Saturday, 3 June 2017

Stuart Black, Brighton Fringe 2017

Stuart Black, Caroline of Brunswick, Brighton Fringe, May 2017

Black by name and black by nature, bar an ethereal complexion on a skinny frame, dressed head to toe in, you've guessed it, black, this Scottish poster boy for Prozac takes us on a conversational rollercoaster through his many brushes with depression and near-misses with the Reaper who is almost a bosom buddy. 

Do you know what happens when you're so depressed you don't wash or shower for six months? Well, you will after seeing this show! 

Stuart admits he has done every drug known to mankind but nowadays makes sure there is a defibrillator within spitting distance as the after-effects have started to feel a bit too real with added heart pounding; at 45 and looking older, he has started to feel a little too old to live like a devil-may-care twenty-something any more. 
Without a first aid tent or paramedic in sight, let alone a pulled pork stall, the Burning Man Festival, South Africa, is a festival too far for this nihilistic comic who appreciates just a small homely touch. 

Stuart regales us with how he almost died following an ill-advised swim off the African coast having done a whole festival's worth of booze and drugs with his best mate.

Amusingly, for someone with an obvious death wish, Stuart worries about his hair falling out as he is just "not ready" to lose it. 

Luckily, Propecia has come to the rescue, but with unfortunate side effects on his nether regions. Will they become his never (again) regions? But on Prozac, will he actually care?   

A cautionary comedic tale well worth the listen from a very proficient performer.


Pelican, Brighton Fringe

Pelican, The Warren, Brighton Fringe, May 2017

This show was a three-hander of juggled anarchic sketches and mayhem from a talented former Cambridge Footlights trio: Sam Grabiner, Jordan Mitchell and Guy Emanuel.

It was loosely bound together by a 1970s TV law drama skit and complicated by the Curse of Catman, which they endeavoured to get to the bottom of - the narrative thread throughout the show.

It is hard to review this convoluted show. The only thing I know with certainty is I laughed until I cried and emerged blinking into the daylight with panda eyes, mocking my "waterproof" mascara. 

I do, however, recall a hilarious sketch featuring a French chef and his monkey cooking up inedible ludicrousness in a top restaurant kitchen which a hapless waiter was then forced to serve up to the disappointed customers - the audience - a great antidote to death-by-Masterchef television. 

Oh, and we all had to throw tennis balls at the stage to kill a family of coconuts. You kind of had to be there! It was a shame that behind the front row, it was hard to see all the action of the show.

These three have the potential to go far, particularly once they lose their Cambridge studenty-ness. Latter-day British Marx Brothers perhaps?


Sagar Mega Drive, Brighton Fringe 2017

Sagar Mega Drive, Caroline of Brunswick, Brighton Fringe, May 2017

Fiona Sagar is an impressionist with a killer line in Pippa Middleton, Rear of the Year and all, a less impressive male rapper wannabe with a dodgy moustache who can only misogynise in the most obvious cliches, and an over-enthusiastic Australian relief teacher with pigtails and a disturbing sense of right and wrong.

There were also a complaining pet dog with an Eastern European accent who might well get you questioning your pet-owning proclivities and a Scottish grandmother battleaxe straight out of the mid-20th century. 

Each quick character change was proceeded by an electronic introduction as if her characters were on a random selection setting, a device which worked well. 

Fiona Sagar is talent who certainly packed a lot into one hour and, although it was a preview show, she only had to consult her notes a few times. Generally, her performance was better than her material, although this is a production that could blossom into a four-star show by Edinburgh.


Southern Fail The Musical, Brighton Fringe 2017

Southern Fail The Musical, Bosco Tent, Spiegel Garden, Brighton Fringe, 3 June 2017

By Ollie Wilson 

For Brighton-to-London commuters on Southern Rail last year, the service provided for them in exchange for their £4,500-plus season tickets was beyond a joke. . . but the Treason Show cast has made a great job of seeing the funny side of it.

Southern Fail The Musical is a popular (the tent was packed) and hilarious pastiche of pop songs with the lyrics suitably doctored (Sailing becomes Failing etc.) to highlight the incompetence of possibly the world's worst railway company, rebranded "Southern Fail" or "Bastard Rail", and was brilliantly performed by Mark Brailsford, Annie Harris and Javier Rasero.

That a cast of three could play long-suffering passengers, chief executives, railway staff, ministers and even the Southern Fail poster boy in a fast-moving sketch-and-song show shows is testament to their great versatility and skill.

They did not quite get the full story, missing out Southern's use of Revenue Protection Officers to persecute unfortunate passengers, their legally untrained prosecutor who tried to criminalise the customers, or the Government's full culpability in taking all the ticket revenue and then washing their hands of Southern when the going got tough, but we can't have everything.

The show did at least have a good old crack at useless Tory minister Chris Grayling.

Brailsford, Harris and Rasero did a remarkable job in turning a hard look at a morally bankrupt company into a fun, sing-along hour and a quarter of unforgettable entertainment.

It was also quite cathartic for commuters, although the Monday train journey still comes around like a bad penny.


Troy Hawke, Brighton Fringe 2017

Milo McCabe as Troy Hawke, Caroline of Brunswick, Brighton Fringe, 28 May 2017

By Ollie Wilson and Laura King

Most of us know the story of what occurs when a boy is raised in a jungle by apes, but what happens when a boy is brought up by an eccentric widowed mother in a Grade II-listed stables conversion in Croydon on a diet of Scrabble and Errol Flynn films, to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world 35 years later?

This show has such an incidental social experiment as its premise and Troy Hawke (Milo McCabe) as the articulate product who delights in and dishes out food for thought on the confusing nuances of 21st Century society.

Established Radio 4 comedian Mark Steel introduced Troy Hawke and the first thing that struck you was how incredibly handsome and dapper Troy looked in his smoking jacket, cravat, slacks and brogues, and how very out of place in the corner of the distinctly clarty upstairs room of the Caroline of Brunswick public house, where the threadbare carpet has seen a thousand discarded fag ends and probably never smelt a whiff of shampoo.

There is a bit of Noel Coward in the character's manner and, by dint of his dandyish poshness, Troy Hawke cannot help but sound a little camp. Much of the humour stems from Hawke's apparent naivete about life, fashion and politics combined with his razor-sharp repartee, deploying political terms, for instance, on audience members that should be far beyond Troy's knowledge. It should not work - but it does, and is infectiously funny, albeit a tad cruel at times.

The Poundland (or should we say Guinealand) material was very funny, allowing Troy to play gently with his audience.

This was his ninth preview for his Edinburgh Fringe show and Milo McCabe, son of 1980s comic Mike McCabe of New Faces and Comedians fame, knew most of his script well and was very slick in delivery. Troy extracted enormous comedic mileage from a local newspaper story about a cyclist who was almost hit by an egg, a slow-news-day yarn if ever there was one.

The Troy Hawke character has enormous potential for Milo McCabe. His material is strong and if he continues to work hard on his writing, seeing all the major, and minor, issues of our times through the Hawke prism, as Al Murray did from the late 1990s onward with the Pub Landlord, he could have struck an equally rich vein of comedy.

Strangely, Troy Hawke reminded me of the Kirk St. Moritz character in the classic BBC sitcom Dear John - a preposterously overconfident figure in public, but a shrinking violet back home with Mother. Therein lay the secret of the character.

Troy Hawke may not be fully formed yet but is well on his way to greatness.