Chopped Liver and Unions, The Space on the Mile.
Blue Fire Theatre Company tell the story of Sara Wesker, an early twentieth century union activist, and more of a “bloody difficult woman” than Theresa May could ever aspire to be. She takes us through her experiences leading strikes in the clothing and fabric workshops of the East End, demanding equal rights and equal pay for women doing the same work as men. Her nephew Arnold Wesker was the famous playwright and Sarah Kahn in his play Chicken Soup with Barley is based on his aunt. J J Leppink’s play is beautifully written and structured, and features a fine performance from Lottie Walker as Sarah. Stirring stuff, and thoroughly entertainingly presented. It makes you want to find out more about what Sara Wesker achieved – and also to re-read The Wesker Trilogy to see a fictionalised version. Electrically exciting – and it keeps alive a story that should never be forgotten.
Alex Something Is Missing Again! PBH’s Free Fringe @ Pilgrim.
A mixture of magic and therapy from Alex Kouvatas, which includes a few very good tricks, and some clever sleight of hand. The title of the show makes, in my humble opinion, no sense at all! It’s presented in a very gentle, quiet style, and, whilst the show never really soared, there was plenty to be wowed by. The T-shirt trick is the best!
Lie Low, Traverse Theatre.
A woman stands alone, bewildered, in her room. Then the wardrobe door opens and a man with a duck’s mask joins her for a Strictly Come Dancing style performance of 42nd Street. We laugh – because it’s a superb moment of theatrical surrealism. But I think it’s safe to say we’re in somebody’s fantasy world at this stage. The trouble is, Ciara Elizabeth Smyth’s play deliberately makes it impossible to tell where the fantasy stops and the reality begins – if, indeed, either of them ever do. Faye tells her doctor she cannot sleep. She says she was attacked a year earlier and sexually assaulted, and he advises her to try exposure therapy. Then her brother Naoise arrives, out of the blue, and she asks him if he will jump out of the wardrobe at her, dressed as a duck. Despite his protestations, he does this three times. But he has his own agenda – he has been accused of sexual misconduct at work and wants his sister to write a character reference for him. All of this – or none of this – or some of this – might be true. I found this ambiguity very tiresome. In my view it never really achieves anything more than a few cheap laughs over someone blackmailing another person to show them their genitals. I absolutely hated this play – but the 70 minutes is redeemed by two superlative performances from Charlotte McCurry and Thomas Finnegan.
Robin Grainger: An Audient with Robin Grainger, The Stand Comedy Club 2.
I’d never seen Robin Grainger before – but what a find! The title comes from his Edinburgh Fringe gig last year when one person showed up to his first night – Michael from Leicester, radio producer, gluten-intolerant, left-handed. The show refers to that formative experience of last year, but also takes in some brilliant, original material concerning his general awkwardness, his experiences at the gym, and the ins and outs of having to scatter the ashes of his late father. Robin Grainger has a very winning, honest style about him, and delivers his cracking gags with a mixture of sure-fired confidence and disarming charm. You can’t fake this level of likability. A magic hour of comedy.
Eddy MacKenzie and Liam Farrelly: Little and Large, The Stand Comedy Club 2.
You’ve heard of a game of two halves? If ever this applied to a comedy gig, this was the one. The show opened with Eddy MacKenzie, an enthusiastic, jocular, guffawing presence with a guitar, who promised some Beatles parodies (he did one) and then promised some other comedy songs (he did one, but it wasn’t funny). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comedian come on stage so completely devoid of material – it was genuinely painful. Then halfway through we switched to Liam Farrelly, a Paisley lad with bags of attitude and brilliant stories, from taking his daughter to baby ballet to acquiring four guinea pigs – and I don’t think I’ve laughed so loudly at a routine as I did to that one for a very long time! A naturally gifted comedian who needs a full hour on his own. * for Eddy MacKenzie and ***** for Liam Farrelly equals: