Dan Renton Skinner

Dan Renton Skinner

Date of birth: 30-11-1972
A former member of Perrier-nominated sketch group Dutch Elm Conservatoire, Skinner is best known as the creator of Angelos Epithemiou, a fast food van owner. Bob Mortimer spotted the character on the circuit, and gave him a regular role in Shooting Stars from 2009 until it was axed in 2011. Epithemiou then landed his own Channel 4 series.
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Mr Winchester: Classic Entertainment

Note: This review is from 2013

Review by Steve Bennett

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Dan Renton Skinner’s Mr Winchester when he came to the Fringe in 2007. And this return – with largely the same show, to the best of my memory – has done nothing to change my mind.

Since then, of course, Skinner has found fame as Angelos Epithemiou, but this is about as far from the lowly burger-van owner as you can get. Where Epithemiou only very reluctantly engages with showbusiness, Winchester has invested his whole life into trying to capture its sparkle.

He is the boilerplate parody of an washed-up, old-school comic desperately putting all his enthusiasm into his act, not aware of how outdated and shoddy it is, as he tries to mask a deep sadness. Here it’s his wife, Sylvia, who has vanished from his life... and their double-act.

Her stand-in on stage is Tommy, aka Tom Verrall, cut from the same cloth as Winchester: frilly shirt, bow tie, ill-fitting trousers with a safety pin where the fly should be. He’s Ball to Winchester’s Cannon, the only person lower down the pecking order and so perpetually bullied for screw-ups such as finishing his sentences incorrectly or failing to understand that double entendres need to have a second meaning.

The pair vigorously pile on the cheese, as they flutter between songs, a low-budget version of The Cube game show, an ‘improvisation’ that ends up more than a little bit racist, and a unique form of ventriloquism. Lively and committed performances they may be, but we’ve seen plenty of spoof bad entertainers, and all the energy in the National Grid can’t change that. And sometimes their rough-around-the-edges brash enthusiasm spills over into shoutiness, which seems especially out of place with a smallish audience, as they have attracted tonight.

Mr Winchester prides himself on proper gags, not like the alternative comics they have now. ‘They’re not from Google!,’ he says of his pub-style jokes, none-to-convincingly. Away from this, there is the occasional strong line in the script, if you’re not too worried about good taste, but they stand out in isolation.

Six years on and Classic Entertainment still feels too rough around the edges, even with its strong finale. The loud characters are missing subtlety and nuance, and are as likely to annoy as entertain.

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Published: 26 Aug 2013

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