Comedy Reviews

20TH CENTURY BOYS - Seymour and Sykes

Rewriting History... For Comedy

History has proved a fertile ground for comedy in recent years, not least in the BBC's Horrible Histories, which has successful breached the needs to entertain, educate and still be genuinely funny.

Seymour & Sykes' late-night comedy, 20th Century Boys trawls through a century of world history, in a much more broad-brush fashion, ignoring the minutiae of historical detail in favour of over-the-top characterisation and smutty gags. We get a rapping Hitler, a Charles Darwin with a unhealthy fetish for apes (yes, I know he wasn't around in the 20th Century, but he's included for his influence) and stand-up comedy versions of Einstein and Che Guevara.

There are some inventive moments - the Russian Revolution, for example, is brought to life as a pantomime-style cake-baking demonstration (made all the more chaotic last night by the over-enthusiastic intervention of their 'volunteer' from the audience). The lads also have a decent line in sight gags (I liked the Wall Street Crash), culminating in a series of photoshopped images of them with famous figures, and I liked the poem delivered by a puppet of Queen Victoria's crown ('there was no one snorier, than Queen Victoria').

The show takes a scattergun approach, and some of it doesn't hit the target. There's an argument that all's fair in modern comedy, but there are some areas of 20th Century history that could do without a comic approach, and perhaps more thought should have been given to this.

That said, I must admit to a certain guilty sense of nostalgia at a Margaret Thatcher song done to the tune of - of all things - 10cc's Dreadlock Holiday - it was like the 80s (when my student life was surrounded by personable comics having a stab at a Thatcher gag) had never gone away.

Robbie Carnegie

30/50 SOMTHING - Bill Woolland

Bill Woolland | 30/50 Somthing

As the title suggests, aging is 'Something' that 30 year-olds and 50 year-olds will certainly understand. Not only that, but those of you in-between will have an inkling of what getting older is all about. That said, Bill's show is a gentle amble through his experiences of life whilst approaching his 54th birthday (on 22nd October if you want to send him a card, because that's what oldies do).

Bill is not your average 53 year-old as he has 7 kids ranging from 31 to 3; his daily dialogue includes SAGA and Mothercare. Balding Bill is happy to be associated with any kind of Fringe again, having said goodbye to his hairline some years since.

His conversational style gently pokes fun at aging with his audience members without a sniff of a rude word or insult. He gives tips on how to survive a shopping trip with a picky partner, the correct gymnasium etiquette for the greying gym-bunny, the perils of flying EasyJet and the tribulations of using a van to take rubbish to the tip.

Ever thoughtful of his audience's needs, Bill even offers a 'tinkle' break, which is just as well when you are laughing from the start at the ramblings and musings of a middle aged man facing the likes of Google and Twitter and how to solve the fashion conundrum of 'shirt-in or shirt-out!'

Warmly challenging conventional thinking and pointing out how we often simply go along with things without considering the consequences, Bill's act shouts out 'act your age' whatever that may be - the age you are or the age you think you are!

Sadly due to an earlier illness this was a one-off show, but if he's in town again pop along and enjoy his hilarious company.

David Carlisle.

6% SUPERHUMAN - Lab Monkey Productions

Lab Monkey Productions | 6% Superhuman

There is a reason why certain performers become Fringe Favourites, it's because year after year they return with quality shows.

Dr Matt Pritchard is one of those Fringe Favourites but this year is his first time as himself having dropped his alter ego Johnny Facade. It works to his advantage, without the overhead of pretending to be someone else Matt is more relaxed and it allows his natural enthusiasm for science and magic to shine through.

The subject is superpowers; scientist and magician Matt starts from the observation that the kit on Batman's utility belt when he was first introduced has gone from futuristic to everyday, and then works through the classic superhero attributes - speed, super strength, x-ray vision, invisibility - how realistic are they, how they could be achieved, and how likely are they to happen in the future.

It's consistently informative and entertaining and there are some great examples - I've learnt why an ant is stronger than a 50 foot woman, how kestrels catch peeing mice and all about the potential of spider-goats (really). The show is superbly researched with fascinating pieces on Iron Man style robot suits and the possibilities of mind control. The magic complements the science by showing how technology can be used to do things that we think are magic.

As Matt moves away from Johnny Facade and concentrates on the science, it's not really a comedy show any more. But that's not to say it's not enjoyable, because it very much is. Matt is an engaging host, the magic is fun and very good even when he pretty much tells you what he's doing! It is also an excellent family friendly show, holding the attention of the 6 to 13 year olds with us throughout.

Steve Walker


Absolute Improv Comedy Workshop

What a shame there was only a 3 of us to enjoy this Improv Comedy workshop, led by Lauren Berning , supported by Peter Aitchison, Paul Connolly and Sam Irvink. I did wonder if perhaps the price of the event, at £20 had put people off, but after being involved in what they had to offer for 2 hours I felt this was a reasonable price.

The workshop is really great fun and offers something for everyone, for those simply interested in getting up and having a go, to newly qualified or experienced teachers, comedians, even established actors and it was obvious from the start that they had years of experience to share, involving teamwork, character development, storytelling, imagination and improvisation. In the world of improv, anything goes and nothing is ever wrong, so it is a perfect environment for having your ideas (even outrageous ones) accepted by others and feeling a sense of support and self-worth.

