Wonderful scripted and strongly acted sketch show comprising cod Victorian melodramatic snatches, if that’s the word.

I'm sadly old enough to have been at the Fringe in 1981 and seen that year’s Footlights Review which included Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, and Tony Slattery. I remember Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson being good but undeveloped; the others were fairly innoccuous. The talented team behind Aeneas Faversham, The Penny Dreadfuls, are far more developed as both writers and performers.

Admittedly they have been developing this show for about a year, including performances at the 2005 Glastonbury Festival, the 2006 Glasgow Comedy Festival, the BBC Comedy Unit’s Rough Cuts nights and at Camden’s Etcetera Theatre in London. They’ve even developed a radio-show version, "The Aeneas Faversham Radio Show Spectacular", which was recently performed at Edinburgh's Left Bank venue.

But I spy a straight-to-BBC2 TV series and two years of fame perhaps followed by who knows what? The four-man cast of Jamie Anderson, Humphrey Ker, Dave Reed and Thom Tuck come fully-fledged with charisma, talent., an impressive range of accents, sharp characterisations, stark stage lighting, strong music tracks... and they even have ‘the one who is as tall as John Cleese’ and ‘the one who darts around like Michael Palin’.

They haven’t missed a trick in this enchanting portrait of bad children's entertainers, vampire hunting, 'barren' wives and various evocative slices of Victoriana.and this is only one of four shows that The Penny Dreadfuls - who come from an improv background - have developed. They are frightenighly professional; amazingly ahead of any competitors.


I tried to describe this act to someone after seeing it and failed so, hold on, it’s going to be a bumpy review. I could say Reggie Watts is as good as Tim Minchin but more experimental.

“Sonic landscape with comedy" is one possibility but makes it sound arty and dry. In fact, the show is a helter-skelter, exciting sound montage of rap music, comic songs, severely surreal combinations of words and utter nonsense (that’s a compliment).

It starts with Reggie donning an impeccable English accent then building up rap music riffs live on stage with  sampler, then reverting to his own American voice, cod German, bits of French and occasional gobbledegook with impeccable little surreal touches.

Frankly, I’ve seen a fair bit of comedy, but this was totally original, mixing Fat Boy Slim, Eminem, neo Lewis Carrol and even unintentionally old school British comedian Norman Collier (there was a section where Reggie pretending the microphone went faulty, which was Norman’s famous act in the 1960s - but Reggie would never have seen it).

I am speechless. In the best sense, unpredictable and indescribable.

Try Eminem creating a new hip-hop version of Lewis Carrol’s “Jabberwocky” with.

A sonic Salvador Dali.

The sell-out audience loved it and rightly so.


Oh, I almost forgot - there's even a very funny song about giving blow jobs, for those who like knob gags.



This duo wrote the extraordinary 2004 Fringe musical “The Translucent Fropgs of Quup” which I have to admit I gave a rather miserly 3 stars to. I should have given it 4 and perhaps I should give this new show 5, but such is Fringe life.

Literate, lyrical, wistful, whimsical and sophisticated, they are still coming up with breathtakingly good songs, in this case bundled together fairly randomly and only faintly linked by references to Larner’s unseen, dead grandmother (whose non-existence delivers an unexpected twist at the end of the show).

How can you not like Larner (singing) and Stevens (on keyboards) - people who start off with a song about a fish that took a walk in the woods but whose innards were torn apart by a badger.

They include a couple of “Quup” songs but have even more dazzling ones to add with starting points like:
“Trees don’t go to pubs and shops...”
“You gotta get a pension plan...”
“Be somebody new / Someone whose kiss is still taboo...”
“We’re home loving / We love to shove a quiche / Into a fan-assisted oven...”

Casually dressed in jeans and rumpled shirts, the duo live up to the title of one of their songs - “Me and Mark, We’re Real People” - but such is the sophistication of their songs, both lyrical and musical, that they perhaps need to dress up in some way. It’s so casual it looks a bit like a rehearsal. With just a tiny addition of stage persona and characterisation - I’m ashamed to say I’m suggesting neat traditional and slightly old-fashioned suits and even ties - they would make more of an impact.

They are also unlucky in their choice of venues - the rather tucked-away Diverse last time and this time the, for me, never smoothly-run C Venue - the show was 20 minutes late starting due to sound desk problems, there was no-one on the doors so audience members wandered in and out not knowing if the show had started or not even once they had found the badly-signposted room.

Next year, they should try the Free Fringe: just as professional and often just as efficient.


