Chortle Student Comedy Award Final: Fringe Review

CHORTLEStand-Up and be Counted


At a time when making a name in the world of stand-up comedy is at its most difficult, 8 young hopefuls, whittled down from hundreds, came together to compete for the distinguished Chortle Student Comedy Award once again. Compered by the affable Mark Watson, who did an excellent job of warming up the audience and helping to create a supportive atmosphere for the contestants, what followed was an impressive evening of comedy from some of the top young acts in Britain. First up was South African born, Isle of Man based Pierre Novellie. Despite taking the undesirable opening spot, Novellie sufficiently charmed the audience with his observational comedy which focused largely on his deconstruction of TV ads. American-Egyptian Dalia Malek followed and despite never having performed a gig before the Chortle competition she did well considering her lack of experience. Her material, which consisted of controversial imagery and puns concerning Muslim culture, was risque, but just about acceptable, as she used her own arabic background to justify her acerbic words.

Johnny Pelham was undoubtedly the most endearing of the evening’s acts and only just missed out on the top spot. With much of his material concerning his physical appearance, which the NHS deemed so unfortunate they felt it necessary he have an operation, his greatest compliment came when Mark Watson referred to him as Daniel Kitson born again. Although his stories were slow and difficult to hear as a result Pelham’s speech impediment, it would be fair to say that his final pay-off brought the house down.

This year’s winner, Kwame Asante, presented a well-polished set that combined self-deprecation with an ineffable charm. From the abuse he receives from his supposed ‘friends’, to the casually racist comments he has been subject to but which he points out make no sense, Asante clearly has a natural grasp of what’s funny and thus holds much potential were he to pursue a career in stand-up.

Sebastian Bloomfield’s character act Johnny F. Monotone presented the most unusual set of the evening. Cautiously entering the stage adorned with a long coat, beard and hat, as well as a large wheelie bin, Monotone spent a noticeable amount of his allotted time simply on taking his position on the floor. When he did get round to his material – dry humour delivered in a completely deadpan fashion – he unfortunately did not provide the audience with enough time for them to truly grasp his character.

Hari Sriskantha provided a geekish outlet for the evening’s entertainment. In an attempt to impress the judges by the greatest means possible, the physicist presented as many of the most popular joke conventions he could muster in seven minutes. The result was a quick-fire succession of laughs that was accentuated by his ringing of a bell to signify a new joke type.

Penultimate act Adam Mitchell graced the stage at a point when the audience were noticeably beginning to lag. After getting the audience to sing him Happy Birthday, he presented a number of offbeat gags that unfortunately didn’t quite gel with the audience. A performance that didn’t really know where it was going, it is only a shame that it came at a competition where conviction and direction are essential.

Final act David Elms brought a flurry of energy to the otherwise weary audience. His gentle delivery and musical accompaniment in the form of an acoustic guitar, was subtle, yet brought with it a high level of laughs. Perhaps the closest contestant of the sought after award that didn’t achieve any recognition, he is bound to go on to great things.

Given the high level of competition this year, the contestants did well to even get to the final at all. A highly enjoyable evening featuring the potential big names of tomorrow, it is not an understatement to suggest that the judges will have had a hard time making their decision.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

Maurice’s Jubilee: Fringe Review

maurice-s-jubilee_26397Royal Ambition


Olivier award-winning actor Julian Glover delivers a poignant performance in this new tragicomedy by Nichola McAuliffe. The play revolves around 89-year-old retired jeweller Maurice (played by Glover) who has recently been diagnosed with severe brain cancer. His wife Helena (played by Sheila Reid) refuses to accept the terminal nature of his condition, despite the fact that he has had to enlist the help of a personal carer (Nichola McAuliffe).

When he is told that he only has a few weeks to live at most, Maurice is determined to last out until his 90th birthday, as he is expecting the Queen to come for tea before the Diamond Jubilee. It transpires that 60 years earlier, on the eve of her majesty’s coronation, Maurice was charged with the responsibility of looking after the crown jewels. A brief encounter with the queen led to a lifelong obsession with an existence he could never have. Though their time together was short lived, an instant attraction formed between the two; an offhand promise made by the queen to come for tea on his 90th birthday gave him the enduring motivation to live until that day.

