Brighton Fringe reviews | by Steve Bennett

Brighton Fringe reviews

by Steve Bennett

History For Dummies

Graham Farden is an affable older cove aiming at nothing more than celebrating the comic monologues made famous by Stanley Holloway – while raising a few coppers for a local hospice in the process. He includes The Battle Of Hastings, King John, With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm (about Anne Boleyn), the Napoleonic-set Sam, Sam, Pick Oop Thy Musket and, slightly off the historical theme, Albert And The Lion. But then that last one’s a must...

These stories themselves are part of history now, capturing the slang, rhythms and attitudes of the North-West of England several generations past, even if Holloway himself was a Londoner. The result is an amiable resurrection of a name usually forgotten when the great comedians of the past are catalogued.

That Funny Blind Guy

Like so many stand-ups with free shows at the Brighton and indeed Edinburgh Fringe – Jamie MacDonald is essentially an above-average open spot overreaching with a solo effort. This show lasted barely 35 minutes, but I was looking at my watch barely halfway through.

Not much of his material is based on his blindness, which is a canny move if he’s not to be pigeonholed, but it’s probably his best content, when he describes the patronising attitudes he has to face every day. Less edifying is the long section when he talks about always winding up with ugly girls - what could have offered some insight about falling for the person not their looks, just turns into the usual laddish stuff about waking up with a minger when you sober up.

Elsewhere, there are some entertaining points about the prejudices that dominate the Scottish independence debate - he is from Glasgow and sitting on the fence – and his routine about the Wedding At Cana being the first episode of Don’t Tell The Bride is a nice premise, but the extended sketch that follows just stretches the joke, rather than adding to it.

Ordinary stand-up is deliver pretty well, and MacDonald has both an innate confidence and a rich voice that could stand him in good stead in the world of broadcasting or voiceovers. But the writing has some way to go for a stand-up career.

Matt Dwyer: Thick And Thin

Starting 25 minutes after the scheduled time, Australian stand-up Matt Dwyer spends a lot of time apologising for the fact this is a rough-and-ready work in progress show, and then tells us what it’s not – a ‘how to’ lose weight show, for instance. When he finally gets going, he has certainly set expectations way down.

Dwyer, who use to weight 26 stone and now is 13, might know what the show isn’t, but he hasn’t quite figured out what it is – with contradictory strands pulling at its core. On one hand he was miserable when fat, squeezing into chairs, forever being judged. On the other, he says that changing your appearance doesn’t bring happiness. Which may be true, but doesn’t sit well with the tales of clinical depression when obese - though which is cause and which is effect is unclear. More interestingly, he found some comfort in being defined by his bulk, that now he’ a more ‘normal’ member of society he, in some ways, misses.

All this, if sorted along a more logical argument, would be interesting stuff for an essay – which is pretty much all Dyer has at the moment. He himself laughs, possibly as a nervous release, at the end of almost every sentence, but that doesn’t make it funny. And while he’s sharp-witted in the Q&A that follows his show, there are too few jokes in a narrative that is clearly still a little raw for him.

Nico Yearwood: Barbadian Idle

Nico Yearwood has an instinctive likeability and an appealing spark in his natural performance, even with an audience in single figures. Working on new material, his notebook propped open on a stool, he didn’t offer too much of substance in a show that – unsurprisingly – is broadly about being from Barbados and being a bit lazy.

Yet even without a single memorable joke, the fact that everyone in this very international audience left having had a good time is testament to this cheeky comic’s skills as a personable entertainer. Compering work shouldn’t prove in short supply.

Review date: 15 May 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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