Wonderful! The spirit of the Fringe in quadruplicate. A level of full-throttle anarchic brilliance to which most acts can only distantly aspire. The spirit of tragically-forgotten Frank Zappa ‘find’ Wild Man Fischer is alive and well and re-born in this act.

A combination of Beck with Syd Barrett, Chris Lynam and a serious acid casualty at an early Glastonbury Festival.

The good Doktor appeared white-faced and naked throughout except for a pair of green swimming trunks bearing a red floral pattern... a pair of black socks (different shades of black) and either one or two ties round his neck (difficult to be certain).

He was accompanied by various musical instruments including a Casio Keyboard, a Yamaha keyboard and a Nintendo GameBoy, the last providing a superb backing to a song titled “Why Did I - Did I - Think of That?”

This is basically a good music act which, for obvious reasons gets laughs, with the music pitched somedwhere between rap/hip-hop, Syd Barrett and the aforementioned legend that is Wild Man Fischer.

He has written 17 songs about Gene Hackman including “Gene Hackman Is Better Than PacMan”. But his talents are not tied to Gene.

Other songs include:

“Which Film Do You Adore? - Rocky One, Rocky Two, Rocky Three, Rocky Four?”
“Don’t Fuck With The BBC - Cos They Own Radio and TV”
“What Is The Solution to Chewing Gum?”
“Don’t Join The Army Unless You Want To Kill People”
“Feed Celebrities to The Third World”

a song so good I would buy it. The unexpected treat with these songs is that they are not just one gag titles but are actual songs and musically good songs at that.

Not so much comedy. More a fully-fledged one-man Event which has escaped via a worm hole in time from 1967. Doktor CocaColaMcDonalds is not just in his own class but on his own planet and it was a privilege to visit it.


Henning Wehn was the late great Malcolm Hardee’s last great comedy ‘find’. At least, that’s what Malcolm thought. I was never too sure myself. But, after this show, I am.

It is, in fact, a double-hander with Otto Kuhnle, winner of Germany’s most prestigious comedy award but, on this display, a cracking variety act.

On stage, Henning claims, “Comedy is quite easy in Britain if you’re German - all you have to do is mention the War.”

True enough, but he expands his repertoire of “My father died in a concentration camp - he fell out of the watchtower” to include amiable attacks on British Moslems - “Those teetotal terrorists don’t know ow to party” and commendably sexist references to women and cookery. “The biggest insult,” he says, “must be to be too inferior to be mocked,” so good-natured racism is fun.

Henning’s Germanic stereotypical humour is alternated with Otto’s musical interludes, broom-juggling, magic act with knife & balls and what he does while singing “Love Me Tender” is not original but was masterfully timed and genuinely had people doubled-over in laughter.

All this plus gnome acrobatics, a rousing finale and Henning Wehn lines like “What is football without nationalism and sectarianism? We might as well play bowls.” make this superbly-paced feelgood show top notch entertainment for most if not all of the family.


The story is that Magic Steve the magician has not turned up but his lovely assistant Annette Cadabra is here on stage with her black shiny costume and distracting breasts - “I’m like the new Debbie McGee only better coz I’m allowed to talk.”

The relatively inexperienced Isabel Fay gives a barnstorming performance in this superbly-crafted script which she wrote and which keeps a thin idea going strongly for 55 minutes because she pulls out all the plot, character and ‘bits of business’ stops possible. It reminded me of “Groundhog Day” - a single tiny idea which should not work but triumphantly does.

Our lovely but vulnerable assistant has a soft Wiltshire accent with an excited schoolgirl enthusiasm for showbiz and her own inevitable sparkly success: she is an innocent wide-eyed, gossipy but talentless wannabe who wants to make very bestest friends with the audience. So innocently enthusiastic is she that she is unaware (but the audience is) of dark elements in Magic Steve’s character and aquaintances though, occasionally, she flips into a hard-eyed catatonic stare and intones in a blank monotone:

“I must not tell Steve that Frank’s got Cynthia”

a hook that is not fully-enough resolved at the end but one that keeps you intrigued.

The joy of this monologue is that it is about an unsubtle airhead but is scripted with extreme subtlety and it is performed very much in yer face with all the stops pulled full out yet the acting is under consistently subtle control. With audience participation, magic tricks, Polaroid photos passed round the audience and even a singalong with hairbrushes, this is an extraordinary calling card by Isabel Fay. Magic Steve may not have turned up to show his talent, but Isabel clearly has and does. It’s magic.


Pink-jacketed Mervyn Stutter has been coming to the Fringe for 20 years, for 15 of which he has been presenting his resolutely untrendy Pick Of The Fringe.

His lunchtime audience mostly comprises cosy, middle-of-the-road Fringe-goers looking for a shortcut to good shows. As a result, the cosy, middle-of-the-road image has rubbed off on Mervyn

But what exactly is wrong with presenting a good variety of around eight acts for a relatively modest admission price?

On the afternoon I went, the audience was ushered in by around ten kazoo-playing performance artists and the show extracts included a naff comedy sketch show, two world-class jazz singers and a dramatic but impenetrable Korean performance of indeterminate meaning. With its catholic taste, it does for multi-genre performers what “Later With Jools Holland” does for musicians.

In his separate one-man show “20 YEARS AND STILL IN THE PINK” Mervyn recycles his best music and jokes, showing at times a far more vicious political bite than many a trendy young comic. in 1992, Mervyn stopped playing comedy clubs and started to concentrate on “comedy for menopausal flower children” but he never lost his edge. Take, for instance, his song against American foreign policy which includes a repeatedly screamed-out chorus: 'Fuck the US!

Mervyn gets 4 stars for both his shows. His “Pick of The Fringe” is a thoroughly enjoyable top-notch production of its type. His “20 Years” showcases a vastly under-rated and under-seen comic talent: himself.


Smug is a Manchester based Jongleurs comic who might be described not entirely correctly as old-school. But he is clearly a very professional Northern Circuit comic who can play to any audience and endear himself to them rapidly.

This was only the second time he had performed this show and it was a one-off performance at the Fringe.

It began with 15 minutes of excellent mainstream comedy which the Fringe audience lapped up. Superbly professional amiable fast-talking upbeat bam-bam-bam performance in warm orange lighting.

Then the lighting suddenly changed to stark dark and white and, intercut with the jolly orange stand-up routines were ad, barren vignettes of the events surrounding his father’s death, with Smug instantly changing from loveable outgoing entertainer to crushed, empty and vulnerable lonely son.

In one scene - sandwiched between two long lively sections of warm orange stand-up - he sits in the dark telephoning his dead father’s answerphone again and again and again and again just to listen to his voice - then we are back with feelgood Smug again, performing smoothly and happily.

It is an extraordinarily affecting demostration of how a highly professional comic can put on a mask of sincerity which may, indeed, be real and while it is happening not a mask.

Smug sets a foot wrong when one comic highpoint involving a joke about Robert De Niro is immediately followed by a mystifying and misjudged use of the Godfather theme. And he does not quite pull off the end switch from comedy to seriousness.

But these are small quibbles.

A very brave and successful attempt.



The Aristrocrats was a film in which one not-very-good joke was told at length by serveral tens of different people over 89 minutes.

In this show, Alfred Williams tells one shaggy dog story with no punchline for 60 minutes. The show might possibly be better in a bar than in a performamce space and Alfred talks so fast many of his jokes could pass you by. But, if you like an interesting journey with a man fascinated by random facts and ideas, this will amuse you.

If you want a show with a point or climax, you will not be satisfied.

Alfred is a very presentable, clean-cut storyteller with a philosophy that “a groan is as good as a laugh” with gags such as:.

“He got into an old four-poster bed. Three of the posters were of Nell Gwynn, which tells you how old it was.”

“He sat in a corner nursing his pint. It had just had flu.”

There is a danger of pun exhaustion. Impressive that he can sustain it, but inconsequential.


Alyssa suffers from standing on the same stage in the same venue that last year hosted Laura Solon’s brilliant Perrier Award-winning show.

Laura Solon’s show was a masterclass in how to write and perform a series of character monologues. Alyssa’s characters are far less subtly drawn and performed.

So we have a loud audience member with a mobile phone, a female, clearly copied from Ali G, doing an X-Factor audition, a self-loathing woman phoning to employ a hit man kill her.

It all tends towards caricature rather than characterisation and I suspect Alyssa is more performer than writer.

However - and it is a big however - in the final character of a pregnant Hillbilly singer in an extravagant wig performing a rousing knees-up of a song. Alyssa absolutely bloomed, blossomed and shone. She suddenly became a potential star. My jaw dropped.

My guess - and I could be wrong - is that Alyssa is trying to create and perform a subtle 9.00pm BBC2 comedy show which would get well-reviewed in the broadsheets and much smarmed about in the Groucho Club, but get low ratings. But she actually has the potential to be a Saturday evening peaktime performer in the Ant & Dec area - with giant ratings.

My advice - forget Oxbridge reviewers. Come back next year with a Daily Mirror wham-bam populist show. To hell with subtlety. Go OTT and become a star.


