Comedy Reviews

ACOMEDYTAPAS - Jesters Dublin

Take five comedians, throw them into a tiny bar, light the blue touch paper and stand back. Well, that’s what I was hoping for from A Comedy Tapas from Jesters Dublin at new venue Beer & Bean and for the most part, it did not disappoint.

The venue was great and lent itself well to this kind of approach. The unwitting punters who arrived during the stand up were seamlessly welcomed into the gig in a non-embarrassing way.

There were five acts over the course of an hour ably compered and strung together by comedian Chris O’Neil who opened the show with in typical Irish fashion. We talk. You listen. Fair enough. His riff on his precocious 9-year-old daughter warning him she would be picking his future care home did strike a note with this particular audience.

Chris was followed by John Magher, a comedian from Northern Ireland – self-described as a bricklayer from Legoland - whose gentle jokes about how bad life was during the troubles set up some great punch lines.

Nathan Vinca-Jones took us down a darker road with his material, the Trump wig jokes got a laugh but some of his other material appeared to leave this older audience slightly stunned, although his joke about Lewis Hamilton going vegan to save the planet did get a lot of laughs.

Ishi Khan’s hilarious routine on upskirting involved pulling a long white string out from her cleavage. ‘I bet you’re all thinking it’s a tampon!’. It wasn’t.

Finally, Nick – also known as Long Hu – gave us a set based on his difficult yet humorous time as a gay man in China.

It’s a great idea to have a pick n’mix set of comedians over an hour. There is always something for everyone, but some of the material in this hour did provoke some cringing in the audience.

Moira Kean

IMPROMPTU SHAKESPEARE - Impromptu Shakespeare Improv Company

The always popular Impromptu Shakespeare return to the Fringe with their blend of old and new which has found them a fervent following in these parts, and last night won them new fans!

The premise is simple; the audience have balls. These are then thrown into one of the players britches and after a little fumbling around in the nether regions a selection of situations and characters are arrived at to form the basis of that evening’s show. We had rose, a jailer, the terrible crime of putting the wrong bin out and a play within a play as our scenario, and of course much mirth ensued!

The audience were laughing from the very start and rarely stopped for breath for the duration of the show. It was a hugely enjoyable romp, taking in such disparate themes as the role of dukes, the crisis in arts funding, how trees grow, who belongs in jail and which executioner does what – did you know there’s such a thing as a legxocutioner, is it even a word? Neither did I but I’m sure it will be in the OED one day!

It was all brilliant fun and delivered at a fast and furious pace with the troupe getting the loudest applause I’ve heard at this year’s Fringe. Rosy Fordham stole the show for me with some inspired ‘chicken’ and all that was missing was 'Is this a chicken I see before me?' In addition to all this it was great to see kids sitting on the front row – more are needed and they (and you) can catch more of this undeniable fun tonight and tomorrow (13/14th) at Underground! GO!

Ian Parker Heath

TINDER TALES - Jesters Dublin

Our Fringe has many variations on improvised shows and now we have a new version: ‘Tinder Tales’. Here, there are no actors but audience volunteers who are prepared to share their stories of how they met. The title, of course, refers to the dating app much used (apparently) by younger generations. The mirror site 'Grinder' was also featured as was a Facebook group called ‘Single over forty’ which absolutely was not a dating site. Oh no, definitely not.

Most of the volunteers were with their partners – some of whom grimaced: 'Oh, he’s not telling that story again'. ‘How did you meet’, is of course one of the questions most asked of couples.

All in good fun and the comperes held things together in the Beer and Bean Cafe Bar, which is a welcome addition to Fringe venues.

Just one event this year; maybe Jester’s Dublin will be tempted to do more next year.

Brian Kirman

DARREN WALSH: NEW PUNS - Darren Walsh

What a pleasure it was to see Darren Walsh for his final Buxton Fringe, on for one night only! It was a pun-filled show from start to finish filled with new material, props and audience participation.

