image
Blog News, reviews and cool stuff from the FestBuzz team.

FestBuzz Twitter of the Year: Chris Cox– a Profile

Posted by elise on August 27, 2009

Picture 4

That’s right Chris Cox has won our first ever Fes­t­Buzz Twit­ter of the Year award– reward­ing the best Twit­ter based shenani­gans at the Edin­burgh Festivals. 

Chris, Twit­ter alias @bigcox, has been a keen-user of the micro blog­ging sys­tem for the last 8 months, but his usage has really kicked off while in Edin­burgh in August, hav­ing tweeted over 300 times in the last 27 days. This is in between run­ning his own show, Mind Over Pat­ter (8.30pm, Pleas­ance Dome), appear­ing in Mark Watson’s prom­e­nade the­atre piece as the mind-reading concierge, Eric, and mak­ing appear­ances across the Fringe in a vari­ety of vari­ety shows.

While gar­ner­ing some excel­lent reviews from estab­lished crit­ics, what caught FestBuzz’s keen eye were the reviews he was receiv­ing from fans via Twit­ter. 37 of these have been mea­sured by FestBuzz’s sen­ti­ment detec­tion soft­ware, giv­ing him a 5 star rat­ing overall.

Quotes from audi­ence members:

“Mak­ing the impos­si­ble pos­si­ble, with laughs.” @kateweb

“I was delight­fully baf­fled by @bigcox‘s Mind over Pat­ter.” @shell_here

“Very awe­some freaky mind thin­gies.” @tashadhanraj 

Chris also fea­tured in @tiernandouieb’s sec­ond Twit­ter Com­edy event– but due to tech­ni­cal dif­fi­cul­ties was forced to tweet his show from back­stage at a tech rehearsal for Mind Over Pat­ter. He still impressed the audi­ence though with a trick which forced their feet to rotate with­out their own volition.

Per­haps the most impor­tant aspect of @bigcox’s Twit­ter usage is inter­ac­tion. Unlike some come­di­ans who set up Twit­ter accounts and don’t inter­act with their fans, Chris has a rat­ing of 79% for Con­ver­sa­tion Quo­tient, mean­ing he has replied to a large amount of the @ mes­sages he receives.

Thank you to Chris for attend­ing Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of the Fringe show today to accept the award, and for per­form­ing some mind read­ing stunts on the spot. Fes­t­Buzz can’t wait to see what he’ll be tweet­ing this time next year…

Chris Cox accepts his award

Posted by elise on August 27, 2009

Chris Cox (aka @bigcox)

Chris Cox wins FestBuzz’s Twitter of the Year award at Edinburgh Fringe 2009

Posted by elise on August 27, 2009

Chris Cox wins FestBuzz’s Twit­ter of the Year award at Edin­burgh Fringe 2009

Fes­t­Buzz have awarded Chris Cox, the com­edy men­tal­ist magi­cian, the first ever com­edy Twit­ter of the Year Award at Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of the Fringe.

Cox has been given this prize for his cre­ative and pro­lific use of Twit­ter which has helped gar­ner him almost 3,000 fol­low­ers on the site, and ensured his pop­u­lar­ity at this year’s Fringe fes­ti­val with his show Mind Over Pat­ter. He has tweeted around 300 times this August, con­vers­ing with fans and fel­low come­di­ans about com­edy, the inter­net and his show. Chris’ online name is @bigcox, and his mind-reading and magic show com­bines other new social media such as Face­book to cre­ate some excel­lent tricks for his audience.

Fes­t­Buzz is a new way to find cool stuff at the Edin­burgh Fes­ti­vals. It’s a project from Affect Labs, a data pro­cess­ing com­pany based in Edin­burgh, and is sup­ported by Chan­nel 4’s 4iP fund. Fes­t­Buzz aggre­gates “tweets” about shows and then uses sen­ti­ment detec­tion to cre­ate a star rat­ing for the act: reviews are crowd-sourced directly from the peo­ple who are see­ing the shows, rather than critics.

