Stephen Merchant: Hello Ladies Review


Compared to his comedy other half Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant has generally kept himself away from the limelight, instead remaining in the background as a subsidiary to one of Britain’s highest attention seeking comics. Hello Ladies marks his debut performance in the world of stand up and illustrates a carefully calculated move that has clearly been in contention for some time. Finally venturing out of the wake of Gervais, Merchant opens his set with the amicably honest words: “finally I don’t have to share the money with ‘you-know-who’.”

Right from the get go Merchant makes it evident that he is just as comfortable on the stage as he is behind a camera or radio mic. His presence hints at an air of arrogance not too dissimilar to Gervais but one which suits him far better. As he casually plays with the idea that everyone knows who he is and of the numerous awards he has won, his inherent geeky nature and lack of concern for self-deprecation allows the audience to immediately warm to him.

As the set revolves around a general theme of his inability to find a wife, it becomes clear that being famous doesn’t automatically secure you a lifetime partner. From the troubles encountered when you are 6ft 7in and the average female is 5ft 4in, to tales of how his stingy disposition has left many a girl unimpressed, Merchant entertains through the comparisons that can be made between him and the average normal person.

For a first show, Hello Ladies is highly impressive and demonstrates that Merchant has a clear understanding of the structural form of stand up. With an excellent balance of material, he does well to keep the audience entertained for just about the whole duration of his set. Inevitably, a number of gags fall flat, but this is a minor factor in what is otherwise a terrific performance.

It is clear that the loveable Bristolian has made his mark in the stand up world, proving that he easily has what it takes to be among the best. We can only hope that this show isn’t his last.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Oct 18th 2011.

Who is Jean? Go the Distance: Fringe Review









Less sketch show and more comedy theatre, Who Is Jean present a surrealist tale about a running race where all manner of unusual events occur along the way. With an absurdest approach to comedy, laughs are attempted through the bizarre and spontaneous nature of their material. Unfortunately, many of their jokes fall flat as they seem to rely on the randomness of their content rather than its quality. As scenes are viewed with a mixture of confusion and bafflement, it is only during sparse moments that genuine laughs are found, more often than not as a result of a mistake or corpsing on the part of the cast. It remains clear that a lot of work is still needed.

The Banshee Labyrinth, 6 – 27 Aug (not 17, 24), 4.45pm (5.45pm), free non-ticketed, fpp165.

tw rating 2/5

This article was written for Three Weeks, but unfortunately was never published.

Deemed Unsafe: Fringe Review









The début show from sketch company Heretical Productions illustrates a bold attempt at providing something new to the genre. Incredibly energetic, they combine original ideas with humour to create a show that is thoroughly entertaining for a fiver. Focusing largely on physical comedy, and with an innovative live score, it differs considerably from most other sketch shows in both form and delivery. Saying this, despite its fresh edge, it lacks the consistency needed to make it a really good show; various scenes come across as either overly long or simply not that funny. However, it’s clear that the troupe definitely have potential and, perhaps given a few more years, might go on to greater things.

theSpaces On North Bridge, 5 – 27 Aug (not 7, 14, 21), 3.35pm (4.25pm), £4.50 – £5.00, fpp65.

tw rating 3/5

Taken from Three Weeks, published online Wed Aug 31st 2011.

Clare Plested: Vegas, Jesus and Me: Fringe Review









Known as one half of Fringe regulars Plested and Brown, Vegas, Jesus and Me marks the solo début from the Catholic Watford binge-drinker. Recounting stories from childhood leading up to her recent marriage with long-haired carpenter Jesus, Plested seeks to find out whether she has been a generally naughty or nice person. With an amiability that is immediately apparent, she comes across as the sort of person you would happily share a drink with; unfortunately, however, not the sort of person you would go and see perform a comedy show. Her memories are quaint and affable but lack genuine comedic brilliance. Perhaps better suited to an older audience, this is not laugh-out-loud funny but enjoyable nevertheless.

Underbelly, 4 – 28 Aug (not 15), 5.20pm (6.05pm), £8.00 – £10.00, fpp58.

tw rating 2/5

Taken from Three Weeks, published online Wed Aug 31st 2011.

The Ginge, the Geordie and the Geek – All New Show: Fringe Review









The highly praised trio return to the Fringe for an hour of brand new material delivered to sell-out audiences filled with expectation. However, they fail to satisfy the overarching hype that surrounds them. This is not to say that they aren’t good – they are clearly talented actors with an admirable knack for comedy, but it is debatable whether their increasing popularity can be justified. Much of their sketches, though entertaining, are not riotously funny, or else come across as rehashed versions of earlier superior comedians’ work, and so it is of no surprise that they are somewhat disappointing. Their material does, however, lack obscenity – an admirable trait which can’t go unnoticed, and makes it accessible for all members of the family.

