Louise Jones

BROADWAY BABY

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

Dave House

BROADWAY BABY

davehouseSometimes you just want to tell Dave House not to get so overexcited. Sophie Willian: Novice Detective is “about as good as you can reasonably expect”. And Jenan Younis will be glad to learn that “the short length of her show means it remains quite fun throughout and never drags”.

This may, however, just be a side effect of House being overly thoughtful. He uses the term ‘head scratching’ twice for Dan Jones and, despite awarding his show a star rating, never truly makes up his mind about him.

It seems a perceptive observation that it “makes fun of the oddities and occasionally desperate nature of many fringe shows. Unfortunately it’s almost as much an example of one of these as it a commentary on them.” But then, when you think about it, has a show that draws attention to its own tropes and conceits REALLY fallen into some sort of trap by becoming those things? If this is a valid criticism, then it kind of dooms all meta-comedy to similarly bleak reviews. And is it really the act’s fault if there isn’t enough of a knowing wink for viewers to get the joke? Phil Ellis suffered similar comments until people realised it was supposed to be a shambles.

Well, I’m doing as much head-scratching as Dave House now. And Dave House is certainly a thoughtful reviewer: he seems to have volunteered to review shows by the medical fraternity, but if this is an area of Dave’s expertise he’s remarkably coy about it. The only Dave House I can find out about is a musician who “may not meet Wikipedia’s notability guideline for music”. It seems more likely that he’s just a concerned citizen with an interest in the NHS, as he comments that there isn’t enough anger for his liking in the two medical-themed shows he sees.

For Jeremy Hunt, And Other Spelling Mistakes he complains that “considering the name, there aren’t that many jokes that refer to the MP”, even though the Secretary of State for Health is “weaved in and out of various gags throughout the show”. One cannot help wondering how much Hunt the average comedygoer really needs in their performance, or how many reviewers reach deeper into the star bag when they hear their own politics being parroted back at them. Although the comment for Younis’s show was nice: “And like the NHS (for now, anyway) it’s free”.

House could be a worthwhile reviewer if he could keep his concentration and not resort to crap puns in order to lazily conclude a review. There’s no good reason for writing “but if you’re on the case, Sophie Willian: Novice Detective deserves your skills of deduction”. And it doesn’t make it better that he knows what he’s done: “Jenan Younis: A Masterclass in Anger Management is humorous but won’t shatter your funny bone (she also avoids terrible puns)”.

There is some good, considered work here but, without improvement, House may not meet Fringepig’s notability guideline for reviewers. Incidentally, he’s spelled Sophie Willian ‘Willan’ in his headline. But then, Tabatha Glancy on The Skinny spells it wrong all the way through her review. So, like Dave, we should perhaps be underwhelmed with joy for life’s small mercies.

Marigold Bumbellina Froome

 

Graeme Connelly

THE LIST / CHORTLE

graemeconnellyGraeme Connelly doesn’t really know what sentences are supposed to do. Every time he begins one he has no idea where it will end, or what he wants it to achieve. Most of the time he ends it prematurely, as if suddenly aborting its mission. Sometimes four or five sentences are sent out in succession, eventually achieving the task of one.

It’s this sort of jolting caesura that prevents the reader from discerning what is actually going on: it’s like we’re watching the show through an oscillator.

Of Tom Craine he writes: “It is feelgood stuff throughout, there is even a mention of a giant cuddly toy bear. Craine is slightly bumbling, the clumsy sort. If the show was a romcom the audience would certainly be rooting for him…”  You’re left floundering for meaning in all this, Connelly having provided nothing but fuzzy images.

Of Jeff Leach he attests that: “He is a changed man, he says, preferring jogging to partying.

Preferring feminism to misogyny and acutely aware of sexism all around him. He backs this up with habitually referring to women in the audience as beautiful girls. His chats with the crowd prove to be the most impressive of his comedic skills.” I’m sure there’s a reason why calling every woman in the room a ‘beautiful girl’ is feminist rather than creepy, and I’m sure Leach would like it explained rather better than this. But the staccato sentences leave you reading between the lines.

Occasionally the writing breaks down to the point that it reads like phrases converted from the original Russian via freetranslation.com: “It is a worthy and welcome feature of a man’s character to spend any time he gets in the limelight promoting good in others,” Connelly attests, with all the lofty profundity of a note in a fortune cookie.

His review of Sarah Cassidy, Meanwhile, seems obsessed with the fact that the act herself is obsessed with penises, and he makes too many wild guesses as to what is going on: “The serious point here could be to objectify men in the same way women are,” he suggests. “To lend balance, there were a few vagina jokes as well. Perhaps not enough, this may have been a part of the joke.”

“Feminism hasn’t quite finished its work in getting equal gags for genitalia,” he concludes. At last – a solid statement that we can all agree on.