At the start of his show, New York Jewish comic Andrew J Lederer warns his audience the show will not be laugh-a-minute gags; it will be more telling one extraordinary story from his life. And indeed it is.

Involving living with a giant Mexican football-like guy with a moustache, a cigarette and a scrapbook of pornstars he’d slept with... living in Paramount Studios as a bum with everyone thinking he was an actor playing the part of a bum on some unknown sound stage... a car trip across the US with an ex-crackhead who was giving up the drug but had been on a last massive 9-hour crack binge before leaving and believed for three days the car was on fire... a story that involves living for weeks in the New York subway system... wearing other people’s clothes found randomly left behind in laundrette dryers... and secretly living in the basement of his parents’ house without them knowing.

“What doesn’t kill you,”| says Lederer, “shows you how stupid you are.”

Then, while preparing this show on his former lifestyle, he ended up re-living the lifestyle.

Lederer, a cousin of Method actor Lee J. Cobb, is a man who can speak in ornate, grammatically-correct sentences. He is (in the best way) a man who knows a little about a lot and, he says, “I am exceedingly digressive. I was going to call this show ‘The Parenthetic Man’”.

Suitably, it took him fifteen minutes to start the show, telling us instead of a girl he had met in Edinburgh two days before, that Benelux is the only collection of countries that sounds like a vaccuum cleaner.

He is also worried about failure, so perhaps initially digresses to avoid the start of something which could fail. Something which, in itself makes for a good show with digression turning him into a stand-up Tristram Shandy.

He is a man who just enjoys talking for its own sake. Don’t expect gags. But expect laughs along the way. It is the journey that is interesting. His shows that don’t work are more worth seeing than most other comedians’ successfully scripted shows.


In 2004, Chortle pointed out that the Madge & Monty characters used by Brian Damage & Vicky de Lacey in their ‘Pear Shaped at Midnight’ shows were ideal for a BBC Radio series. The BBC unwisely ignored this advice, but the characters have now been expanded into a cod radio show.

There are sections for stand-up, songs, news, gardening tips, DIY, ‘luvvie of the week’, weather, a quiz, Australian sheep shearing, two Irish women and some rap singing. But the format is slightly uncertain - 1930s radio subjects and people are interspersed with 2006. There is also the awkward decision for both the performers to stand at their separate microphones holding and reading scripts. Realistic for a real radio show but unsettling in a stage show.

This is really a 4-star show held back by a not fully-worked through format. But it remains a cracking ready-made radio show.


73-year-old Dudley says he has had an addiction to excitement ever since the Germans bombed his area during the War and he and the other kids hid under the table because their mother said if they went down into the shelter they would meet the wrong sort of people.

He went to a public school but, to de-program himself he joined the RAF in the ranks as an engine mechanic only to be charged with and found guilty of reading, something much disapproved-of. In 1950s Soho, he found that Existentialism was a very good excuse for lying around doing nothing except read Camus and Sartre.

In this collection of humorous poems and anecdotes, there is a wonderful description of 1960s London being a black & white city because of the combination of pea-souper songs and uncleaned sooty buildings. There was a jolly poem about gents toilets in tribute to Joe Orton. A reference to Tony Blair being Scotland’s revenge on England for Culloden. And a passionate attack on state restriction on freedom called “Following The Twin Towers” - “Who would ever have thought,” asks Dudley, “that we would now be looking to the Lords to protect us from the Commons.”


Clowns, jokes, cabaret, acrobatics, an Igor figure near-stripping a fat punter, a Nosferatu vampire figure, a fake bright red vagina on a fake woman. All performed by two men - an ex Blue Man and an ex Cirque du Soleiler. Jonathan Taylor and Voki Kalfayan have performed around the world for over 10 years. So they have their performances polished.

They claim this show is "largely improvisation... Every night is different as the two freaks follow their impulses and audience on an unknown ride accompanied by vampire fangs, a couple of microphones and original music."

I have my doubts. It looked fairly shaped and scripted to me with only the audience interaction different each night. More suitable for the Spiegeltent than the rather characterless C in the Carlton Hotel, it is very energetic, very audience-friendly but I'm afraid to say it's fairly run-of-the-mill 'new circus'. Good of its type but I long for the return of Archaos and a bit of genuine loud anarchy.


What we have here from the excellent Scots comedienne Jojo Sutherland - whose father authored 36 books - could be the basis of her own cracking book, an autobiographical tale which starts in a Scottish castle with its own loch, moves to a cramped caravan, marriage, children and marriage to her own husband’s brother - and that’s the simple version of Jojo’s relationships.

