.

For all those who thought cult comedy had disappeared – don’t despair Bob Blackman’s Tray is here. Well, in Edinburgh until tomorrow…

https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/bob-blackman-s-tray

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