Wednesday 25th April

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What’s On London Comedy Awards 2017

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Now the New Year bells have finished chiming, it’s time to announce our Comedy Awards for the year just gone and news of where you can catch these fantastic acts in the months ahead.

There’s no shortage of talent around, so whittling down the vast forest of performers to a handful for each category has been tricky and some excellent comics have had to be overlooked.  On the plus side, that competition for bums on seats is driving artists onto new heights, constantly pushing boundaries of subject matter, delivery style and occasionally taste.

This is superb news for Londoners because, despite underlying political and economic uncertainty, its comedy scene is thriving.  While leading lights like Soho Theatre, Leicester Square Theatre and The Comedy Store will always drawn top acts and expectant audiences, it’s been fantastic to see less established venues such as 2Northdown and The Bill Murray host some of the biggest names in comedy this year, while monthly events like Suspiciously Cheap Comedy, Knock2bag and Rye Laughs regularly put on the best mixed bills in the country.

So take our advice and fill your 2018 with grins, chuckles and snorts by heading along to those venues or catching our top picks in stand-up, character, storytelling, musical, sketch and improvised comedy for 2017.

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Category: Comedy
30 CHRISTMASES - Production Image (3), image by Josh Tomalin

Thirty Christmases review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer and Reviewer

A marvellous musical comedy that manages to turn family trauma into heart-warming festive fare.

The story of a brother and sister trying to come to terms with a traumatic event may not sound like the most promising basis for a feelgood Christmas production, but few shows have quite so much festive soul as Thirty Christmases.

Part of that stems from the acting on display, with Jonny Donahoe, Rachel Parris and Paddy Gervers comfortably translating the warmth and humour of their comedy onto the stage.  But it’s mainly in the writing, with Donahoe managing to merge a cynical deconstruction of this objectively absurd annual event with sufficient affection and positivity about the human spirit.

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Category: Comedy
30 CHRISTMASES - Promo Image (1), image by Anna Soderblom

Jonny Donahoe: “If Christmas resonates of loss, grief or even guilt, you can’t escape that.”

Next week, rebellious musical comedy Thirty Christmases makes its London debut.  The brainchild of playwright, actor and musical comedian Jonny Donahoe – who stars in the show alongside Rachel Parris and Paddy Gervers – offers an intriguing alternative to more traditional glitzy festive fare.  

Ahead of the three-week run at New Diorama Theatre, Ian Cater caught up with the engaging Donahoe to discuss the show’s origins, and a host of topics ranging from Victoria Wood to reindeer sex.

For Andy Williams, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year.  “But for a lot of people, it’s traumatic,” Jonny Donahoe explains, with the patient, persuasive voice of his Every Brilliant Thing character, rather than the booming baritone heard at a Jonny and the Baptists gig.  “If it resonates of loss, grief or even guilt, you can’t escape that.  And it’s compounded by the fact that everywhere you go people are signposting that they’re having a joyous time.”

That harsh reality forms the backdrop to Thirty Christmases, written and performed this month by Donahoe at Euston’s New Diorama Theatre.  If it sounds a heavy premise for a festive show, that was the 34-year-old’s intention.

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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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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
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Rachel Parris: Keynote review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Parris delivers an upbeat message for the next generation, showcasing her recent development as a stand-up.

Over the past twelve months, Rachel Parris has started to tap into the sort of success her abilities warrant.  This has come at a price: an ominous invitation to deliver a motivational speech at her alma mater, Loughborough High School, in September.  The self-deprecating comedian, musician and actress is concerned she will have nothing of value to say to these “500 teenage girls with the education of princesses, but with the gritty realism of the East Midlands”, so uses Keynote to air what she’d like to share with the next generation and garner other ideas from her audience.

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Category: Comedy
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Wil Greenway: These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Greenway takes his audience on another visceral journey with his latest lyrical tale of courage and memory.

In our Edinburgh Fringe preview, we predicted that Wil Greenway would soon rise to the top of the comedy storytellers.  After the Australian’s performances this month, he’s surely close to achieving this goal and gaining the recognition he deserves.  As with previous show The Way The City Ate The Stars, These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone tells an atmospheric and entertaining story set in South-East Australia.  Its facts may be less dramatic but, as Greenway’s fans have come to expect, the destination is less important than the journey.

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Category: Comedy
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Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Last Thursday, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy played a soulful, stylistically varied stripped-back set at Islington’s atmospheric Union Chapel.

Will Oldham is a riddle.  He’s recorded tracks constantly since the early nineties, carving out a cult following whether performing under his given name, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy or variations of the word ‘Palace’.  He’s developed his own brand of troubled folk with a punk aesthetic, written for John Legend and had a song covered by Johnny Cash.  And yet he’s never had what could truly be termed a ‘hit’, neither is he widely recognised in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky – let alone in the UK.

Befitting one of music’s great enigmas, Oldham walked purposefully onto the dark stage in a pair of white slacks and a light blue shirt scattered with silver reflective stars, before starting his minimalist show with barely a word or smile.

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Category: Music