Twit­ter has become an inter­net sen­sa­tion in the last 8 months: func­tion­ing a lit­tle like Face­book sta­tus updates, you sim­ply tell the site what you’re doing (in 140 char­ac­ters or less) and then read what other peo­ple are doing from their “tweets”. The attrac­tion of Twit­ter is fol­low­ing other inter­est­ing or famous people’s tweets about their lives, cre­at­ing a stream of con­scious­ness type feed which illus­trates the chang­ing mood of the moment.

The prize will be pre­sented to Chris Cox at Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of the Fringe show start­ing at 1pm on Thurs­day 27th August. Stut­ter has been run­ning the revue since 1992 and will be pre­sent­ing his own Spirit of the Fringe awards on Sun­day 30th August.

http://www.festbuzz.com/

FestBuzz Review — King Arthur

Posted by Domenica on August 25, 2009

arthurresize

What: King Arthur, by Siege Per­ilous
Where: New Town The­atre, Freema­sons’ Hall
When: 14:45, August 5 – 30 (not 9, 17, 24)
How Much: £5 – 12

In 140 char­ac­ters or less: “Densely writ­ten polit­i­cal intrigue com­bined with crises of faith, stark and mov­ing but at times overly com­plex and ambi­tious for its length.”

The leg­end of King Arthur has been end­lessly retold over the cen­turies, as suc­ces­sive ages find their own mean­ing in the time­less sto­ries.  In this stark pro­duc­tion writer/producer Lucy Nord­berg places the famous char­ac­ters in a vaguely 20th cen­tury set­ting, test­ing the rel­e­vance of Arthurian themes to our own times.

The play leaps rather abruptly into the heart of the issue, as Arthur (Jim Byars) dis­cusses his plan to insti­tute democ­racy in his king­dom as a means of ensur­ing the con­tin­u­a­tion of his poli­cies for good.  How­ever, the king quickly encoun­ters oppo­si­tion from many par­ties within the court who hold other ambi­tions.  There are also con­cerns about the people’s inter­est in and abil­ity to rule them­selves, high­light­ing the con­flict between blind faith and rea­son that runs through the Arthurian myths.  The strug­gle is par­tic­u­larly strong for Arthur’s ille­git­i­mate son Mor­dred (Steven McMa­hon), who has been dis­placed from his own king­dom to take his place as heir at his father’s court and is imme­di­ately lost in the ever-shifting moral and polit­i­cal land­scape.  In this sense Mor­dred, and many of the other char­ac­ters wrestling with their own val­ues and alle­giances, are apt rep­re­sen­ta­tions of indi­vid­u­als trapped in mod­ern soci­ety:   con­fused and dis­tressed by the ero­sion of tra­di­tional cul­ture and val­ues, and dis­ori­ented by the loss of their home­lands through eco­nomic or polit­i­cal necessity.

A cast attired in slightly ill-fitted evening wear and and a spare set that hints at a over­sized chess­board com­fort­ably enhance the mood of tense plot­ting.  There is none of the magic and glory of the Arthurian myth in this retelling, save in the sad­dened rem­i­nisces of the king’s old­est fol­low­ers, who feel they have hitched their wagon to a dream only to see it crash under the weight of age and change.  Instead the mood is heavy with a sense of decline and irrev­o­ca­ble decay, with Renais­sance music and dia­logue writ­ten in iambic pen­tame­ter adding a gloss of past elegance.

