Morgan Rees

Morgan Rees

Finalist in the Chortle Student Comedy Awards 2016
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BBC Comedy Festival 2023: Stand-up showcase 2

Review of the second night's gig in Cardiff

Seems like the TV comedy industry don’t much like watching live comedy. The second stand-up showcase of the BBC comedy festival in Cardiff was a sparsely attended affair, not even half-filling the intimate Clwb Ifor Bach. Not great for a couple of Edinburgh Comedy Award-winners (and supporting line-up of predominantly Welsh acts), even if there were other festival attractions vying for attention.

Host Morgan Rees did all he could to put a little pep into the gig. With a couple of notable exceptions, crowd work was an uphill struggle, so he switched to his gag-rich material, much of it about his upbringing in smalltown Merthyr Tydfil. For most comics, ‘when cousins marry’ is a cheap punchline – for Rees it’s his actual life, and he wrung plenty of laughs out of that.

As much as Rees is upbeat, his unrelated namesake Matt Rees is downbeat: offering the dour, world-weary person of someone battered by life. From such pits, dark material emerges – with the gags landing thanks to sharp writing and a keen turn of phrase. The imagery he evokes is often grim – and always at his own expense – but the way he conjures it is a funny delight.

Sharon Wahonji has more of a spark in her performance, sweetening the pill of the more dismissive parts of her set, such as her attitude towards the kids she once taught. Sexuality and identity are key planks of her stand-up, and while the routine might be light on memorable zingers, she’s witty and engaging company.

It’s back to the darkness with The Death Hilarious, a double act (Darren J. Coles and Glenn Wade) with weird and twisted sensibilities. In a quick opening scene, a lost traveller is given directions with reference to troubling landmarks, while the bulk of their set was given over to a grim, gothic hellscape that owes a nod to Inside No 9’s bleaker moments, but far more exaggerated and fantastical.

After the interval, 2021 BBC New Comedy Award winner Anna Thomas served up a much cheerier flavour of eccentricity. A dotty oddball with a giddy energy, her surreal stream of consciousness has to be more considered than it appears, given the number of funny lines she alights on. Props and even the dreaded ukulele are deployed in the tumble of daft ideas that sweeps everyone up with her daffy charm.

‘Some of you are going to hate this,’ says Jordan Brookes of his playfully challenging material, though the innovative comedian has wider appeal than that disclaimer suggests. Asking not to be reviewed for his new material (sorry, Jordan), he’s working around some interesting ideas of offence in comedy, far from the tediously predictable right-wing talking points. Why is it OK to make jokes about the Titanic, while audience pull back from other topics? He keeps such thoughts merrily afloat…

Finally the similarly inventive – and very prolific – Sam Campbell, affecting all the performance tropes of a bad ‘what’s the deal with..?’comic, but with strong and original content that goes beyond what a simple parody would demand. For an offbeat comic, his starting points are surprisingly relatable, but then he takes things in unexpected directions. This possibly wasn’t his room, but that’s not to detract from the creativity and wit of his work.

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Published: 28 May 2023

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Past Shows

Edinburgh Fringe 2022

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