Darren is incredibly quick witted and can turn quite literally anything into a pun. His dynamic show had something for everyone, even with our varied crowd of all ages. He adapted very well to the audience, encouraging and occasionally explaining jokes for the younger members on the front row, at one point stating he felt like a cool supply teacher that students ask to come back again! He was very aware of his audience and got to know members of the crowd which made it feel personal. It was a delight to watch Darren at the new Underground at Spring Gardens venue which had a lively atmosphere on a bustling Friday night in the Buxton town centre.

Darren's time keeping and memory of his show was remarkable and incredibly well rehearsed. It contained plenty of recognisable impressions, sound affects and a projector to bring jokes to life- asking for the next slide please with pictures of playground slides. He took us on a journey through his comedy career, with flashbacks to some of his successful and sometimes not so successful opportunities over the years. He's clearly very dedicated to his comedy career and it was brilliant to watch the clip during the show of his feature of Comic Relief this year! Darren Walsh is one to watch and he will certainly be missed at the Buxton Fringe.

His Cheep Laughs book is on Amazon and of course his Peter Cushing cushions are available! He even tried to flog one of them off to the audience at the end of the show - get stuffed was the response.

No pun intended!

Alice Featherstone

ANNIE & ANGELA'S DUMBGENZ & DRAGQUEENZ - Annie Sup and Angela Bra

Angela Bra is a regular and popular performer at Buxton Fringe. In this show she and her BFF Annie Sup find themselves on an underground adventure when they fall down a lipsync-hole on the way to an Indian restaurant, the intended final destination of their pub crawl. At the bottom of the hole, hungry and disorientated, Angela Bra finds her companion has disappeared and she is faced with a quest to find her Annie and return to the surface (and dinner).

In a high energy show involving catchy songs and rapid costume changes, the audience were exhorted to use their imaginations to fill in the scenery as we explored the subterranean world, which included zombies, several generations of RuPaul, and sword-fighting (at least I think it was a sword…). There was also a cameo for an audience member playing the part of a parrot.

This is a fun show which doesn’t take itself too seriously. You can join Annie and Angela on their next adventure on 20 July at 8pm, and Angela Bra has a solo show on 13 & 19 July at 8pm, all at the Green Man Gallery.

Georgina Blair

A POLITICAL BRUNCH - Jesters Dublin

Jesters Dublin, made up of four funny people; Chris O’Neil, Ishi Khan, John Meagher and Nathan Virica-James, are becoming annual visitors to Buxton Fringe. In fact these busy entertainers are also doing individual shows as well as the team effort for A Political Brunch at the Green Man Gallery.

A Political Brunch did not include refreshments, but was refreshing none the less. We were warned ‘not to take a single word seriously’ for the one hour conversation with the audience. All subjects were treated with equal irreverence and quirky Irish humour and the conversation ranged from the controversial relationship between England and Ireland to proportional representation, and Tory stories to EU citizenship. We learned that Kier in Punjabi means Rice Pudding, and that the acronym SLIMERS really does stand for a research project about slugs. The time passed swiftly and the audience departed with smiles on their faces.

A Political Brunch will be different every time, so pop along to the Green Man Gallery on Sat 13th or Sun 14th July at 12:00 for a taste of this changeable menu. You may also enjoy their individual events; Ishi with Love Desires Strawberries on 19th & 20th at Beer & Bean Café Bar, or John Meagher’s Big Year at Underground Venues on 13th July.

Jean Ball

DEE ALLUM: DEADNAME - Dee Allum

A late addition to this year’s Fringe programme, Dee Allum comes to Buxton with this lively, personal stand-up show, and an exceptionally winning personality that the audience lapped up.

Dee is a trans woman and Deadname allows her to explore the process of coming out to family, girlfriend and school friends (she went to an all-boys school). She’s a Watford FC season ticket holder – how is her new identity received on the terraces? Dee is very open about the kind of questions people have asked her about her transition, even the bizarre ones from her human resources department. There’s a hilarious section on the mechanics of ‘tucking’ (exactly what you might think that means), but she also speaks candidly about the positivity of her transition, and her changing perception of the person she used to be.

Dee has excellent comic timing – her use of double-takes and pauses is impeccable – and a great rapport with her audience. The show is destined for Edinburgh and Dee is still honing which jokes to include, but this show is already honest, sometimes moving, often educational, and always very funny.

Robbie Carnegie

HAYLEY ELLIS: HAYLEY'S COMIC - FAB Comedy presents Hayley Ellis

Hayley Ellis’s hour long monologue is delivered at 100 words per minute and covers everything from body image issues to holidays, dealing with small children, dinosaurs, comets (of course) and ageing...and Sticky Vicky.

She quickly sets up a rapport with the audience and we are on her side as she gets deeper (well, a bit deeper) into her diagnosed OCD. Hayley tells stories that if they are not true, then they should be. The subjects are all relatable and the river of jokes flows fast: there were times when Hayley paused for a drink which gave us, the audience, time to take a breath before plunging into the swirling currents pouring out of her brain once more.

There was a good audience participation but one or two members quickly learned you don’t heckle someone this sharp.

Hayley was nominated for last year’s Fringe award and has supported Sarah Millican and, we are told, filled the Frog and Bucket; but we are not told with what.

Welcome back Hayley, even if it was only for one show - and that was packed to full. Maybe try two next year. We promise it won’t be raining.

Brian Kirman

CONFESSIONS OF A COMEDIAN - Thao Thanh Cao

Thao is the first Australian Vietnamese comedian I’ve heard of, let alone seen, and a damp, cool July evening wouldn’t have made her feel too at home to be sure. However, she put on a brave face and gave us a show anyway.

She’s travelled the world and has been on the comedy circuit for a decade, which hasn’t disappointed her parents as they had no expectations for their youngest daughter. How many comedians can say that? And so she blazes a trail taking with her hopes and fears of public toilets, falling in love, personality tests and more, bravely exposing herself and vicariously her parents in public.

There’s a lot of self-deprecating, sometimes even slightly offensive if you’re sensitive, humour to be had in her show, and if you like that sort of thing you can catch this show again tonight (12th) and her other show in the Fringe (Marmalade) also tonight – yes she’s busy! So go along and support her!

Ian Parker Heath

MARMALADE - Thao Thanh Cao

Australian Vietnamese Award Winning comedian Thao Thanh Cao brings her show Marmalade to Buxton Fringe. Thao has had rave reviews for Marmalade across Australia, and the show had gone down a storm on her UK tour in 2023. But what would a Buxton audience think?

Well, it turned out that they loved it! Thao promised us an evening 'Jam' packed with one-liners, observational humour and edgy jokes - none of them about oranges. The title of the show comes from her encounter with one of Australia’s best known celebrity chefs, we learn.

Being an Australian Vietnamese refuge Thao has a wealth of material to draw on that was new to a UK audience. For instance, she explains the hilarious perils of the tonal nature of the Vietnamese language and in a more serious story how she nearly died on a bus on her way to Seoul.

There follows a very funny demonstration of the sum-total worth of her $20,000 Bachelor of Arts (Theatre Theory and Practice) degree.

By this time, I and the audience are laughing so much I nearly miss her advice on the best use of a baby-on-board sign.

Thao has a calm, quiet and warm stage presence, which draws you in, she then hits you with a sharp unexpected punch line all the funnier for the surprising switch up in tone.

Her jokes were sometimes cheeky and sometimes on the risky side of inappropriate humour, her timing and delivery were always spot on. This was an hour of laugh out loud fun and great stand-up comedy.

You have two more chances to catch Marmalade on 11th and 12th at 6pm. Thao is also performing her show Confessions of a Comedian on the 11th and 12th at 8.30pm – don’t miss her.

Carole Garner

HANNAH PLATT: DEFENCE MECHANISM (WORK IN PROGRESS) - Hannah Platt

If football isn’t your thing maybe Hannah Platt at the Underground on a wet July Wednesday in Buxton is? Hannah Platt, stand up comedian and writer, already has a host of accolades and awards. Her CV includes writing and performing for several BBC shows, at comedy festivals and supporting many other well known comedians.

The show opened with some top tips for how to, and how not to join conversations, quickly moving on to how we see others and how she sees herself. She draws on her own relationship with her body and how she perceives others see her. With skill Hannah led the audience through sharing her own ‘self awareness’ , to family relationships including that key mother daughter one with great honesty and a sardonic humour.

This show may have been a rehearsal for Hannah’s longer stand up shows, with the occasional glance at her notes, but it was highly entertaining and very smartly written.

Hannah is a stand-up comedian, who is definitely making her mark. Her smart and very funny observations of how we see ourselves and others may be uncomfortable at times but always make you laugh, both at the jokes and at yourself!

I am afraid there was only the one show for the Buxton Fringe, but if you are heading to Edinburgh there are several opportunities to catch Hannah Platt’s Defence Mechanism show.

Sarah Wilks

GROTTO - Notional Theatre / Terry Victor

This year Underground needed to set up in a shop unit that is part of the Springs Shopping Centre and guess who turns up in shopping centres?

Well, in December you may find a Santa’s grotto. Terry Victor turned up a little early in full Santa outfit for his one-man show in which he entertained us and gave us the thoughts of Santa outside the month of December.

The evening started off a bit slowly and you were thinking: ‘What’s going on here and is he the real Santa?' At the beginning we were all asked to write down a Christmas wish. Santa then pulled out three which we voted on. They were: goodwill to all men, a never-ending toilet roll and a new Buxton Fringe venue for next year.

Much to Santa's concern, goodwill to all men didn’t go down well, but crazy shows like this wouldn’t be able to happen without the backing of Underground Venues so naturally this wish won. Let’s hope Santa works his magic and secures Tom an Underground venue for next year.

The show really got going in the second half as Santa threw off his jacket to reveal a multi-coloured top and - in a bit of a moment - showed off a pair of lovely, red high heels.

There were lots of celebrity references as the stars including Taylor Swift and Lady GaGa do all believe in him. Santa of course knows everyone. Owing to the fact England were getting off the naughty list immediately prior to the show, there was only a low attendance. I think with a bigger late-night, lively crowd this show is sure to be on everyone’s 'good list'.

There are two more performances of this show on the 11th and 13th so do go and see it. Terry Victor is a great performer and you can be sure of lots of ho ho hos!

Robert Harrison

WILL BF: THE LAST GUN - Will BF

The Last Gun is a lost classic movie of the 1970s, unfairly maligned just because it was critically unheralded and badly made. You could look it up on IMDB but don’t bother because you can learn all you need to know from Will BF’s live mockumentary featuring sketches, songs and puns, oh so many puns.

Set in an alternate Wild West with no weapons whatsoever, James Gunn sets out on a quest for the fabled Last Gun. Due to an unfortunate dispute with Steven Spielberg, director Orville Movie, formerly known as Terry Ball-Film, has hardly any props or costumes, and blows the extras budget on day 1.

Interspersed with less than insightful, but very funny commentary ('it’s the garlic of films'), from onscreen talking heads of all the key figures associated with the film, Will BF performs all the key scenes of the movie. There’s frantic character switching, songs, puppets, video games, a mysterious mentor, a baddie and a bromance. There are so many props and so many puns going by so fast you barely have time to react ('Hi, Miss DeBus' – I heard you). It’s all brilliant fun.

Does it sound silly? Well, it’s sillier than that - it’s epic, inspired, manic silliness. The kind of silliness that is really hard to pull off without a huge amount of work, and the ability to react when things inevitably go slightly awry. It’s a wonderfully funny and well-constructed blast of nonsense, and though still a little rough around the edges, a huge amount of fun.

Stephen Walker

THE END OF THE WORLD SHOW - Mark Speed

If the world comes to an end it's best to be in Buxton. Everything comes here ten years later.

Eternity is a long time so it's best to be careful which religion you wish to die with. As we learned, some are better than others.

So what do you wish for when you are dead? Would you like endless ecstasy, unlimited wine and stay a healthy 33 years old forever? Do you want to belong to a religion which was instrumental in preserving Greek and Arab philosophy, and was ahead of the rest of the world in mathematics?

Then you had better make sure you are in the right religion, because as 'Nice Mr Death' tells us there are lots of caveats and conditions. And many surprises.

The funereal ‘Nice Mr Death’ had a light touch guiding us through all this with an audio-visual show and audience participation. There were interesting facts about each religion (Do pets go to heaven? Make sure you choose the right variety if you want this) with the common theme being the ‘End of the World’ – as predicted many times over.

A light frothy, funny presentation with underlying seriousness.

Brian Kirman

NATHAN CASSIDY: THE SPINE THAT SHAGGED ME - Nathan Cassidy

A welcome back to a Fringe regular, and indeed award-winner, seemed to be the order of the day with this his second show in just a few hours. Nathan has built up a bit of a following here at the Fringe and I did spot a number of folks in the audience who had been to his previous shows over the years, so they had an idea of what was in store…or did they?

Suffice to say The Spine That Shagged Me set off in that familiar style of seemingly random events and threads; stag nights, Titanic survival rates, GPs, his mum (she featured strongly through the day), charity work, cultural highlights such as The Masked Singer, the virtues of Diazepam and more.

Of course the audience was on board, why would they not be? Much mirth was had and the ending, with its unexpected but hugely entertaining audience participation won everyone over. 'Probably his best show I’ve seen here' was one comment I heard afterwards. It was a smashing show and now we have to wait until next year.

Ian Parker Heath

LOVDEV BARPAGA: HALF SOAKED - Ingenious Fools Ltd

Last night saw the debut of podcaster, carer and erstwhile taxi driver Lovdev Barpaga at the Buxton Fringe. Hailing from deep in the Black Country somewhere just off the M6 Lovdev bought us a slice of cross-cultural humour, something the Fringe has largely been missing been missing it must be said. Normally a deliverer of one-liners, Lovdev – or LoveDave as his neighbour was wont to call him – was stretching out into a more observational and character driven act.

It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride to be fair, with quite a few punchlines landing with the audience and most of the characters were memorable. The Nigerian faith healer was one that stuck! Snippets of family life added to the flavour of the show and illustrated a life dodging casual racism with humour. However there were a number of flat spots and Lovdev is still getting to know his material and what works with different audiences.

That said, the audience enjoyed themselves as did Lovdev, and we can’t ask for much more than that can we? Get down to Underground tonight for his final show at this year’s Fringe and encourage him to come back next year!

Ian Parker Heath

BELLA HUMPHRIES: SQUARE PEG - Bella Humphries

Bella Humphries is from Swindon. But don’t let that put you off, she’s very, very funny. She’s also very small and very cute. An appearance she uses to unsettling effect when combined with a delivery that jumps from the fanciful to the uncompromising within the same story, sometimes within the same sentence.

She never directly alludes to the ‘Square Peg’ of the title but as the show goes on, it becomes apparent that her Square Pegginess applies to any number of things - geography, mainstream medicine, societal inequality, to name just some.

The jokes come thick and fast. Swindon, sour dough and specula; Welsh, wellness and wan.. but no spoilers. You’ll have to catch her show to find out.

Her style is anecdotal. She revels in painting pictures of her life rather than rolling out gag after gag. Her life is not going as well as she perhaps would like. That’s a shame for her, but it’s a rich source of material. Which is great for us!

The collision between her cute presentation and her unrelenting anger makes the show more than just a collection of engaging stories, punctuated with good lines. The audience at the Underground Venues laughed and gasped and occasionally writhed. It wasn’t always comfortable, but it was always funny.

She had only one show at Buxton Fringe so she’s already gone. But if you can catch her elsewhere (she’ll be in Edinburgh) then it’s well worth it. You’ll never look at Winnie the Pooh in the same way again!

Anna Girolami

HENRY - THE GRANDFATHER & GODFATHER OF JEWISH COMEDY - Henry Churniavsky

Comedian Henry Churniavsky is not afraid of a challenge whether it is becoming a grandfather, facing up to the cost of his daughter’s wedding dress, having his prostate examined in front of a group of female junior doctors, or in the case of his performance at Buxton this year, doing his act in front of an audience with several children.

The presence of youngsters certainly made him edit himself at times but if they didn’t quite follow what a menopause magnet was (me neither), they still laughed at the idea of Henry’s wife finding herself sticking to the fridge. Henry is aware that many people say that behind every successful man there is a wife. In his case it is his Jewish mother, now in her nineties, who has taught him life lessons such as irony: 'If you don’t stop crying, I’ll make you cry!'