Lauren carefully led us through an energising warm up session, which lifted any immediate awkwardness or shyness and prepared us for the workshop ahead. Miming games followed to develop physical awareness and bodily expression (a great way to enhance performances by introducing physical theatre techniques) and for those of you who don't enjoy spoken improvisation, these games would open many other possibilities in drama.

The time passed quickly, due to the fact that we were all engaged and enjoying each activity and the mimes gradually gave way to storytelling with humorous outcomes, particularly when we all participated in the 'one word stories'.

It is quite often a nervous and challenging task to take part in spontaneous improvisation, but Lauren and her team eased us into this gradually, remaining positive and encouraging throughout, with pleasing results. They encouraged us to be as inventive as possible whilst sustaining the scene, with endless inventive scenarios and constant hilarity.

All in all, this workshop was two hours of fabulous fun, which encouraged quick thinking and inventiveness, as well as eloquence and confidence. Let's hope Laura, Peter, Paul and Sam return next year (if not before) to bring a little more energy and creativity into our lives!

Joanne Eltringham


ToBeContinued | Absolute Improv

A generation of British audiences (and, indeed comedians) have been schooled in the ways of improvisational comedy by such series as Whose Line Is It Anyway? We kind of know what to expect - witty individuals putting together amusing sketches and situations at the whim of eager audience members. It's fun.

Absolute Improv is exactly what you would expect. Four personable performers (Paul, Peter, Lauren and Sam) put through their improvisational paces in a number of situations: why is one of them late for work (last night, he was drinking petrol at Buckingham Palace with Nick Clegg - the modern comic's equivalent of the mother in law joke), two performers have to answer questions in perfect synchronisation (which creates an audio affect a bit like the way the 'Little Man' in Twin Peaks used to talk backwards) and finally, in a sort of mimed Chinese Whispers, each performer must convey in mime and gibberish to the next the details of a murder (in the Old Hall Hotel, by a taxidermist, with an avocado last night became in an office, by a 1950s B-movie monster with a robot lips machine!).

While the tropes of improv are well known, it doesn't change the fact that the performers are good at what they do, making for a friendly, agreeable, amusing entertainment, and an ideal wind-down after the rigours of the day.

Robbie Carnegie


Dubus / Lucont

Alexis Dubus

Travel tales. Always a source of humour. After the event. And so it proved to be with Alexis Dubus. By way of Patagonia, naked bike rides, Spanish brothels and the Burning Man Festival, Alexis has seen and packed a lot into his not 19 years ( a running joke with the man in the front row . . . ). Anyway, this was a very funny show full of twists and turns and more importantly laughs.

Alexis packed a lot into his show and almost all of it comes from personal experience, well everything except the honeymoon tale he tells. The audience loved his stories, even the man in the front row. There were no flat spots or dud sketches, simply a lot of funny stories which made people laugh. Even his mugging/stabbing had a funny side! What more can you want from a comedy show? Tops marks, and I'll certainly go see him again.

Ian Parker Heath

Marcel Lucont

It is such an incredible privilege to be in the presence of Marcel and what an honour it is to have his show in Buxton - or so I was told beginning, middle to end by the French egotistical man himself.

Marcel Lucont is your typical red wine drinking, pompous French man here to tell us how we Brits are getting it wrong.

The character of Marcel is full of charm, and his stand up approach is slow but elegant. In fact he was totally unfazed by the unresponsive and timid crowd, feeding of their awkwardness in his routine. Marcel is obviously at home in the barrel room and even made us shout "see-lonss" to the rowdy drinkers in the orchestra pit next door.

I quite enjoyed the English jokes and thought that Marcel's approach of insulting his audience refreshing and fun.

Typically having sex with women was mentioned an awful lot, most notably in the song about his equivalent of a continental breakfast. Although I recognised the French stereotype, some jokes I found difficult to enjoy because of the explicitness.

I had a really good night, and Marcel kept spirits high and laughter rolling. In the end he credited the audience as 'ok, above average' but I would rate Marcel Lucont way above 'above average'. Merde Oui!

Sian Dudley


Amadeus Martin

Amadeus Martin returns to Buxton's fringe comedy circuit with new, experimental material.

His observational comedy used a wide range of unique situations, especially funny when storytelling the dangers and the fierce tensions that can be created when travelling home on a late night London bus dressed as a smurf - blue face an' all.

Stories of mistaken identity and London life mesh with observations about wider life including the issue of 'gingerism', the mistaken assumptions that can be made as an observer in childbirth and what the hanging level of hoodies' trousers means - even with a practical demonstration! The performance was even punctuated with clever illustrations, all his own work!

The flow of the material will develop, but as he took another subject from his clipboard you never knew the direction it would take and each turn found a subject that was ripe for comic comment

Amadeus's cheeky, confident style handles and audience participation/hecklers in a direct way making their involvement an important part of the performance.

Amadeus gave me a strong urge to go back to work and insist that all employees have their own intro music to be played on their arrival and for that I am very grateful.

