Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 27th January 2023

Screaming Blue MurderA big welcome back to Screaming Blue Murder and their first gig of the year which had sold out well in advance. An unusual vibe this time – although quite a refreshing one – in that there were approximately 20 17- and 18-year-olds from Northampton School for Boys (who were mostly girls, and I still haven’t quite figured that out) populating the front rows. Fortunately, they threw themselves whole-heartedly into the proceedings, and (mostly) laughed their socks off all night.

Dan EvansThis presented an interesting challenge to our regular genial host, Dan Evans, who quickly got them splitting their sides. It’s true – he suggested that all the older people would be looking at fresh-faced 17-year-old Joshua, purely with the intent of harvesting his organs. Guilty as charged. It wasn’t all kiddiwinks though, with poor Mark on his own in the front row surrounded by students, plus good sport Rob, vehicle salesman Ash and his mental health nurse wife whose name I’ve forgotten, soz.

Iszi LawrenceFirst up was Iszi Lawrence, whom we’ve seen a couple of times before at Screaming Blue Murders – she always has great material, but it sometimes takes an audience a while to settle into her pattern. She has a lovely sequence about coming out as bi to her mum, and I did like the material about how she acquired her cat, grotesque sound effects and all. She gets carried away with the subject of dinosaurs, which she admits to herself isn’t funny but can be fascinating – if you’re also into dinosaurs. One of the lads from Northampton School for Boys was definitely into dinosaurs and was agreeing demonstrably with her. As for the rest of us… I’m not sure the dino material works really!

Jamie D'SouzaNext was someone new to us, Jamie D’Souza, a quirky mix of Swiss and Indian (Swindian – not from Swindon, it’s not that bad, as he said.) Immaculately funny, with a perfectly structured routine, beautifully chosen words revealing a true feel for the language, and absolutely superb timing. His whole performance is one big act of self-deprecation and it works brilliantly. So many clever throwaway lines, and he leads you up a garden path to expect an ending to a joke which turns out to be something completely different. I particularly loved his material about being hopeless and inexperienced at sex, and the idea of making “old person noises” when he sits down. Terrific – and someone we would definitely want to see again.

Jonny AwsumOur headliner, and someone who’s always an invigorating presence, was the musical comedy genius of Jonny Awsum. Uplifting, inclusive and very, very funny, he jumps from comedy song to comedy song and each one is a delight. I particularly liked his Humming Song, and he got Rob from the audience up to help him with his Rapping Rhymes sequence, which was brilliant. There’s also a song with a chorus involving a well-known TV chef; I just wonder if Mr Awsum realises the said chef died over three years ago. I guess it doesn’t matter!

A great night’s entertainment – looking forward to the next one in February; check for returns, as it’s already sold out!

Review – Comedy Crate at the Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 12th January 2023

CC Jan 23First comedy gig of the year and a sell out night at the Bradlaugh for what turned out to be an excellent night of laughter courtesy of the Comedy Crate. Our MC for the evening was Stephen Carlin, who nicely uses his slightly dour Scottish persona to good advantage, and is excellent at riffing off the crowd with whatever fascinating nuggets they reveal. There was plenty of mileage to be gained from Darren, the audience’s self-appointed Witchfinder General, Chris, Stephen Carlinwho wouldn’t take his coat off, and the wrongly-accused-of-being-a-fascist, Holly. He had some great material about climate change and drugtaking, and took great control of the evening.

Our first act, and new to us, was Jacob Hawley, a likeable London lad with an attacking, slightly in-your-face style, living with the joy of having a lockdown baby because creating her was the only thing he and his partner could do in Jacob Hawley2020. The crowd gave him lots to work with, including having some better lines than himself, which he was happy to acknowledge! He has a great sequence about being asked to do a most unconventional gig at a Drive-In Movie, and does a brilliant impersonation of a lapdog. Very entertaining – he will be returning to the Bradlaugh for a longer gig in April.

Next up was Kate Martin, whom we had relatively recently seen at the same venue as she was a contestant Kate Martin(if that’s the right word) in the Northampton heat of The British Comedian of the Year. She is so sure-footed on stage, and you sense that nothing could faze her. As before, the majority of her material is based on either her height or her sexuality, and on both counts she’s not backward in coming forward. Nicely self-deprecating, which helps her to set up a brilliant rapport with the audience, and, despite having heard some of the material only a few months ago, we loved every minute.

Nathan CatonOur headline act, and someone we’ve enjoyed seeing a few times, was Nathan Caton. He opened with an inspired callback to one of Stephen Carlin’s lines, which set us up for a great set. Recently married, he had some brilliant material about the costs of a wedding, faux-resentment about his mother re-marrying, and I loved his observations about now living in a middle-class area and wearing middle-class clothes. He is so quick-witted, and he nails every comic observation so that they hit home. All killers and no fillers, as someone once said. A great way to end the night.

There’s another gig at the Bradlaugh on February 9th – you should come!

Review of the Year 2022 – The Twelfth Annual Chrisparkle Awards

It is my pleasure to welcome you again to the glamorous showbiz highlight of the year, the announcement of the annual Chrisparkle Awards for 2022. Eligibility for the awards means a) they were performed in the UK and b) I have to have seen the shows and blogged about them in the period 17th January 2022 to 9th January 2023. Are you all sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin!

 

The first award is for Best Dance Production (Contemporary and Classical)

This includes dance seen at the Edinburgh Fringe, as well as elsewhere in the country. We saw seven dance productions, and these are the top three:

In 3rd place, the anarchic inventiveness of Ukraine’s Ballet Freedom at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, in August.

In 2nd place, the Balletboyz on a superb return to form with their Deluxe tour, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, in May.

In 1st place, the Edinburgh Festival Ballet/Peter Schaufuss/Ian McKellen production of Hamlet at the Ashton Hall, St Stephens Church, Edinburgh.

 

Classical Music Concert of the Year.

We only saw one classical concert this year – The Royal Philharmonic’s The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, in February. So I’m giving it an honorary mention, but without any competition, I can’t really call it the best classical concert this year!

 

Best Entertainment Show of the Year.

This means anything that doesn’t fall into any other categories – for example pantos, circuses, revues and anything else hard to classify. Here are the top three:

In 3rd place, the always delightful Sheffield pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield, in December.

In 2nd place, the most lavish of panto experiences imaginable, Jack and the Beanstalk at the London Palladium in December.

In 1st place, the most remarkable gala celebrating the life and work of a remarkable man, Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends at the Sondheim Theatre, London, in May.

 

Best Star Standup of the Year.

