Wednesday 08th July

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Jordan Brookes: Bleed review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer & Reviewer

Brookes’ new version of Bleed fails to match the Edinburgh iteration, but remains compelling viewing.  

The self-styled “riskiest comic in the biz” has landed at Soho Theatre with a typically arresting show that relies on unsettling honesty and bold sensory tricks to give its creator the laughs he craves.

Bleed, Brookes’ fourth hour-long show, was unfortunate not to be nominated for the main prize at the Fringe, where it stood out in both style and substance.  For the former, Brookes took the punchy decision to use a quirk of the venue – the Pleasance Courtyard’s hustle and bustle – as a pretence for employing technology to extend his efforts to assault the audience’s senses.  Here, in the calmer confines of a darkened performance space, Brookes has had to tweak that conceit to achieve similar results, albeit a little more telegraphed and a little less edgy in its execution.

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Category: Comedy
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Sarah Kendall: One-Seventeen review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer and Reviewer

Kendall’s journey through time and space leaves you laughing and moved in her most personal work to date.

The last time I saw Sarah Kendall perform live was at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe, where she delivered Shaken – one of three powerful tales to formed her subsequent hit BBC Radio 4 Australian Trilogy series.  But while impressed by her engaging storytelling, I felt her brusqueness – exacerbated by the boisterous weekend Edinburgh crowd – lessened the impact of her message.

Two years on, that criticism can no longer be levelled.  Despite enduring a difficult time personally, Kendall’s become a much warmer performer, willing to share more personal material in new show One-Seventeen.

As with her previous work, One-Seventeen links the past with the present, but now there’s greater frankness when discussing the latter.  Kendall’s retained her no-nonsense delivery and caustic comedic tongue, but the more intimate moments – when she airs worries about motherhood and the fragility of life – draw the audience deeper into her narrative and help even the lower-brow punchlines to land (the best example being a playful twist to a story about a seemingly deluded grandmother).

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Category: Comedy
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Kiri Pritchard-McLean: Appropriate Adult review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer and Reviewer

Pritchard-McLean uses this hilarious, frank and thoughtful show to deliver an important call to arms.

Kiri Pritchard-McLean is a creative whirlwind, the driving force behind the brilliant Gein’s Family Giftshop, All Killa No Filla podcast, Amusical cabaret events and Suspiciously Cheap Comedy nights.  And in her second hour-long solo show, she proves herself to be an extremely impressive stand-up, as adept at handling heavy subject matters as she is unleashing punchy lines laced with Northern mischief.

Appropriate Adult deals with Pritchard-McLean’s rocky 2017 that “changed everything” when she split from her partner and had to shelve plans to adopt and start a family.  Understandably, she was hit hard by the break-up and initially unsure whether to discuss it onstage.  But, having chosen to do so, Pritchard-McLean handles it thoughtfully and without malice, concluding each display of vulnerability with a killer line.

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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 Stop 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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Wil Greenway: The Way The City Ate The Stars review

Rating:

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
London

What’s On, London? 16th – 18th June 2017

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

It’s been another tragic week for London with the full consequences of the Grenfell Tower fire still emerging.  One thing’s clear: never again can people be exposed to such danger.  Londoners must do all we can to ensure our politicians act quickly to help those affected and prevent any repeat.  The only silver lining to this awful cloud has been the response: money donated, items provided and fundraising efforts set in motion.  So while again we have no choice but to try to carry on with our lives, making the most of the positive things happening in our city (listed below), we include a special section highlighting the events coming up to raise funds for the victims and their families.

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Category: Clubs