An inherently sad tale, it is alleviated by moments of light relief found predominantly in the comments made between Maurice and his carer. Acted with great conviction and remarkable attention to detail, it comes across both as captivating and moving. The jealous rift between Helena and Maurice – caused by Helena’s realisation that she is second to the Queen and Maurice’s inability to comprehend her problem – is well realised, and the sensitive subject matter is dealt with in just the right manner.

However, it is let down by its struggle to hold the audience’s attention in the digressions that involve Maurice’s back story. Whilst these are imperative to the plot, their long, drawn out nature makes them difficult to remain engaging. This, combined with the odd stumbled line, detracts from the otherwise stellar overall performance.

A heavy piece of theatre, Nichola McAuliffe’s new play is stark and depressing, yet lifted by well-placed moments of light comedy.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

Nick Helm – This Means War: Fringe Review


Somebody Take the Helm


Nick Helm returns to Edinburgh once again following last year’s highly successful Dare to Dream. Containing much of the same rock singing, abuse shouting mania, Helm delivers an hour of comedy that hints at brilliance but still needs time to form.

Beginning with bellowing smoke, blaring Iron Maiden and toy helicopters simulating a war scene, a military clad Helm arrived on stage before breaking into his opening rock ballad. Forcing the audience to shout Helm and punch their fists in their hair, he hurled abuse at those that refused to take part before forcing the entire front row to get on stage and march to his orders.

Having successfully roused his audience, Helm proceeded to appoint a second in command, an unfortunate member of the audience who was forced to spend most of the show on stage, partaking in Helms’ outlandish activities. A show packed with songs, audience interaction and hilarious film references, Helm is almost onto a winner.

Whilst many of the ideas are original and entertaining, it is clear that the new show is still in its preliminary stages. Many of the scenes lack conviction and it is apparent that he is still trying to figure out how the show should run. A number of the songs are smile inducing but not belly-laughing material and it is instead the awkwardly tender moments between Helm and his lieutenant that offer the best comedy value.

Once it establishes itself This Means War is sure to be a hit, just make sure you see it a bit later on in the month.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

Sheeps – Dancing with Lisa: Fringe Review


A Livestock of Ideas


One of the most original and refreshing sketch acts to emerge in years, Sheeps have helped to reinvent sketch comedy. Following their highly successful debut show last year, the recent Footlights graduates combine expertly crafted writing with captivating performances to produce something very different.

This year’s show contains more of an overarching narrative that focuses on the trio attempting to solve a riddle that came to Daran Johnson in a dream, the existence of which is their justification for putting on a show in Edinburgh in the first place. Interspersed with various skits and sketches, their imaginative plots and unconventional ideas are truly impressive.

Although not every sketch is hilarious, their originality is held throughout. Preconceived notions of the structure of a sketch are completely thrown out the window, as moments of the show do away with any form of linear plot. A scene involving Liam Williams being mistaken for a member of the audience by the other two is well realised, as is a sketch involving Johnson performing the second half of a sketch first, which only makes sense when he repeats the lines when they get to the second half and they match up with Liam and Alastair’s retorts that doing the second half of a sketch first makes no sense.

Sheeps are definitely onto a winner with their carefully thought out writing. Though many of the sketches induce a smile rather than a laugh, their originality is sufficient to place them amongst the best of sketch comedy.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

Ian D. Montfort – Unbelievable: Fringe Review


Mind-Reading, Not Mind-Bending


Ian D. Montfort is the well-established character from comedian Tom Binns. Taking character comedy to a higher level, Montfort is a self-described spirit medium who can speak to people who are beyond the veil. In a performance that parodies the elusive profession, Binns is not only funny but surprisingly impressive.

His current show focuses on Montfort relaying messages from dead celebrities to members of the audience. Whilst it would be easier for him to create comedy through the poor quality of his mind-reading skills, it is instead brought on through the interaction with his audience, picking on individuals and sharing their secrets to cause great embarrassment.