Astonishingly, we only saw three big star standup shows this year – and these are they:

In 3rd place, the endlessly brilliant and always thought provoking Dara O’Braian in his So Where Were We tour, at the Milton Keynes Theatre, in November.

In 2nd place, the highly personal but always funny material of Patrick Kielty in his Borderline tour, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, in June.

In 1st place, the irrepressible Omid Djalili in his The Good Times Tour, at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton in April.

 

Best of the Rest Stand-up of the Year. at the Screaming Blue Murder/Comedy Crate nights in Northampton.

In the past the Committee has given awards for the best Screaming Blue Murder Comedy Club stand-up, and last year this was combined with the Comedy Crate Stand up shows. There had also been a Best of the Rest award for various other comedy venues, Edinburgh Previews and the like. We’re now going to streamline these separate categories into one – The Best of the Rest! Out of countless comics we saw, a longlist of thirteen provided the following top five:

In 5th place, the always ebullient Aurie Styla (Upfront Comedy Club – May)

In 4th place, the hilarious and quick-witted Kane Brown (Upfront Comedy Club – October)

In 3rd place, the unpredictable and always brilliant Russell Hicks (Comedy Crate – March)

In 2nd place, the brilliantly inventive Mark Simmons (Comedy Crate – March, Comedy Crate Edinburgh Preview – July)

In 1st place, the sheer delight of Gerry K (Screaming Blue Murder – March)

 

Best Musical.

I saw sixteen musicals this year, a combination of new shows and revivals. One big disappointment, a few not entirely to my taste but that’s more my issue, and, as usual, the others were all varying degrees of excellent. Here’s my top five.

In 5th place, an old favourite given a tremendous treatment, the touring production of Hairspray that we saw at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, in January 2022.

In 4th place, a show that’s only going to grow in stature through the ages, putting Sheffield on the map, Standing at the Sky’s Edge at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, in December.

In 3rd place, another old favourite looking as fresh as the day it was born, the touring production of Rocky Horror Show at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, in July.

In 2nd place, a stunning production that lifted your heart and was jam-packed with fun, fully deserving its London transfer later this year, Crazy for You at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in July.

In 1st place, a show that rewrites the rule book for creating a meaningful revival, the spectacular and innovative production of Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, at the Playhouse, London, in April.

 

Best New Play.

Just to clarify, this is my definition of a new play, which is something that’s new to me and to most of its audience – so it might have been around before but on its first UK tour, or a new adaptation of a work originally in another format. We saw eighteen new plays this year, and I awarded five stars to ten of them, so this is a tightly fought battle! Here are my top five (with some incredible productions and plays just bubbling under) :

In 5th place, David Hare’s gripping and intelligent look at the life and work of Robert Moses, Straight Line Crazy, at the Bridge Theatre, London, in March.

In 4th place, a deftly structured and wittily written ghost story that terrifies and delights, Danny Robins’ 2:22 A Ghost Story, at the Criterion Theatre, London, in December.

In 3rd place, a truly original staging of a gripping family of refugees fleeing from Afghanistan, The Boy With Two Hearts at the National Theatre Dorfman Theatre in October.

In 2nd place, Anupama Chandrasekhar’s magnificent examination of the assassination of Gandhi, The Father and the Assassin at the National Theatre Olivier Theatre in May.

In 1st place, one of the best new comedies of the century, Steven Moffat’s The Unfriend at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, in June.

 

Best Revival of a Play.

I saw fourteen revivals, with an obvious top four; here’s the top five:

In 5th place, the RSC’s bold and innovative new production of Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in July.

In 4th place, the emotional and powerful production – despite the rain effect – of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, at the National Theatre Olivier Theatre in October.

In 3rd place, Tom Basden’s brilliant updating of Dario Fo’s hilarious Accidental Death of an Anarchist, at the Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse, Sheffield, in September.

In 2nd place, Dominic Cooke’s outstanding reimagination of Emlyn Williams’ The Corn is Green, at the National Theatre, Lyttelton Theatre, in May.

In 1st place, Anna Mackmin’s pitch-perfect revival of one of Alan Ayckbourn’s most telling comedies, Woman in Mind, at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in October.

As always, in the post-Christmas season, it’s time to consider the turkey of the year – and whilst I was unimpressed with both Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads and Local Hero at Chichester, by far the worst thing I saw all year was The Sex Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

 

Now we come on to our four categories specifically for the Edinburgh Fringe. The first is:

Best play – Edinburgh

We saw 52 plays in Edinburgh this year, 18 of them got 5* from me, which led to a shortlist of 11, and here are the top 5:

In 5th place, the brilliant thriller with a terrific twist, Closure, written by Faye Draper and produced by Ink and Curtains (Pleasance Courtyard)

In 4th place, full of contemporary relevance and an insight into modern day poverty, About Money, written by Eliza Gearty and produced by 65% Theatre (Summerhall)

In 3rd place, an extraordinary one-man play that leads you down some terrifyingly unexpected alleys, An Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe, written by Benny Ainsworth and produced by Triptych (Zoo Playground)

In 2nd place, the vivid and gripping story of the Hiroshima bombings, The Mistake, written and produced by Michael Mears (The Space on North Bridge)

In 1st place, the play I couldn’t stop talking about for weeks afterwards, the story of a unique relationship, Wilf, written by James Ley and produced by the Traverse Theatre Company (Traverse Theatre)

 

Best Individual Performance in a Play – Edinburgh

As always, a really hard one to decide as so many Edinburgh plays are true ensemble efforts. Nevertheless, here are the top five:

In 5th place, Michael Waller for Candy (Underbelly Bristo Square)

In 4th place, Stephen Smith for Dog/Actor (Greenside @ Infirmary Street)

In 3rd place, Michael Parker for An Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe (Zoo Playground)

In 2nd place, Michael Dylan for Wilf (Traverse Theatre)

In 1st place, Samuel Barnett for Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen (Summerhall)

 

Best stand-up comedy show – Edinburgh

Eleven shows this year received 5* from me, but here are my top five:

In 5th place, a new name to me, and a brilliant find, Nina Gilligan with her Late Developer show (Just the Tonic at the Tron)

In 4th place, the always brilliant Mary Bourke with her Brutal Truth show (The Stand Comedy Club)

In 3rd place, one of our regular Edinburgh must-sees, Joe Wells with his I Am Autistic show (Banshee Labyrinth)

In 2nd place, on the best form I’ve ever seen him, Hal Cruttenden with his It’s Best You Hear it From Me show (Pleasance Courtyard)

In 1st place, and why have I never seen him before, Mark Thomas with his Black and White show (The Stand Comedy Club)

 

Best of the rest – Edinburgh

Very stiff competition as always, but here are my top five:

In 5th place, the brilliant improvisation that made up Shamilton, produced by Baby Wants Candy (Assembly George Square Studios)

In 4th place, the anarchic mischief of a nightmare club night, Kevin Dewsbury and Bexie Archer in Your Dad’s Mum (Underbelly Bristo Square)

In 3rd place, two complementary productions, Patrick McPherson’s Colossus and again with his twin brother Hugo in Pear (Underbelly Cowgate)

In 2nd place, one of the best sketch shows I’ve ever seen, the brilliant Tarot: Cautionary Tales (Pleasance Courtyard)

In 1st place, the best swansong ever, Colin Hoult’s The Death of Anna Mann (Pleasance Courtyard)

There were a number of contenders for this year’s Edinburgh turkey; Shakespeare for Breakfast was a big let-down due to the change of cast and writing team, but I think the most woeful was the misguided attempt at a League of Gentlemen-type story, Antiques (Greenside @ Nicolson Square)

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical.

