There are some truly astonishing set-pieces here and my wife may well need counselling to recover from the sight of a male friend in a woman's dress, mask and holding a crow whilst I lie on the floor in a rabbit's mask dying of an exploding abcess.
This won't be everyone's cup of tea and if the above makes you break out in a cold sweat don't go. But if you fancy something out of the ordinary, that you won't see on Live At The Apollo check it out either on tour:
Last year DARKCHAT decided to visit the intriguing " Comedy In The Dark". The show did it said
on the tin but was rather dull as none of the acts tailored their material for the unusual setting, though if I am honest
I enjoyed catching up on my sleep through the last act.
However, the star of the evening was Tom Allen who was fast-tracked into the 2015 spreadsheet as a "must-see".
So, it was a "no-brainer" to see him in an Edinburgh preview show at a local theatre in Cardiff.
To the uninitiated the "preview show" is a worl-in-progress where performers road-test material before revealing it to
worldwide audience in the biggest fringe festival in the world in August. The comedian's key props on stage are
therefore their notes and most importantly a watch to ensure the finished product does not exceed
the sixty minutes allotted in the venue.
Tom Allen is an old-fashioned comedian in a modern world. He talks about his life like most comedians on the circuit but
it is his delivery and style that lifts him above the rest. He is not a shouter or a swearer, there is (currently) not a coherent theme
running through the act or well thought-out call-back at the end.
However, what you do get are gentle tales from a raconteur at the top of his game. His delivery is old-style, slow and deliberate almost playing with his audience as he knows he is weaving a magical web of wordplay around us.
Some of the scenarios are standard, sexuality, being alone, upbringing, schooling etc but delivered with such panache and charm that makes you feel grateful to be in his company.
If this is work-in-progress the final should be well worth seeing on tour :
or in Edinburgh:
One of the joys of the Edinburgh festival is the range & variety of shows available to see. One of the drawbacks of the
Edinburgh festival is that even if you watched every show for a solid month without eating or sleeping you would still
miss something good.
However, one of the bonuses in recent years has been the rise of the Edinburgh previews. This give you a chance to
sample some shows before they reach the Scottish capital, and as a reviewer it enables you to alert audience members
about some hidden gems worth unearthing.
The Cardiff Comedy festival has cleverly scheduled itself to pick up a lot of shows. In fact the selection is so strong you
still have to limit your choices. These shows as clearly "work in progress" and can be hit or miss. If you read your previous
reviews you will see we are currently 1-1 on previews we have enjoyed this year.
The Edinburgh fringe is all about taking chances and although I didn't know much about Louise Reay I was intrigued by the premise of her show "It's Only Words" which is that only 7% of communication is through words. She then proceeded to prove that you don't have to understand the words to thoroughly enjoy fifty minutes of breakneck comedy.
I have seen a lot of comedy over the years and this is one of the most extraordinary performances I have ever witnessed. Whilst proving herself fluent in a foreign language she proceeded to guide her audience through a variety of film and television references, involving some great audience participation.
It isn't a perfect show as I found a certain television soap references repetitive and a lot is asked of the audience members, not all of whom were up to the task.
However, I will guarantee you won't see another show like this on the fringe, so if you want to be educated, surprised and entertained check out either the previews or the show in Edinburgh :
or in Edinburgh:
It is strange that seeing Edinburgh previews in Cardiff can cost more than watching the shows in the Scottish
capital. However, I find it hard to resist the opportunity to see "work in progress" ahead of the world's biggest
ringe festival. As an audience we accept that this is not the finished product but we are happy to be treated as
comedy guinea pigs.
In 2011 Dan Mitchell came 2nd in ITVs "Show Me The Funny" and this is his first Edinburgh show since "Free
Egg" in 2012. For those of you who don't know Dan he is a likeable, teddy bear of a comedian who exudes
charm and charisma.
"Plate Expectations" revolves around food. Having checked we are the right kind of audience ( in a highly original
and amusing way) we enter Dan's unusual world where you are physically rewarded for contributing positively to
proceedings, though woebetide you if you indicate a preference for a favourite ( or least) favourite animal.
Dan is one of those comedians where you wonder where he gets his ideas from. He has a habit of veering off course but go with him, you will always end up somewhere funny. Being a preview this is not slick, but this allows Dan to show what a great improviser and "riffer" with the audience he is .