The script is rich and highly poetic, but unfor­tu­nately the pace at which the dia­logue is spo­ken is often so rapid that its com­plex­ity can­not be processed in time.  Nord­berg intro­duces some strik­ingly beau­ti­ful imagery, but there is no time to savour these ideas if the viewer wishes to keep apace with the devel­op­ment of action.  This head­long race through the story is both a strength and a weak­ness:  in one sense the show can be com­mended for cov­er­ing so much intri­cate mate­r­ial in only an hour and a half, while on the other hand it is a pity that the ideas and char­ac­ters are given so lit­tle time to breathe.  This is epic stuff, and while the capa­ble cast do man­age per­for­mances that are acces­si­ble and mov­ing, the audi­ence is left feel­ing a lit­tle clob­bered with the weight of it all.  Per­haps this was the inten­tion;  and for those who are not look­ing for a pretty spec­ta­cle of chivalry and romance, it is ulti­mately an inter­est­ing take on the stan­dard legend.

Fes­t­buzz Rating:

Words: Domenica Goduto

FestBuzz Review — The Doubtful Guest

Posted by Domenica on August 25, 2009

What: The Doubt­ful Guest, by Edward Gorey and Hoipol­loi
Where: Tra­verse The­atre
When: 18 – 30 August (not 24) (show­times vary)
How Much: £5 – 18

In 140 char­ac­ters or less: “A Gorey clas­sic brought to vibrant life in all its whim­si­cal, sin­is­ter, comic glory.  Inspired act­ing and delec­tably omi­nous atmosphere.”

Edward Gorey’s quaintly eerie illus­tra­tions and macabre sto­ries have achieved a cult fol­low­ing.  While The Doubt­ful Guest is not one of his more grue­some tales, its play­ful ambi­gu­ity offers much mate­r­ial to work with in a the­atri­cal per­for­mance.  Hoipol­loi seize the oppor­tu­nity with gusto, and their ver­sion of this much-loved story pre­serves its kooky, inexplicable qual­i­ties while tak­ing the atmos­phere of lurk­ing mad­ness to new heights.

Gorey’s work is whim­si­cally gothic, with images harken­ing back to Vic­to­rian book illus­tra­tions and plots that walk a fine line between humour and hor­ror.  His rhyming text for The Doubt­ful Guest, which appears on a screen high above the stage dur­ing Hoipolloi’s per­for­mance, is sim­ple, unelab­o­rate.  Noth­ing explic­itly ter­ri­fy­ing hap­pens in this story, yet the illus­tra­tions indi­cate that this is indeed a hugely dis­rupt­ing episode in the char­ac­ters’ lives.  In the the­atre, these images are allowed to come to life, speak and scream, and the fear and dis­or­der under­ly­ing the selec­tive text vividly emerge.

The cast bril­liantly give life to Gorey’s quirky char­ac­ters with strongly phys­i­cal, per­fectly timed per­for­mances.  When we first meet the Bishop fam­ily, they are elderly, frag­ile, hes­i­tant — yet still pos­sessed of an endear­ingly child­like quality. The tale is pre­sented as a play within a play, as the char­ac­ters attempt to explain to their audi­ence the story of their unusual expe­ri­ence.  This leaves ample room for the script to play with the con­ven­tions of the the­atre, as the char­ac­ters labo­ri­ously explain each the­atri­cal device to the audi­ence with hilar­i­ous sin­cer­ity.  The inter­play of real­ity and illu­sion is a recur­ring theme through­out the show, and while the con­trast is at first delib­er­ately abrupt, even­tu­ally the Bishop’s family’s “per­for­mance” takes off and we enter the sur­real world of Gorey’s orig­i­nal story.

The Bish­ops are a quiet fam­ily who lived a retir­ing life until one wild winter’s night when they acci­den­tally allow a strange crea­ture into their house.  The thing refuses to leave, and in the mean­time wreaks havoc within their spa­cious, orderly home.  It is never explained what the crea­ture is, or why the fam­ily does not sim­ply remove it by force, though they even­tu­ally acknowl­edge in a later, more bit­ter moment that this is what they should have done.  This is all part of the delight­ful absur­dity of Gorey’s vision, per­fectly cap­tured in the per­for­mance, in which the adult world and adult reac­tions are refracted through a child­like mindset.

