REVIEW: Andrew Lawrence: The Hate Speech Tour (The Lowry, Salford Quays)

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upstaged rating: 

Andrew Lawrence’s The Hate Speech Tour mocks the obsession with political correctness, whilst dealing with the difficulties of fatherhood, as well as everyday life. The show is not for the easily offended – with the comedian delivering jokes that insult people from all walks of life. It was made clear in the show’s introduction that the comedian’s material offered a dark alternative to pre-watershed comedy, requesting all sensitive ‘idiots’ to leave the room.

The overall tone was set in the first half of the show, with Andrew working the audience with some classic front row interaction, in which he declared his hatred for those who don’t turn up for his shows. He didn’t beat around the bush in regards to the fact that comedy is his main source of income, addressing the point that the audience makes up his pay check, and that he sees ‘pound signs’ as seats fill up. This gave off the impression that Andrew’s comedy was genuine, rather than a built up illusion of perfectly rehearsed jokes, as well as breaking the cliché’s of performers in the entertainment industry.

This was followed by Andrew’s opinions on being a comedian, parenting stories, which were met with a dark twist, and issues with the obsession over political correctness. This backlash against P.C was an ongoing feature throughout the show, which was driven by crude humour and unpopular stereotypes, which offered a different angle to the typical “special snowflake” orientated material that dominates the media. Andrew’s resentments towards P.C culture was developed with an anecdote of his own personal experiences of being boycotted from inner comedy circles, as he has often been shunned and even banned from performing at venues due to his unusually anti-left views.

The only noticeable downsides to the act were the stumbles between gags, which were unexpected due to Andrew’s 14-year career. These stumbles were filled with stutters and re-hashed phrases that took away from the flow of the show and the comedic effect. However, this wasn’t detrimental to the act, as his care-free attitude and relaxed demeanour gave of an air of confidence and experience.

Overall, despite giving the audience “68%”, as opposed to the “110%” given by baby-faced comedians, Andrew Lawrence gave a well performed, alternative night of comedy, which offered a refreshing change of pace.

-Demi West

Andrew Lawrence continues The Hate Speech Tour throughout April and May 2017. You can find dates, information and tickets by clicking here.

REVIEW: Shappi Khorsandi – Oh My Country

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reviewer: demi west
upstaged rating: 

Shappi Khorsandi’s ‘Oh My Country!’ tour hit the stage at the Lowry Theatre in Salford for the final destination of 2016. The comedian and author, who continues to tour through 2017, celebrates her 40th year in Britain by expressing her love for her adopted land through a series of comedic, satirical anecdotes.

The supporting comedian Tom Lucy made sure that the audience was ready for Shappi with his dry, awkward humour, and interaction with the crowd. Lucy’s humour, driven by conversation with audience members, resulted in the crowd emitting spouts of laughter at the comedian’s unorthodox approach to comedy. Despite Tom being just nineteen, he delivered his jokes with confidence, succeeding in warming the audience up and leaving me wanting to see more.

Shappi took us on a journey and started the show with how she came to be in the UK, and ending it with tales from more recent times, including the clashes of culture between her two young children. This throughline runs throughout the show, often coming back to her children who both carry characteristics of their mothers cultural heritage. If you are someone who has followed Shappi throughout the duration of her career, you will know that anecdotes concerning her children are something that feature frequently throughout her shows. Nevertheless, the ongoing theme of culture and identity offers something fresh to longstanding fans, who are used to the idea of culture popping up occasionally, but not completely driving a show.

The linear narrative worked well, as it gave the show consistency and told Shappi’s story of embracing and accepting both sides of her heritage. This gave the show a personal touch, but could often lose its comedic effect, with some anecdotes coming to an end with no punchline at all. However, this did help to set the overall tone of the show, which was mainly concerned with nationality and what it means to be British.

The show did seem to be significantly lower on comedy than Shappi’s other performances and was motivated by stories rather than her usual material. Regardless of this new approach, the show still offered some of Shappi’s best jokes, expressed in her usual theatrical style.

Whether you are new to Shappi or have followed her career for a while, ‘Oh My Country!’ offers something fresh and enjoyable for all types of audience members. For me, Oh My Country is arguably one of Shappi’s most intimate and personal tours yet.

-Demi West

Shappi Khorsandi’s -Oh My Country continues to tour through 2017. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.

