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The North West at the Fringe: Part Two

Marissa’s back again, to keep us updated with how the Northwest’s comedians are faring up in bonny Scotland…

Published on August 24th 2006.

The North West at the Fringe: Part Two

Over two weeks in now, and the atmosphere in the flat has shifted. As the comedians’ shows got underway, a more nonchalant air was adopted for a day or so - until the reviews began to be published. Since then this Manchester Confidential reporter has been sleeping at night with the lights on, a chair wedged under the door knob and a cheese grater under the bed. The Men and Motors film crew have been of no use at all. So much for media solidarity.

Using my pre-teen reading of Nancy Drew detective books as stealth training, I’ve been able to escape the clutches of the comedy crew to sneak into some more shows. You’d better appreciate it; if the wind blows right you can smell the blood and tears sweated in this chapter.

The second week of the festival saw a one off visit from Manchester comedy stalwart Smug Roberts. For one night only he was showcasing his new show Me Dad’s Dead at the Underbelly venue. No explanation should be needed regarding the subject matter but for those amongst you who aren’t too quick to catch on, the show concerns the death of his father. It has potential for a sensitively drawn, bittersweet play but at this point in time it doesn’t seem to know what it is.

Roberts takes to the stage and begins as if it’s a normal stand up gig. Then a few minutes later the action turns to his father, then there’s more stand up, he hears of his Dad’s death, more comedy, and so on up to and including a graphic image of the funeral. Roberts’ stand up is consistently and affably funny but you don’t know when to laugh or cry; a touch more subtlety would make for a more effective piece.

Manchester’s resident Aussie Steve Hughes has been on the receiving end of some bad press and inaccurate journalism from sources that really should know better. Hughes’ show Storm is a polemic on the nature of conflict around the globe involving the USA (though it’s tricky to call to mind any conflict the American government’s not currently involved in).

Hughes has been accused by a writer for The Ali G Show of anti-Semitism, but When Manchester Confidential saw the show this week it was an intelligently written and thought out affair typical of Hughes’ work.

An investigating broadsheet suggested that Hughes had changed his act to quell the ‘storm.’ Having heard Hughes tell one of the disputed gags before - he asks why would you play cowboys and Indians, a game based on genocide, when you wouldn’t dream of playing Nazis and Jews – did it not occur to said newspaper that the original article might have misquoted him?

Stripping the festival back to its basic roots, free Fringe shows have been proving a success whilst requiring no money from punters. Many of the shows have been garnering four star reviews and one of those was for Manchester’s very own Ian Fox and his show The Butterfly Effect.

An intelligently considered show with a quick fire succession of quality gags, he explores Edward Lorenz’s theory of chaos, likening the universe to being as predictable as ‘a coach load of drunken granddads.’ In addition to his four stars he also gained a glowing review from the notoriously hard to please Kate Copstick of The Scotsman newspaper.

Fox also features in another free show that’s been awarded four stars, The Great Big Comedy Picnic, where a series of North West acts rotate each week doing twenty minutes of their stand up set. Who said there wasn’t any such thing as a free lunch, or picnic even…

Nominated for the Perrier award last year, Manchester’s Jason Manford isn’t doing a full length show this year but has popped up to appear in the E4 showcase at the giant inflatable purple cow tent The Udderbelly (believe it or not there are weirder venues here). Although Manford has only performed in E4’s Funny Cuts programme so far, anyone who has seen the rise of Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand know it can’t be too long before he’s a household name himself. In the meantime as compere of the E4 show he easily rivalled Jimmy Carr as best on the bill.

And with that we check the washing machine for stray socks and use up the last of the cornflakes before we head back to Mancland next week. See you there.

Marissa Burgess

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