Paul Harrison


Tam Hinton

After the show a friend said he'd like to see my review of it. I knew why. It was pure Tam Hinton. Having seen some of his earlier works such as The Naked Soul of Kirk Godless I had a good idea of what might be in store. Most of the audience were hard-core Fringe goers, so I guess they also had an inkling too.

The show opened with a short video/animation reminiscent of Sledgehammer, which seemed to warm the audience up. What followed was a philosophical yarn taking in death, wasted lives, lost loves and social work. Tam has produced another range of characters to explore some of the deeper questions about life and he presents them in an energetic style. As with his other shows, Tam uses language to its full extent to get his story across, and there are some very nice touches, such as the four after-death options and the crack in the road which brought a smile to my face.

However, the subject matter is dense and it doesn't easily lend itself to comedy. There were occasional smiles to be had, but that was all I fear. There were a lot of ideas jostling for head-space and perhaps the show would have benefitted from a paring down of the number of characters and ideas/themes to explore these concepts.

It is a demanding show and if you are feeling brave get along.

Ian Parker Heath


Andrew O'Neill | Steve Ullathorne

So, The Cabinet War Rooms, the true story behind Jesus (including water walking), transvestism, Kate Middleton, birds of prey in the audience and ADD. What do they have in common? Well they are just some of the disparate strands which go make up Andrew O'Neil's new show, and it's really jolly good!

On his return to Buxton he gives us, unrehearsed as he'd only get distracted, another glimpse into the world of an easily distracted, cross-dressing, people-loving, have I mentioned easily distracted, man-about-town. He interacts easily and comfortably with his audience and holds their attention with a set which travels to varied points, some familiar some not so. It is refreshing, self-aware and on occasion self-mocking material delivered in a confident manner.

As with any new work there are a couple of glitches, but these are minor problems which will be easily ironed out. Overall the show is one to go and see. NOW. This show deserves a full venue!

Ian Parker Heath

BARREL OF LAUGHS - Underground Events

Credit: Yaz Al-Shaater

Barrel of Laughs has to be the best bargain of the Fringe, but be sure to book your tickets well in advance - last night's show was packed.

A certain Thomas Luke Crawshaw (seen him around somewhere) welcomed us to 'the only stand up comedy venue in Britain where there isn't necessarily room to stand up' and threw sweets at us before ushering in likeable 20th Century Boys, Seymour and Skyes, with extracts from their madcap canter through modern history. Charlie Chaplin took on Hitler in a rap contest and a fruity Captain Scott told his companion Wilson that an indigenous crowd of female strippers were so 'goddamn hot' that they were melting the ice caps.

Next up was Helen Arney, star of the night for me, a chic geek with a ukulele - or rather a guitar ('I'm just massive and really far away'). She kicked off with a song about a disastrous first date in which she fantasised out aloud about the foreign children they would adopt together - 'the darker skin will match the flooring in our second home in Wiltshire...' and quizzed him on his medical history - 'it's all right, you don't have to say. I've already cut off some of your hair for DNA testing'. But her main focus was science and she went on to put the 'oo' back into zoology in a set that certainly wowed me and will appeal to anyone who liked Helen Keen or Isy Suttie in previous Fringes.

Amadeus Martin came on slightly frazzled by five hours on a bus and a conviction that he shouldn't use up all his act before his solo show had even begun. That left him slightly tongue tied though he had some funny stuff about being confused with Trevor Nelson and the perils of learning German. Ironically when the jokes started drying up, he became funnier, rounding on the audience with more and more threats and entreaties: 'Don't let me have to beat the money out of you... I'll be your bitch boy...' Suddenly catching me writing notes he asked what I was doing. 'Writing down your best jokes'. 'This isn't my best stuff, this is my mediocre!' he countered, alarmed. That may be true but it didn't matter much because even with a material deficit, this guy has funny bones and his actual show should be one to catch.

Ed Eales-White has no qualms about repeating material with the result that he has honed his comic sketches to perfection. A fantastic comic actor who wowed past Fringes with his ensemble show Clever Peter and since had success on Radio 4, he is back with a solo act and last night produced a host of brilliantly drawn characters ranging from a suspicious husband to an obsessive gym instructor and, in a particularly tragic-comic offering, a pigeon whose incessant pecking habit renders him unable to focus on the lines of his own poetry.

Andrew O'Neill, these days a tattoeed transvestite, closed the evening in bawdy, rousing style working the audience into a frenzy with various divide and conquer shouting games - 'that's how racism starts' - and demonstrating an effortlessly ready wit as he fingered the black curtain remarking 'No expense. Somewhere in Buxton, there's a fat goth with bare legs...' Best bit for me was when he impersonated the elephant man putting on a swimming cap, but quite how that joke came about brings us into territory too obscene for this review...

A great night in total and a good set of trailers for what looks like a string of must-see comedy shows on the Fringe.

Stephanie Billen


Caimh McDonnell | Caimh McDonnell: The Art Of Conversation

If for no other reason than to find out how to pronounce his first name, you should go to this show. There are other reasons too. This show lets us see and appreciate Caimh's work in its true environment - as live stand-up comedy.

It is a shame that once again the audience was a small one, but in the true spirit of showbiz Caimh was not fazed by this and we were treated to an intimate performance of some of his best material. He was engaging and funny in equal measure and certainly kept us entertained with his tales of social ineptitude, mistakes and faux pas! Finding small-talk difficult is just the jumping off point.

Many of the tales we were treated to touch on his personal life, some from observation of others. I have many Irish friends, and can certainly imagine them having a Grandad's 100th birthday party like the one held for Caimh's. Badgers in Manchester, a new competitive sport, the end of human evolution as we know it and one way to treat politicians on the doorstep all form a part of what was a good, fun show. Treat yourself.

Ian Parker Heath

ED EALES-WHITE: CHAMPIONS - Whitebone Productions

Whitebone Productions | Ed Eales-White: Champions

"Absolutely Hilarious!!" said one of the audience as they left this innovative character led comedy performance at the Pauper's Pit.

Ed Eales-White presents a unique array of characters who are Champions in their own way.

The performance begins with dramatically tense opening and then enters into a series of fast paced sketches. Not for Ed any standard off the peg characters, but a series of unpredictable and innovative character sketches are packed into his performance.

A Gym psychopath that pulls on the competing gym pitches you often receive when you take that big step to set up that gym direct debit, a paranoid, stalking husband, a frustrated Pigeon Poet and a late night service station worker whose customer service skills are a little addled.

My favourite was a dramatic actor and his emotional portrayal of the tragic story of failing relationship between Roger the Vulture and his wife Mary full of pathos, tragic tensions and very funny confrontations between husband and wife.

Ed Eales-White's original material had the audience laughing out loud throughout and his handling of audience involvement was carried out with an enjoyable camaraderie.

Ed Eales- White is an engaging, energetic and above all funny character actor who lit up the evening and sets a high standard for other comedy acts at this year's fringe. A must see!

Paul Harrison


Jim Smallman | Steve Ullathorne

Not quite a double-act but sort of billed together these guys, as is the current vogue, don't tell jokes as such, more a train of stories.

Jim Smallman calls his show 'Let's be Friends' as it seems he doesn't have too many. This is an invitation to enter his world of dysfunction and chaos, with history of drink, drugs and tattoos providing fertile ground for his tales of hope and failure. There are some really funny sections, and with the aid of the audience the show zips along.

There are uplifting moments in the show, particularly when he tells us of some of the people he wishes he'd made friends with. You will remember the policeman, Scouse Paul and Dr Patel. You will also remember not to get involved in other people's arguments. If you don't go, you may never find out who Ganesh with a cigar is or the essential difference between men and women. 47 is the number of friends he has now and he'd like more. You could be one.

Danny Buckler: estranged from Woking. Obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera, in love with no-one. A man out of time and fashion, he tries to help us understand his travails with love and life whilst wearing a scarf.

From a troubled childhood in a town (called Malice?) that didn't understand him, through to a torrid time on a cruise with a fake Phantom and unable to trust a fart, Danny's tales had the audience's attention from the off. Likeable and engaging, Danny Buckler's style is easy on the ear and he is quick to use his new surroundings, in what may be coming fast known as the comedy bunker

Both of these comedians are off to Edinburgh Fringe in just a few weeks time. I know this as it says so in the programme, and they told the audience too. Several times. Once will do. As works in progress they are good, and give you an insight into how a show is constructed - they are nearly there. Will they come back and show us the finished material? That would be nice.

Ian Parker Heath

FILTHY - Chris Boyd

Credit: Ed Moore

This was one of those shows we often see at The Fringe, a trial run for new material. It was billed and introduced as such, so we knew what to expect. Chris Boyd is affable enough, possibly charming too, and he lived up to his billing as a purveyor of shambolic daftness. It was a largely daft show to an almost full house.

As a trial run it was a success for both comedian and audience. Chris Boyd learnt about his material and the audience had a good time. There were some mainstays of 20-something comedy - relationship break-ups, mothers and getting old, but there were new things too. The whole audience enjoyed the Fomage Frais event and I didn't see the punch line coming. Cleverly done!

In short, the audience really enjoyed themselves, and as a work in progress this was a good, honest show. I for one would like to see the finished article back here next year.

Ian Parker Heath


Gary Colman | Marcus Yorke

With a flyer proclaiming him as "The best deadpan act since Jack Dee" (review from GQ) Gary Colman had a lot to live up to, but his select audience at Underground Venues were not disappointed.

Gary combines tales from his Geordie roots and stories of his life in the East End of London, with a wry observational humour. As others have found before him, some of his big city themes of drugs, gangs and crime don't travel well to Buxton, but to his credit Gary recognised the blank looks on our faces and worked hard to draw his audience back into the fold.

Tales of parenthood and the antics of his young children clearly resonated better with the audience; stories of family life, observations on growing up in the north east and commentary on current issues form a continuous flow, but one which is well-paced, well-timed and judges the moment to deliver the punch line. Gary's self-deprecating style and ability to laugh at himself only endear him to the audience.