REVIEW: Zoe Lyons – Little Misfit (The Lowry, Salford) 

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reviewer: megan hyland
upstaged rating:

Known for her regular appearances on TV comedy shows such as Mock the Week and Live at the Apollo, Zoe Lyons is back with her new tour, Little Misfit. First performed at the Edinburgh Fringe this year, Little Misfit is a sensational and exciting hour of reflective and at times quite political comedy. Lyons perfectly balances her personal experiences and world issues, making her performance current and relevant as well as warm and engaging. Rising comic Will Duggan supported Lyons, with twenty minutes of dry and often dark humour that sets him apart from other comedians. His performance was encouraging and involving, with a combination of hilarious prepared material and some equally funny audience interactions.

In a profession that is still disappointingly lacking in female performers, Lyons shows us exactly why there should be more celebrated female comedians. Although the audience was smaller than deserved, Lyons created entertaining atmosphere despite the fact that her comedy is perhaps better suited to a bigger audience. She commands the stage and the attention of the audience with great physicality and her ability to immerse us in her world.

Having watched her on TV, there’s a certain familiarity with Lyons’ comedy. Her quirky style and bold personality creates her own unique stage persona that is easily recognisable and makes her immediately stand out. However, even if you have never seen Lyons perform before – on TV or otherwise – her comedy is both inviting and inclusive, welcoming younger and older audiences. Some anecdotes and jokes however were also familiar, having heard them before from some of Lyons’ other material. Despite this, the show was packed with enough fresh material for this not to distract.

At times the transitions between jokes felt slightly forced, and the show itself ended very abruptly, as it was paced so rapidly that it felt as though it should have slowed to a more gradual end, or perhaps ended on a bigger or more memorable note. It felt as though the show just stopped mid flow on a joke that didn’t quite live up to the rest of the performance. However, despite having seen only short snippets of Lyons’ comedy before, even this hour-long performance felt too short, and perhaps the feeling of abruptness was simply due to wanting the performance to continue.

Little Misfit is a hilarious and charming hour of intelligent comedy that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. Zoe Lyons has mastered the art of comedy and created her own familiar comedic style that is as funny as it is thought-provoking.

-Megan Hyland

Zoe Lyons continues to tour through to May 2017 – click here for more info and to get your tickets.

REVIEW: The Sketch Men – Attempted Jokes (GM Fringe Festival – Joshua Brooks, Manchester)

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reviewer: demi west
upstaged rating: 

‘Failed’ actors Jack and Zach returned to Manchester as The Sketch Men, attempting to woo the crowd of the Joshua Brooks with their comical scenarios, accompanied by aspiring comedian Johnny Molyneux. Despite being nervous, Johnny’s classic stand-up style helped warm the crowd up for The Sketch Men, making cliché but effective jokes about his weight, and where he comes from. The Sketch Men got a good reaction from the audience, acting out skits that were relevant to everyday life- as well as some that definitely weren’t.

The show starts out with an almost pantomime-esque song about how ‘one shouldn’t be offended’ by controversial jokes, which set the overall tone for the show and prepared people for what types of jokes they would be seeing. As the show went on, sketches ranged from all types of topics, built around simple everyday situations, from cold calling to gap ‘yahs’, to more eccentric ideas such as Picasso and his muse, a failed magician, and an Art-Attack style show helmed by ‘Banksy’.

All in all, most of the sketches were humorous due to the outstanding acting skills showcased by the pair. This kind of humour is reliant on the comedic acting ability, in order to generate effective sketches, however, Zach and Jack seemed to possess more than the average comedic acting ability, performing at a level seen in theatre productions. This was the main reason for the effectiveness of the sketches, as they were able to keep up the suspension of disbelief, despite only having a small crowd with limited props, and had to utilise their acting prowess in order to transport the audience to the weird and wacky world of The Sketch Men.

Although able to perform well in a small venue with a crowd of less than forty, The Sketch Men would benefit from larger venues as their abilities would allow them to work a larger crowd and create a better atmosphere. Despite this, the venue size allowed the performance to be more intimate, enabling them to connect better with the audience, giving the show a more personal feel.

Overall, The Sketch Men created a night of comical fantasy that was successful, due to their ability as actors, and obvious strong rapport shared by the pair, which allowed the night to flow nicely. I would highly recommend The Sketch Men, even if sketch comedy isn’t your first choice.

-Demi West

 

Greater Manchester Fringe Festival runs until 31st July 2016 and you can visit their website for full listings here.

