Tag Archives: Comedy

REVIEW: Stags and Hens – East Kilbride Arts Centre

It’s Liverpool. It’s the 70s. It’s a Liverpool where Industry has gone to the dogs and opportunity has taken a very long ferry trip far beyond the Mersey.

Dave and Linda are on their respective stag and hen nights, unbeknownst to each other, in the same place, a trashy, down-at-heel disco in the city.

The action in Willy Russell’s Stags and Hens takes place in the toilets of the dodgy disco, where Linda and her pals and Dave (who spends the play with his head down the toilet) and his mates, ruminate on life, the universe and everything in between.

Russell is a master portrayer of the lives of the ordinary man (and woman); the clothes may be desperately dated, the jokes chronic; “love is blind, marriage is an institution…who wants to live in an institution for the blind?”, but the dialogue is natural, believable and entirely relatable and underneath the surface laughs there is a deeper commentary on working class life, misogyny, opportunity and expectation.

Inspire Theatre’s production of this little-seen play is near-faultless. Under the tight direction of Elaine Berry, the action moves along at a cracking pace and the razor-sharp dialogue hits the mark every time, but what elevates the whole production is the cast. Universally on point throughout, the cast of twelve maintain an impeccable focus and the production is replete with pristine tiny detail, from the girls’ primping and preening to the boys’ posturing, this is a masterclass in acting.

Particularly impressive are Hazel May MacGregor as the bolshy and boisterous Bernadette and Michelle Minto as the hysterical Maureen. To his great credit, Francis Lyons manages to keep the role of violent hothead Eddy completely within the bounds of reality – a role which could so easily have been overplayed and Martin Haddow elicits both laughs and sympathetic awws, as the misfit Billy. That said, this is a perfect example of exemplary ensemble acting.

This is a theatre company to watch out for, small but perfectly formed, bigger companies should take heed – quality wins every time.

 

 

100 WORD REVIEWS: Gad Elmaleh – Pleasance King Dome, Edinburgh

French film and comedy superstar, Gad Elmaleh landed in Edinburgh for one night only to present his first ever English language stand-up show.

Brave? – Yes. Madness – Probably. Worth it? – Definitely. Funny? – Absolutely.

The truly international audience (French, Morrocan, Canadian, Ecuadorean, Scottish, Eddy Izzard!) warmed to France’s premier comedian instantly. A fine storyteller with an utterly engaging personality, it’s hard not to love him, and his hugely relatable jokes about modern life hit the spot perfectly (the sequences about his fellow countrymen being particularly hysterical).

A rare opportunity to see a man who sells out arenas the size of Wembley Stadium in his home country, this was an utter privilege to be in a 100 seat auditorium up close and personal with such a comedy giant. Simply brilliant.

WHAT’S ON MARCH 2015: Bossnappers by Tom Brogan plays this year’s Glasgow Comedy Festival

Following his success at last year’s Glasgow International Comedy Festival, talented writer and actor Tom Brogan presents his new play Bossnappers at the CCA.

When the all-female workforce of Donachie’s Biscuit Factory discover their boss’ plans to move their work abroad they take inspiration from one of their favourite films and decide to keep him hostage until he changes his mind.

Bossnappers will be at:

CCA, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow

Sunday 22 March

Monday 23 March

Tuesday 24 March

at 19:30

£8/£6 

More info: http://www.glasgowcomedyfestival.com/shows/1081

www.tombrogan.co.uk

REVIEW: Gilded Balloon Comedy – Drygate Brewing Co, Glasgow

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews here

Arguably Glasgow’s hippest venue, the Drygate Brewing Co. is playing host to Fringe behemoth Gilded Balloon’s brand, spanking, new, weekly comedy club. Housed in the UK’s first experiential craft brewery, the comedy space under the old Tennant’s Brewery’s seven peaked roofs, is both impressive and entirely fitting for this ambitious project.

The club presents two shows every Friday at 7:30pm and 10:00pm featuring a trio of established acts. Compered tonight by Glasgow’s Scott Agnew, the line-up for this inaugural event comprises two Scottish stand-ups; veteran Vladimir McTavish and fresh-faced Chris Forbes, with Canadian star John Hastings fresh from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as headliner.

From a slightly jittery start, compare Agnew eventually finds his stride and moves the proceedings along apace.  First up, Vladimir McTavish starts strongly but soon loses his way and the laughs peter out to some polite chuckles, the material, not exactly finding its target audience. Forbes fares much better, instantly putting the audience at ease; the likeable and confident comic’s relatable and affable banter has the crowd onside from the get-go.

Fittingly, it is headliner Hastings who elicits the lion’s share of the evening’s belly laughs. He even manages to work in an unsuspecting waiter into the act. Clever, a little surreal at times, but always laugh out loud funny.