Henry reckons that being Jewish and neurotic makes him ‘Jew-rotic’ - it certainly makes for worrying times in restaurants where every dish on the menu has a string of initials next to it including SS - sesame seeds of course.

There was a lot to relate to in Henry’s genial act and the fact that some of the audience came from Liverpool (Henry’s home city) made for a great rapport. Indeed despite quite a number of ‘cover your ears’ instructions, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves offering enthusiastic applause and a few whoops, prompting Henry to open up afterwards about his work in mental health - he hopes to return to Buxton with some of the up-and-coming comedians he has mentored.

As a side note, I suspect there is a real market for completely family-orientated comedy at the Fringe, with laughter being the best medicine for pretty much any age group.

Stephanie Billen

NATHAN CASSIDY: INTERNATIONAL MAN OF MESTORY - Nathan Cassidy

Multi award winning comedian and podcaster Nathan Cassidy has some seriously impressive accolades and a comedy circuit career spanning nearly two decades. With previous as a TV warm-up act, ITV sketch show writer, Radio 5 regular, and multiple Amazon Prime Specials, he had set my expectations high and did not disappoint.

At Underground's new Spring Gardens venue Nathan worked hard to entertain a Sunday afternoon crowd (not your typical comedy gig slot) but ‘Against all Odds’ he soon had us sniggering along with his own brand of glass half empty observational humour, blamed on an overtly righteous Ryan Reynolds. With early doors audience participation - 'Anybody here got parents?', this set the scene for content inspired by his mum’s stint at mending his broken heart, whilst harbouring her own murky secrets.

Reflections were made of 20th-century roaring 20’s compared to 21st-century whoring 20’s, and 2024’s ‘polyamorous’ incarnation of is mum’s recollections of 1960’s ‘free love’. The political origins of coronavirus left us all feeling nauseous, but we offered solidarity that Trump’s pending inauguration was disappointing for every human being on the planet apart from the comedians of the world - after all Trump is comedy gold. Reeling from his Mum’s crown green bowling infidelity confessions, Nathan’s intention to make this the best show we had ever seen ’idge’ was finally realised.

Oh, a random fact about Nathan: he starred as Dennis Nilsen’s final victim in the Discovery Channel's documentary ‘Serial Killers’. I’m trying to think of something witty to say about ‘corpsing’ that isn’t in bad taste, but I’ll leave the jokes to Nathan.

With the odd ‘C’ bomb thrown in here and there, this is great entertainment for an adult audience. Sadly the only other performance this year was his ‘The Spine that Shagged Me’ set on the same evening (check out that review), but you can catch Nathan on his current UK tour, details at www.nathancassidy.com. Failing that, as a Buxton Festival Fringe regular fixture, Nathan is someone you should make it your absolute mission to see in 2025.

Karen Wain-Pimlott

STEVE VERTIGO: GO BIG - Steve Vertigo

Fringe regular Steve Vertigo brings another slice of cosmic surrealism to the Fringe and you may well enjoy the journey.

It begins weirdly enough with birth, but not any normal birth, a three day marathon endured by all parties and moves on through various stopping points including Glastonbury, family life and space. As it says in the programme, rabbit holes are there and Steve takes you down them with no obvious way out, meaning or indeed route but you’ll have silly fun on the way.

The audience went along with the fun, quietly enjoying musing on all the twists and turns of Steve’s mind. You’ll be amazed at the facts you didn’t know! I know I was. A real challenge to Wikipedia was right there on stage in front of us.

Steve re-lives the journey again this evening (7th). Your last chance to share it this year.

Ian Parker Heath

THE TOTALLY IMPROVISED MUSICAL - CSzUK

Create a musical about a town where everybody is call Jefferey.

This was the task set for the energetic members of the Improv team. It is quite something to construct a drama with music from a random audience suggestion but the members of CSzUK led us through a created scenario of a town without women (except for the one thrown down a well) and an expedition to find women and lure them back to Jeffereyville. It was impressive how each member fed off the ideas off the others and developed it to move the story along. They were well received by the packed audience in the Underground Venue, Spring Gardens.