She even appeared on the TV series “Wife Swap” - the Channel 4 version not the Channel 5 version, she’s quick to point out.

Along the way, we get meetings with Charlie Chaplin, Dave Allen, Dylan Thomas, debt collectors and wishing the cat would piss in your bed just to keep you warm in a Scottish room you can’t afford to heat.

Immensely likeable, although capable of a gag-based act as he proved last year, she Jojo has now developed an easy-going conversational style with humour so interwoven it seems effortless.


There’s bad news and there’s good news about Keara's travels.

Roughly the first third has nothing to do with the billed subject of the show and is about Scotland; presumably this is Keara’s normal stand-up act tacked-on to make up time. But it’s a good stand-up act.

Telling passably funny anecdotes which reveal the exotic culture of Spain is not really that exotic to the average British audience in 2006.

Hong Kong is more exotic, though still not exotic enough to stand on its own.

And the Balkans is excellent and Bosnia exotic enough though the comic material doesn’t have the strength of her Scottish material.

That was the bad news.

The good news is that Keara is an effective and talented Scots stand-up whose motormouth delivery makes Ben Elton’s seem like Stephen Hawking’s.

The act needs more work on the writing, so there is more impact, more shock/surprise, but Keara is one to watch. She got a critical mauling at the Fringe in 2002, by 2004 was hosting the interestingly titled Hungary For Laughs Comedy Society in Budapest and has now turned in a workmanlike Fringe show. Definitely one to watch in the next two or three years.


OK, so it’s three routines stitched together and adjusted to sound Scottish and attract Fringe audiences - the House of Frazer is closing down and these are a punter in the sale queue, the security chief and the boss. But that’’s fair enough; it is an obvious and successful showcase for the talents of Keith Carter, billed as “2005 North West Comic of The Year”.

The queuer is sad loser Romeo Sole (R.Sole - say it out loud), a well-rounded and gently-handled northern character who could easily have been in TV’s greatest unsung sitcom - the much-under-rated “Coronation Street” - if he were slightly less warped. The acting is impeccable, so fast, fluent and naturalistic that it seems unscripted (though it is). On the downside, the delivery may be sometimes too fast and fluent, making the audience miss or only partially appreciate some of the details.

After the soft, sad loser R.Sole comes the hard-edged store security chief with a violent hatred of his new boss and an accent oddly reminiscent of Christopher Walken. Again, deft touches, though a reference to “dishcloths celebrating the hanging of Lord Haw Haw” totally distracted me from what came next. How did Lord Haw Haw get into this? The reference seemed to have stumbled in from some other sketch.

Finally, the less successfully-realised boss Mr Frazer who has so many voices in his head we end up listening to about two-thirds pre-recorded tapes and one-third live performance.

What can I say? It’s a showreel for Keith Carter and I hope he gets work out of it. It was certainly professional, workmanlike and only spoiled by the distraction of three ‘laugh leaders’ at the back, imported to pep up the audience but only succeeding in confusing the natural rhythm like a bad laughter track. Keith is good enough not to need help like this.


I am gobsmacked.

Lannigan has performed on stage in London and on Broadway, created the title role of stage play “Beethoven: Genius Unleashed”, played double bass in the BBC Symphony Orchestra for several years and has played backing for Robbie Williams, Madonna and the Harry Potter/Lord of The Rings movies.

So where on earth did this extraordinary show come from? From his worst nightmares perhaps.

After a long and arty film prologue combining The Da Vinci Code with Omen-style music and forboding satanic voice-over, Lannigan finally appears in the flesh looking like the Rene half of tragically-forgotten 1980s duo Rene and Renato with a moustache on his lip and a Carmen Miranda pineapple hat atop his head, singing “Braaa--zillll! You know we always shoot to killllll.....”

At least, I think that’s what he sang. I am beginning to think I dreamt the whole show. The next hour showed a puerile 4th form schoolboy obsession with extreta, general bodily functions, sex and underwear. I loved it.

This is clearly a performer whose greatest ambition is to have his paying punters react like the First Night audience in Mel Brooks’ original movie of “The Producers”. He hailed as an artistic triumph the fact that most of his audience had walked out en masse a few days before.

And then we have religion and terrorism and Al Quieda, references to the Twin Tower attacks and shots of the shoe bomber in the rather overly-arty and over-used film inserts, plus quotes like “One man’s terrorism is another man’s fetish” and “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reactionary”.

