Claire Sawers


clairesawersIf I had to sum up Claire Sawers in one word it would have to be ‘dismissive’. She is airily dismissive of things she finds too insubstantial, like Phil Wang or Rhys James. In James’s review, in fact, she’s trying so hard not to care about what he does that she seems to suggest she doesn’t know what’s going on in the industry: “…the ‘haircut comedians’, presumably a new genre where puppyish, pretty, young, but underwhelming, still undercooked stand-ups get chucked in, and doused in faint praise”. In other words, she doesn’t know what it is, but she’s pretty sure she hates it.

The stuff she gives three stars to doesn’t get any greater respect: Dead Ghost Star is “enjoyably batshit, child-friendly comedy gibberish” and Jo Caulfield is “a professional snide; an acid-tongued, quick-witted moaner”. Susan Calman’s fans are “mostly early-to-bed Radio 4 listeners and ‘the cliterati’.”

Low-starred shows are rarely given itemised pointers by which they may improve themselves, in fact it’s a feature of Sawers that her twos read like threes and her threes may pass without a single admonition. Yet in most of her appraisals there’ll be an airy one-line brush-off that makes it clear just how predictable and tedious and generic most of the treats laid out for Claire Sawers truly are.

She can be just as efficient with her praise. “[David] Trent looks like Goliath, but thinks like David, and his Charlie Brooker-style bashing of pop culture and current politics’ daftest muppets is very deftly done, “ she says. And I would like to reinforce that point with a second example, but I haven’t been able to find one.

Claire Sawers is a deeply ungenerous reviewer, but that’s not to say that she is a bad one. She is sharp as a cat’s claw most of the time, particularly considering the volume of stuff she writes. You just wonder whether she should stop it, and find a job she likes.

Jemyma C Noevil


George Robb


georgerobbThis reviewer has, apparently, “been a fan of the Fringe ever since the age of 14, after stumbling upon it during a long journey from Argyll to England”. One senses that something is missing from this story, such as “as his mother desperately scoured the country for a school where he wouldn’t be bullied”. Perhaps his parents were trying to reach the border on foot before Mr Salmond has it closed. Looking at his photograph, in which he seems to be holding a gin and tonic and pointing at the camera as if to say “No, YOU da man!” he can’t be much beyond 14 now.

It’s important to get a handle on novice reviewers, and novice Robb certainly is. Any reviewer who comes straight out of the traps with a five-star review hasn’t been long in the game, and I don’t care whether they went to see a puppet show or the second coming of Christ. Yet Robb betrays himself a little here: “This improvised story-book adventure… is a sell-out once again,” he tells us of Aaaand Now For Something Completely Improvised. Again? What, on top of their first Fringe show all those hours ago? This is the first day, after all, that Three Weeks has posted any reviews. Again after last year? Please explain. Have you seen them before? Are they your mates? Are they your family, trying to earn some coppers to pay off a human trafficker? What’s going on, George? “They appear flawless,” he says, in a review that seems to sweep him up in hysteria. We believe him, of course, but we’d like to know, to put it in legalese, the extent of his relationship with what he’s looking at.

Thankfully, Robb has found, within the cramped confines of a Three Weeks review, the space to swing a simile: “Watching Rhys James is like being attacked by a swarm of flies – his punchlines surround you in an indiscernible flurry, slightly annoying but also pleasantly tickly.” I came out of this allegory like so many people come out of shows: I can see what he was TRYING to do, but I wasn’t sold. Alas, swarms of flies are never “pleasantly tickly”, and to suggest that they are you need to be either quite eccentric or some sort of enormous pervert. And I am sure that Robb is neither of these. He’s not nearly old enough to have turned either that bad or that interesting.

Michaela Plaidface