Sunday 19th November

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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

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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

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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

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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
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What’s On London’s Edinburgh Fringe Preview

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

With the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest arts event – officially starting today, we decided to follow the Highland herd and put together a list of the comedy shows we’re most looking forward to seeing this month and then subsequently in London.

Given the vast number of acts performing over the next month in this seventieth year of the Fringe, we can’t pretend our list is completely comprehensive, and apologise to the many worthy artists unmentioned below.  It reiterates just how spoilt for choice fans of live comedy currently are.  But we guarantee this: if you choose to see our suggested stand-up, character, storytelling, musical and sketch comedians, you won’t go far wrong.

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Category: Comedy
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Wil Greenway: The Way The City Ate The Stars review

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Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Greenway elevates the art of storytelling with this lyrical, moving, funny and compassionate tale of love and tragedy in South-East Australia.

Eleven months ago, I reviewed Sarah Kendall’s show, Shaken.  In hindsight, and having listened to more of her work since on Radio 4, she perhaps deserved more than three stars.  However, I stand by the assertion that for storytelling to work effectively live, “it needs a higher laughter-count, or a more vulnerable and relatable narrator.  Kendall’s very talented, but projects an Antipodean toughness from the moment she bounds onstage talking forcefully about dick drawings and bowel movements.  As a result, she finds it hard to generate much sympathy from an admittedly difficult crowd, necessary before embarking on a story that portrays her younger self so unfavourably.”

I restate this to contrast Kendall’s countryman, Wil Greenway, who last night delivered an equally challenging story at Soho Theatre with a different outcome.  When he entered the stage after a short introduction from his folksy, melodious backing musicians (Will Galloway and Kathryn Langshaw), I was ready for a similarly forthright, Kendall-esque approach, given the Melburnian’s solid frame, thick auburn beard and topknot.  But it quickly became clear that Greenway’s a gentler type of performer and someone who could end up going very far.

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Category: Comedy
Bongo's Bingo

Bongo’s Bingo at Clapham’s The Grand

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A week on Friday, Clapham’s The Grand hosts its latest Bongo’s Bingo extravaganza – a wild night of drinking, dancing, cavorting and … well, bingo, but not as you know it.  

Last month, Samm Abbott headed south of the river to check out the silliness for herself, and reported back for What’s On London on why this event has become so popular in the UK and beyond.

What’s Bongo’s Bingo, you ask?  Well, it isn’t your grandma’s bingo, so don’t head along if you’re hoping for a quiet night floating in a sea of blue rinses and hearing aides.

Bongo's Bingo London - summer dates announcedBongo’s Bingo is bingo on speed, featuring dance-offs, fantastic music, rave interludes, bouts of bingo and some awesome – and some not-so-awesome – prizes.

It started two years ago in Liverpool, aimed at bringing back a healthy dollop of unadulterated fun and escapism to nights out.  From these humble beginnings, it’s spread across the world, even to Ibiza, Spain and Dubai.  And last month, its Australian launch saw two Sydney shows selling out in under half an hour.  So it’s very much a brand on the rise.

Joshua Burke, one of Bongo’s Bingo’s co-founders, explained: “We’re loving our London events and are incredibly happy at Clapham Grand – a really beautiful and intimate venue for our shows.

“This summer’s looking really good: we’re launching in locations around the world and our UK events are going from strength to strength.  We expect these to sell out quickly!”

Burke’s prophecy is likely to be fulfilled because – as I can testify – Bongo’s Bingo’s just so raucous and infectious.  My pals and I danced, drank and played bingo until the early hours, buoyed by the electric atmosphere.

Winning a bottle of Malibu was a highlight, but it was really the hosts that kept the vibes flowing.  Full of energy, they danced around, hyped up guests and kept things as far from geriatric as you could imagine – an example being when they forced British Olympian Perri Shakes-Drayton on stage to compete in a dance-off caught on camera!

You’d better get in quickly before the July and August events sell-out.  It’s the bingo we wish was on every weekend.

Bongo’s Bingo is taking place at Clapham’s The Grand on Friday 14th July and Friday 18th August from 6pm.  For tickets and more information, head to the official website.  You can also follow the brand on Facebook here or on Twitter @bongosbingo88.

Category: Clubs