The Stand Comedy Club

Edfest Bouquets 2019

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It’s that time again when we award (virtual) bouquets to the best shows we saw at this year’s EdFringe. From a plethora of performances over three weeks, here are our highlights. Congratulations to all concerned.

Theatre

Endless Second – Theo Toksvig-Stewart/Madeleine Gray/Camilla Gurtler/ Cut the Cord

Who Cares? – Jessica Temple/Lizzie Mounter/Luke Grant/ Matt Woodhead/ LUNG & The Lowry

Shine – Olivier Leclair/Tiia-Mari Mäkinen/Hippana Theatre & From Start to Finnish

Ripped – Alex Gwyther/Max Lindsay/Robin Rayner Productions

On The Other Hand, We’re Happy – Toyin Omari-Kinch/Charlotte Bate/Charlotte O’Leary/Daf James/Stef O’Driscoll/Paines Plough & Theatr Clwyd

Comedy

Jo Caulfield: Voodoo Doll – The Stand Comedy Club

Daliso Chaponda: Blah Blah Blacklist – CKP and InterTalent Group

Showstopper! the Improvised Musical – The Showstoppers/Something for the Weekend

Fishbowl – SIT Productions with Le Fils Du Grand Réseau

Beep Boop – Richard Saudek/Crowded Outlet

Special Mentions

Chris Dugdale – Down To One – Chris Dugdale Int Ents

Sexy Lamp – Katie Arnstein/Victoria Gagliano

 

Philip Caveney & Susan Singfield

Jo Caulfield: Voodoo Doll

20/08/19

The Stand Comedy Club (Stand 3), Edinburgh

We weren’t going to see Jo Caulfield this year. We always enjoy her shows, but we’ve reviewed her a few times already. We know her schtick; what can we say about her that we haven’t said before? But, two-and-a-bit weeks into the Fringe, we find ourselves yearning for some guaranteed laughs, for quality comedy without a message or a solemn life-lesson.

So we’re here. Again. And we’re delighted with our decision. Because Caulfield is positively crackling with ire, her trademark causticity dialled right up to eleven. Voodoo Doll is loosely based on the idea of Jo trying to purge her anger by writing a list of all the things that annoy her. It’s a long list. She’s outraged – and outrageous. From her ageing mum to her hapless husband; from couples on holiday to millennial bar-tenders: no one is safe from her scathing putdowns. (Although the joke, usually, is more about her impotent fury than the ostensible target.)

Some of her subjects might seem worn: men vs women; young people nowadays. But every gag lands; every punchline takes us unawares. Clichés stop being clichés when surprises are revealed. The laughs keep coming, one sucker-punch after another, Caulfield never afraid to test the audience’s boundaries, always at ease and in total command. The funniest Brexit gag I’ve ever heard is almost throwaway, delivered with a lightness of touch that stops the show from becoming serious or overtly political.

So do yourself a favour and see Voodoo Doll before the end of its Fringe run. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a funnier hour.

5 stars

Susan Singfield

Jo Caulfield: Killing Time

 

04/08/18

The Stand, Edinburgh

I don’t go to see Jo Caulfield in order to be surprised. I’ve been a fan of her comedy for long enough to know what to expect – and I’m looking forward to another helping of her sly sarcasm. I’m not disappointed.

It’s Saturday night and the room is packed; Caulfield’s reputation means an audience is guaranteed, and she well deserves it. She makes it look effortless – her stage persona is all shrugs and don’t-give-a-fuck – but it would be a mistake to underestimate the skill that makes this show. She’s sharp, assessing her audience at the same time as engaging us, pushing boundaries with deceptive innocence.

In Killing Time Caulfield sticks to what she knows. ‘There won’t be a theme or a message to this show,’ she says, ‘If you want that, you’ll need to go elsewhere. This’ll just be me, talking about what I’ve done, what I’ve been thinking…’ And it is, kind of – but it’s so much more as well. It’s observational comedy, sure, but a clear illustration of why that genre persists: in the right hands – in her hands – it’s funny. She’s outraged, regularly, by other people’s behaviour, by their rudeness or their lack of awareness, by their sheer stupidity. She maintains a straight face throughout, a wide-eyed insouciance belying the audacity of some of what she says: she’s the queen of bitchy put-downs but she keeps us on her side. It’s an impressive tight-rope walk.

