Saturday 27th May

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Preview: The Underbelly Festival Southbank 2017

The Underbelly Festival Southbank 2017 is up and running, with a roll call of stellar entertainers taking to the stage before the distinctive purple dome gets dismantled at the end of September.  

And this year’s festival, presented by Hilton, promises to be better than ever, bringing together two slightly smaller offerings – Udderbelly and London Wonderland – into a summer-long, one-stop shop for comedy, circus and variety shows.  

Whatever your tastes, there seems to be something for everyone.  Plus, with free entry into the complex, there are few better spots to enjoy a beer and decent street food in a festival atmosphere, nestled beneath the London Eye and overlooking the splendour of Westminster.

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Category: Comedy
KaosHero

The KAOS Brief review: Blair Witch meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind

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Last week saw the European premiere of new sci-fi thriller The KAOS Brief at Stratford Picture House as part of this year’s ‘London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film’, a.k.a. Sci-Fi-London 17.  

Cora Robertson attended the screening and Q&A session for What’s On London, and was full of praise for JP Mandarino’s first feature film – “a really enjoyable romp through a host of sci-fi and horror tropes” – which manages to fuse the best aspects of The Blair Witch Project with Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

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Category: Cinema
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24th Raindance Film Festival, 21st September – 2nd October 2016

Tomorrow sees the start of the annual Raindance Film Festival in London’s West End – now Europe’s largest independent film festival.  Across 12 days, audiences will get the chance to see 90 feature films, 85 short films, an incredible Virtual Reality Arcade, and dozens of talks by the film industry’s great and good.  

Despite modest beginnings, Raindance has become a very big deal, helping launch the careers of Edgar Wright and Christopher Nolan, and providing a launchpad for films such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Memento to achieve critical acclaim and commercial success.  

Ian Cater spoke to Raindance’s founder, Elliot Grove, about the inspiration behind it and what London film fans can expect to see at this year’s festival.

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Category: Cinema
RAVE Edinburgh poster

Birthday Girls: Sh*t Hot Party Legends review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more enjoyable time at the Fringe than an hour of Birthday Girls’ raucously funny sketches.

From the second you enter the room to find the performers handing out shots, dancing wildly and decorating the audience with glittery makeup, you know that fun’s the aim of the game for the next hour.  Birthday Girls – Rose Johnson, Beattie Edmondson and Camille Ucan – hijack the crowd on their Saturday night out, the basis from which their hilarious sketches spill.  In between, the trio perform amazingly choreographed and suggestive dances – the kind of segues used on TV sketch shows, where they’re surely destined to be.

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Category: Comedy
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Suzi Ruffell: Common review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Ruffell narrates a heart-warming and funny tribute to her family in this very personal piece about working class roots and resilience.

This is a very solid set from Suzi Ruffell.  Common is well-written, warmly told and concludes nicely.  She told me recently that it was meant to express pride for where she’s from – real working class roots back in Portsmouth – and that message comes across loud and clear.

But more than that, the show’s a homage to her dad who – despite making fun of his geezer ways, naive business deals and clumsy acceptance of her lesbian lifestyle – Ruffell seems to admire more than any other.  The show begins and ends with him: his constant reminders for Ruffell to stay lucky, be herself and show resilience seemed funny at the start, but go on to serve her well.

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Category: Comedy
© Matt Crockett
© Matt Crockett

Rhys James: Forgives review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

James delivers a very impressively written show full of great jokes, call-backs and over-privileged angst.

Rhys James’ show is a well-crafted hour of entertainment, setting forth his views on the world as a 90s kid and self-confessed ‘prankster’.  Forgives refers to the fact that although his generation seems perpetually angry, his only struggles are to get by as a young, middle class, white, straight male and to master modern technology.

James knows what makes an audience tick.  He keeps his stories short and punchlines snappy.  He varies his jokes, directing plenty his own way – including one in which a “stupid, dumb parrot” reveals his girlfriend’s infidelity, and a later contention that “I’m not as vegan as I look”.

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Category: Comedy
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Craig Campbell: Easy Tiger review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Another assured performance from the ‘Wild Man of Comedy’, who delivers traditional and entertaining stand-up as well as any.

Amidst all the performance pieces about depression, political comedies about Brexit and surrealist creations about a half-pig, half-rabbit haunted by a zombie Beatrix Potter, there’s a time and a place for more traditional, escapist stand-up.  And if that’s what you’re after,  Craig Campbell’s the man.

After moving to the UK from Canada 16 years ago, the so-called ‘Wild Man of Comedy’ has our measure.  He readily points out Britain’s faults while – at the same time – showing affection for them.  Early in the show, he launches a tirade against our habit of closing coffee shops at 6pm, and sometimes even earlier thanks to surly servers.  He fumes at the hypocrisy of letting people knock back hard liquor from midday but, unlike most of the world, preventing adults sipping milky caffeine after work.  As his ire increases, Campbell suddenly laughs and turns the gaze on himself.  “Still,” he says quietly, twitching from his rant.  “I’m a walking, talking advert for why you people ban coffee after 6.”

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Category: Comedy
© Jessica Verma
© Jessica Verma

Baby Wants Candy: Thrones! The Musical Parody review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

The latest production from US comedians Baby Wants Candy is a fun, crude and entertaining tribute to Game of Thrones, with plenty of tits and dragons.

Warning: as with the musical, this review contains some GoT spoilers.

Like its televisual inspiration, Thrones! The Musical doesn’t take itself too seriously.  That much is clear from the opening number, which bluntly tells those who prefer George R.R. Martin’s books to leave now.  Because of that, it can recognise the TV show’s flaws upfront without committing sacrilege: “So many plot lines quickly end in disaster, although the blonde-girl-in-the-desert one could go a lot faster.”

We then cut to an apartment, where recently divorced Lesley admits to her friends that she’s never seen the hit HBO series.  Although initially horrified (“No wonder he left you!”), the friends agree to act out GoT to show her what she’s missing.

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Category: Comedy