I sense that Gary Colman's style works well with a bigger audience, as he seeks to draw out members of his audience and tell stories that resonate with different elements - with only 6 of us there this was difficult, although he was fortunate to find another Geordie in the room to seek empathy with his Geordie roots.

Do go and boost audience numbers at his second (and final) show on Saturday 21st July at Underground Venues and enjoy your final night of Fringe.

Steph Watts


Helen Arney - Voice of an Angle | Idil Sukan/Draw HQ

Over the last 5 years, Buxton Fringe audiences have been educated, amused and enchanted in equal measure by the great Helen Keen. This year, with that Helen pursuing new opportunities in Edinburgh and on Radio 4, there's a gap in the Buxton market for a charming female performer, combining comedy and science.

You could do a lot worse than to check out the multi-talented Helen Arney.

In her show, Voice of an Angle, Helen combines her knowledge of various branches of science - chemistry, biology, physics, economics, statistics, you name it - with witty wordplay, amusing powerpoint and - most memorably - a selection of brilliantly sung songs (accompanied on the ukulele) which brim with wit and invention. I particularly enjoyed the song about Shrodinger's Cat and a plaintive ditty delivered in the character of the Sun,

It was sad to see such a small audience at this first performance, but it is to Ms Arney's credit that she embraced what might have been a set-back, creating an intimate and winning performance tailored directly to those in the room. Let's hope that, as the run continues, this polished, highly enjoyable show will attract the sort of audiences it deserves.

Robbie Carnegie

JAMES SHERWOOD - Best Medicine Management

James Sherwood | Ed Moore

James Sherwood produced an entertaining hour of funny, accomplished comedy hinged around his not inconsiderable musical keyboard skills.

This cleverly crafted and imaginative show demonstrated James' unique take on life and music and his skills in writing comic songs.

James, who was apparently staying in a less than salubrious Stockport Hotel, carried an outsize room key, presumably less easy to lose but not good for keeping pocket shape, where the fridge had issues.

James also looked at canine prerequisites for escalator travel, how well the Hawaiian pizza combination reflected real life in Hawaii and cricketing analogies of seduction.

At the core of the performance was an analytical masterclass of music with James looking at popular song in his unique entertaining way. He posed some really important questions about lyrical grammatical correctness - the use of idiom, the subjunctive and, Star Trek's curse, the split infinitive, why some songs should have "stopped right there" ,the appalling mathematical issues that lyricists have failed to correct and a section on Beatles breakfast-based songs, producing many 'laugh out loud' moments.

The show climaxed in a surprising demonstration of how Richard Rogers may have been unconsciously influenced when composing Julie Andrews' Sound of Music classic, "My favourite things" - an opportunity that some of the audience took as a sinaglong opportunity

James has a lovely, softly delivered approach and his imaginative take on music and life shine through and kept the healthy audience heartily entertained.

James next performs at Underground Venues on Saturday 14th July at 845pm.

Paul Harrison


Joe Fairbrother | Joe Fairbrother: O Fairbrother, Where Art Thou?

I missed Joe's shows at the Fringe last year, but I see why he wowed them. From start to finish this man had the audience with him.

Joe Fairbrother's show is character-based sketches, unlike the rest of the comedy shows I've seen at this year's Fringe. Each of them draws upon what we might think are real-life people he may have run into, but sometimes not - there is a game-show host for example who would give any of those currently on TV a good run for their money!

His style is quick-paced but not frenetic and attends closely to the audience reaction to his material. He works with the audience and there is no hiding place for you - front row or back, he will get you to join in from shaking everyone's hand in the intro, origami (after a fashion), pickled eggs and more.

What can I say? This was an excellent show written and presented by a comedian who should be on his way up. Joe Fairbrother certainly got the longest and loudest applause from an audience I've heard at the Fringe in years. A top-notch show with pub snacks thrown in! Get out there to see it now!

Ian Parker Heath


juliet meyers..headshot

In this Edinburgh preview show the audience of willing Buxton guinea pigs were treated to a series of thoughtful, feisty, zingy, surreal and seriously funny comedy samples worthy of the Scottish capital.

Having debated whether or not the Fringe brochure mentioned there would be swearing - it didn't - the odd rude word did slip out, so the show may not be suitable for younger Fringe-goers. Comedy this good doesn't need to be wrapped up in foul language anyhow.

Juliet's warmth took us on a verbal tour of her lifelong obsession with the wit and wisdom conveyed by little pieces of plastic cunningly fastened to the front of domestic appliances. Fridge magnets have informed her politics, her outlook and ambitions. If it wasn't for those quips and sayings much loved in her childhood, she wouldn't be talking in such a cool, funny and inspiring way.

During the show we learn about some over enthusiastic bidding on eBay that resulted in London gaining the Olympic Games, the relationship between Twitter, the Dalai Lama and various sex toys as well as the reason why her fantasy husband recently moved out.

With enthusiasm and flexibility to audience feedback, Juliet soon got into her stride after a bumpy start and with a little more polish on one or two rough edges will entertain north of the border. If you need inspiration, need help to find out what motivates you or makes you laugh, either look at your own fridge magnet collection or check into Juliet's Fringe magnet show. Better still, do both!