Time to get personal. Here’s the top five:

In 5th place, Carly Anderson as Polly in Crazy for You at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in July.

In 4th place, Me’sha Bryan as Celie in The Color Purple at the Royal and Derngate, Northampton, in October.

In 3rd place, Cleopatra Rey as Rita in Get Up Stand Up at the Lyric Theatre, London, in December.

In 2nd place, Marisha Wallace as Ado Annie in Oklahoma! at the Young Vic, London, in May.

In 1st place, Amy Lennox as Sally Bowles in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, at the Playhouse, London, in April.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical.

Here’s the top five:

In 5th place, Robert Lonsdale as Harry in Standing at the Sky’s Edge at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, in December.

In 4th place, Arthur Darvill as Curly in Oklahoma! at the Young Vic, London, in May.

In 3rd place, Fra Fee as Emcee in Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club, at the Playhouse, London, in April.

In 2nd place, David Albury as Bob Marley in Get Up Stand Up at the Lyric Theatre, London, in December.

In 1st place, Charlie Stemp as Bobby in Crazy for You at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in July.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Play.

Eighteen in the rather long shortlist, and here’s the top five:

In 5th place, Frances Barber as Elsa in The Unfriend, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, in June.

In 4th place, Samira Wiley as Angel in Blues for an Alabama Sky, National Theatre, Lyttelton Theatre, in October.

In 3rd place, Monica Dolan as Sister Aloysius in Doubt, at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in January 2022.

In 2nd place, Nicola Walker as Miss Moffat in The Corn is Green, at the National Theatre, Lyttelton Theatre, in May.

In 1st place, Jenna Russell as Susan in Woman in Mind, at the Festival Theatre, Chichester, in October.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Play.

Like last time, this is one of this year’s most hotly contested awards, with seventeen contenders in my shortlist, and here is the top five:

In 5th place, Arthur Hughes as Richard III in Henry VI Rebellion/Wars of the Roses/Richard III, at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, in May and July.

In 4th place, Simon Russell Beale as Borkman in John Gabriel Borkman, at the Bridge Theatre, London, in  November.

In 3rd place, Ralph Fiennes as Robert Moses in Straight Line Crazy, at the Bridge Theatre, London, in March.

In 2nd place, Shubham Saraf as Godse in The Father and the Assassin, at the National Theatre, Olivier Theatre in May.

In 1st place, Reece Shearsmith as Peter in The Unfriend, Minerva Theatre, Chichester, in June.

 

Congratulations to the winners, commiserations to the losers and thanks for your company again throughout the year, gentle reader. Let’s look forward to a 2023 crammed with theatrical brilliance!

Review – Comedy Crate at the Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 8th December 2022

Ben BriggsOur last comedy gig of the year, and another trip to the Charles Bradlaugh to see what the Comedy Crate had in store for us. Our host for the evening was the inimitable Ben Briggs, who sometimes had to work hard to get some response from the full but occasionally reticent crowd. Fortunately Mr B was on top form and came out with some cracking lines. Always a pleasure when he’s in charge.

david-morganOur first act, and the only one of the three whom we had seen before, was David Morgan, whose act is strongly based on his being gay and not being shy about it. We learned a lot about his new relationship and how he’d been in the London cast of Magic Mike – maybe literally, I’m not sure. Call me picky, but I’m never quite comfortable with an act who slags off your town before they’ve created a rapport; there are a whole host of things wrong with Northampton, but you need to earn a few stripes before taking the Mick out of us all. Lots of throwaway material, most of which lands; and a very lively and bubbly persona that certainly keeps us entertained.

Eric RushtonNext up was Eric Rushton, whose persona couldn’t be more different from David Morgan’s. His style is that of the classic underachiever and misfit who nevertheless thinks he’s cool – resulting in some very funny, laconic, self-deprecating humour that works extremely well. When he invites you to follow him on Facebook, he stands there and waits for you to get your phone out there and then, because too many people say they will and then they don’t. I loved the idea of playing Mental Health Strip Poker, and he put a fresh slant on many traditional stand-up subjects. Extremely funny, and I’d definitely like to see him again.

Mick FerryOur headliner act was Mick Ferry, a larger than life chap with a faux-aggressive style; you can tell he’s been about a bit and seen it all so that nothing could shock him – but he could probably shock you! Great material, very relatable, and provided the best laughs of the night. No one sleeps when he’s on.

Congratulations to the ever-expanding Comedy Crate for another year of fearless line-ups and multiple venues. Looking forward to another great new year!

Review – Dara Ó Briain – So Where Were We? Milton Keynes Theatre, 6th November 2022

So Where Were WeAs only the cognoscenti know, there’s no finer place to be than Milton Keynes on a Sunday night in November – and a total sell-out appearance of one of Ireland’s finest, Dara Ó Briain, on his So Where Were We tour, which would have been a good name for those early days post-lockdown but seems a trifle anachronistic now. I  was surprised to discover it’s been seven years since we saw DOB live, with his Crowd Tickler show; although, to be honest, I was even more surprised to discover it’s been over five years since we’ve been to the Milton Keynes Theatre. Fortunately I had remembered that you need to sit in either Row A or Row E for maximum comfort, and that hasn’t changed.

Dara O'BriainA giant in comedy, in more ways than one, Mr Ó B wanders ungainly onto the stage and you’re instantly cocooned in his warm Irish garrulousness. He roams from subject to subject with a seeming lack of focus but it couldn’t be further from the truth. He knows exactly how his show is structured, and by the end of the show, you need both fingers and toes to count the number of callbacks he’s established.