The play excels in cre­at­ing atmos­phere, with lights and a haunt­ing orig­i­nal score employed to cap­ture and amplify the under­ly­ing eeri­ness of Gorey’s oeu­vre.  The story is unset­tling, yet still highly humor­ous, and the increas­ing des­per­a­tion of the char­ac­ters’ sit­u­a­tion builds to a fan­tas­tic finale in which illu­sion finally over­takes real­ity and the chaos unstage escapes into the audience’s realm.  All in all, The Doubt­ful Guest offers a delight­ful detour through a world of whimsy and ter­ror.  This is sump­tious the­atre, quirky, engag­ing and ever-varied.

Fes­t­buzz Rating:

Words: Domenica Goduto

Festbuzz Review: Glenn Wool

Posted by stevie on August 24, 2009

by Underbelly Limited

What: Glenn Wool
Where: Underbelly’s Hul­la­baloo
When: until the 31st of August, 21:45 every night
How much: £10-£15

In 140 char­ac­ters or fewer: “One man Cana­dian wreck­ing spree tells us why the world is going to hell in a hilar­i­ous hour of scream­ing and ridicu­lous facial expressions”

Cana­dian exports to Britain have been a bit lim­ited over the years: Celine Dion, oil and gas and, dare I say it, club­bing. Wool has never been con­sid­ered a top export, until now.

In Glenn Wool, Canada has a mis­placed off­spring worth scream­ing about. Hav­ing lived in Britain for the last ten years, Wool can quite com­fort­ably avoid the trite mate­r­ial com­par­ing the two sides of the Atlantic which blights so many North Amer­i­can come­di­ans attempt­ing to cap­ti­vate Edin­burgh audiences.

From the first minute of his set, Wool had the crowd in the kind of stitches only caused by the most inap­pro­pri­ate of unscripted jokes. Befriend­ing a lonely crowd mem­ber is one thing, but find­ing out she was only 16 year old led to a hasty retreat and much hilar­ity all around the small but per­fectly formed com­edy set.

Wool car­ries him­self in a dis­arm­ing man­ner; dress­ing like some rejected off­spring of Jack Black, it takes only a few sec­onds to realise this is a ruse behind which lurks a fear­some intel­li­gence. Top­ics range from sex­ual eti­quette, the rea­sons why poor peo­ple should never, ever be lent money (vodka and socks) and why we should fun­da­men­tally dis­trust any­one in a suit. This is all set against tales of his Moun­tie father and bears being knocked out with one punch.

Wool’s great­est asset is his act­ing skills. He can play any role required in order to gain a laugh. He can make an every­day state­ment into a superb piece of com­edy with the kind of eye­brow lift which would make wrestling super­star The Rock extremely proud.

To begin with, Wool puts him­self on the line in an hon­est, self dep­re­cat­ing and often hilar­i­ous man­ner. It is only when he departs into sto­ries of why the wider world is in great peril that he really ups the tempo. This man can scream. At times, his voice edges dan­ger­ously close to Zed from Police Acad­emy 2. When he screams though, the audi­ence roars in approval. He has angst in his soul but the set would be ster­ile with­out it.

If you seek a bible class on how to live an hon­est, decent and depraved life out­side of the cor­po­rate sys­tem which has brought the world econ­omy to its knees, then Wool is your man. Always angry, but simul­ta­ne­ously endear­ing, his mes­sage is clear – “The most trust­wor­thy peo­ple I know don’t wear suits, they wear Iron Maiden T-shirts”.

A dude with a brain and a hell of a lot of issues, Glenn Wool is not to be missed.

Fes­t­buzz Rating:

Words: Ste­vie Kearney

Festbuzz Review: Late Night Gimp Fight

Posted by elise on August 21, 2009

Image by Tom Pullen

What: Late Night Gimp Fight fea­tur­ing Lee Grif­fiths, Richard Camp­bell, David Moon, Matt Ralph, and Paul Richard Big­gin.
Where: Pleas­ance Hut
When: 11pm, until Mon­day 31 August
How Much: £7.50-£10

In 140 char­ac­ters or less: “Late Night Gimp Fight: If you don’t enjoy this there is some­thing wrong with you.”