Being improv this was a one-off performance which cannot be repeated but you can see a completely different show if you are quick and catch the same company on Sunday 7th

Brian Kirman

BARREL OF LAUGHS - Underground

Back for it’s 19th glorious year (not century as suggested by autocorrect) Barrel of Laughs is the by now traditional curtain-raiser for UV’s host of shows at the Fringe. It’s reputation is well-known and last night saw another full house eager to see what’s in store.

Besides the host Tom Crawshaw, we had four previews of shows you can see in the Fringe. First up was Adrian Poynton as a 40-something man who’s life seemed to have been messed up, to paraphrase Larkin, by his parents mostly, but also his large extended family. Plenty of fun was had and members of the front row got what was coming to them! You’ll have to be quick to catch his second and final show as it’s on TONIGHT (Sat 6th at 8:30pm).

Another show which finishes tonight (Sat 6th at 10pm) and was next up was local legend Johnny Dysfunctional and his show ‘Pop Star of the Century’. A battle of the bands as it were in which the dead re-appear to take part and party! Very dependent on audience participation, and last night’s duly did with gusto! So if that sounds like your kind of thing, get down to UV for Saturday night fun!

After a short drinks break we were treated to two more acts – Fringe regular Steve Vertigo and newcomers Tom Hazelden and Joe Pike with a snippet of their show ‘My Last Two Brain Cells’. Steve’s latest show tries to downplay height (or length as it might sometimes be). From birth onwards it has obviously been an issue and he makes the most of it here. Proved popular with the audience tonight and I’m looking forward to seeing the rest of it tonight (Sat 6th 7:15pm, also Sun 7th 10pm). Last up was a bit of ‘My Last Two Brain Cells’ which was a great advert for the show and first-timers Tom & Joe have a hit on their hands. Their show was reviewed yesterday and gave it high praise, sadly for us, Tom & Joe played their last show last night. Let’s hope they come back next year!

All in all another successful Barrel of Laughs, and there are two more chances to catch the show – with different acts – on the 12th & 19th July at UV of course!

Ian Parker Heath

ADRIAN POYNTON: ASHES - Adrian Poynton

Adrian brings a new show to the Fringe, and to be fair scattering your mum’s ashes, or not, isn’t usually up there as comedy material. But this tragic scenario is a way in to poke around in the underbelly of one of Staffordshire’s, nay Britain’s, most dysfunctional families.

As if coming from that forbidding area between Litchfield and Burton on Trent isn’t bad enough, Adrian has kith and kin to make you wonder ‘why do they do it?’ The story starts with parents, as it always must, but drifts purposefully into the world of large extended family, emotional stunting, ‘wrong-un’ uncles, sex/nooky and primal scream. Not the band, the therapy which Adrian so desperately needed.

To say too much is to give the game away but suffice to say it is a wander through a family wardrobe of skeletons and other people’s urns dotted with the occasional sane person thrown in for good measure.

A good size audience loved the show and if you get down to Spring Gardens tonight (Sat 6th) at say 8.30, you’ll be in time to catch his second and final appearance at this year’s Fringe.

Ian Parker Heath

ABC OF ONE-LINER JOKES - Kevin O'Brien

Most comedians rely on story-telling but comedians telling one-liners have also been around for a long time, from Henry Longman and Groucho Marx in the 1930s to today's top exponents such as Tim Vine and Jimmy Carr. Creating a good one-liner is not as easy as it may appear as it requires content, structure and rhythm. Kevin O’Brien uses the letters of the alphabet as a loose framework for his work-in-progress show (in preparation for the Edinburgh Fringe) to deliver a non-stop mixture of jokes, puns and short stories in his deadpan, self-deprecating style.

He draws on a variety of personal experiences in a mixture of situations, including a visit to an A and E unit, to deliver his one-liners with good timing, which is an essential element in this type of comedy. Many of Kevin’s gags hit the spot and had the appreciative audience laughing and groaning in equal measure. Some clearly fell into the ‘work-in-progress’ category.

Kevin is a relative newcomer on the comedy scene and as he polishes his act for future performances he is definitely one to watch.

Phil Milton was Kevin’s warm-up act and with a warning that there would be some ‘darker’ material with adult themes, he provided some good lines based on dating apps, relationships and personal experiences.