The Free Fringe has been a great bonus to audiences as it helps to keep costs down especially if you see a lot of shows. The downside is there is no quality control, so I could put on a show reading extracts from my diary ( and one day I may well do that).
In the meantime take this review as a recommendation, if you are willing to give Mr Mitchell an hour of your time he will repay you handsomely. And then so can you.
Dan MItchell: Plate Expectations is daily (not 17th) at Cabaret Voltaire throughout the Fringe
One of the many joys of the Edinburgh previews is the double bill. Normally, you will go to see one of the acts
and you will see the second comedian as they are there.
So, having myself in Porter's in Cardiff to see local comedian, Dan Mitchell, I had the chance to see Andrew
Doyle, who to be honest I was not aware of. But, thanks to this show I am now a BIG fan.
On arrival you see a sign asking you to send questions to his mobile number which he will endeavour to answer
by the end of the show, so get your thinking caps on beforehand (I thought I would be topical and asked
"Should Greece leave the eurozone?").
This is also a very informative show and amongst other things you will discover the variety of bear references within
the gay community and why you shouldn't go to Gibraltar for your holiday!
In contrast to most comedian Andrew Doyle flaunts the fact there is no linear arc to the show but trust me, you will be laughing too much to care.
I came by accident and left a convert (another reason why you should take a chance on an Edinburgh preview). So, do yourself a favour and add this to your list as a must-see. You WILL thank me later.
Oh, & make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and has plenty of credit.
Andrew Doyle: Minimalism is daily (not 17th) at Stand 5 & 6
Welsh comedian Robin Morgan now lives in London but on Wednesday he made a triumphant
return to his homeland at the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff. This was an opportunity for him to join
the Edinburgh preview comedian bandwagon to test his 30 minute set before heading off to the
Robin Morgan is a set of contradictions. Resembling a German boyish nerd he possesses a
machine-gun style of delivery but if you keep up with him you are rewarded with a succession of
hysterical set-pieces, most memorably including unveiling the surprising musical career of
Christopher Hughes, he of Eggheads fame.
It was also refreshing to see a comedian so in command of his material that he did need the usual preview comedy comfort blanket of a handful of notes. This air of self-confidence helped to relax the audience and we were soon on his side.
Generally, when you see a stand-up do an hour's show there often a period when you are hoping for the show to end. Robin Morgan's show is the complete opposite, You want to see more!
So, keep a half hour slot on your Edinburgh schedule to see Mr M. You won't regret it. And it is FREE :
Robin Morgan: Guten Morgan is daily (not 19th) at Laughing Horse@ Counting House throughout the Fringe
Having lost in the Welsh Unsigned Stand-Up final of 2013, Bethan Roberts bounced back to win the following year
and now is she is appearing in her first Edinburgh show, along with Becky Brunning "We Are Not Men".
She recently performed her thirty minute preview to a large audience at Chapter (easily the biggest I have seen for any
of the four preview shows I have already watched).
Bethan is a likeable comedienne with a penchant for lulling you into her gentle world and hitting you with an
unexpected and funny punch-line. Her style is observational, mainly revolving around her Welsh roots,
her family and adventures in London.
It is not particularly original but she is funny and "We Are Not Women" is a Free show. Trust me there are less funny paid shows in Edinburgh so check out:
Becky Brunning and Bethan Roberts Are Not Men is daily (not 24th) at Just The Tonic at The Caves
Venue 13 has been a home for Welsh productions at the Edinburgh festival for the last few years. Amongst this
year's offerings is "old Man's Gifts" a black comedy about abuse.
So, intrigued ( and a little concerned about the premise) I headed to see its Edinburgh preview at the Welsh
College Of Music and Drama. I have seen 7 previews so far, all of them comedy ( check the other reviews to
discover which were funnier than others) and I was in the mood for some drama.
During the course of the play we discover that a 60 year old man's birthday party is the opportunity for people
he has previously abused to exact revenge. There is some good acting and good writing here (particularly in
the heart-breaking abuse description scenes) but overall the this isn't the play for me. There are a lot of scenes,
some of which are quite episodic but there are no real surprises and the dramatic ending only really works if
you don't expect it.
The big question really is, is this a suitable topic for a "black comedy"? I would answer no, but that is just my opinion. But, like all theatre you need to see the show yourself and make up your own mind. I am also intrigued by its performance time is 10.00am, which seems a strange choice but by a ticket here :
old man's Gift is daily from 8th (not 17th) at Venue 13