John Robins: The Darkness of Robins

28/02/2018 – The West End Centre, Aldershot.

God, this was emotional! John Robins has been on the circuit for ages but his star has been rising over the last four years or so thanks to strong, funny, passionate shows and excellently observed and attentive MCing.

His profile has also grown due to an excellent radio partnership with Elis James that has gathered a truly cult following, complete with fans who have never been to a stand-up gig.

This is the show that co-won John the Best Show award at Edinburgh last year (co-won with Hannah Gadsby) and is a self-examination of his failings as a human and how they lead to his break-up with his girlfriend.

I said the show is emotional because John bears his soul to us. He angrily (and know I like an angry comic, be it Legge, Ince or Cognito) tells us how pathetic he can be, how awful he is to live with and why Sarah was right to call the relationship off. Well, from his point of view but the passion with which he recalls and relates the stories really takes you into his mind and the further we get from the events, the more sympathetic one become to the whole situation.

You can see why this won the award; it’s funny, reflective, horrifying and impassioned. It’s also a massive step in the right direction for greater recognition for John.

His tour dates are here and his Twitter feed is here.

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Andrew O’Neill’s Black Magick Fun Hour

09/02/2018 – The Star Inn, Guildford.

Two pictures for the price of one, this time.

It’s obvious I’m a fan of Andrew O’Neill. His mix of stories, distractions and surreal interludes aren’t for everyone and his appearance, either gangly-limbed metalhead or elegantly befrocked and made-up, often distracts “normal” comedy fans, who focus on the visual not the verbal.

This is the first night of Andrew’s tour where he is combining his award-winning, solo stand-up show, Andrew O’Neill’s Black Magick Fun Hour, and a full-band version of History of Heavy Metal, and he is ably supported (for lack of a better word) by the wonderful Alice Fraser.

Alice is an Australian who looks like she’s based in the UK now and is probably best known for being a regular on The Bugle podcast with Andy Zaltzman. However, her regular stand-up is more about her complex upbringing than topical satire. I say complex as Alice’s parents are Jewish and Irish Catholic so she was brought up Buddhist!

Alice is really growing on me; she has a cute delivery of dirty jokes and loads of subjects it can be overwhelming and I look forward to seeing more.

I really can’t describe Andrew’s show as that would ruin the dramatic aspects. Given the description often applied to Andrew, heavy metal, transvestite, occult, you can probably guess the root of this show from the title.

Andrew used ritual magic to help write a show and this is what came from it; a collection of lines, verbal cartoons, wonderfully eloquent scenarios and stories about creating things using whatever magick we need. We all need and use magick of some kind; it just doesn’t always look like it. It looks like the things we do. That is Andrew’s point, I suppose, do the things you need to do to achieve the things you what to.

Anyway, this is a great show. Go, find out what needs to be caged and tell your friends. That is, to quote Queen, a kind of magic.

Andrew’s Twitter feed is here and his website is here.

Alice’s is here and her tea-drinking podcast (it’s been going for ages) is here.

Oh, and Alice gave me a dating tip.

Fern Brady: Suffer Fools

31/01/2018 – The Gallery, West End Centre, Aldershot.

Yes, I was back at the Westy for the first comedy session at the new Gallery venue. I say new; it’s basically the art gallery area with a new, hand-made, wooden stage. It’s lovely; intimate, comedy surrounded by art. (Robin Ince would explode.)

Yes, intimate is another word for small but that is perfect for Fern Brady’s first visit to the West End Centre; the audience isn’t a random selection of flighty comedy fans, who have listened to The News Quiz or The Now Show, but everyone was there for Fern.

Fern Brady is always a bit miffed; well, she sounds it. A gravely, Scotish accent and speaking one’s mind will do that. Delivering some excellent jokes with either a sweet, innocent coyness or shouty aggression helps too, and I like an angry comic, so Fern really appeals to me.