Just The Tonic at The Caves, 4 – 28 Aug (not 17), 4.45pm (5.45pm), £8.50 – £12.00, fpp83.

tw rating 3/5

Taken from Three Weeks, published online Wed Aug 31st 2011.

Martin Semple ‘I Don’t Do Jokes’: Fringe Review









Billed as a soldier turned comedian, Semple’s recent turn to the profession gives him a surplus of material that focuses predominately around military life, thus providing the audience with some rather interesting, if somewhat distressing, stories. Making it clear that his brief 30 minutes is a preview to his début full show that will take place next year, he uses the opportunity to test the water seeing what sort of response he can get. The outcome of this is a selection of comedy that is rather hit and miss, excelling at points but falling flat at others. There is definitely an admirable side to hearing chilling tales transformed into laughable comedy, but it’s evident lots of work is still needed.

Laughing Horse at Finnegan’s Wake, 19 – 27 Aug, 12.00pm (12.30pm), free, fpp114.

tw rating 2/5

Taken from Three Weeks, published online Tue Aug 30th.

Rowena Haley: Nothing to Write Home About









Accompanied by a baby-blue guitar and a collection of holiday snaps, Rowena Haley goes through the ups and downs of her past. Delivering her material in a somewhat cynical manner, she blends songs with stories to reasonable effect. Moments of her show shine with wit and intelligence but unfortunately the rest is hampered by Haley’s adherence to humour surely only fit for friends and family, complete with in-jokes and references that are difficult to follow. It’s really frustrating when it is obvious that she has a lot to offer in the way of comedy. Perhaps if she focused more on a general audience rather than those who are close to her, she would see herself achieving far more success.

Southsider, 6 – 27 Aug, 5.45pm (6.35pm), free, fpp144. 

tw rating 2/5 

Taken from Three Weeks, published Tue Aug 23rd 2011.

Three Weeks 2011 – Daily Edition #19, Aug 23rd


Transformer: Fringe Review









With their surrealist approach to sketch comedy that seeks to move away from cheap laughs and lurid gags, Transformer have produced fifty minutes of comedy that is refreshingly different. Minimally offensive, they focus on producing quick scenes with memorable personae that are genuinely funny. The return of earlier characters at just the right moments throughout the show is testament to its structural success, while their disregard for the fourth wall provides an innovative approach to the genre. It is just a shame that they lack this intensity in all their scenes. Arguably, it’s forgiveable as sketches move at a decent pace, allowing the audience to be quickly introduced to something different, but sadly it prevents them from being truly brilliant.

Bedlam Theatre, 5 – 27 Aug, 6.00pm (6.50pm), £6.00 – £8.00, fpp162. 

tw rating 3/5 

Taken from Three Weeks, published Thu Aug 18th 2011.

Three Weeks 2011- Daily Edition #14, Aug 18th

2 Comedians, 1 Bucket – Free: Fringe Review









Considering that this is a debut Fringe performance for these two upcoming Irish comedians, they do well to pack out the small venue and produce an hour of comedy that as promised, “isn’t shit”. They have very differing comedic styles, but Marcus Olaoire and Lucy Montague-Moffatt are both versatile and have a good grasp of comedic pace and timing. With its rather crude subject matter, this is not a show for families, but for those that like a bit of the inappropriate, this is a show that won’t disappoint. A performance that – though very far from perfect – has great potential and, best of all, doesn’t cost a penny.

Bar 50, 6 – 27 Aug (not 11, 18, 25), 9.30pm (10.30pm), free, fpp162.

tw rating 3/5

Taken from Three Weeks, published online Tue Aug 16th 2011.

Dave Nelder and Vague Acquaintances – Free: Fringe Review









The newly ex-civil servant provides an hour of comedy that is shared between him and a selection of his various “acquaintances”: not friends, as he claims he doesn’t have any. Clearly new to comedy, he delivers his jokes on a variety of topics with an uncertainty that betrays an obvious testing of the water. His puns vary from the average to the offensive and his extended commentary on breakfast cereal seems more of a rant than a joke; that said, the audience cannot help but warm to him. His guests range from the not-so-good to ones with definite potential, but this is the beauty of the Free Fringe: it allows you to explore new material without irritating paying customers.

Laughing Horse at The Three Sisters, 7 – 18 Aug (not 12, 13), 7.30pm (8.30pm), free, fpp64.

tw rating 2/5

Taken from Three Weeks, published online Tue Aug 16th 2011.