Marigold Bumbellina Froome

 

Sharon Geoff

ONE4REVIEW

sharongeoffSharon Geoff is not really called Sharon Geoff but, since we’ve long since given up trying to suss out the surnames of anyone at One4Review we’ve decided to denome everyone as an adoptive child of Geoff (just Geoff) the Editor. Come to think of it we should have called Geoff ‘Geoff Geoff’ for consistency, but it’s too late now.

I quite like Sharon. She has absolutely no idea what punctuation is for and doesn’t intend to find out. Words, sometimes quite important ones, just go missing. But somehow this gives her reviews a conversational immediacy and, once you learn to do without commas and apostrophes and such, it flows in its own way. Sort of like how Irvine Welsh’s books stop hurting your eyes by about page 20.

The main challenge for Sharon is keeping things engaging; sometimes she tries to explain the mechanics of a show and just vanishes into a hole.

“Like everyone Laurence has an internal monologue giving him advice on how to react in certain situations. His is known as chip and he imagines him to be in the guise of a monkey, who is every bit as mischievous as Laurence himself. Chip’s name is not derived from “chip on your shoulder” as you might think, no it’s just because Laurence likes chips…” Paragraphs like this rattle on about the nuts and bolts of plot points and devices that are really not important. The description of a voting procedure in Anna Morris’s show was about as interesting, and as comprehensible, as having proportional representation explained by an auctioneer in spate.

But when she likes something her lack of guile really makes it genuine. “I absolutely love Al Lubel and his quirky style of comedy but not everyone appreciates him,” she warns. “The crowd on the night either loved or hated him, there really was no in-between. The majority laughed their way through the hour but some never cracked a smile at all, at anything he said.” Got it. And it may seem rather over-egged. But so much reviewing these days ignores the rest of the audience completely, as if the reviewer is so Godlike they could review the show just as well if it were bottled in aspic.

Sharon doesn’t make that mistake. Plus, she wants people to be comfortable. “Perhaps a bit research before buying a ticket would be an idea,” she says.

Well, a bit research is always good.

Marigold Bumbellina Froome

Peter Edwards

LONDON IS FUNNY

peteredwards So few reviewers these days write reviews that are, consistently, just the right length. Peter Edwards is one of the select group that does.

If this is damning him with faint praise, I would add that he is also very capable. His reviews are concise, descriptive and… frank. Very, very frank.

He is very harsh indeed with anything that doesn’t quite measure up to his standards, branding things one-star with little apparent compunction. He begins his bleak appraisal of Paul Gannon with “Paul Gannon is a man possessed. Not in the head-spinning, Linda Blair of The Exorcist-style sense of possession, but in the way his show is devoted to one idea – ghosts”. You have to wonder if all this is necessary. Aren’t most comedy shows devoted to one idea? Isn’t it good to have focus? Edwards is just amusing himself with his Exorcist schtick.

On the other hand, Howard Read is given the same low score for, conversely, aiming his show at too many things: Edwards asks in exasperation “what was the point of it all?” What seemed particularly uncharitable, and kind of none of the reviewer’s business, was the statement: “It is a mystery as to why he won such a strong slot as 9.30pm at the Gilded Balloon”. It also shows a lack of research. Hmmm, could it be that Read has performed almost a decade of well-received animated shows at the Fringe? Does that solve the ‘mystery’?

Edwards takes a dim view, too, of anything that strikes him as un-PC. “Being locked out of his house and forced to wander the streets prompts comparisons with a homeless man, but he is on uncertain ground here,” he warns us about Graham Clark. “Hey-I-look-like-a-tramp-style-humour has already been overdone, and Britain’s attitude towards the homeless has also become more enlightened, and Clark fares better when dealing with the subject matter – admittedly hackneyed – of shared living and stag nights.” It must be difficult, playing to Edwards, walking his tightrope between the off-limits and the overdone.

Edwards is the only reviewer on this site to give out half-stars. And they’re always 3.5. Here at Fringepig we like to think that our half-pig ratings allow for greater reviewing accuracy, and prevent the unhelpful well-up of reviews in the three-point trough. With Edwards I suspect it’s simply that giving anyone a four causes him actual pain.

He can be gentle when he wants to be. Liam Williams, for example, “has a skill with words that carries him through some of the weaker moments”. And Alex Horne is “delightful”, which of course he is. The problem with Edwards is that his preconceptions seem fairly immovable, and you just wouldn’t want him anywhere near your show. But I can’t mark him down for being a comedian’s nemesis, especially when he writes well.

But it’s fair to say that his reviews attempt to set limits for what is permissible in comedy; something we must surely resist. Some of his jabs go beyond his brief as a reviewer, and you have to wonder what benefit such a gouging approach to stand-up adds to the reviewing canon.

Marigold Bumbellina Froome