The clever combination of the UK’s longest running comedy club and Glasgow’s most in-demand venue coupled with a cleverly curated line-up of the world’s best comedy acts, should ensure that this new venture is a rip-roaring success.

Reviewed on 29th August and running every Friday at 7:30pm and 10:00pm

REVIEW: Star Stricken Double Bill – CCA, Glasgow

Presented as part of the Glasgow International Comedy Festival, Star Stricken a double bill of new comedy writing by Karen Barclay and Tom Brogan is certainly a bill of contrasts.

First up, Emily Entwistle by Karen Barclay pitches us headlong into the world of big business: a crisis has happened in an unnamed factory and corporate business solutions expert Elfrida (Frankie McEachen) is sent to sort the damage, with of course, less than successful results.

Heavy on the corporate speak (which considering the audience reaction was not a world we are as familiar with as the writer) and light on storyline and laughs, Barclay’s piece lacked cohesion and smacked a little of self-indulgence from the choice of heroines the play takes its name from to the I’m clever than you attitude which the writer seemed keen to demonstrate throughout. What did shine through was the talent of the actors, in particular Johanna Harper as Margo who deftly handled the machine-gun delivery of the complex dialogue, managing to raise what laughs there were to be had.

In contrast Tom Brogan‘s Good Times Never Seemed So Good is a sparkling little gem of a relationship tale set against the backdrop of the tribute act circuit.

Long-time loser with a big heart Mark (Paul Kozinski) has tried his hand at every daft scheme he can think of to make a living and girlfriend Laura is getting heartily sick of it: so she issues an ultimatum to pick something and stick with it, that something turns out to be a Neil Diamond tribute act. Despite no resemblance to the man in question and certainly filling the costumes slightly differently to Mr.Diamond, Mark soldiers on, climbing the ladder of success one slippery rung at a time. Just when he thinks it’s going to happen the ever-elusive big break remains out of reach. But what price fame? Is it worth losing the love of his life for?

Choc-full of laughs from start to finish this is a heart-warming little charmer. The references spot on the mark, completely relatable and met with roars of approval from the packed audience.

Ripe for TV adaptation hopefully it will have a life beyond the Comedy Festival and Brogan is certainly a name to watch for in the comedy writing world. A wee Scottish comedy gem.

 

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Ellis and Rose: Failing To Pay Off Their Student Loans, The Southsider

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Writers: Gareth Ellis and Richard Rose

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★☆

The British comedy scene is always on the lookout for something new and unique, something that sets itself apart from what’s already out there and Ellis and Rose deliver a tantalising glimpse of future stardom. This fledgling act only formed in 2012 and bring a touch of surrealism, chaotic energy and appealing absurdity to this inventively written and hard to categorise comedy show.

Where else could you see a pork-based meat product turned into a universal symbol of hate (go along to one of their shows to see for yourself what a swausage is), witness a quite frankly ground-breaking reworking of a dance routine from Cats or have nipple tassels mooted as possible after-show merchandise? It’s unique.

Gareth Ellis in particular has an irresistibly appealing devilish glint that draws you to him from the start and his physical comedy is the highlight of the show. If his partner Richard Rose could hone his character into a more cohesive foil they really could be on to a winner.

The pair deserve major credit for managing to sustain the laughs throughout this one hour show despite it being the middle of the afternoon, in a fully neon-lit space behind a violent green curtain in a noisy city-centre pub. For an act to be at such an early stage and show such promise can only mean a bright future. It’s time a bit of good old anarchy returned to British comedy and Ellis and Rose’s unique slant on the world might be just the thing to fit the bill.

This is thrillingly dark and different and deserves to be seen.

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – George Ryegolds God in a Bag, Underbelly, Dairy Room

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

Toby Williams’ dark creation, the highly distasteful George Ryegold, returns to the Fringe in God in a Bag, this time with an expanded cast including: Red Dwarf’s Hattie Hayridge, Fresh Meat’s Dan Mersh and fellow comedians Lindsay Sharman and Milo McCabe. The self-obsessed, penny-pinching, fabulously under-achieving doctor has been suspended yet again and has to deal with a fractious love life, time on his hands, a potentially earth-shattering new theory and competition from a smarmy but successful colleague who has nicked his research.

Billed as a comedy play, it’s more like an extended TV sitcom episode or over-long radio show. There are some moments of comedy gold here, especially when Ryegold delivers a highly inappropriate sex-education lecture to a room full of school kids, but over the hour the laughs aren’t sustained.

The supporting characters do the best with the material they have, and all are accomplished actors, but none are as well conceived as the charmless doctor. This is illustrated in the under-use of fine character comedy performer McCabe, he has limited material here and to his credit still manages to shine, but he’s a talent that could have been exploited. T.V. veteran Hayridge plays a torpid cafe owner but basically regurgitates her usual laconic on-screen persona.