Given the random nature of the show, Binns’ ability to ad-lib and remain in character is admirable and illustrates a keen mental agility. However, the softly spoken Sunderland accent that he dons for the performance struggled to keep the performance engaging. Binns has clearly spent a lot of time developing his mind-reading skills, but this has cost him comically. Where previous character Hospital DJ Ivan Brackenbury was fast-paced and incredibly funny, Ian D. Montfort lacks that same punch. Many of the responses he used against the audience appeared Pavlovian and unoriginal, while his overemphasis on audience interaction became slightly repetitive towards the end of the show.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

Chortle Presents – Fast Fringe: Fringe Review


The Fast Show


Chortle has long been a staple for any keen comedy fan. It is the go-to place to learn about acts old and new. Whilst a few people visit the Fringe with a rigorously planned agenda, the vast majority are at a loss as to what to see. Fast Fringe helps solve this problem by offering the audience with a taster of many different acts, all fitted into the space of an hour.

Featuring 12 comedians each given three minutes to perform, the quick fire nature of the show means that even if there is someone who really isn’t to your taste you only have to endure them for a very short while. A brilliant concept, it is perfect if you want to learn about comedians who you may want to see at a later date, or simply to enjoy an evening of variety.

With new comedians each night, picked with Chortle’s stamp of approval, there is no way that this can’t be enjoyed. The only negative that can be found in this concept is that you never get to settle in to a comedian’s style and while this is fine for many acts, others will fail to amuse when taken out of the context of their show as a whole.

For variety and value for money, Chortle Presents: Fast Fringe is a no-brainer.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

The Joy of Sketch: Fringe Review


Sketched Into the Memory


Multiple acts collide in a variety show that combines some of the top names in sketch comedy. Playing for two nights only, for fans of the comedy sub-genre it presents a diverse range of styles that is sure to excite.

As with any variety show, The Joy of Sketch has its highs and lows. Whilst some of the acts were very good, others didn’t suit the short amount of time afforded them. Introducing the show were comedy duo McNeil and Pamphilon. An ideal choice for opening act, they aptly warmed up the audience even if a couple of their sketches were only moderately funny. With good engagement with the crowd and a compere feel, they successfully set up the evening’s festivities.

They were followed by Ed Eales White, whose sketches involving a paranoid husband and a gym trainer stole the audience. Well acted and tremendously funny, his brief time on stage left a noticeable imprint.

Female double act Ford and Akram decided to focus on a single section of their show, Bamp. Creating a date show scenario between a member of the audience and Ford – who unlike the voluptuous Akram seems to struggle to find men – the pair asked a number of bizarre questions in an attempt to see if the man picked on was a suitable match. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work as the intended comedic element of the sketch fell flat. A nice idea, but one which ultimately didn’t work.

Youthful sketch group the Pin picked up the pace with a selection of very funny material. Despite considerable corpsing, the sketches were clever and packed impressive punchlines. Sheeps closed the evening with a mix of skits and sketches that really tested the imagination. Not ones to stick to the ordinary, they told fabricated tales of Sheeps member Daran Johnson’s brief career in Hollywood and how other member Liam Williams gave up being a brilliant sportsman to pursue a career in sketch comedy. Remarkably fresh, they proved to be an ideal close to the evening.

For sketch fans, Joy of Sketch presents a taste of a variety of acts. However, given that some of the performers worked better than others, for an hour of consistently good material you’d be best to stick to one of the stronger shows.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

Do the Right Thing: Fringe Review

do-the-right-thing_26407Let the Right Thing In


For those unaware of Do the Right Thing, it’s a multi-award nominated panel show podcast recorded in front of a live audience. The Fringe incarnation of the show – which will be released in digital form next month – features different high profile acts, each answering a selection of questions that more often than not deviate into the absurd.

Hosted by Danielle Ward, the comedians are presented with a number of rounds that include: what would be the right thing to do in this scenario?, ask the expert and playing agony aunt. The success of a panel show is dependent on the guests it attracts and their ability to think on their feet, so expectations were high when our host was joined by Margaret Cabourn-Smith, Richard Herring, Paul Foot and Michael Legge.

All vying for a bit of the limelight, the results were – as expected – relatively hit and miss. Whilst most did well to try and capture the audience’s attention, it was Paul Foot who stole the show at the end of the day. His off-kilter brand of comedy worked perfectly in this situation and made it difficult for his companions to respond. The scripted moments were average at best and it is testament to the evening’s guests that the show was able to pull through. A considerable lull at the 40 minute mark when the acts were clearly lagging meant the show struggled to get back on its feet.