Okay, so there’s quite a lot of men-do-this-and-women-do-that stuff, but she makes it work – it doesn’t seem hack. The observations are fresh and precisely delivered, and the audience response is proof they hit their mark.

There’s a real joy to be had in watching someone so confident and assured. And Jo Caulfield can be relied upon to deliver a great show.

4.5 stars

Susan Singfield

Daniel Kitson: Possible New Bits for a Pre-Existing Show

 

23/08/17

The Stand, Edinburgh

Daniel Kitson occupies an enviable position for a stand-up comic. While so many at the Fringe struggle to fill their venues, he has no such problem. The tickets for this ‘work in progress’ performance went on sale at noon yesterday, which is when I confidently slipped two of them into my online basket. By the time I’d managed to key in my card details (roughly one minute later), all one hundred and twenty tickets for the show had gone, including mine. Grrr. In the end, we only get to see this because we are prepared to queue for an hour in the pouring rain for two of the twenty tickets that have been kept in reserve on a ‘first come, first served’ basis. I know, I know, we must really want those tickets – but since we’ve been trying to see him for something like three years now, we’re prepared to make the sacrifice.

Oh, one other thing. Kitson doesn’t like reviewers. So we make a point of not wearing anything that will identify us as such, and now here we sit in the front row of The Stand, as Kitson shambles quietly out with a notebook and a collection of Post It notes tucked under his arm…

And perhaps it’s unfair to review a performance that so unabashedly announces its intentions – and is not ‘the show’ – but we’re going to do it anyway, because hey, that’s what we do.

He explains how this all came about. He has an upcoming booking in Manchester, and he wants to add some new material, so this is an opportunity to ‘try out some ideas’ on a live audience, something that will hopefully frighten him into writing new material. Now, we’ve all seen shows like this in our time and they are generally hit and miss affairs – the comic pausing to study the notes, trying out gags that don’t quite work and crossing them off a list. Kitson, is much more open about the process, commenting when things go badly and using each failure as a launchpad into a whole new angle, occasionally even bursting into an improvised song about what’s just happened. You might describe it as ‘stream of consciousness’ material, but the results are way funnier than you might reasonably expect from such an approach.

There’s obviously no strong thematic narrative here but Kitson’s observations and canny put-downs always seem to hit home, whether he’s admitting to his own privilege, or pedantically examining popular sayings to demonstrate how wrong they can be. ‘It’s the way he tells them’ was the catchphrase of an entirely different sort of comic, back in the day, but has never been truer than it is here. Kitson has the knack of making the most unpromising line sound hilarious. When he’s putting us down with vicious accuracy, we laugh all the louder. He’s an expert at deflating pomposity, at making us examine our own middle-class guilt. ‘Does anybody here have a cleaner?’ he asks at one point, and then, ‘How do you justify that?’

So, was the wait worth it? Yes, definitely. Is Kitson a gifted comic? Yes, undoubtedly. And will his show be slicker and more polished by the time it reaches Manchester? I’m guessing, probably not. Because that rambling, thrown-together quality is kind of what makes Kitson unique as a performer and may just be the chief reason he has so many avid followers.

Go and see him in Manchester and let us know what you think. But, word to the wise – don’t hang about making a booking. Those tickets can have a nasty habit of doing a vanishing act.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

Louise Reay: Hard Mode

16/08/17

The Stand 4, Edinburgh

When we enter the venue, three young people in boiler suits are leaping energetically about to music, which is definitely not what I am expecting. Hard Mode, I’ve been toldis all about censorship and surveillance. It imagines a future where the BBC has been purchased by the Chinese and everybody is told exactly what to do and think. Pretty soon, the three dancers disappear but soon return wearing Trestle masks and start to act in a threatening manner. Reay, who is dressed in a leotard, wig and a gold biker jacket (apparently in an attempt to look like Michael Jackson) starts talking, referencing some work she’s done with the artist Ai Weiwei. We are shown a jokey video clip where he is played by a man in a cardboard moustache. Every so often, Reay returns to the other theme of her show, which is her recent breakup with her husband, which seems completely at odds with the other material and too raw for comfort. (She even shows us some video footage from the wedding.)