DOBMuch of this is achieved, of course, by his connection with the front row, with whom he spends several blissful comedy minutes, discovering their jobs and other personal nuggets. Last night’s front row offered a high level of intelligence, including a data analyst for Kärcher (and his mum, who knew Mrs Kärcher), a supercomputer programmer, and someone who works for Red Bull Formula One. To say Dara was impressed was an understatement. Naturally, by the end of the show, he had worked up a hilarious scenario where all these people intertwined. The comic agility of his brain is amazing!

Dara O'BriainOther things we discovered during the show were the difference between a walking stick and a cane, how a staid Irishman reacts at the offer of a sexy massage, and how Mrs Ó Briain gains his attention when she doesn’t want to disturb the children. However, a large part of the second half of the show is devoted to one extended subject and monologue – and it’s an important, personal account by Mr Ó B, so I won’t offer any spoilers. Suffice to say he turns a serious quest into a comedy thread; plenty to laugh at, but also lots of amazing revelations to take your breath away. Fortunately, he ends on a very high note – it could have been alarmingly serious in other, less gifted, hands.

Dara O BAt almost 2 hours 40 minutes, including an interval, we got great value out of Mr Ó B. Supremely entertaining as always, but showing a slightly more serious side than in previous shows, this is an evening of sheer enjoyment. His tour continues into 2023 – but you’d better get your skates on, as he sells out rapidly!

Review – Upfront Comedy Slam, Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 23rd October 2022

Upfront-Comedy-SlamIt’s always a pleasure when John Simmit brings his Upfront Comedy Slam to the Royal and Derngate in Northampton. There’s always a gasp from the audience when he reveals his greatest role (financially at least) was six years in the Teletubbies as the furry green Dipsy. If only Tinky-Winky could see him now. Mr S is a great host, making us all feel very warmly welcome for what turned out to be a brilliant evening of comedy.

athena-kugblenuOur first act was Athena Kugblenu, whom we’ve seen a couple of times before, and whose act was chiefly built around the theme of working out what class you are. As someone with working class roots, middle class activities and an upper class accent, I’ve genuinely no idea what I am. She works up a great rapport with the audience, including setting up the burly chap in the front row as the butt of absolutely everyone’s jokes throughout the whole night – fortunately he’s obviously an extremely good sport! Very reliable material and delivery that never quite soars, but is always thoroughly entertaining!

Ali WoodsNext up, and new to us, was Ali Woods. Here’s a great new find in the Comedy World. Terrific attack, original material, spinning off male mental health in unexpected directions. I loved the idea of Erectile Dysfunction being the name of a Heavy Metal Group. Immensely likeable, and a great range of characterisations for the people he references in his act. We’d really like to see him again.

Jay-DrochAfter the interval came another act who was new to us, Jay Droch. Cutting a smart and dignified appearance, Jay surprised us with a mix of character based comedy and impersonations. The first few minutes of his act he concentrated on the characters in Peaky Blinders, which neither of us has seen, so these comic observations meant nothing to us. When he moved on to his political material, he was absolutely brilliant, with a menacingly ridiculous Boris Johnson, a ludicrously hilarious King Charles and, best of all, a blistering re-imagining of Rishi Sunak as a posh schoolboy skipping to the command of his grisly bullying Indian father. It was absolutely preposterous but utterly brilliant.

Kane BrownOur headline act, and someone we’ve enjoyed many times before, was Kane Brown, who is one of the few comics who has that brilliant ability to riff off whatever vibe the audience presents him. So he spent his entire set with fantastically funny observations about marital relationships, especially as you get older, imagining some of the audience members in the situations he describes. His is one of those acts that just washes over you in a sea of comedy, and it’s very hard to pick out any one sequence of jokes or humour that stands out because it’s all so very funny. We didn’t stop laughing the whole time – a true tonic for the soul.

A terrific night of comedy that flew by. Can’t wait till the next one!

Review – The Comedy Crate present The British Comedian Of The Year, Northampton Heat, Charles Bradlaugh, Northampton, 27th September 2022

BCOTYSo here’s something a bit different. At the Charles Bradlaugh last night, the Comedy Crate hosted the Northampton heat (who knew there was one?) of the British Comedian of the Year competition. Ultimate prize for the winning comic – £10,001. I guess that last pound is put in there because, like the subject matter, it’s a bit funny. Compered by Ben Briggs, nine comedians took to the stage with a ten to fifteen minutes set to win the hearts, minds and votes of the audience. Masai GrahamYes, after they had all performed we had an app through which to select our favourite two comedians. And at the end, Ben announced the two acts that would go through to the next round. Our third place choice goes forward to some kind of repechage/punch-up behind the bikesheds to see if they can also squeeze through.

Danny ClivesI can’t recall ever attending a comedy night like it. Hugely entertaining, and of course, by its very nature, full of variety. With such a short set, it’s unlikely (although not impossible) that any one performer would outstay their welcome. But that’s not a bad way of assessing which acts to vote for. Harvey HawkinsYou’ll definitely favour those, when they’d finished, you thought damn! I want more of this person! rather than those who you thought to yourself thank goodness that’s over. It’s also difficult to make a choice when you’ve seen some of the acts recently and already know their material, and then compare them with acts whom you’ve never seen before so their whole routine is as fresh as a daisy. But that’s a delicate problem for you to work out in the privacy of your own app moment.

Kirsty MunroThe structure of the night was to have three acts followed by a break, another three and a break, then the final three and a break during which you voted. A little like the Eurovision Song Contest, your appearance in the running order is oh-so-important. Jay HandleyYou don’t want to be first, you definitely don’t want to be second, you probably don’t want to be last. Halfway to two-thirds of the way through works best.

Jack GleadowAct 1 was Masai Graham, twice winner of the Edinburgh joke of the year award. He told them to us again, and yes, they’re pretty good jokes. I admire the way he can get four or five laughs out of four or five punchlines all from the same set-up. He’s a clever chap. Act 2 was Danny Clives, who announced he was unprepared for the contest, and I couldn’t work out if he was genuinely unprepared or acting unprepared. Either way, he’s got great material, nicely underdelivered. Act 3 was Harvey Hawkins, who delivered his excellent material with confidence, precision and a beautiful structure, which I always admire in a comedy set.

Kate MartinAct 4 was last minute replacement Kirsty Munro, who was very full-on with her sex-based material; tremendously confident but I think I would have died from embarrassment if she’d asked me some of the questions that she asked those in the front row. Act 5 was Jay Handley, who trades very successfully on his Jesus-lookalike status, but whose material goes much further than that and was extremely funny. Act 6 was Jack Gleadow, whose act I have seen a few times recently and includes some brilliant ideas, like the Popcorn Tindr and the differences between shopping at Primark and at Argos.

