Bethany Black : Love and a Colt 45

* * *
3 stars

I saw Bethany Black last year and was fascinated by her set, which was based around her decision to change gender and the subsequent emotional upheaval she went through.  I found it both engaging and life-affirming.  There’s more of that attitude on display here in this year’s ‘Love and a Colt 45’, a show which revolves around her two main addictions – drink and love.

To say that Black’s had her ups and downs would be an understatement, but to live a life which veers between these extreme highs and lows gives her plenty of material to work with.  Her anecdotes about her dependency on alcohol drew laughs of recognition from the audience, whilst her stories about failed relationships were stark and self-effacing. 

I do like Black, and think she has a particular knack in telling a good story, but I also think there’s something which is holding her back from really opening up a crowd.  Whether it’s the brutal honesty of her material or the slightly nervy stage presence, I couldn’t say for sure.  What I do know, however, is that she’s a performer who is well intentioned and who has something different to say.

Di

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Janis

* * * *
4 stars

I am of an age to remember the talented performer that was Janis Joplin, just. I was kinda young, but knew parts of the life story of the hedonistic singer that was taken from us at a young age, she was only 27 when she died.

Nicola Haydn plays this complex character, as a potted life story is related to a packed enthralled audience.

The piece is set in a hotel bedroom on the fateful day, as armed with booze, drugs and her guitar, Joplin waits for those who do not arrive.

The Texas girl who made good and who is still revered in some circles as on of the best, truly embraced the 60’s culture of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll and Ms Hayden certainly gets the story across with style. The accent never slipped and the direction was well put together.

It was not the easiest of hours as the subject matter was at times a little dark, as it would need to be, yet it was a very well performed piece, certainly if you can remember the late sixties.

Geoff

The Late Show

* * * * *
5 stars

It’s almost 1am.  Why am I standing in the Jelly Belly at this time of the night waiting for a show to START?  Why am I not snuggled up in my bed back home with a good book and a cup of cocoa?  The Late Show, that’s why.

The Late Show is now a bit of a staple on my review schedule as it regularly offers up 2 hours of some of the finest comedians on the Fringe.  Normal life will be resumed in a couple of weeks, but for now I’m perfectly happy to be up past my bedtime  and queuing with the rest of the crowd awaiting a slice of late-night comedy action. 

It’s fair to say there’s not a cup of cocoa in sight, and this crowd are eager  to be entertained.  Fortuitously there seem to be a few entertainers in town.  Compere Rob Heeney warms us all up but it’s the first act that really gets us going.  Glenn Wool strides to the stage and immediately owns everyone in the room.  He’s loud, he’s magnetic, he’s . . . drunk?  Nevertheless he’s thoroughly entertaining, seizing on the opportunity provided by a backstage fan to launch into an impromptu rendition of ‘November Rain’ in all its big-haired, windswept glory.  He also makes us laugh a lot too, which is a bonus.   He’s supposed to do 20 minutes; he probably ends up doing about 40.  There’s your value for money right there.

After a quick comfort break, Heeney’s back and introduces us fairly swiftly to Stephen Carlin.  Carlin is less high-energy than Wool, but it’s a nice counter balance.  His short (in comparison) set goes well but it seems that the late hours are getting to some audience members and they head for the door.  Quitters!  Their loss however, as the last act to the stage is one Reginald D Hunter who makes his way to the front of the room to rapturous applause.  This is the great thing about The Late Show, you’re given the opportunity to see acts who are selling out across the Fringe, as well as acts who you may not have thought about seeing.

At 3 am it’s all over, and whilst many of the audience are preparing to carry on their night elsewhere, I make my way back home to type up this review through bleary eyes.  I’m fine with the sleep-deprivation though, as The Late Show is definitely one worth staying up for.

Di

Over The Threshold

* * * * *
5 stars

Over the Threshold was written by writer / composer Christopher Hamilton in 2004 this 2009 Fringe version stars Madalena Alberto, Kieran Brown, Helen French and Trevor Jary.

The set at first appears strange four obvious doorways, two mats and four chairs. The four chairs are two sets of two, the reason being we have two flats filling the space of one.