The high point for me was a performance of the old comedy song “The Laughing Policeman” with the changed to refer to having cancer. Oh - and an Ipanema-less version of the bossa nova classic “The Girl From Ballymena” sung in Portugese with English subtitles.

I have absolutely no idea what any of this show was about and I suspect neither does Lannigan. If you like genuine alternative comedy that is utterly unpredictable, constantly stimulating and possibly pointless nonsense, this is for you. I recommend it highly.

Anarchy at its very best, but you couldn’t really give it four stars.


“It’s a fun club,” we’re told. “it’s about forgetting your troubles.”

And indeed it is. This is a sketch show of the type people who don’t go to the Fringe think a Fringe show will be like.

No cuttring edge, but a pleasant diversion. It’s like a very energetic, joyous student review performed to fellow students at the end of term. A bit like watching a very good amateur dramatic society version of an OK comedy rather than seeing a National Theatre production o0f the show. Unpretensious, wide-eyed and increasingly endearing as it progresses.

The cast are four amiable twenty-something youths all with their own moustaches, which are strangely never referred to except on the flyer.

When playing characters, the four tend to remain themselves playing characters rather than becoming the characters. The exceptions are an England football fan and two Slovakian comics. Any of the four might develop into a more substantial performer in two years but, at the moment, it’s difficult to tell.

“The man without a limp is here...”

“Here’s the two-second memory man Mister Dave Javoo...”

“The three gay Hitlers singing songs round Mein Kamp fire...”

And there’s one very funny gag about a thimble and Jesus.

Well worth seeing their show next year and still well worth the price of admission this year.


“I’m not a gay man,” Shelley Cooper explains. “Shame. Because it would have saved me thirty grand,” and “I’m more of a gender worrier than a gender warrior.”

Shelley has the cracking Unique Selling Proposition that she is a transexual who has two daughters and a good entrepreneurial mind. That is both good and bad news. It gives her the basis for near-unique comic shows. But there is a difficulty in extracting yourself from so strong a central subject area.

She is trying, though. This show ends with a section that has little to do with trans-gender and a middle section which involves a chat show with another Fringe act - on the night I saw it, Jason Wood talking unexpectedly about being sexually abused as a child (the previous night’s guest had been Janey Godley).

The show’s format proves unwieldy with the sit-down chat/guest performance sandwiched between and interrupting the flow between Shelley’s two stand-up routines: the first trans-gender section and the final more general section.
In a sense, Shelly has still to find her own post-trans-sexual voice but, when she does, she will prove to be an even more special comic.


I never saw Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus, but this sketch show features the duo Clatterschenkenfietermaus plus two and 2 + 2 does not equal 4 stars.

Jason Cook and Lee Fenwick of D.C. apparently ran a Soup sketch show in Newcastle, their hometown, for 3 years before moving to Manchester, then became D.C. at the Fringe. They have now re-constituted Soup with excellent character comedian Keith Carter and Dan Nightingale.

In the first sketch, a 35 year-old schoollboy who has three arms applies to a new school - an all-girls school - and it feels to me slightly "Beyond The Fringe", certainly non-cutting edge and non 2006. In my opinion, to use an unfortunate quote from the show, "It's adequate" but no more and that pretty much covers the whole show. Good enough.

There are two standout sketches, though.

Lee Fenwick's "white Chris Rock" character (developed over several years) and Keith Carter as a camp comedian being forced by his agent to perform as a stereotypical homosexual character rather than performing the 'art' he really wants to. Carter towards the end brought a quiet sadness into his characterisation and more depth than most of the show's characters had.

In various combinations, the four performers seem to be developing TV projects. And they may well be adequate. But get Carter - he's the one to watch.


He’s a big American. Big stature, big but very amiable on stage. He’s related to the Younger Brothers (as in the Jesse James gang) and, in America, he’s worked in theatre with a relation of John Wilkes Booth. Which isn’t mentioned in this show. It’s only half an hour and, very sensibly, he’s doing this short midday show at the Free Fringe as a dry-run for a proper 60-minute Fringe show next year.

It will be worth waiting for.

The title of this show is never referred to and completely inappropriate. Steven is a very accomplished, successful, almost effortless stand-up in the traditional but none-the-worse-for-that mode.

He comes from the South - New Orleans way - from Southern Baptist stock and boxed on two occasionas, all of which he works smoothly into his show, as do his pieces of good local UK knowledge which he inserts.

In Britain, why does “bollocks” mean bad but “the dog’s bollocks” mean good?

There is no Unique Selling Proposition. Just good, solid, confident, funny stand-up.

See him while there are free seats.


Welshman Steve Williams, who lives in London, does a perfect Scots accent and (it seemed to me) equally perfect Brummie, Geordie, east London and, indeed, Welsh accents; and his act is equally efficient.

Professional, unflagging observational routines on the Scots, the weather, football, Welsh TV, ads on TV, the media in general, drinking, well-crafted jokes about singer David Gray, about Cockneys who whistle swear words and much more.

Confident, experienced and a dependable audience-pleaser worth the price of admission but, then, so are 300 other stand-up acts on the circuit. He is a perfectly personable chap in open-necked shirt and faded blue genes but, then, so are many other comics.

He wore unusual two-tone showbiz shoes. I have never seen their like worn by another comic. They showed individuality and that is what his act needs: a unique selling proposition. Some of the longer stories towards the end of his act showed hints of a slightly surreal turn of mind; if that can be developed he should go for it. Otherwise, he will make a decent living from making audiences happy but no-one outside his social circle will remember 10 years after his death that he ever existed.


Tony did a song about Pal McCartney’s soon to be ex-wife Heather: “I’ve got nothing against her right leg, but neither has she”.

If you are going to steal, steal from the best - in this case, Peter Cook.

I have nothing against Tony either. A Laughing Horse New Act finallist, he is a perfectly standard, professional jobbing comedy singer who presumably makes a good living on the folk/pub circuit with perfectly presentable if occasionally non-PC pastiche songs set to good (though copyright) music. There was not an original tune in the 60-minutes but, here in a small upstairs room on the outer edges of the increasingly large Free Fringe, no-one is going to object at being short-changed.


Chipping Stortford is seeking city status and this show is a presentation of the joys of the village by the committee charged with promoting the scheme. That’s the back story.

Both Chipping Stortford and the show are a sort of fresh-faced and clean version of the League of Gentlemen’s Royston Vasey. We are talking here Pam Ayres not Brendan Burns. Refreshing, gentle English whimsy (although one of the cast is inexplicably Scottish).

A lot of work has gone into the script of this production and the promotion even included a newspaper selling the joys of Chipping Stortford. It is impossible to dislike anything about the idea, the show, the cast or the production. It just needs a bit editing (most items could do with a 25%-33% cut in length and some slightly more committed acting.

It possibly also needs a reason for it to exist: in a sense, it needs some philosophy of comedy as a backbone.

There is nothing, as such, wrong with the well-detailed script - I enjoyed the idea that the knock-knock joke and pop-up books originated in Chipping Stortford and that its one department store contained the only possessed escalator in the world. One question on the local pub’s quiz machine asked if ten squirrels could beat a rotweiller in a fight. But the show was commendably workmanlike rather than in any way inspired.

What was also apparent was that there was one standout performer amid a cast that otherwise never totally inhabited their fictional characters. DETAIL!!!!!!!!! She did what the other performers almost never did; she lost her self in each character and she made each syllable of each word the character’s.



Del, you’re not going to get three stars for a 17-minute show, even if it billed at 30 minutes and is at the Free Fringe.

The material is fine - Glasgow housing estate / hard man routine, gun, bank robbery affectation, steady laugh-worthy material, but the gags were not connected well enough for a 20-minute routine and the delivery on the day I saw the show was more catatonic than deadpan. No enthusiasm in the voice; no enthusiasm or liveliness in the delivery; no enthusiasm or liveliness in the eyes.

Del has twice been a Hackney Empire finalist. Nothing wrong with the material. Needs an injection of several cans of Red Bull to perk the delivery up


An Irish troupe not sure if they are performing a sketch show or a slightly outrageous cabaret. They certainly want to be outrageous - 4 girls, one man and the girls keep taking off their togs without much excuse. Continuually prancing around in skimpy underwear is not girl empowerment, it’s sexism even if decided on by the girls.

One song was titled: “You should really see me with my clothes on.”

If only!

In between would-be torch songs, skits on RTE1 afternoon TV shows, underwear and bits of random swear words which don’t outrage, there is the germ of a show here, smothered by a tad too much performance art. It needs a single concept thread to hold it together.

And - from nowhere - without warning - there was one stand-out top-of-the-pile song “Only Half a Hen” sung by a girl in a hen mask, but not just sung. She performed it with all her heard with small, twitchy, bird-like movements. A triumph.

It’s ironic that a feathered bird impressed more than birds in bras and basques.