Basically, this show is about class and differences, specifically, Fern’s differences to her contemporaries, coming from a working-class family but going to university where she mixed with upper-class, posh Tories, something of a challenge for her. Adding to financial problems, which Fern solved in an inspiring way, are her mental health issues, another subject Fern addresses with candour without going into the details.

This was the third time I’d seen this show; an early preview, my first show in Edinburgh last year and now the tour show. It’s been great to see the evolution of this show, from Fern’s uncertainty to include a very personal story to not only including it but making it the focus of the finale.

I really enjoy Fern’s performances and look forward to more before she becomes so successful, she’ll only be seen in stadia.

Fern’s  Twitter feed is here and her website here.

Andy Zaltzman: Satirist For Hire

24/01/2018 – West End Centre, Aldershot

Get used to seeing this venue; it’s my local one and the best little arts’ centre in the world.

(This was discussed during the show and the audience confirmed I was correct.)

The master of satirical comment and host of the long-running podcast, The Bugle, is back on the road, mockerising any subject the audience suggests. Ideally, these suggestions are sent a few days in advance not on the night or even during the show, as was the case this time. This allows Andy to create on the fly and address the news of the day; of course, he has a few stock answers prepared to refer to Brexit, Trump and other common political and social stories, but his ability to come up with new material to reflect the subjects Andy’s only just received is a special talent.

This show is often hit-and-miss due to that uncertainty with most material landing well, but occasionally some things do fizzle out; it’s the nature of this type of show but with Zaltar the Magnificent, who freely acknowledges when something doesn’t work, no-one minds. And sometimes, Andy does get bogged down on the success of former partners, in particular, John Oliver, but in most parts, it’s actual admiration he’s expressing.

The show culminates in a set piece about the leader of the free world, utilising some very hi-tech vegetables and, of course, involves Andy’s true love, cricket.

Andy’s website is here and his cricket blog for ESPN is here.

 

 

 

Lucy Pearman: Maid of Cabbage

19/01/2018 – Soho Theatre

I’m not a fan of character or clown comedy (except in a couple of cases) but I love Lucy Pearman’s Maid.

I was aware of Lucy from the LetLuce duo but her solo show Maid of Cabbage secured her place in my comedy mind palace. I first saw it at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, after experiencing a smattering at All Day Edinburgh, at the brilliant Monkey Barrel venue, where Lucy was nominated for Best Newcomer.

The show tells the story of a new maid in an, let’s say, Edwardian country house owned by the abusive Lord and Lady Wynd, and her hunt for the perfect cabbage, whilst trying to not let her bad side out.

Lucy is a highly imaginative and creative performer and literally interacts with her entire audience, shaking hands with everyone as part of the introduction. The props and puppets are cleverly utilised and implimented and there’s a fair amount of audience involvement with little instruction, which allows the Maid to play even more, slightly embarrassing the “victim”. However, Lucy chooses subjects well and no-one ever seems to mind, even whoever gets to play the horse.

I’ve really enjoyed this show each time I’ve seen it but now it’s coming to an end and the Maid must leave service soon, as Lucy prepares for her next world for us to be invited in to.

Not a prodigious tweeter or facebooker, Lucy can be followed here and here, but please do try to track down Lucy’s performances wherever you can.

Seymour Mace: Niche As ****

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9/1/16 – Soho Threatre

I’ve heard the name Seymour Mace over the years but had only seen him a couple of times prior to this show at Edinburgh in 2014 and fell in love with it. It’s a truly hilarious show by a master clown, mixing the dark parts of his soul with the stupidity of the modern world. Hand-made props (now a tad beaten up), including “head”stages” (you have to see them rather than explain), complete the lovably, shambolic affair. Also you’ll find out how many Garys are in the room.

Seymour is not a prolific twitterer but his feed is here and Niche As **** is at The Soho Theatre for another week so get there soon.

(Jenny Hyam and I had a chat with Seymour after the show and he has some great plans on the horizon so worth seeing anywhere soon.)