David StanierAct 7 was Kate Martin; her material centres on her height and sexuality, is extremely inventive on stage and we didn’t want her to stop. Act 8 was David Stanier, whose humour is of a very different style; he felt to me more like a children’s entertainer, with a level of surrealism into which I couldn’t really tap. Act 9 was Trevor Bickles, a London taxi driver and you can tell that from the start. Again hugely confident, great delivery and very recognisable material in that you can identify with the situations he creates for us. A good laugh indeed.

Trevor BicklesAfter quite a lot of deliberation, both Mrs Chrisparkle and I voted for the same two – and as this isn’t a secret ballot, I can tell you our choices were Kate Martin and Jay Handley. There was one other act whom we both wanted to vote for but who included one joke that we both thought was beyond the pail for the occasion, no names no pack drill. In the end, when the votes were tallied and the executive committee had run the numbers through a double checking verification procedure (I jest) the audience’s choice to go through to the next round were Jay Handley and Jack Gleadow, with Kate Martin in that perilous third place.

A fantastic night of comedy which we both really enjoyed. Hopefully this can become an annual feature!

Review – Screaming Blue Murder, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 17th September 2022

Screaming Blue MurderI expected sadly to have to sit out all this autumn’s Screaming Blue Murders as they had been changed to Saturday nights, and Mrs Chrisparkle and my Saturday nights book up very early. However, a last minute change of plan meant that we could go, so hurrah for that. And, despite the fact that this season’s Screaming Blues have been strangely omitted from the printed brochure, it was a sell-out, so they’re obviously all doing something right.

Dan EvansAnd it was a delight as always to be welcomed and entertained by the one and only Mr Dan Evans, who had his work cut out from the start by front row Shirley from Wootton, who was definitely up for a spot of interaction. We also met laid-back Sonny, Architect Andy and wise-cracking Ian. Dan did absolutely the right thing by starting the evening off with a heartfelt round of applause for Her Late Majesty – it’s always difficult to gauge the right level of respect, especially with something that’s frequently as disrespectful as a comedy gig! But it was the perfect way to recognise the official mourning period. He could then proceed with his usual brand of cheeky chatting with the audience.

Robert WhiteFirst on stage was Robert White – a true Screaming Blue regular; I worked out that this was the seventh time we’ve seen him here. Now a Britain’s Got Talent alumnus, he has the special trick of being Asperges, gay and totally lacking in inhibition. With his trusty keyboard he can whack out any number of comedy songs about any number of audience members. Despite trying hard, he didn’t manage to discover any other gays in the audience, but it didn’t stop him from delivering some classic Robert White embarrassment songs and interactions. Whether or not we weren’t quite sufficiently warmed up I’m not sure, or whether it’s that he’s normally headlining or at least second in the bill, but his material didn’t always land quite so surely as it normally does. But then, with many people feeling the loss of Her Majesty, perhaps this wasn’t surprising.

Naomi CooperNext up was Naomi Cooper, whom we’d seen four years ago, and she’s much more sure-footed with her material and delivery than she was then. She has enjoyable routines about being a “slut” (her description) and dealing with her mother. There’s no one single outstanding aspect to her act, but she sets up a nice rapport with the audience and there were lots of good laughs.

Christian ReillyOur headliner, and another act we’ve seen several times, was Christian Reilly, master of the comedy guitar parody/pastiche. With his perky straw Stetson he gives the impression of being a country and western wild boy, and his Bruce Springsteen always goes down a storm – although my favourite of the night is his idiotically brilliant Bryan Ferry. It feels effortless, although I bet it isn’t, and the audience roared their approval. A brilliant way to end the night.

The next Screaming Blue is scheduled for next Saturday and includes the brilliant Russell Hicks – gutted that we can’t be there, but you should go!

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 – The Final Analysis and 5* Shows

So, we did it! We saw 125 shows between 5th – 29th August and the standard was extraordinarily high. I also learned a lot about planning for a Fringe month rather than a Fringe week. For a Fringe week, you can be confident about packing as much into it as you possible can – you can always sleep on the train coming home. For a month however, you can get a burnout if you try to do too much. We found that we cancelled many of our late night shows because we were just too tired to do them justice; and we discovered that if I left too many gaps throughout the day (for meals, drinks, shopping etc) then you lose the adrenaline rush and it’s harder to pick up the enthusiasm again. This is particularly important from, say, 9pm onwards. But I am well prepared to plan next year’s Fringe already, and am ready to avoid the pitfalls I fell into this year!

But let’s look at these shows again. We saw 53 productions that you could loosely call “plays” and 18 of them were 5* status. We saw 52 shows that you could list as “comedy”, and of these 23 merited 5* – that’s a massive proportion! Additionally, 2 of the 4 dance productions we saw were 5*, 3 of the 6 Spoken Word events were 5* and, on a slightly lower proportion, 3 of the 11 “other” shows (cabaret, circus, magic, etc) gained 5* from me. At the moment, I’m finding it hard to identify my favourite, or even my favourite(s) from all these 5* productions, so let’s do a quick run-down of them, in the order that we saw them, and my on-the-spot reactions on the night:

THEATRE/PLAYS:

The MistakeThe Mistake – It’s not often that a play leaves you almost lost for words. The Mistake is a heartstopping, blistering piece of theatre, telling the story of how atomic power was developed and misused to devastating effect. Michael Mears and Emiko Ishii create a cast of characters who either caused or suffered from the 1945 attacks on Japan, using just a few props with amazing inventiveness. Vital viewing for everyone.

Feeling AfraidFeeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen – Here’s another “false testimony”- type play given a brilliant tour de force performance by Samuel Barnett who has a huge number of words to remember! You can’t know what to believe and what not to believe as he pieces together the various stages of his relationship with “The American”. Both funny and occasionally ghastly, the play holds your attention throughout; and Mr Barnett is on fabulous form.

About MoneyAbout Money – A splendid way to start the day with a very thought provoking, and brilliantly written play about poverty and responsibility amongst young people and the things they make you do. Great performances, especially from the amazing child actor Lois Hagerty. Touching and moving; it’s incredible how using just two chairs and wearing two red caps can say so much.

Mrs RooseveltMrs Roosevelt Flies to London – An extraordinary story, well told, with great vocal characterisations and a wonderful sense of humour. It’s also very informative; for example, I didn’t know FDR had polio, nor that Eleanor Roosevelt played such an important role in the declaration of human rights – still a hot topic today. An assured and very enjoyable history lesson!

Please Feel Free To SharePlease Feel Free to Share – A liar gets addicted to lying by attending various self-help sessions pretending she is out of control. Very clever writing, matched by a very convincing performance. It’s also very thought provoking. Loved it!

Conflict in CourtConflict in Court – If you liked Crown Court (if you’re old enough) you’ll love this. A fascinating court case, beautifully realised, full of great interaction – and when the final truth came out the whole audience gasped! Plus you get a free pie and a pint and they were both delicious. Absolutely brilliant – really loved it!

BoyBoy – This is such an inventive way of telling an extraordinary story. Two amazingly good actors do a really strong script justice. Very moving, very sad, but also loads of humour. Never have soft toys played such a relevant role in serious drama. Just what you’d expect from the team who produced Us/Them. First class indeed.

An Audience with Stuart BagcliffeAn Audience with Stuart Bagcliffe – The story is kept secret in the promotional material and it’s important it stays that way. Suffice to say there are many twists to Stuart’s tale. But it’s blisteringly well told and there’s a fantastic performance by Michael Parker as Stuart. Only a tiny venue, so book early!

DorianDorian – Well, there’s dramatic and there’s dramatic, but this is super-dramatic! Incredibly intense, Dorian is a powerful, strongly-building adaptation that has you on the edge of your seat. I’d go so far to say this is a better adaptation of Wilde’s original than Matthew Bourne’s Dorian Gray. Some excellent performances, brilliant stagecraft – the fight scenes are superb – all topped off with a stunning lighting and sound design. A mini-masterpiece!

Dog ActorDog/Actor – A true masterclass in acting from Stephen Smith in this Berkoff double bill. Berkoff’s superb writing demands excellent characterisations, and that’s exactly what Mr Smith delivers by the truckload. He’s also amazing with the physical theatre – in “Dog” particularly you really got a sense of the powerful and aggressive Roy. An enthralling show!

Shoddy DetectiveA Shoddy Detective and the Art of Deception – They may call themselves Shoddy Theatre, but there’s nothing shoddy about this brilliant piece of nonsensical, physical theatre, packed with terrifically ludicrous scenes, hilarious characterisations, knockabout humour and superb stage fighting! Loved every minute of it.

Death of an AuthorDeath of an Author – A very clever premise,  excellent performances, extremely well written, and surprisingly moving. Lots to think about – and truly intriguing for literature buffs! I shan’t reveal who murdered the author…. but no jury would convict! I also liked how the detective did a spot of mansplaining!

Words Without ConsentWords Without Consent – Verbatim text of women in interviews combined with politicians’ comments on the role of women in society and the dangers faced daily from men. Extremely well staged, great use of video projections and two first rate performances. Take note of the trigger warnings; many of the things said in this production shake you to the core. A thrilling, appalling and vital work.

CandyCandy – Brilliant storytelling, both in Tim Fraser’s riveting play and Michael Waller’s spellbinding performance. At first, I thought the content of the play was going to position itself as some kind of analogy or symbol. But then I quickly decided it wasn’t that, it was just a straightforward story about a man falling in love with his mate, but only when Billy presents himself as Candy. Fascinating, thought-provoking, at times hilarious, at times deeply sad. We absolutely loved it.

Charlie WilliamsEh Up Me Old Flowers – An excellent portrayal of Charlie Williams, by Tony Marshall; and the play itself is full of great storytelling, and ultimately is remarkably moving. You don’t have to remember Charlie Williams from the 70s, but it helps if you do! The play posed fascinating questions about whether Williams was complicit in spreading racism, or did he pave the way for the likes of Lenny Henry or Gary Wilmot? I was really surprised to find I had a tear in my eye at the end. Way better than you might possibly expect!!

WilfWilf – That rare thing – a comedy that is extraordinarily creative in its subject matter, confronts headfirst disturbing issues like domestic abuse and mental illness, and is also jaw-achingly funny. Beautifully staged and performed by Michael Dylan, Irene Allan and Neil John Gibson, there’s no way this play won’t have a life beyond the Fringe. Absolutely magnificent!

ClosureClosure – Mrs Chrisparkle and I constituted the full audience! Yes, only two people in but the cast threw themselves into a great performance of a brilliant play, with very serious, challenging material, and a fabulous twist. A good old fashioned thriller, based on sexual violence. Read the trigger warnings first. We talked about it for ages afterwards! Riveting!

No Place Like HomeNo Place Like Home – Gripping tale, spellbindingly told, with superb use of video graphics that truly helped the story along. Marvellous acting – great characterisations. A feast of creativity, I’m so glad we didn’t miss this!

 

COMEDY:

ColossalColossal (Patrick McPherson) – I predict another massive word of mouth success for Patrick’s latest creation. Incredibly beautiful writing reminds you of the hip hop rhythms of Hamilton, whilst telling his own very individual story of love and deception. So many brilliant callbacks, so many surprises. Patrick turns his likeable persona inside out and challenges the audience to stick with him. And we sure do. Technically brilliant too with a terrific sound and lighting plot, which also play their part. A complete winner.

Ben Clover Best NewcomerBen Clover: Best Newcomer – The evening ended with a great show from Ben Clover, who included anti-vaxxers, Prince Andrew and Boris Johnson in his material and it all landed perfectly. The show contained an early contender for best line of the Fringe; I won’t spoil it for you but we were still chuckling about it back at the apartment. He delivers his routine with apparently effortless ease, although I’m sure most of it scrupulously hand-crafted. A fantastic show, highly recommended.

Mark ThomasMark Thomas: Black and White – Why have I never seen Mr Thomas before? Most definitely a no-Conservative zone, he dishes out brilliant political observations nineteen to the dozen and absolutely left me wanting more. He also has some memorable Barry Cryer and Bernard Cribbins jokes, God bless their souls. I had no idea I’d be singing my favourite music hall song, The boy I love is up in the gallery, by Marie Lloyd. Just a fab hour.

Hal CruttendenHal Cruttenden: It’s Best You Hear it From Me – Crammed with callbacks, this is a beautifully constructed, very personal and very impressive show, with great audience interaction; probably the best I’ve ever seen Mr Cruttenden. Perhaps he should have more marriage breakdowns, it would be great for his career!

Mary BourkeMary Bourke: The Brutal Truth – On terrific form, the legendary Ms B talks cancel culture, Britain’s Got Talent as well as giving us a massive trauma dump (her words) that she turns to comedy gold. Peppa Pig also comes in for the treatment she so richly deserves. Absolutely brilliant.

AbigoliahAbigoliah Schamaun: Legally Cheeky – Abigoliah shares the ghastly story of her visa crisis with all her trademark upbeat optimism even though at times it’s a truly sad story. She has an amazing ability to see sunshine in the rain and she conveys her joyous observations with delightful ease. Fantastic!

