Frodo Allan


You know that bit in the Fisher King… (yes I know nobody watches the serious Robin Williams films anymore but you MUST have seen this one)… you know that bit where the lonely office worker lady says to Robin “Are you real?” because he’s being the sort of lovely, dreamy boyfriend everyone wFrodo Allan

On top of this admirable tendency to show mercy, Allan seems to understand what he’s watching and can precis it without boxing it or giving the game away. Of Twonkey’s Christmas in the Jungle he says: “Everything is fitting to a plan”, although “the plan might be written in green crayon on the side of teapot”. It’s nice when reviewers can review in the spirit of the thing they’re seeing without, you know, going a bit dickish with it like every lame duffer who has reviewed Austentatious in the style of Jane Austen.

He’s an odd fish though. His biog states that the press call him “The Godfather of Scottish cabaret”… hmm. Well he’s certainly a lot more Gambino when he reviews his chosen genre. In fact there are some cabaret show ponies who get their heads cut off. But for some reason he goes nice and easy with pretty much every bit of comedy he sees. Is it because he doesn’t take it seriously? Is comedy a bit of a review-holiday for him? Frodo, are you real?

Like a lot of Broadway Baby reviewers since it left the constraints of of print, Allan can be a bit verbose – for example taking 75 words to tell us a Mulholland routine was a bit near-the-knuckle. He also needs to read his stuff through. He tells us twice that he was gutted that he didn’t have enough cash to buy Juan Vesuvius’s mixtape after the show. (Maybe he wants us to take the hint and buy it for him?) He also writes “The angry comedian is a common trope these days and Mulholland is brilliantly pissed-off at the world” twice. It seems that Allan likes to write in pithy sentences and then move his favourite one to the end as a conclusion, but does a copy-paste instead of a cut-paste. I’m guessing. In any case he needs to edit his own stuff because I’m sure the only thing the editors of Broadway Baby ever check is their Snapchat and the wet patch behind their ears.

Louise Jones


louisejonesLouise Jones could do with reading over her work and tightening things up a bit. She uses the word ‘conceit’ and the phrase ‘padded out’ a bit and there are quite a few typos to trip the reader up.

But such things are only worthy of mention because they impede what could be very good reviews, giving a nice overview of what works and what doesn’t. She mostly looks at sketch comedy, and does manage to give the impression that she understands the tenets of this métier: “It’s a tricky feat to maintain an exciting and entertaining plotline in improv for fifteen minutes, let alone three plotlines across an hour, but unfortunately this struggle shows with some awkward silences,” she says of Beings.

Some reviewers willfully ignore the crowd in the room, instead basing their reviews on some transcendent quality they claim to have recognised in the act. Jones bases her judgment on the reception each passage of the performance receives, and is particularly alert to the duff bits: Jokes “don’t land as well as intended” is one of her standard lines. Towards the End of her What A Load Of Skit review she makes the reviewer’s error of telling the sketch troupe how they SHOULD have done a particular piece; never an edifying sight.

There are some bits where the explanation breaks down into something that needs unpacking. In discussing Katherine Ryan she states that “Ryan responds to her Twitter trolls following a clip of her being found out of context abroad”. I can guess what was going on here, but I’d only be guessing. Looking at What A Load, she says: “Set ups like shopping on Amazon or the idea of Shakespeare writing in a Starbucks are brilliant concepts”. I would actually like some more convincing here. I mean, you must know they don’t LOOk like brialliant concepts when you say it like that? I don’t, for one second, doubt that they are – but a little more exposition could go a long way.

Marigold Bumbellina-Froome

Sarah Gough


sarahgoughI’m sure that, if I could get over the pony club tone to Sarah Gough’s reviews, I’d find her to be a perfectly adequate reviewer. So I’m going to say that she’s a perfectly adequate reviewer.

I’m sure the non-ironic and shameless use of the phrase “cheeky chappy” to describe Rhys Nicholson is annoying only to me, as is the conclusion “he’s gone from filth to fabric – how fabulous.” And I’m sure I’m the only reader who never had an uncle who went to Australia and then came back again, which is why I don’t immediately connect to Gough’s reference to “THAT uncle” when she’s lambasting Dan Willis for being just like THAT uncle. Also I shuddered a bit when she wrote of James Acaster “If you’ve nabbed tickets, lucky you”. But, like I said, that’s probably just me.

Similarly, I know a lot of people who like constant alliteration: “simultaneously sassy; Netflix niggles; mockingly masturbating”… Gough pairs words like this all the way through. I think a little of this goes a long way, whereas a lot of alliteration is a little like a lot of lemmings licking your loins: irritating. Or wonderful. It depends how you’re predisposed, but I’m not that keen.

On the whole, Gough’s reviews are quite fluid. If there is a review, anywhere, that adequately explains a James Acaster show to an ingénue then I haven’t seen one, and Gough’s attempt certainly isn’t it: “A stand-out moment is when Acaster narrates a fable he wishes to impart upon Lucas – the well-known fable of the goose and the sloth. The full extent of the comedian’s hilariously erratic brain comes to the fore and I salute you if you manage to get through it without crying.” I wasn’t sure if she meant crying with sadness or crying with laughter, but no matter: it’s a nice little taster. I also quite liked the description of Andrew Ryan: “This is a man with word diarrhoea. His constant babble is hilarious.”

