Wednesday 22nd November

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Jon Pointing: Act Natural review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Jon Pointing’s debut solo show is an excruciating masterpiece of character comedy.

If you ever see better character comedy than Jon Pointing‘s Act Natural, you’ve struck gold.  Because Pointing’s debut, in which he plays hilariously flawed acting coach Cayden Hunter, is a delicately crafted and wonderfully acted masterpiece.

The conceit is that audience members are attending Hunter’s acting workshop, a set-up nimbly explained as he enters and pretends not to want attention while he readies himself for the session.  Of course, Hunter wants the opposite, made clear when he slowly changes his top onstage, breathing in and tensing his muscles.  From that moment, the stage is set for a perfect demonstration of vulnerable self-importance, a traditional and deep well for character comedy.

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Category: Comedy
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Mark Thomas: “I’m obsessed with how you break out of that individualistic stand-up model and involve people.”

Mark Thomas has returned to London with A Show That Gambles on the Future, exploring people’s hopes and fears for the coming years.  The show, which varies dramatically from night to night, is an interesting departure from his recent scripted performances but has injected Thomas with enthusiasm for unpredictability.  Ahead of the run at Leicester Square Theatre until 28th October, he spoke to Ian Cater about stand-up comedy’s limitations, getting laughed at Up North and the price of Freddo Frog chocolate bars. 

If we learnt anything from last year, it’s that making predictions is a mug’s game.  Unless you get them right of course, which – despite the off-target examples of Michael Fish, Kaiser Chiefs and Dick Advocaat – people do manage from time to time.  And that’s what Mark Thomas is asking his audiences to attempt in A Show That Gambles on the Future.

Each night, Thomas asks attendees to write down some forecasts, the best of which he riffs on at length and opens up to general discussion.  At the end of the show, the audience gets to choose which prediction Thomas should bet on at the bookies, with all winnings going to charity.

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Category: Comedy
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Anna Mann: “I don’t think it’s hyperbolic to say I brought down Thatcher. But I don’t know what hyperbolic means.”

This week, character comedian Colin Hoult brings his superb creation Anna Mann to Soho Theatre with critically acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe show, How We Defeat The Fascists.  Ahead of six hotly anticipated performances, Ian Cater spoke to Anna about the show and what she views to be her dazzling career as ‘supreme siren of the stage and screen’.

Anna Mann is a professional, immediately turning on the charm when I call at what turns out to be an inopportune moment.  “You just caught me coming out the toilet, darling.  Don’t worry – I’ve completely wiped and tossed.  I’ve got it down to a fine art.  You’ve got to be ready to go at any time in showbiz, and if necessary suck it in and get out.”

Once the apologies and toilet tissue have been dispensed with, Mann’s delighted to reflect on the acting career and colourful personal life that brought her to this point: as an unfairly underrated treasure, ready to help the world with her latest show.

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Category: Comedy
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John Kearns: “I’m being extremely truthful up there. I’m just not going down a literal path.”

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

“This wasn’t preconceived at all,” John Kearns explains.  “Some people can just walk onstage and say their deepest, darkest thoughts.  I can’t.  So I tried various ways to be honest up there, but none worked until I chucked on a daft wig and false teeth, and started acting like an idiot.”

Since finding his unusual route to the truth, Kearns has become one of the most distinctive comedians, pairing novelty props and an exaggerated South London whine with exceptionally funny – but deceptively poignant – musings.  It makes the contemplative 30-year-old hard to ignore, as judges found when crowning him Best Newcomer at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe and awarding him the main prize the following August – still the only person to achieve the double.

This year, after an extended break, Kearns returned to the Fringe with his third solo show, Don’t Worry They’re Here, to predictably high acclaim.  He’s now performing the set, which searches for purpose amidst life’s daily frustrations, at Soho Theatre until 30th September.

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Category: Comedy
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Alex Horne: “Mixing music and comedy was more fun than we were having individually, so we just carried on.”

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Alex Horne’s an unusual entertainer.  Unusual in his preference for somewhat unfashionable but quirkily effective pun-heavy material.  Unusual in drifting from stand-up in the face of consistently strong reviews.  And unusual in his current ability to get programme commissioners to climb over each other to turn his latest ideas into TV gold.

The band he formed eight years ago with two former school friends – The Horne Section – is one such success.  You might have seen them on various comedy panel shows (such as when they hosted Never Mind the Buzzcocks) or heard some of their three acclaimed Radio 4 series.  If not, the premise seems relatively simple but is extremely hard to get right.  The self-styled “mischievous melody makers” perform offbeat comedy songs without any set style, other than a penchant for wordplay and whimsy.  These samples from an episode of 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown demonstrates this neatly, veering from hints of Flight of the Conchords in Seasons, to Vic and Bob in Lovely Day, and finally Chas & Dave in Chris Hoy Loves a Saveloy.

This show of variety helped The Horne Section gain a strong following, prompting a UK tour beginning this month.  It starts at the ideally-suited cabaret bar at Soho Theatre tomorrow, a venue they return to twice monthly up until December.  Given the band enjoy improvising with special guests, part of the thrill lies in the unexpected – not least on the opening night when Horne’s long-term collaborator, the unpredictable Tim Key, will team up with them.

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Category: Comedy
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Rhys James: Wiseboy review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

A sharply written tongue-in-cheek take on white privilege from the young master of pithy comedy.

Anyone following Rhys James on Twitter will attest that few comedians package their observational comedy quite so pithily.  While some complain how social media’s devalued the profession, opening the door for the world and its dog to dabble in satire, the Mock The Week occasional uses it to hone his retorts on big news items and day-to-day occurrences – essential panel show practice.  These skills translate to his live material, with 2016 show Forgives being one the tightest-written around.  And in Wiseboy, the son of Harpenden delivers another densely-packed show ironically bemoaning his comfortable, privileged existence.

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Category: Comedy
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Scott Gibson: Like Father Like Son review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Gibson follows up his debut smash with an equally engrossing and darkly funny tale of abandonment.

Last year, Scott Gibson impressed the judges with Life After Death, his debut show documenting a sudden brain haemorrhage that called time on his call centre career, and picked up the award for Best Newcomer at the Fringe.  While his candidly entertaining storytelling style suggested the Glaswegian wouldn’t be a one-hit wonder, some doubted whether Gibson could repeat the trick.  Could he uncover enough interesting material in Like Father Like Son to pull off another hit, especially given his recent problems with the authorities?  The answer is ‘yes’.

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Category: Comedy
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Flo & Joan: The Kindness of Stranglers review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Flo & Joan have the world of musical comedy at their feet after this faultlessly entertaining show.

Musical comedy duo Flo & Joan attracted quite a buzz ahead of the Fringe.  This wasn’t due to the title of their new song, Save The Bees, but because many saw comparisons to the fantastic Flight of the Conchords.  On the evidence of this faultless, enjoyable show, The Kindness of Strangers, the buzz was entirely justified.  English sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey – recently returned from Canada and signed to Avalon – have some great years ahead of them.

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Category: Comedy