 

REVIEW: GM Fringe 2016: Fast Fringe with Justin Moorhouse (The Dancehouse Theatre, Manchester)

Justin Moorhouse's Fast Fringe opened the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2016
Justin Moorhouse’s Fast Fringe opened the Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2016
reviewer: demi west
upstaged rating: 

The Manchester Fast Fringe festival at the Dancehouse was a visual montage of the best jokes and gags from up and coming comedians due to perform at the festival, all comically led on from one another by Manchester’s own Justin Moorhouse. The show was to kick off the Manchester Fringe and consisted of twenty comedians, who each had three minutes to barrage you with a taster of their best material so that you could get a flavour of what they are offering at the Manchester and Edinburgh fringe. This offered a ‘selection box’ of comedy, which had a wide range of acts from puppets, to bearded men in dresses, keeping everyone’s eyes on the stage.

The acts, on the whole, were all very entertaining, with acts such as Brennan Reece offering anecdotal humour on the struggle of masculinity, and Andy Field who did a quirky take on the classic impersonation, including Elton John, and ‘Poprah’. All of these acts thought out their jokes and executed them to a good standard gaining a good response from the audience. Some acts broke the generic anecdotal formula of humour and offered more interesting approaches that worked well yet sometimes fell short, as the three minutes provided was sometimes too narrow of a time frame to sample their whole act.

Acts like Harriet Dyer offered an eccentric performance centred around nineties music and growing up in Cornwall, in which she performed an acapella singing dance routine with unusual body movements, catching the audience completely off-guard, yet still provoking the desired response. Other acts like Daniel Nichols simply picked out members of the audience and made them attempt to try and remove his jumper, but due to the short time slot, the audience wasn’t able to grasp what the whole act consisted of, which was one of the main problems with the show.

The show was all brought together and well-rounded by Justin Moorhouse, who worked the audience very well and connected with them through jokes on topical subjects, such as what it’s like to be from Manchester and the EU referendum. After attending the Fast Fringe, I’d definitely consider seeing some of the acts in their full-length solo shows, and thought it was a great way of sampling the best comedy that Manchester has to offer.

-Demi West

 

Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2016 runs from 1st July – 31st July and with an eclectic collection of shows and events, we recommend you check out the website and full festival listings by clicking here.

REVIEW – Hal Cruttenden – The Tough Luvvie Tour (The Lowry)

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Date: 13 september 2015
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Hal Cruttenden’s returns to The Lowry in Salford to perform a special one-off performance of one of his most successful routines to date – his “Tough Luvvie” show. Ahead of touring his new show entitled “Straight Otta Cruttenden”, he has chosen the Quays Theatre to record the official DVD of his “Tough Luvvie” tour. Playing to a full house in the Quays Theatre, he proves that he is a charming and energetic stand-up comedian with a wealth of material, intelligence and wit.

Cruttenden’s comedy pacing and timing are impeccable in this well observed and brutally honest show. This naturally funny man first appears quite mild and inoffensive with his audience by reducing himself to a stereotype of a middle class southerner and comparing the way he looks to Martin Roberts from daytime television show Homes Under the Hammer.  It is impossible to resist laughing along with Cruttenden’s unique mix of camp and straight, warm and catty humour.

Importantly, Cruttenden’s humour begins with himself and his family, he does a superb impression of his Northern Irish wife, before he begins to relentlessly shine the spotlight on others. As his show progresses, Cruttenden who self-professes to be a ‘middle class English tw*t’,  seems to earn the right to take on the Irish, the Scottish and the Russian, poking fun at the stereotypes in the same way. It’s a very clever device and the show is skilfully structured with Cruttenden further challenging modern society – having a go at footballers, mocking the royal family and politicians and then, much to my delight, those people who post those inane ‘share and like’ poems on Facebook.

Throughout the show Cruttenden frequently interacts with his audience and despite being hilariously candid, he is professional and strangely polite. He banters with a couple on the front row and skilfully works the material into the show; he spies a fellow in the crowd wearing a Iron Maiden t-shirt and proceeds to mock him (you’ve been warned) and he also scouts the crowd for the oldest audience member.

Hal Cruttenden gives an impeccable stand-up performance – I should know I was the woman on the first tier who laughed so hard that her stomach ached as she gasped for breath. Maybe I’ll make it on to the DVD? One thing is for sure, I’ll be one of the first in line to bag tickets for Hal Cruttenden’s next show ‘ Straight Outta Cruttenden’ when he returns to The Lowry on the 1st November…

-Kristy Stott

Hal Cruttenden commences his new show ‘Straight Outta Cruttenden’ at The Drill Hall in Lincoln on Thursday 17th September and continues to tour the UK until April 2016.

He returns to The Lowry in Salford on 1st November 2015.

For more dates on his tour please click here.

REVIEW – Luisa Omielan(The Lowry)

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Date: 19 May 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Following the success of Luisa Omielan’s last show What Would Beyonce Do, she has been catapulted into stardom and earned her stripes as a feisty, forthright and frankly downright funny stand-up comic. There has been a real buzz of publicity around Luisa Omielan’s latest show, Am I Right Ladies – she has made the headlines for stripping down to her spanx and the popular ‘thigh gap’ video went viral and totted up more than 10 million views on Facebook alone.

Am I Right Ladies explores Luisa’s new found fame and focuses on her life as a female comedian, being a woman and the currencies that we use to valuate ourselves and each other. Am I Right Ladies tackles subjects such as weight and body image, depression and derogatory language against women. What makes Luisa so special is that she can approach these emotive and current issues with empathy, vigor and amusement – I left Luisa’s show with an aching jaw, a big grin on my face and feeling half a stone lighter.

Luisa Omielan’s crowd is made up mainly of women although there were a few men who had curiously popped along with partners to see what all the fuss was about. Interestingly it was the men who seemed to laugh the loudest throughout the bold, brassy and fearless show. Luisa has a talent for making her audience feel privy to her hilariously personal and intimate stories -her one night stands, her holiday to Zante when she was nineteen and her liberating encounter with ‘well endowed’ Errol.

The only shame was that Luisa’s warm up act Zoe Iqbal didn’t get the liberated crowd quite as ‘lubed up’ as she had promised to, which gave the whole experience a bit of a lull before Luisa took to the stage for the main show. However, once Luisa took centre stage to the beat of some current tunes, the audience relaxed into the big night out vibe.

Luisa is no doubt a fabulous star and a real figure that many women can relate to, her future is bright and I can’t wait to see what she brings in the way of new material. Am I Right Ladies is just the ticket you need for a night out with the girls and so as Luisa says ‘Go Get Yours!’

-Kristy Stott

 Luisa continues her Am I Right Ladies tour in Belfast The Mac on the 18th-20th June 2015. 

REVIEW – Shappi Khorsandi: Because I’m Shappi (The Lowry)

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Date: 11 APRIL 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Shappi Khorsandi bounds on to the stage, sparkling like the sequinned trainers she wears and informs us that she is going to do her own warm-up – she quickly adds, “Times are hard.”

The aptly entitled show ‘Because I’m Shappi’ is uplifting and refreshing – it is not often you see a stand-up show which is built on happiness, a reflection on the good things in life and a celebration of the characters who have contributed to her stand-up career. It is clear to see that Shappi is a comic who loves her life on and off stage and she is happy when she is performing.

I can relate to Shappi- a mother of 2 children herself – she is proud and fearlessly independent, she is also highly likeable, mischievous and charming. During her warm-up act for ‘Big Shappi’ she handles her diverse Mancunian crowd with a razor sharp wit. She chats with a bride-to-be about how much she loathes hen parties and chocolate cocks and then starts to play a giant game of snap with her audience. And when she looks on edge and tells us that she is confiding in us, things that she has never divulged before – we believe her.

The whole show feels quite free-flowing and relaxed, with tales about childhood friends and family, Twitter trolls and internet porn while pregnant. We feel as though we are a confidant listening to a friend – Shappi’s tone is warm, engaging and conversational. Although, occasionally the material does feel a little too free-flowing and in covering such wide ranging subject matter, there didn’t always seem to be a main strand to follow and sometimes fluidity lacked as she jumped from one topic to another.

On leaving Shappi Khorsandi’s show I feel hopeful – her humour is infectious and refreshingly truthful- she fizzes energy and she is a charming and compelling entertainer. It seems that everyone in the theatre, including Shappi, has enjoyed themselves and that’s the most important thing.

-Kristy Stott

Shappi Khorsandi continues her show ‘Because I’m Shappi’ at The Ropetackle Arts Centre on Friday 24th April and she continues to tour the UK through May and June 2015. For more dates please click here.

REVIEW – Forever Young (Oldham Coliseum)

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Date: 6 march 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Forever Young is a musical and a black comedy set in a nursing home where the residents are all retired actors. The play is based around each of the characters and their own quirks and traits – it’s rather like a collection of musical numbers punctuated by short comedy sketches.

Ironically, the play opens very quietly, the only noise being a clinical looking Sister George (Georgina White) who whistles the Kill Bill tune while slapping rubber gloves against her thighs and spraying air freshener around the residents lounge. Slowly each of the ageing thespians are revealed to us as they make their comical entries onto the stage. First up is Mr Bednarczyk, who is the musical director as well as a resident at the home – he reluctantly takes his seat at the grand piano to provide the soundtrack for the other characters to make their ceremonial entries on to the stage.