There’s no denying the enthusiasm and energy that Reay puts into this show, but it’s also painfully apparent that she isn’t really in command up on that stage and Hard Mode feels more like a work-in-progress than something that is ready to show at the Fringe. To be fair to her, others in the small crowd seem to get this a lot more than I do, laughing at her comments, but it really isn’t working for me. The subject of life under an authoritarian regime is undeniably an important one, but it surely deserves something more coherent than this. At one point, the presenters try to impress the horror of living in such a society upon me by making me go and stand in the corner for five minutes.

Which probably says it all. This is neither a biting commentary nor a successful stand-up show. Instead, it exists in an uncertain hinterland somewhere between the two.

2.3 stars

Philip Caveney

Richard Herring: The Best

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22/03/17

The Stand, Edinburgh

Let’s face it, it takes some chutzpah for a comedian to label his show ‘the best’ knowing full well the torrent of caustic putdowns that could inevitably follow such an outrageous claim. But after some discussion, we have to admit that there probably isn’t another stand up out there who is more deserving of the description. Herring has given us so much sheer enjoyment over the years.

We first encountered him at the Edinburgh Festival in 2010 with Christ On a Bike: The Second Coming and every year after that, the first show we would book would be his. We were distraught when he decided not to do the festival in 2015 and 2016, and delighted when we heard that he’s going to give it another shot this year. All in all, we’ve seen six of his shows and the beauty of it is, of course, that every one of them is completely different.

So here he is at Edinburgh’s most iconic comedy venue, offering 90 minutes selected from all 12 of his Edinburgh shows and we figure, if anybody has earned the right to perform a ‘best of’ compilation it’s the UK’s most hardworking (and in many ways, most criminally underrated) stand up comedian. He strolls onto the tiny stage, dressed more casually than we’ve seen him in a long time and launches headlong into his infamous Ferraro Rocher routine and as each successive clip segues into the next, the time just flies by while we sit there helpless with laughter.

It’s not rocket science. Obviously if you pick out all the funniest bits from over twenty hours of material, you’re going to be left with real quality and that’s pretty much what we get tonight, the perfect mix of silly, rude and cerebral. He keeps his Christ On A Bike material for the end and I still think that asked to pick my all time favourite, it would be this show, a dazzling tour de force of wit and invention, coupled with an amazing feat of memory – but that’s not to demean the rest of it. Herring at his least effective can still knock spots off most of his peers.

If you’re still unfamiliar with his work, we would urge you to seek him out at your earliest opportunity. If you can’t make it to a live slot, don’t forget there’s a whole raft of podcasts out there from his Leicester Square Theatre interviews, through As It Occurs To Me, right down to his Me1 vs Me2 snooker games. It’s all easily accessible and he leaves it up to you to decide if you ‘d like to pay him for the privilege of enjoying it.

There are precious few comedians who can offer such high output and fewer still who can maintain this level of quality. The Best? Yeah, we’re happy to go with that.

5 stars

Philip Caveney & Susan Singfield

Lucy Porter: Consequences

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23/11/16

The Stand, Edinburgh

Lucy Porter’s Consequences is a slyly clever show. We’re beguiled in the first half by her friendly, chatty persona; it’s a conversational, observational three-quarters of an hour, consistently funny but never challenging, focusing on ageing, class status, and suburban family life. There are chocolates and there is port, given liberally to audience members who respond to her questions. There are some gentle comparisons between young and old (Philip is called upon to represent the old, but he’s not very good at it: he doesn’t  – it transpires – even know what an A road is). There’s wit and warmth, and it’s easy to enjoy. And then there is the second half. And that’s very different.

Because the second half interrogates all that we have heard before. The consequences, so to speak. The acknowledgement that sixteen-year-old Lucy would likely launch a blistering attack on her forty-three-year-old future self, for selling out and not living up to all of her ideals. And then an endearingly honest self-examination: what does current Lucy think she needs to change? Her attitude to trans rights, for example, is analysed and found wanting, so she educates herself, talks to people who know more: older Lucy still wants to get it right, is still prepared to learn. Oh yeah, and she’s still funny. And charming. And far more demanding than that first half led us to believe. It’s a neat conceit, and beautifully done.

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield