I’m going to work pretty hard to get my show on the programme next year, so this was all research, and therefore the tickets are all tax deductible (HMRC: let’s get some drinks and talk about this, yeah?)
1) Yve Blake – Lie Collector. The first of three (3) Australian acts I saw at Wales’ premiere Comedy festival. (Welsh acts seen: zero (0)).
Why I Saw It: looked the most interesting of the timeslot
What I Think: I’m going to be totally honest and say that if I’d known this was a musical comedy show I’d have gone elsewhere, but it turned out to be a proper good start to the proceedings, thankfully. Constantly surprising with her D.I.Y. costumes with seamless (joke) changes, Blake fizzed with energy and kept me engaged. I feel like some opportunity for REAL SADNESS was squandered, which would have been a nice counterpoint to the sheer joyousness of the whole thing, but maybe that’s not what she was going for. I’ll usually want to feel a bit sad at least once per show. Very good.
2) Anonymous (performed by Tim Key) - MANWATCHING
Why I Saw It: Sounded properly interesting, formally
What I Think: A long monologue about the female author’s experience of sex, masturbation and sexual desire, read by Tim Key, who wasn’t allowed to see the script until it was handed to him on stage. Each performance of this work will be read by a different male performer in the same position re: foreknowledge). Key turns out to be a master sight-reader, giving an already funny bit of writing some real punch. The script deals with the politics of the privileging of the male voice, and the treatment of women who talk frankly about sex, amongst other, filthier things. A fascinating experiment, you absolutely must see this one if you get a chance.
3) Josie Long – Cara Josephine
Why I Saw It: She’s a proper legend. I love the two of her shows I’ve seen on video.
What I Think: Absolutely on top of her game, performance wise. A true master. A real physical presence and great command of language. Got me laughing out loud more than once, which isn’t something I do a lot. Felt like the piece didn’t really hang together for me, tho. Each individual joke was blinding, but as a singular bit of *writing*it felt clumsy.
4) Wil Greenway – Vincent Goes Splat (Australian #2)
Why I Saw It: “An awful story beautifully told” is an incredible tagline.
What I Think: Accurate tagline. Thought some of the devices were a bit twee, but it was genuinely heart-breaking and hilarious storytelling.
5) Robert Auton – The Face Show
Why I Saw It: Summat to do, innit.
What I Think: The only stand-up show I saw that really surprised me in it’s formal playfulness. Auton’s “difficult” (stage?) persona is fascinating to watch. Extended, blank-faced pauses punctuate every part of it and GODDAM they’re always perfectly timed. Always in awe of performers like Auton, who’s voice is so removed from other people I’ve seen that I can’t *quite* make out the little steps they might have made from a standard sort of thing to where they are now, like something magical has happened in their brains between. He drew a picture of me, and I love it. Ended with a really moving poem about a squirrel and an alien watching a choir, that literally made all the hairs on my arms stand on end, and sent shivers down my spine.
6) Bridget Christie – An Ungrateful Woman
Why I Saw It: I think she is great. One of the two performers I saw live for a second time
What I Think: I was a little disappointed that I’d heard most of the material before on her radio show a couple of months ago, but it was still a near-flawless performance. She’s more and more engaging the more furious and aggressive she gets.
7) Colin Hoult – A Character Show
Why I Saw It: A friend recommended him, and he’s from my neck of the woods.
What I Think: Biggest laughs of the weekend for me. His Andy Parker character was like listening to my cousins and uncles, so made me heart sort of flutter with weird hometown pride and shame at how out-of-touch with that side of the family I’ve fallen. His Nick Crippen character did this weird face and noise that had me fucking HOWLING, every time. Great variety of characters, all fully realised, and I’d be happy to see a full hour of half of them.
8) Sarah Bennetto – Work in Progress (Australian #3)
Why I Saw It: Another random pick
What I Think: The only show I didn’t really like, but I still had a great time. Extremely early in the process, it looks like, a lot of the jokes were really poor, but we played party games, ate cakes and had a great time anyway.