David Carlisle


The Scat Packs 5 star Sellout show debuts at the Buxton Fringe | Joanna Mlynarska

Hosted by Oscar, the man who tells us he has seen every film ever made, the Scat Pack's award winning pre-Edinburgh show is like very few others. It has no script, certainly no cameras and has never been rehearsed, but it hugely involves the audience in the jolly japes performed. I'll do my best to explain how it works...

Oscar seeks from audience members a film genre, a location and a title of the film to be shown on his real-life DVD player. He then provides a short back-story and simply presses PLAY for all the fun to begin. Within seconds the stage is filled with action as the ad-libbing cast start work to bring the harebrained movie to life.

A few moments into the scene, Oscar presses PAUSE, REWIND and REPLAY as he provides timely interjections and challenges to the numerous red-herrings and utter silly nonsense provided by the cast. Some off-the-cuff remark, for example a casually introduced reference to a previously unknown twin or doppelganger is chased back to its absurd or crazy origin by the wily host with the skill of a prosecuting barrister. This, before we return to the film with a casual "...and PLAY!"

When the cast are winging-it without the safety net of a script, their tendency to corpse, lose-it or simply dissolve into laughter or tears is tested. This doesn't happen, but rather applause greets each bit of tomfoolery that raises its dizzy head throughout. The DIRECTOR'S COMMENTARY severely tests the cast in this respect as it requires instantaneous reaction to randomly generated comedy dialogue. A riot!

The expertly produced background music almost goes unnoticed as it becomes such an integral part of each scene delivered at the command of the increasingly frantic Oscar as he delves backwards and forwards through the film to its inevitable climax.

The show is exactly what each audience makes it - you provide the ingredients and the cast use their own recipe to make a cake...or is it a pavlova? Consequently, each show is unique and Fringe-goers have just two opportunities (Saturday 21 July at 16:30 and 22:30) to make theirs before Oscar and the Scat Pack head up to the prestigious Underbelly venue at the Scottish capital. These improvisers are spontaneously hilarious...and I'm not just making that up!

David Carlisle


(c) Max and Ivan

Max and Ivan are Con Artists, and they're also very talented chaps. After their comedy win at Buxton last year for Holmes and Watson, and an award-winning stint at Edinburgh they're back with a new show.

Jim is attempting to get the old gang back together for one last heist; Max and Ivan start with that cliché, instantly subvert it and that sets the tone for an evening of tour de force comedy. Apparently it's a narrative sketch comedy heist blockbuster, and they each play many characters as the gang is reunited in a series of fast moving sketches. There's Lavinia the posh computer expert "I've just hacked the internet, darling", the drunk architect, Graham the camp safe cracker, smooth talking Scott, the maniac Argentines, Raoul and Tim, and of course Jim the master criminal. They're out to con Dimitri, the Russian oligarch and owner of Philanthropica, Vegas's philanthropic casino - you win and you win, you lose and society wins! But perhaps he's not all that he seems either.

Every ounce of the story is honed to comedy muscle. The back story of the gang's last failed heist is told in hilarious flashback scenes, as the gang refuse to work with Jim again after "what happened in Monaco", or was it Morocco? The five-way conversation on the hotel's idiosyncratic phone system is very ambitious and comes off superbly, and I loved the use of laser pens as Graham tried to dodge the alarm sensors. Max and Ivan throw themselves around the stage with abandon, whether they're dancing, going roller-blading or fighting off a group of armed-to-the-teeth robots. On top of this they even manage to pick up subjects from the audience and work them into the script wonderfully, even I'm convinced by the potential of tubarito's...

Ok, so it's not quite the finished article as they still previewing the show prior to a month in Edinburgh, but it's a world away from the unrehearsed shambles we are occasionally treated to under the guise of Edinburgh Preview. An enormous amount of work has gone into preparing and rehearsing this, so even if occasionally something doesn't work or the wrong accent comes out, Max and Ivan are able to take it in their stride and move on.

Again, Max and Ivan have brought top-notch comedy to the Fringe, and the most laughter I've heard this year, long may it continue.

They are at the Arts Centre Studio once more at 9:15pm on Saturday 21st.

Steve Walker


Rob Heeney

In the midst of what seems to be a continuing mid-life crisis, Rob Heeney brought us stories, tales and probably just the one actual joke to entertain us. The signs weren't good - a small audience, a darkened room and a comedian. However we all rose to the challenge and had a really good time and entertain us he did!

The interaction between Rob and his audience was great and really helped the show speed along. There were several members of the audience reduced to tears at times as Rob regaled us with the saga of the sad life of a 40-something stuck in a flat with a snapped Achilles tendon, no it really was funny. There were sharp observations of family life, internet dating (half the audience had met this way!) and a very funny new game you can play with a sat-nav. That source of much amusement, Facebook, also got a look in, with a twist.

His delivery was well-paced and he worked well with audience members, allowing us to join in, even take the lead on occasion. This was a show rather better than some I've seen on TV. As I said, several folk were in tears at times, so it must be good. The only disappointment was this, the small audience. Come on Buxton, get out there and see some excellent live comedy! We all got a free cd. So there!