I once got hit by a truck while I was standing on the pavement. My head hit the edge of a low brick wall on the way down. I got concussion and had no real idea of what was going on for about six months. This show had much the same effect. I suspect it was a bad show but I can’t tell. There were three Germans and two Chinese in the audience who, I suspect, spoke little or no English. I shared their bemusement.

The show was performed by a young blonde-next-door... a gay-seeming young man with cropped hair and a beard... and a middle-aged couple - she’s a bespectacled woman with short dyed black hair; he’s a neat older man with white hair. They could well be a demented family from Dundee.

There was a sexually suggestive sketch involving fresh fruit interrupted by the middle-aged man wearing a leather flying helmet and holding an erect black truncheon.

“I’m from the Flying Squad,” he said.

What this had to do with sexually suggestive fruit or any of the other sketches I have no idea.

A man being interrogated by a policeman for being found in a brothel with no trousers and eventually utters the climactic punchline: “I’ll confess, but not to the likes of you.”

The woman with dyed black hair did a poem about bondage and S&M.

She played the part of a mother introducing her daughter to her (the mother’s) new boyfriend, who was dead.

Two Irish priests talked about religious belief with the punchline “Frock off, Murphy,” and then one sang:

“Get thee behind me Satan
Life can be so frustratin”

There was a crazy plant lady and what

It was like 60 minutes of getting a glimpse of life on an alien planet in a parallel universe where the locals seemed to be acting logically to a script that seemed to make sense to them but made no sense at all. As we left, the Germans were trying to explain the show to each other. I wish they had explained it to me.


There are three types of sketch shows.

- The people just starting to have a go.

- The people who have some experience but aren’t quite there yet.

- The ones who are good enough or almost good enough to get BBC Radio series.

I’m afraid this show falls into the first category.

It started with a sketch in which Noah (of the Ark) was talking to a Customs man. Both characters appeared to be speaking in cod-Indian accents which occasionally lapsed into Welsh and it ended with the Customs man taking a photo of Noah on his mobile phone. None of this made any sense - not the situation, not the accents, not the mobile phone - it wasn’t thought through enough.

I kept being reminded of a heckle at the Up The Creek comedy club:

“Frankly, ‘not quite good enough’ pretty much covers it”

However, the writing duo and the cast of ten say, “We’re all local teens enjoying the full Fringe experience which being part of Just Ever So Slightly is giving us.”

I say - Go for it! Do it again next year. And the next. Always do the Fringe three times.

The writers and performers are enthusiastic, are just starting out and, if they take my advice, should call me ‘a talentless wanker who doesn’t know what he’s talking about’ and prove me wrong. I suggest not kneeing me in the bollocks - although that might be quite funny.


This is Australian Matt Byrne's tribute to Benny Hill, part straight biography, part Hill songs. The trouble is that Byrne's impersonation of Hill is slightly too camp and lacks that twinkle in the eye that allowed the real Hill to get away with double entendre murder.

The biographical sections are interesting - not only that he changed his first name from Alf to Benny in honour of US comedian Jack Benny but that his father sold condoms by mail and Alf/Benny was, for a time, a milkman.

The trouble comes in the songs. I was never a great fan of Benny Hill, but his songs are beautifully crafted and delivered comic routines. Byrne sings them ever-so-slightly too fast and, although copying the pauses fairly faithfully, he does not have Benny Hill's comic timing.

It is an interesting demonstration that 'it is all in the timing' even if the comic raw material is the same.

In Benny Hill's case, it was in the timing and the twinkle in the eyes.

John Howard Davies seems to be getting fingered as the man who was responsible for sacking Benny Hill (the story is repeated in Wikipedia). I have always understood the two-minute sacking was carried out by David Elstein.


Perhaps I missed something. The strangely middle-aged audience lapped up this fresh-faced young Glasgow performer’s first solo Fringe show like Vallium. I just shrugged my shoulders.

The set-up is that Thompson is Ecclefechan’s top cop, giving a lecture to other cops in his white trench coat: basically rather a lot of overconfident, unstructured waffle with what seemed to me a variable accent.

Thompson was billed on the flyers as a “very funny physical comedian” but did not demonstrate this.

What he did show was a superb ability to ride laughter and control the audience through that interplay of their laughter and his delivery and an expert use of his good delivery to disguise waffle in a thin script with no linear development and a lack of structure.

Making a bid for casting directors in the audience, he also threw in a beaded Balkan expert, a nowhere-near fully-realised female police sketch artist, bringing an audience member on stage, a lacklustre song “Drugs or Jesus” and his impression of a sniffer dog.

It was a dog’s dinner of a script: more a training exercise on an acting course than a show and it needs advice on script structure.

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