As far as late night comedy goes the quality of each night is dependent on the individual acts, but given the calibre of guests it attracts it is unlikely that you will be disappointed.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

Films Amongst Friends

Film Society Quiz at Teviot - Kittiphon Boonma

Drawn together by a love of film on the big screen, Edinburgh University’s Film Society is one of the best ways to watch a wide variety of films at an affordable price. Screening three films a week throughout term time, it features a diverse range of new releases,classics and international cinema which can be enjoyed by students and non-students alike.

Since EUFS’ inception over 40 years ago, it has sought to provide a platform for those passionate about film to watch and discuss the relative merits of a production in a friendly and welcoming way. According to vice-president Lauchlan Hall, “it (the society) is not just the appreciation of film, but the appreciation of the art of film itself, and the dialogue that can be shared between films is an experience which surprisingly few people have had.”

Something which the society actively promotes is a sociable outlet for what is often a very isolated hobby. President Mat Seccombe reinforces this by saying “we are a very sociable society, often heading to the pub after screenings to discuss the film just watched and are hoping to bring back our monthly movie quiz which proved to be hugely popular when we ran it a few years ago.” It is those moments, when you are introduced to new films or ideas, that Hall seems keen to emphasise. This is the highlight of an organisation built around a shared passion, where he says “the best part of the society is being able to discuss things you have never even heard of and learn about new and exciting films and directors.”

Yet despite the society’s potential for film snobbery, arguably its best facet is its openness, where it makes anyone who shares a passion for film, no matter how limited their knowledge, or particular their tastes, welcome. As Seccombe notes, “We are not just film buffs expecting people to know everything; as long as you enjoy film then we actively encourage anyone to come along.” He seems quick to point out that “a shared interest in film draws crowds together as people enjoy discussing a mutual passion.”

It is also apparent that EUFS moves far beyond a society that merely watches films, as it requires projectionists, archivists, floor managers and film bookers who have to get around the constraints of copyright laws in order to run with the efficiency it does. Evidently, one of the most difficult features of the society is trying to compile a list of films in advance to be screened that will be enjoyed by all and cater for a huge variety of preferences. “We try to maintain people’s interest by showcasing a variety of films whilst not being elitist,” states Hall. This is done through weekly meetings where all are welcome to voice an opinion on what should be shown regardless of their position in the society. Often, they focus on particular themes or directors, which is similar to the seasons that many independent cinemas hold as part of their programmes.

Their recently updated website  provides information about the society, film reviews and details on how to join. It has never been easier to find out about upcoming events or read an online version of their programme, which features all of the forthcoming screenings.

There also seem to be plans in place to expand the sorts of events they run, with outdoor screenings in Pleasance proving to be particularly popular and talks of running special celluloid screenings to recreate the iconic image of a film currently in process. With a healthy number of their own projectors that is steadily rising, these are just a few of the ideas that illustrate how EUFS is very much a society that is constantly evolving to enable unique ways of enjoying cinema.

Having won the Film Society of the Year award from the British Federation of Film Societies numerous times, it is clear that this is a group that has all the right elements in place. The amount of thought that goes into curating EUFS’ program rather than merely showing a selection of rom-coms and big blockbusters makes this the quintessential society for any film fan.

Yearly membership £15.

Single semester membership £10.

£1.00 screenings for friends of members.

Taken from The Student, published Tue Sep 20th 2011.

Imran Yusuf – Bring the Thunder: Fringe Review









Imran Yusuf talks with such unrelenting enthusiasm that it is inexorably infectious. His material, which covers everything from politics, multiculturalism and difficulties with women, shows a diversity that is supplemented by an undeniable passion for what he does. This is honest comedy delivered by a man who primarily seeks to entertain. Using questions of identity as a major focal point of the show, he delivers a powerful message of following one’s dreams and never giving up. But this is also accessible comedy – it is easy to listen to and therefore easy to like. It also, therefore, fails to offer anything truly different – a shame, as he has lots of potential.

Pleasance Courtyard, 3 – 28 Aug, 7.00pm (8.00pm), £9.50 – £12.00, fpp92. 

tw rating 3/5

Taken from Three Weeks published Tue Aug 16th 2011.

Three Weeks 2011 – Daily Edition #12, Aug 16th