Pretty much everyone Gough looks at is described as ‘self-deprecating’. This really is a hacky and meaningless term that I wish would die a dozen deaths (fuck it, it’s catching). Is there a single comedian whose schtick isn’t built on saying “ooh get me I’m a bit rubbish?”

Well, there’s Dan Willis. And although Gough beats Dan Willis to death, she does explain her unhappiness in some detail so it’s not an entirely senseless mugging. What’s much harder to excuse is the way she looks up at us halfway through the beating, sort of like how someone who has said something appalling might look at you for validation. “The Aussies’ approach to serving vinegar is mildly amusing for instance, as is the moment when he recalls being attacked. By his audience, you ask? Well, mostly magpies, but yes, also by an audience member…”

We’re not with you on this, Gough. You killed Mr Willis ALL BY YOURSELF.

Billy Coconuts

Catriona Scott


catrionascottThere’s something very amusing about Catriona Scott’s reviews. She writes in the style of a Victorian botanist describing something nobody has ever seen before. She describes the physicality of the scene, the species of jokes and the sequence of events as if she’s anxious that the police might want to know later.

She doesn’t find anything funny but she does observe that she thought it was funny, which is not at all the same thing. Discussing Tiff Stevenson, she observes :

“Stevenson shows various cultural identifiers that make us human and urges that we shouldn’t pretend to be something we aren’t. Stevenson goes so far as to demonstrate this in her imitations of Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea, as well as her use of different accents in pretending to be alcoholic beverages personified in talking about advertising.”

Reading between the lines, it’s just about possible to see that Stevenson was doing something funny. But it’s difficult, so completely does Scott’s writing suck all the fun out of everything.

Her summary of Ben Shannon and Mike Reed’s 48 Minutes (and she got very finicky about the exact timing) similarly has all the joie de vivre of a conference keynote on aluminium cladding:

“…This being said, Shannon’s tendency to begin his series of jokes and anecdotes by speaking to the audience could be seen as his relying on them to provide material for him, rather than using material of his own but, whether this is the case or not, his set proved consistently amusing, and so this was not really a big issue. Having encouraged the audience, split into teams, to clap and cheer for the next act, Shannon left the stage to make way for Mike Reed.”

It’s good to be clear, and obviously not everyone who reads reviews is a hardened show-hag. But I think most of us are familiar with the procedure whereby one performer leaves the stage after getting the audience to welcome the next one. It shouldn’t need fixing to the floor with a nail gun.

However, when it comes to something quite concept-dependent such as The Jeremy Kyle Show Does Shakespeare, her pedantic exactitude comes into its own and she describes how the show works far more clearly and helpfully than any of her peers are likely to. And she enjoys this one enough that she keeps typing the word ‘hilarious’, to the point that you can almost believe she felt it.

Edmund Rumania

Kate Wilkinson


katewilkinsonKate Wilkinson gets the reviewing lark right, on the whole, with a nice balance between exposition and commentary.

Her style is engaging, and she gives just enough away for the reader to want to know more. Of That Pair she tells us “The Truth About Girls is surely destined to become a feminist anthem; its chorus ‘girls, girls, girls… anatomically we are girls’ is now stuck in my head”. For thunderbards, she reveals that “Stevens has a knack for deadpan characterisation and impresses on the guitar with a sad, serious song. We know that’s what it is because it’s in a minor key, he tells us.” All of this is succinct, appetite-whetting and doesn’t spoil any major surprises.

Wilkinson is usually very clear, but every now and then will come out with something a bit bizarre. “Massive Dad … have a sense of humour like Japanese fusion cooking, with their combination of social detail and zaniness,” she says. Does Japanese fusion cooking contain social detail and zaniness? Well no, of course it bloody doesn’t. Wilkinson’s attempts to then drily explain sketches she knows are “absurd” comes across as… well, absurd. You won’t understand what any of Massive Dad’s vingettes were about by means of Wilkinson’s plodding summaries; she should have either rethought how to do this or concluded that you had to be there.

Similarly, we’d like to meet the sub-editor who let her get away with “Off-beat, deliberately bad acting and moments of eccentric rage make Bond the clown to Shaw’s straight(ish) man (woman (princess)).” Punctuation is a lady, not a whore.

But for the most part it’s clear, and engaging, and even entertaining. And when Wilkinson doesn’t like something she’s very down-the-line with it. “The inclusion of one too many naff puns comes across as lazy rather than ironic … A few of the sketches rely too heavily on gimmicky techniques such as the interior monologue voice-over”.

It all feels quite solid and reliable. You can trust her judgment. Wilkinson just needs to be stricter with herself and tidy up her copy. Goodness knows the Fringe freesheets won’t do it for her.

Business Leopard