Tarot Cautionary TalesTarot: Cautionary Tales – What a find! Sketch comedy is alive and well and living Beside the Pleasance Courtyard! Tarot are three immensely likeable idiots who have put together just the funniest hour of nonsense. Every night they pick a member of the audience to count the number of laughs (and make other suitable notes) and, you guessed it, it was me. I counted 217 laughs but I definitely missed a few – well, you have to keep these people on their toes after all. Favourite sketches included the Elvis Impersonator and the Never Have I Ever game. Ecstatically funny!

Your Dad's MumYour Dad’s Mum – Your Dad’s Mum is a nightmarish comic creation; a social night out, with a grim compère stuck in the 70s and a woeful but feminist assistant who together take us through some deliciously lamentable games and quizzes. And it’s all absolutely brilliant! Once you get the joke – that he’s deliberately awful and she’s trying to do the best she can to make up for it – it works a treat. As the catastrophes pile up, the audience creases up! The audience hurled themselves into the fun and played along with everything that Pat and Cherrie-Ann threw at them. Just don’t ask her to do her Christmas Tree routine. Loved it!

Marcus BrigstockeMarcus Brigstocke:  Absolute Shower – Another show where the subject of stupid people comes up! Marcus Brigstocke is on brilliant form, an hour full of political satire and happy lockdown memories. I particularly loved his observation about consent issues for single people today. Extremely funny, always a pleasure.

Nina GilliganNina Gilligan: Late Developer – Nina specialises in finding fantastic new material on familiar subjects, like the Menopause, sex, relationships and so on. She has a fantastic delivery style, leading you in gently and then hitting you with a killer punchline. An excellent discovery! Loved the pigeon and Chris Whitty material – I’ll say no more.

Garry StarrGarry Starr: Greece Lightning – I sometimes wonder how funny Garry Starr could be if he wasn’t quite so inhibited. That’s a joke, by the way – there is no one on stage who leaps over all the boundaries as much as Garry Elizabeth Starr. Once again the hammy thespian brings us a no-holds barred hour of unmitigated silliness which has to be seen to be believed. Don’t think that by avoiding the front row you won’t get involved (although if you do sit in the front row you might well see much more than you had bargained for!) Utter brilliance.

Troy HawkeTroy Hawke: Sigmund Troy’d – Effortless characterisation, the mischievous Milo McCabe has formed a brilliant, creative set of material for Troy based on a random tweet that caught his imagination. With scrabble values, psychotherapy, magic numbers, shop greetings and pizza dedications, this is an extraordinarily detailed flight of fantasy. I know that by sitting in the front we were asking for it – and we got it. But so did many others! Fabulously funny!

ShamiltonShamilton – How would this troupe create a hiphop musical about a character chosen by the audience? Brilliant performance and improv with the inspired audience choice of Paddington Bear!! Absolutely hilarious. The Browns needed sexual counselling, and The Queen was called on to prevent Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman from demolishing their house. Completely nuts and completely wonderful!

Phil HammondDr Hammond’s Covid Inquiry – Dr Phil presents an excellent comedy lecture, packed with fascinating facts and opinions, jokes and observations – it’s almost as though Covid has never gone away (winking emoji). It’s also interesting to share your own covid experiences and beliefs with other audience members. Very enjoyable!

Joe WellsJoe Wells: I Am Autistic – Always one of our favourite comedians, Joe is on fantastic form with a show that gives rise to pretty much non stop laughter, mainly about autism – and yes I know it sounds unlikely. He’s a truly gifted comedian, with a beautifully crafted set, and there’s no better way to start your Fringe day!

PearPear (Patrick and Hugo McPherson) – “Are there twins in the audience, oh oh, oh oh, are there any twins in?” 🎵 🎵 I guarantee you’ll be singing that for ages.

Patrick and Hugo do an amazing double act, with a nicely structured, incredibly silly, beautifully funny show, with perfect callbacks and audience interaction. You don’t stop beaming from start to finish! Is there nothing these McPhersons can’t do?!

Robin MorganRobin Morgan: Snip Snip Bitch (WIP) – Robin is even slicker and funnier now than he was when we saw him in Leicester a couple of years ago! There’s no real narrative thread to his act, it’s just observations and memories and quirkinesses, all of which somehow combine together to create a very satisfying whole. He’s so very likeable and persuasive; you end up letting your guard down and telling him things you’d normally keep under your hat. Absolutely brilliant!

Foil Arms and HogFoil Arms and Hog:  Hogwash – At first we wondered if Foil Arms and Hog had reached their pinnacle, and were beginning to lose their way a little. A very long get-to-know the audience introduction (vital for later material) followed by a too-long sketch based on a ghost story experience, meant that half the show had already gone before we started getting into the really good material, but rest assured it’s as good as ever. I loved the suitcases on the carousel, and the long lost reunions were inspired. Three genuinely hilarious guys – you don’t get better sketch comedy.

Nish KumarNish Kumar: Your Power, Your Control – Nish Kumar comes across as a naturally funny guy but also an angry one; years of racism have taken its toll on his mental health, and he shares some of that journey with us – and you get the feeling that the journey is far from over. But it’s not all doom and gloom – in fact it’s 98% hilarious observations about politics, terrible gigs and how much he loves Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Carr*. An occasionally bruising (and aggressive!) watch, but always rewarding.  *not strictly true.

Sooz KempnerSooz Kempner: Playstation – Very funny – I thought we might be at a disadvantage knowing nothing about computer games, but Sooz used them as a springboard for lots of other brilliant material, all based on that natural unwillingness to grow up. Extremely funny and inventive, and excellent use of pre-recorded material. Our first time seeing Sooz Kempner, but definitely not our last.

Anna MannColin Hoult: The Death of Anna Mann – Perhaps this really is the death of Anna Mann? Whatever Colin Hoult gives her an amazing send-off in this brilliant retrospective of her lives, loves and careers. Turned out very emotional in the end! One of the best comedy shows ever.

SpankSpank! You and Goodnight – The last ever Spank! was the source of a lot of genuine emotion. We’ve loved this show over the past 8 years and it’s brought so much happiness to so many people. A wonderful last night final line up; brilliant acts who all made the night very special.

Just these PleaseJust These Please: Honestly No Pressure Either Way – Fast, slick and very very funny! Lovely silly sketches – I loved the one that featured Greyfriars Bobby – all performed to a high standard. What’s not to like?

 

DANCE:

HamletHamlet: Ian McKellen and the Edinburgh Festival Ballet – Ignore those 2* reviews. They clearly don’t understand the concept of Ballet. This is a stunning piece, superb choreography, meticulously danced, that tells the story of Hamlet clearly and thoroughly. The Prince of Denmark is split into two: one, the vocal nervous wreck played by McKellen, the other, the man who moves, played by an extraordinary dancer. I particularly loved Ophelia’s dances, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a delight. Fabulous lighting and sound too. My toes curled with pleasure throughout!