God in a Bag proves there’s good reason why sitcom episodes are under 30 minutes. The writing is at times highly intelligent and cleverly witty but there’s not enough material to hold the attention for an hour and the central character is just too unpleasant for us to root for him. A skilled cast and material that has glimmers of potential – just not in this format.

Runs until 27th August

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Be Fruitful and Multiply, C Venue C

This post was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews.

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★☆☆

Be Fruitful and Multiply is billed as a light-hearted take on the story of creation and suggests that God and the Devil might not be the universe’s opposing forces but merely highly incompatible business partners. It substitutes a powerful multi-national company for God and tells the story of the “Company” as they embark on their latest business project – creating the earth.

The show claims to tackle fundamental issues such as choice and determinism whilst maintaining a comedic atmosphere. Mmm… not exactly the most obvious basis for a musical and treading the fine line between satirising religious belief and being just plain offensive requires a deft touch indeed. The writing is at times sharply witty, however the story lacks overall cohesion and the relationships between the characters isn’t always clearly defined.

The female characters are the standout performers. Of the male cast only Jamie Budgett (Addy) has the voice to fill the space, the others are seriously underpowered especially in the lower range. The baby-faced Adam Farrell (Sam) also lacks the requisite devilishness required of his role and the full effect of his words is often lost in a somewhat hesitant delivery.

The music is nothing new and has more than a hint of the familiar about it. That said there are some excellent songs here, in particular the standout One Call. The problem is that by and large they don’t fit the script into which they’ve been inserted, and in some cases the whole momentum of the storytelling is lost.

The fact this is a piece by multiple writers may be to blame for many of its shortcomings. The concept has huge potential and there are glimmers of some truly excellent songs but it’s definitely a work in progress needing to find a cohesive voice.

Runs until 27th August

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Rhys Darby, This Way To Spaceship, Pleasance Grand

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

Public Reviews Rating: ★★★★★

Based on his “autobiographical space novel” This Way to Spaceship is Rhys Darby’s return to the Fringe after a three year sabbatical.

Waking up in the belly of a spaceship surrounded by robots, Darby endeavours to find out how he got here and in the process of this hour long show we are treated to: rubber bodied contortions; insane vocal effects; a lot of autobiography; some off the wall standup; a memorable dance routine to Rhythm is a Dancer; and, of course, dinosaur impressions.

The space theme becomes more and more tenuous as the show goes on, but quite frankly who cares? The audience certainly don’t – the warmth just radiates from Darby and the crowd respond in kind. He is at his absolute best in the high octane sketches where he gets to showcase his physical and vocal skills and in the moments of self-depreciation, which only make the crowd root for him more.

Flight of the Conchords is never mentioned by name but we are treated to some tantalising references to his famous alter ego Murray Hewitt, and the spaceship’s talking computer sounds remarkably like Jemaine Clement, something which doesn’t go unnoticed.

What this performance shows is that Darby has easily moved on from his Conchords days. There wasn’t an empty seat in this huge venue and with all the publicity about falling ticket sales this year, that says a whole lot. With good old fashioned charm, an explosion of energy and a ton of wit, this is a winner.

Runs until 27th August at The Pleasance Grand details here.

REVIEW: Edinburgh Fringe – Rachel Stubbings is Stubbing Out Problems, Underbelly

 

Writer: Rachel Stubbings

Director: Brett Goldstein

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

This review was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews

With advice like: “Feel the fear and do it anyway”, to a man contemplating suicide and the unwitting recommendation of the use of Rohypnol to a guy who can’t get a girlfriend you can see exactly the calibre of advice that self-professed “gifted healer” Rachel Stubbings is doling out in her new show Rachel Stubbings is Stubbing Out Problems.

In Rachel’s own opinion she’s a world-class agony aunt, hell-bent on helping people less fortunate than herself (that’s everyone). Having prevented her parents’ divorce and loads of other “stuff” she’s sure she has a gift, and buoyed by this success she’s come to Edinburgh to “heal live” and share how “awesome and selfless” she is.

The queue is handed a flyer while waiting and those brave enough gamely write down any problems they want “stubbed out” and put them in the “Stub-bin” at the start of the show. The delivery is the same arrogant dead-pan that anyone who liked The Office will enjoy but in some ways there could be more bite to her perils of wisdom. Stubbings utilises Skype, video material and audience interaction throughout the show but there were some problems keeping the whole thing flowing. There were some uncomfortable silences and the audience was on the whole, pretty unresponsive. The time slot could be partially to blame, mid-afternoon whereas the material is more late night.

This would be an ideal half-hour radio or TV show, at an hour it’s a tad too long for the content. That said Stubbings is quirky and quick witted and succeeds in never making the audience feel uncomfortable, turning the harshest focus back onto herself. She starts out confident she can heal the world but instead ends up healing herself. A promising Fringe debut.

Runs until 27th August

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