Tom (Kieran Brown) and his partner Kate (Helen French) have just moved in to a new flat, despite their time together all is not well. Is it because he has not got a job or is it because she is working too hard and he hasn’t yet asked her to marry him? After one particularly fraught argument she runs out meeting Charlie (Trevor Jary) who entices her out. Meanwhile discovering she has gone Tom manages to get locked out of the flat in his underpants. Sam (Madelena Alberto) the elusive next-door neighbour invites him in and the hilarity and misunderstandings start.

The storyline is fully believable, the direction clever, the musical numbers memorable and as for the cast they are superb. Had I the time I would go back to see it again.

Sheila

Pappy’s Fun Club’s World Record Attempt : 200 Sketches in an Hour

* * * * *
5 stars

My expectations were high as Pappy’s Fun Club (Ben, Brendan, Matthew and Tom) bounded onto the Pleasance One stage, and for the next hour I wasn’t disappointed. The premise of this sketch show is that the boys from Pappy’s Fun Club aren’t doing too well financially and in order to keep the backing of their benefactor; Pappy, they must break the world record attempt for the number of sketches in a hour.

Kicking off with Matthew on guitar for ‘The Opening Song’ which they haven’t got time to sing if they are going to fit in all the sketches, the laugh rate started off high and stayed that way throughout the full hour show. With numerous lo-fi props and costumes the sketches come thick and fast, with occasional appearances of a totaliser to let us know how the record attempt is going. There are a few running themes through the show, including time travel, the world’s tallest man and shortest woman, a lovably stupid dinosaur called Dean, and the founder of the Quakers (according to Pappy’s the same man founded both the religion and the porridge oats company!), which brings the show to a very satisfying conclusion with some excellent audience participation.

The energy and enthusiasm from these four talented performers was possibly the highest I’ve seen this Fringe and Pappy’s Fun Club I can only add my praise to the growing number of excellent reviews the boys have already received.

Sarah

Rob Rouse: My Family…and The Dog That Scared Jesus

* * *
3 stars

Rob Rouse’s show is about the two recent additions to his family; his dog Ronnie and his son Lenny (although to be honest, it’s mostly about the dog). There are plenty of laughs to be had as Rob describes how he chose Ronnie from Battersea Dogs Home because he looked a bit mental and we are treated to Ronnie’s inner monologue (although Rob hails from Sheffield, he lives in London and has decided Ronnie is an East Ender at heart).

Although Rob does discuss the arrival of his son and the home birth that his girlfriend had decided upon, the majority of the show focuses on Ronnie the dog and his rather embarrassing sexual fixation on a red cushion. Without going into too much detail there is some excellent physical comedy from Rob (although it’s probably not for those who are easily offended by ‘explicit sexual references’ as the edfringe website puts it). Rob also tells us of the incident involving Ronnie, 40 crucifixes, his mother-in-law and just how Ronnie did manage to scare Jesus.

The show concluded with a home movie of Rob, his family and of course Ronnie in action – which after all Rob’s efforts actually seemed to pull the biggest laugh of the night. The subject matter of this show isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, and on the night I saw the show Rob did seem to be battling against a tough crowd at times, but if canine auto-fellatio tickles your funny bone then this is definitely the show for you.

Sarah

Rudi Lickwood – Food for Thought

* * * * *
5 stars

The first thing that struck me when Rudi Lickwood hit the stage, was his facial resemblance to Eddie Murphy. Like the American superstar Lickwood has a good sense of humour, only Lickwood is far, far funnier.

From the off he took control of the gig, and the pace never slipped throughout his hour.

He can riff with the audience, he is observational and nothing and nobody is safe from his rapier wit. Rudi majors on being black and he talks about what he knows as other style of comedians take of what they know. It makes sense.

But what Lockwood really does know is how to rock the room for an hour. He takes on, kids, marriage, travel, technology, drugs and street crime in this routine, not necessarily being PC most of the time but being down right hilarious throughout.

Before seeing him I was unaware of the talented man, but by God I know who he is now, and hopefully if he returns to the Fringe next year his will be one of the first names on my to see list.

So before it becomes impossible to get tickets take your chance to see this undoubted destined for the top comic and I know you will not regret it.

Geoff