There’s a lot of energy in the Pleas­ance Hut as Late Night Gimp Fight unfolds before the audi­ence. Pos­si­bly the most fre­netic thing you’ll ever see after 11pm at night, this is a gag-heavy and non-stop hour of gimp-based fun.

To be fair, this prob­a­bly isn’t the wit­ti­est show at the fringe but for some­thing so puerile it’s ulti­mately very intel­li­gent and gets the audi­ence on-side very quickly. Gimp Fight uses music in its favour, and unlike some sketch groups isn’t try­ing to bor­row the sex­i­ness from the musi­cal stings. Cer­tainly not if their bizarre mutual sex­ual assault sketch to a Bon­nie Tyler hit is any­thing to go by.

There are some good call backs and run­ning gags, and its all very friendly despite the sin­is­ter and inter­mit­tent recur­rence of masked gimps. This show was quite eas­ily the fastest hour you’ll spend in at a Fringe com­edy show: there’s sim­ply no stop­ping these guys. The audi­ence roared with laugh­ter through­out, per­haps helped a lit­tle by the 11pm slot, but there cer­tainly weren’t any dull moments.

Great skethces to watch out for include: Juras­sic Park (as you’ve never seen it, or not seen it, before); a pre-war pep talk with more puns than you can lit­er­ally shake a stick at; and a pro­fes­sional wrestler Dad (you will wince in fake pain).

Pos­si­bly the only crit­i­cism is that while the film and TV ref­er­ences are recog­nis­able, that’s because they are all quite old ref­er­ences: these guys only get away with a Matrix par­ody because the girl next to me almost fell off her chair when they brought out the “bullets”.

If you’re look­ing for bawdy but intel­li­gi­ble fun the place to find it is the Late Night Gimp Fight. It does exactly what it says on the tin.

Fes­t­buzz Rating:

Words: Elise Bramich

Festbuzz Review: Superclump

Posted by elise on August 20, 2009

wozniakresize

What: Super­clump fea­tur­ing  Henry Paker, Henry Widdicombe,Sian Har­ries, Mike Woz­niak, Elis James, Ben Par­tridge, Tom Craine, Josh Wid­di­combe, and Nat Luurt­sema.
Where: The GRV
When: 2.40pm, until Sun­day 30 August
How Much: £5

In 140 char­ac­ters or less: “If they can just get the tim­ing as fast as a speed­ing bul­let Super­clump will become a sketch group of steel.”

I’m not sure how many peo­ple are in Super­clump. I could find out but I pre­fer to be hap­pily daz­zled and mys­ti­fied by the array of char­ac­ters this large and enthu­si­as­tic cast play.

This is a bizarre sketch show, with some Big Train-ish moments and lash­ings of stu­pid dances. It holds together well, but the pac­ing some­times loses its way, leav­ing the audi­ence unsure when to applaud. Some sketches were just too long (a bril­liant stand off between two macho lothar­ios loses it’s way try­ing to get to a pun) and oth­ers just too short (the annoy­ing Red Rid­ing Hood and her short tem­pered grandmother).

The act­ing for the most part is pretty strong: Mike Woz­niak is absolutely on top form, and he clearly leads the group on stage. Tom Craine and Nat Luurt­sema get some of the best lines, but it’s a real team effort over­all and there’s some­thing delight­ful about watch­ing sketches where you’re never sure quite how many more peo­ple will end up on stage.

The team are quite suc­cess­ful in get­ting all their per­son­al­i­ties across, despite play­ing a vari­ety of char­ac­ters with­out break­ing the fourth wall par­tic­u­larly often, though it was a charm­ing and reveal­ing moment to see Craine and Elis James corps­ing in the Aesop sketch. It’s clear there is a cen­tral drive to the sense of humour which makes Super­clump great, and with such a large cast they could have eas­ily lost their way with this.