Vernon McGarey

ARANCINI: BALLS OF FUN - Arancini Productions

Ok, my first comedy show of the 2024 Fringe was a gentle delight from Arancini, aka Helen Rice and Sarah Carratt. You’ve probably come across the pair in various guises if you’ve been to comedy shows in the Fringe and Sheffield. So, they are no shrinking violets!

They give us a sketch show, with the odd song or two, of interesting characters, drawn it must be said, from the world of women’s experiences. And that’s no bad thing. They show wit, imagination and determination in equal measure and the small but perfectly formed audience enjoyed the whole evening.

Imagine America, seeking medical help for it’s lamentable condition, lifeguards consumed by tittle-tattle and self-absorption, dentistry to wince at and probably the worst florist in the world - then welcome to their world…

The sketches are well thought through, funny and for the most part based on observations from real life, hence dishwasher crimes and peri-menopausal angst – no anger! I recognised may of the ‘little things’ that go to make up this world and I’m sure you will too. Men, trim your nasal hair before attending!

There was the occasional stumble with words/timing but that doesn’t diminish from their show. We enjoyed ourselves and they clearly did too. They are back on the 10th and 17th July at the same venue. Please go see the show; Helen and Sarah deserve it.

Ian Parker Heath

MY LAST TWO BRAIN CELLS - Tom Hazelden and Joe Pike

Gary’s last two remaining brain cells are very, very funny. Tom Hazelden and Joe Pike take us on an amazing, whacky journey as the clock ticks and Gary’s life appears to be slipping away...

The performance is polished, full of energy and supported by slick technical interventions. Tom and Joe kept the packed audience entertained and fully engaged throughout. Audience involvement, which can sometimes feel a bit awkward, is also skilfully woven into the performance.

There is only one more performance of this show in this year's Buxton Fringe, which is a great pity as it is probably the funniest show that this Reviewer has ever seen in the Buxton Fringe. However, you will be able to catch it at the Manchester and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals later in the year; audiences there are in for a treat!

Vernon McGarey

LESLIE BLOOM SOLVES A MURDER - Sweet Productions

Enigmatic and powerfully built, the middle aged parcours instructor paces across the stage like a velvet panther. Squeezed into a blue velour romper suit and primped with matching make-up, the fizzing Leslie invites the audience to join the Toddlingham Neighbourhood Watch and their untrustworthy Committee at a Meeting.

The agenda for the Meeting is varied and going along nicely, when suddenly a body is discovered. But, is it suicide or a case of 'killed by chicken' (murder most fowl!)?

With more than a passing resemblance to pantomime, Leslie leads the audience into becoming amateur sleuths: suspects are identified, motives investigated, theories tested and curiosity is piqued, all under the channelled narrations of Colombo, Holmes and Miss Marple.

Delivery is light and fanciful, audience participation is engaging and gentle, but the murder does get solved with the help of 'The Board of Suspicion.' Along the way, we find out the answers to some unusual questions: Just who is the compact stud muffin? Which is better, a Subbuteo arena or Star Wars solarium? Why do vengeful thoughts sound like mewling cats?

David Carlisle

LAUGHS AND TRICKS - Stu Turner & Stephen Owen

The show could easily be named laughs, tricks, impressions, silliness, chaos and outright fun. All this and so much more is provided by these fellas, with 78 years of showbiz success in their funny bones.

Expect a three-part two-man variety show in the best traditions of 1980s Saturday night television, with a warm-up performance stirring the silly followed by a magical interlude before a full-on giggle-fest.

First up is Stephen, a gruff-talking former Homicide Detective who makes an impression and then fires off quick change mimicry and even faster one-liners. Generating surreal meetings between well known personalities of now and recent past, he weaves tall tales with daftness.

Next is fast talking magic act Stu. Smooth and polished like a comedy oilslick, he charms glamorous assistance from the audience, squeezing out ooohs and aaahs and applause aplenty. Close-up and featuring unusual props, this magic, mentalism and mirth makes many seamless small illusions.

Stephen returns to close the show, rounding off an hour of inventive craziness.

Be prepared to be involved in the performance and expect some adult themes and language.

David Carlisle