Ian Parker Heath

SHYNESS IS NICE - Sad Little Flyer/Joseph Ross-Williams

Joseph Ross-Williams and Michael Love | David Wilson-Clarke

This agreeable stand-up comedy show sees the nebbish Joseph Ross-Williams lay out his neuroses for the Barrel Room audience. We all have shyness to some degree (with perhaps, as he points out, the exceptions such as Piers Morgan and Jeremy Clarkson), but it's how we let it affect us that counts.

Joseph seems to have taken to the 'feel the fear and do it anyway' approach to facing his shyness, by presenting it in this comedy format. He (whether deliberately or not, I'm not sure) eschews the now de rigeur powerpoint presentation in favour of some bits of paper on a music stand, leaving him doubly exposed. This was perhaps more the case on the first night, where the small audience clearly made some of the act difficult to accomplish effectively, whether it was chatting up a suitable young woman (in this case, the Underground Venues volunteer) or looking for amusing anecdotes on a postcard.

Ultimately, it's an amusing show, and Ross-Williams is an entertaining companion for 45 minutes. And even if his final, risky piece of fear-facing is perhaps a step too far into awkwardness for some audience members, Shyness Is Nice is, on the whole, nice.

Robbie Carnegie

SILKY WILL BREAK YOUR HEART - The Midnight Chain Gang Ltd/Silky

Silky | Andy Hollingworth

Some comedians roll-up at Buxton and, frankly, hardly bother. They treat the Fringe as a warm-up for something else and test out some unfinished material, say thank you and go home.

Thank goodness then for Silky - a hard-working, jobbing comic who evidently enjoys what he does (and he does it very well) and is genuinely delighted to be able to share that pleasure with you.

Silky says he has done over 3,000 gigs over a period of 18 years. You'd probably say his looks are fairly distinctive. (He does a spot-on impression of Munch's The Scream). Yet, he reports, he is seldom recognised in public. He says he doesn't mind, doesn't feel hurt - he is just a bit surprised. This fragment of a story connected Silky's show. (His personal experience of testing for testicular cancer confirmed his underlying humanity - if Silky were to break your heart one suspects it was only because it was already deeply cracked).

What other ideas popped up? Well I was pleased to have the little bit of Welsh that my daughter brought back from three years study at Aberystwyth confirmed (oven in Welsh is "popty" and "microwave" is "popty ping") - and his choice of "squoze" as the past tense of "squeeze" also delighted. (Silky seems to have a real passion for language and the story about the Scandinavian rigger is probably better not told on an unregulated public forum).

There was quite a bit about the art of what is sometimes coyly described as "pleasuring oneself". Not exactly coarse or gratuitous - just a fairly honest reflection on what is a part of life that matters sometimes.

As a performer Silky readily acknowledges and engages the audience - using them at times as a source for his story telling. He did seem genuinely concerned that he might have a caused a rift between Andy and Nicola from Ashbourne after 22 years of previously happy marriage.

More than once Silky suggested that "I might not be the greatest comic in the world but I will leave visual images that will stay with you." His description of Buxton as "Royston Vasey with an Opera House" might well be one of those.

Bless you Silky.

Keith Savage

SINFUL: 7 COMEDY SHORTS FOR 7 DEADLY SINS - Carly Tarett /eye of the storm productions

Carly Tarett (credit: Brainne Edge)

Excellent! Some of the venues leave the performers no where to hide - the dining room at the Milton's Head with the lights full on would be a case in point. This didn't seem to phase Carly Tarett as with clever use of minimal props and costume changes we are taken through the 7 deadly sins.

Very clever writing with some surprising twists Carly transforms herself into a dazzling array of characters - the very odd, but happy, bride to be, the class room assistant with whom no one would leave their primary age children, the performer plying her CD who really doesn't want to be there.

With shades of Victoria Wood and Alan Bennet, this was above all very funny and a real treat. This versatile performer is definitely one to watch out for and a show I would highly recommend.

Linda McAlinden

SINGING IN THE PLANE - Dolls House Players

Come fly with Dolls House Productions

Dolls House really went to town on the entertainment front in the upstairs room at the Clubhouse. We were checked in at the ticket desk, asked whether we had packed our own bags, and given a 'suckie sweet' for the flight. Then at the door to the 'cabin' we were scanned by security before taking our seats on Flight 13 with Budjette Airways. So, just the usual songs by the Dolls House Band then? No, a full-blown comedy / musical drama was in the air as we buckled up ready for take-off.

Last minute stand-in Patsy Davies played the rather 'common' author Sandy Tutterton, who had written a book called 'Heroine' about herself, and proceeded to read excerpts to us including all the salacious details of her life - 'don't you just love a man in a uniform'.

Punctuating and bringing the story to life was the band - with Alan Charnley singing several parts, mainly as Captain Pete, with the singing stewardesses (Emma Shanks and Hilary Isedale) with Jim Lampard providing live instrumental accompaniment along with a boppy backing track. The songs were all newly-written by the group featuring catchy choruses.

As we have come to expect from this group, the night was genuinely entertaining and original. With the story illustrated with songs, we were taken on a journey in more than one sense - from the Safety Check, via Cryogenetics (don't ask!), a patriotic Englishman, a Captain Never in Love, Nosedive - with enthusiastic audience participation ('up , up, up') and the title track 'Singin' in the Plane'.

A very enjoyable evening, I wonder what this prolific group will bring to the Fringe next year?

Martin Bisknell


Sid & James

Perry Mason it's not. The most bizarre defence you might see this side of Old Trafford - probably. Taking in murder, 3D tattoos, sex change and more, Slap and Giggle (aka Sid Wick and James 'Denise' Bennison) present us with an hour of absurd word-play and dribble to use their words!

Not having seen the duo at work prior to this show I was pleasantly surprised by their show. Comedy is, as we are often told, difficult. These young men have obviously put a lot of work into this show, and for the most part it shows. The audience was appreciative of their mix of observational humour, the surreal and the plain silly. There were some nice touches, including a couple of songs, an echo of Bob Dylan's famous video (you'll have to go to find out which one) and a TV cookery show (you'll have to go to find out that too!).

All in all, a good show and one which I think the first night audience will recommend to fellow Fringe goers.

Ian Parker Heath


Elis James

See THE COMMITTEE MEETING - STARRING CHRIS CORCORAN & ELIS JAMES which was replaced with Elis's standup show.


The Beta Males: The Space Race | Luc Pallot

This neo-python comedy act consist of a series of sketches based in and around an unknown British space project in the 1960's. The leader and sole financial contributor of the project has a bizarre and clearly unhealthy infatuation with the Moon; the Italians are trying to sabotage them and there is aggressive rivalry between the British astronauts as to who will be chosen for the mission. Desperately a critical, rocket component is lost which for reasons which will become obvious, cannot be seen anywhere.

Each of their sketches had its own character. Some were rapid fire, verbal exchanges where the audience had to sprint to keep in touch. Others where physically choreographed like a dance routine with great timing. The switch between accents: Queens English, Somerset yawl and others. There is a lot to enjoy!

Their show is a well crafted mix of one-liners, endearing stories and physical comedy. I particularly enjoyed the Yorkshire family scene whose emotional outbursts were curtailed by the gravity of the moon! And the pub quiz scene. (I knew the answer to question 2 but decided to stay schtum in case of reprisals.) There is some audience participation which I won't reveal except to say, sitting in the back row won't make any difference.

What impresses me most about the Beta Males, is the relationship that these four men have with each other. They are so in synch; they have an instinct for timing that is stunning. I'll be honest, at times I enjoyed this aspect of their performance more than the throw away lines, which came at me so fast, I would have lost them anyway.

Hugely enjoyable!

Martin Wood


Chris Corcoran and Elis James

Elis James is a new name to me - but it is one I will remember as inevitably Elis will no doubt reach the heights of the Hammersmith Appollo of which he dreams.

This was a change to the listed programme of The Committee Meeting and I was a bit apprehensive as I am not very good with stand up comics. I needn't have worried. Elis is en route to Edinburgh and asked if he could try out his routine and refer to his notes. By then end I think that we all agreed with his opening statement that in the Pizza Express earlier when he had been reading through his routine he was laughing and thought he had written a very funny piece. He has!

There are lots of genuinely funny, laugh out loud bits and others that don't work quite so well - as we told him when he asked at the end of the show, but he had already worked out which bits those were. There was a surprise in the audience which threw him off script for a while, but was very funny which to me proves how talented he is. Everyone enjoyed the show and were particularly helpful and constructive (although maybe a little confusing) when expressing an opinion as to which parts of the show we thought worked and what could be discarded!

When he learns his lines, picks up the pace and puts down the notes and gets over his cold (keeping taking the Echinacea) this will be a terrific show. As it stands now it is still worth a visit. This is definitely a talented man well on the way to affording that house in Notting Hill. Very enjoyable - thank you!

Linda McAlinden.


The TinaMarinas | The TinaMarinas: Being Gorgeous!

Straight to the point and no messing about with airs and graces, the delightfully brash 'tarts with a heart' rattle through an hour of comedy, song and St Tropez tan gags that gets the audience in the right mood for camp entertainment. An early evening slot in the barrel room doesn't deter the two blonde bombshells from teasing the crowd with salacious tales of the men they've loved, lost and loved again. They bound into the room to announce that 'We're Gorgeous' and this becomes the theme of the show-" just look at us and dream fellas". With great comic timing and some quirky word play, the two caricatured personas zip through their set with wild abandon, just staying the right side of smut, (just) and with good use of audience participation (careful where you sit!) the jokes are adlibbed and one lucky man gets two for the price of one, including a buff make over TinaMarina style. If anything, the 20 minute sketch show doesn't really draw itself out to a finale, but by this time it doesn't matter and the highlight of the show is the sketch about going on Holiday and what the girls get up to in Lanzarote. Ladies, keep your men close or Tina (or is it Marina?) will snatch them away for a night of who knows what!

If you want a great fun start to your evening before you hit the Sangria, make a date with the Tinamarinas and you won't be disappointed!

Jason Hudson