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The cast are all superb, under the careful direction of Giles Croft and the clever choreography of Adele Parry, they all stagger to life and deliver some cracking numbers once Sister George exits the stage and closes the door. Mr Frater’s gait and word finding difficulties are highly convincing and Ms Little’s confused stare and disinhibited outbursts are all believable traits of somebody with dementia. When a conflict breaks out between Mr Frater and Mr Elkington, beside from being the slowest fight in history, it is the greatest source of humour for the audience – they roared with laughter on the night that I attended.

Musical comedy highlights are a plenty – the two romantics Ms Darcy and Mr Superville sing a sweet version of I Got You Babe as well as trying to recreate Torvill and Dean’s 1984 Olympic winning Bolero. Tiara and lace clad Ms Little also sends up a version of Aqua’s Barbie Girl  with a prosthetic limb and uses her fox stole as an air guitar for an entertaining version of I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The play also harbours some tender moments between the characters – when Ms Little passes a tissue to Mr Frater we can only imagine that he is thinking about lost youth and love. Ms Darcy’s version of the Nirvana classic, Smells Like Teen Spirit, also reminds us of the loneliness associated with getting older.

The production is loaded with plenty of highly amusing comic sequences and characters that you could watch all day – however, there isn’t much of a plot to push it along and so it does feel like it drags at times. Nevertheless this didn’t appear to hinder the audiences enjoyment judging by their applause and squeals of laughter.

Forever Young celebrates the lives and loves of older adults and blows the assumption that people in nursing homes are just waiting for their final curtain call. As well as being a musical comedy on the surface – this play actually makes a valid commentary on the way that we treat and view older people. This talented cast of seven certainly prove that old age can be a laughing matter.

-Kristy Stott

Forever Young runs at Oldham Coliseum until Saturday March 21st 2015

 

REVIEW – One Man Breaking Bad – UK Tour (The Lowry)

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Date: 01 March 2015
Upstaged Rating: 

Remember that feeling of loss when you reached the end of the final episode of season five of Breaking Bad? One show which had taken on a permanent place of residence in our hearts – we loved the characters, we felt like we actually knew them and we had taken them into our lives. I don’t know about you, but I really struggled when I reached the end of Breaking Bad. I tried to replace Walt with Dexter but it just wasn’t the same – I was attached to Heisenberg and Jesse Pinkman.

Well there is good news for anyone still suffering with withdrawal symptoms from the Emmy award-winning TV drama – Miles Allen, has brought his One Man Breaking Bad parody show to the UK for a full tour. Throughout the performance time of 80 minutes, Allen manages to condense all five seasons of Breaking Bad and take on the challenge of impersonating all of the lead characters,

Talented impersonator Allen uses our favourite meth head Jesse Pinkman as a narrator for the story, sticking closely to the original narrative, he manages to put his own spin on the action, using relevant cultural references to the NHS and the UK government as well as squeezing in some hilarious impressions of Peter Griffin, Homer Simpson and Gollum.

Miles Allen’s impression of Skyler is particularly entertaining – as he throws the blond synthetic wig haphazardly on to his head and dulls his voice to her low patronising tone. Allen really is a skilled performer, taking on pretty much every character in the series convincingly, as well as performing Breaking Bad dance moves (Better Call Saul and Die like Jane) and fashioning Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball as a strange parody with Walt Jr taking the limelight.

The show is interactive and high energy and Allen encourages the audience to join in wherever possible – whether it be chanting key lines from the show or picking participants from the audience to re-enact the ‘pizza on the roof’ scene.

One Man Breaking Bad is a light hearted and skilled stand up show which taps into a shared love of one of the best TV shows ever made. What did confuse me, however, was the number of people who raised their hands, at the top of the show, when Miles Allen asked, “Who hasn’t watched Breaking Bad?” Aside from the mass plot spoilers, I was puzzled they they had even bought a ticket.

This show is for those people who watched, lived and loved Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad and in Allen’s own words it is “a love letter for all of the fans who lived through the blood, meth and tears of the greatest TV show ever made”. If this review has whet your appetite and you fancy revisiting the world of Walter White and co, One Man Breaking Bad will definitely get you your fix.

-Kristy Stott

One Man Breaking Bad continues its UK tour at The Severn Arts Centre in Shrewsbury tonight.

Further tour dates can be found here.