9) Rachel Mars & Greg Wohead – Story #1
Why I Saw It: Rachel Mars’ show last year is the only time I can honestly say a performance has changed my life
What I Think: The only show I left and spoke to (or overheard) audience members who actually HATED it. Completely understandably, though, it’s an aggressively audience-unfriendly show for the first half. Without introduction, context, explanation or warning we were shown an episode of Come Dine With Me (edited down to 25 or so minutes), with the performers themselves nowhere to be seen or heard. Risky business! Waves of shock and anger would travel around the audience as we realised what was happening, and then would intermittently remember, but more often than not we entered into this weird communal mode, chatting and laughing and gasping and generally performing our reactions to the (shocking genuinely engaging) interpersonal dramas on screen. The second half of the show was mostly readings of haunting, sad, funny stories about the (imagined) lives of the 4 characters after the show, ranging from sc-fi to hardcore porno in content, and ending with a bit of meta stuff about the process of contacting the characters (it was only typing it this second time around that I realised I’ve called them chracters instead of people. Ain’t Art Weird!) Only finished a few days before the festival, this was a 2 hour show in it’s first two performances, and I’d love to see it in that form. I *do* think they did a good job of justifying their choice to subject us to having spent £3.50 (half the ticket price) on an episode of CDWM, but you’d hate this show if you didn’t.
10) Tony Law – Nonsense in Progress
Why I Saw It: Seen him on Alternative Comedy Experience season 1 and learned his routines off by heart and constantly shout them out loud. I never do that.
What I Think: Being a bit of a process nerd, it was fascinating to watch the improvisational dead-ends as much as the flashes of mad genius. Totally unique. Shambolic chaos. Just fucking incredible.
11) Sofie Hagen & Edd Hedges – Split Bill
Why I Saw It: Picked at random
What I Think: Sofie Hagen was ill, so Edd expanded from 30 minutes to an hour with no prep-time. We tried to stop him, but he was relentless, determined to do his first ever full-hour of stand-up. Roughly a third of it was just him flipping thru his notebook looking for jokes he hadn’t already done and finding blank pages. This sounds awful, but it was very funny. With a bit of writing I think it’s actually the basis of a great routine which I’ll steal if he doesn’t want it. Of course it actually would have been awful if he wasn’t basically extremely charismatic. Really quickly established a real rapport with the crowd, made us feel like we were all in the same boat as him. So young, which only occaisionally made itself apparent in the “lad”ishness of the some of the material. One little irritation was the repeated use of the word “genuinely” when relating things that he’d done, seen or overheard. Made me think a lot about trust (which was also the nominal theme of the show(so maybe this was on purpose!)), like, as a stand-up we’re either going to assume you’re telling the truth, or assume you’re lying with *each* different thing you say, and we’re generally not going to be thinking consciously about that decision, it’ll just happen, and it’s not really going to hurt our enjoyment of the work, even if we disbelieve every other word while fervently hoping the rest is true, but constantly be *asked*to believe it really threw me out of the performance. Does that make any sense? FEEDBACK PLEASE.
12) Simon Munnery – Sings Soren Kierkegaard
Why I Saw It: LEGEND
What I Think: I reckon this show will be astounding when he figures out what it’s really about an nails it’s structure. As it is it was merely absolutely fantastic.
13) Tom Neenan – The Andromeda Paradox
Why I Saw It: Misread the programme, thought this was science jokes that would make me feel smart.
What I Think: Enjoyed it anyway. Very funny, even (maybe “even more”, actually!) when you figure out the simplistic linguistic shifts in perspective that most of the jokes are based on and you start to whisper the punchlines along with him. Joyfully silly, was absolutely exhausted by this point, and was considering closing my eyes and just listening to it, but he grabbed my attention and really rewarded it with a surprisingly nuanced physical performance.