Ballet FreedomBallet Freedom of Kyiv – Audience reviews online were about 75-25 in favour of this show, but those who didn’t like it *really* didn’t like it! We thought it was terrific; inventive, dynamic choreography, danced with joy and skill, frequently very tongue in cheek, lots of dark humour and even a few instances of audience participation (and don’t think by not sitting in the front you’re safe – you’re not!) Invasion by a hostile neighbour was tastefully suggested in a few of the dances. I was very disappointed at the amount of photography and videoing from audience members, which was extremely disrespectful of both the performers and other audience members. But we loved the show!

 

SPOKEN WORD:

Rory StewartIain Dale: All Talk with Rory Stewart – Both Iain Dale and Rory Stewart were both on good form. Amongst the revelations was the fact that they both went for the Conservative nomination to stand for the constituency of Bracknell. Rory told some awful stories about Johnson that were ostensibly funny but just showed what an utter disgrace the PM is. Good questions, fascinating answers, and a surprisingly entertaining hour.

Keir StarmerIain Dale: All Talk with Keir Starmer – Iain Dale and Jacqui Smith both grilled Keir Starmer and I must say I was very impressed with the Labour Leader, much more than I expected to be. You can see he’s a thoughtful, intelligent man, he listens in full to the question then gives a most considered answer to it. I don’t think he suits the world of quick off the cuff comments; he’s much more the measured, detailed, considered kind of politician.

Devi SridharIn Conversation with… Devi Sridhar – Not entirely sure what I was expecting from Devi Sridhar, but this conversation with sports journalist Graham Spiers revealed her motivations for becoming a public health expert, her background, her opinions on a wide range of subjects and also much of the private person behind the headlines. She’s a natural at the Q&A, and it was a fascinating hour.

 

EVERYTHING ELSE:

RougeRouge – Sets the bar for all the shows in this genre. Stunning to watch, decadent in the extreme, incredible acrobatics and a silly, adult sense of humour. No more to say!

Adults Only Magic ShowAdults Only Magic Show – Sam and Justin have put together some amazing magic and framed it within this “adult only” naughty presentation, to the delight of everyone. Very funny, very naughty and very incredible! Not a clue as to how any of it was done.

Evening without Kate BushAn Evening Without Kate Bush – I didn’t really know what to expect from this show, but you come away from it with a spring in your step and gladness in your heart, as Sarah-Louise Young beguiles you into the world of Kate Bush fandom, presents some of her best loved songs in ways you have never seen before, and makes you desperate to go back to your old LPs before the night is out. She also does a pretty amazing vocal impersonation! Very inclusive and hugely enjoyable.

 

So, an amazing Fringe – we loved every minute. And who will receive the coveted Chrisparkle Edinburgh awards? We’ll have to wait until the committee sits and deliberates next January!

The Edinburgh Fringe Full Monty (nearly) – Day 25, 29th August 2022

And we come to the last day of the Fringe! What have got left in store to see today?

Here’s the schedule for 29th August:

12.45 – Press, Pleasance Courtyard. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Press“It’s the big day. The announcement is in a few hours’ time, and two film producers anticipate their prestigious Civil War epic Catch Me Some Freedom will be nominated for plenty of Goldies. Until they learn that the film’s heroic lead role, played by a white actor, was in real life actually Black. Fearing a career-jeopardizing backlash, the two frantically try to keep the film from getting any attention whatsoever. Nathaniel Brimmer-Beller’s play returns after its 2021 premiere, described as ‘genius’ ***** (BroadwayBaby.com) with ‘a wonderful set-up’ that ‘delivers in every manner’ ***** (TheVioletCurtain.com).”

If this is as good as they say, it’s going to be brilliant!

UPDATE: The basis of a really good play but the writing and plot don’t quite realise its full potential. Very good performances though, and lots to enjoy. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

14.55 – No Place Like Home, Pleasance Dome.

No Place Like Home“Winner of Les Enfants Terribles Award 2022. On a night out in a gay bar, Connor meets Rob. One’s a newcomer, the other has been on the scene far too long. But when a kiss leads to a brutal attack – who’s the victim and who’s the perpetrator? Fusing spoken word, music, dance and video art, No Place Like Home is a tragic odyssey into gay club culture and the places we can call home. Get ready to laugh, cry and dance with somebody who loves you.”

Sounds like a hard-hitting play for the final day – hope it’s as good as it sounds!

UPDATE: Gripping tale, spellbindingly told, with superb use of video graphics that truly helped the story along. Marvellous acting – great characterisations. A feast of creativity, I’m so glad we didn’t miss this! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

17.20 – The Cambridge Footlights International Tour Show 2022: Are We There Yet? Pleasance Dome.

Cambridge Footlights“All aboard The Cambridge Footlights International Tour Show 2022: Are We There Yet? Buckle up as we hit the road for a tour of life itself, visiting more sketch-shaped destinations than a travel agent could dream of. Join five curious tourists for a holiday filled with laughs, quirky characters and sand in uncomfortable places. ‘The most renowned sketch troupe of them all’ (Independent) embark on their annual international tour with a brand-new show, travelling to London, Edinburgh, Los Angeles, New York and more! You’d be silly to miss it.”

In all our years of seeing student comedy, I don’t think we’ve ever seen the Cambridge Footlights – the group with the biggest reputation of all! Time to put that right!

UPDATE: Given that reputation, this was a bit of a disappointment. Obviously a talented troupe, but it’s a shame their material wasn’t funnier. A few good sketches but too many that weren’t. ⭐️⭐️

19.00 – Just These Please: Honestly No Pressure Either Way, Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Just These Please“With three five star sell-out Edinburgh Fringe runs, over 60 million views online and a tendency to list things in threes, Just These Please are back with 25 brand new sketches and songs where ‘the gags are packed tight and as always the performance is faultless’ (Chortle.co.uk). If you’re looking for a ‘tight hilarious hour of sketch comedy’ (BeyondTheJoke.co.uk) with ‘solid laughs throughout’ (Scotsman) and ‘countless highlights’ (ThreeWeeks) then you should absolutely get tickets before they sell out – but honestly no pressure either way. ***** (ThreeWeeks). ***** (TheArtsDesk.com). ***** (VoiceMag.uk).”

More comedy sketches – let’s hope they do a great job.

UPDATE: Fast, slick and very very funny! Lovely silly sketches – I loved the one that featured Greyfriars Bobby – all performed to a high standard. What’s not to like? ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️