In order to really get the most out of this show, watch out for when sketches take a darker turn: a dance turns bizarrely vio­lent, chil­dren play some very odd games, and just wait until you find out what’s in the party bags…

There are def­i­nitely a few dud moments they could scrap in this show, and it suf­fers mildly from the post-lunch sleepy slot, but when Super­clump shine they really dazzle.

Fes­t­buzz Rating:

Words: Elise Bramich

Festbuzz Review: Unfolding the Aryan Papers

Posted by elise on August 20, 2009

aryanpapersresize

What: Unfold­ing the Aryan Papers by Jane and Louise Wil­son
Where: Tal­bot Rice Gallery
When: Daily until 26 Sep­tem­ber.
How Much: Free.

In 140 char­ac­ters or less: “An exhi­bi­tion about lone­li­ness, iden­tity, absence and the own­er­ship of ideas.”

Jane and Louise Wilson’s lat­est exhi­bi­tion is Unfold­ing the Aryan Papers, cur­rently on dis­play at the Tal­bot Rice Gallery. This is a quiet, unpre­pos­sess­ing piece about the nature of iden­tity and the exis­tence of ideas. Based around Aryan Papers, a film the direc­tor Stan­ley Kubrick spent months plan­ning then decided not to make, the sis­ters delve into his archives and inter­view and film the woman who would have been the star of the film, Johanna ter Steege.

The film instal­la­tion itself, images of ter Steege from the past and present with her dis­em­bod­ied voice speak­ing can­didly, is caged with mir­rors on either side, repli­cat­ing the pic­tures to infin­ity on either side of the screen. This dupli­cat­ing cor­ri­dor cre­ates not only phys­i­cal depth within the gallery, but adds to the echo­ing of ter Steege’s mono­logue. The feel­ing of lone­li­ness and space is also present in the archived images on dis­play here.

Along­side the orig­i­nal rulers Kubrick used when scout­ing loca­tions, pho­tos of them can be seen in framed black and white spaces, steps, bridges and door­ways that caught the cinematographer’s eye. Images of ter Steege mimic these set ups. Often she is seen with her back to the cam­era, adding a sin­is­ter voyeuris­tic ele­ment to the exhi­bi­tion. While the actress does not come across as a vic­tim, she can be con­strued as an object lost in time and space, dis­posed of when no longer needed.

The fig­ure of Kubrick looms large in this exhi­bi­tion despite the lack of voice or phys­i­cal pres­ence: he is an absent father; a man play­ing god with the lives of oth­ers; the afore­men­tioned voyeur; the deist cre­ator who leaves his cre­ation to its own devices. The Wil­son sis­ters’ work is not about res­ur­rec­tion but about the con­tin­ued exis­tence of ideas even when the orig­i­na­tor aban­dons it. Kubrick was noto­ri­ous for his rig­or­ous plan­ning, but also for his self-censorship, par­tic­u­larly when he with­drew A Clock­work Orange in the early 1970s due to the furore sur­round­ing pos­si­ble copy­cat violence.

Aryan Papers is based on the Louis Beg­ley novel Wartime Lies, the story of a Jew­ish woman who adopts a Catholic iden­tity to escape Nazi Ger­many. The ideas of dis­guise, loss of iden­tity, per­for­mance and inner con­scious­ness are all drawn on in the Wil­son sis­ters’ piece. Ter Steege describes her­self as a “chameleon” when she researched and rehearsed the role: her unful­filled star­dom is pal­pa­ble in the room. This was not just the loss of a film, but the loss of a career. Phi­los­o­phy poses the ques­tion, if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Per­haps the answer can be found in the res­o­nance and rever­ber­a­tion it causes afterwards.

This is a suc­cess­ful and intrigu­ing exhi­bi­tion: story-telling at its very best.

Fes­t­buzz Review:

Words: Elise Bramich

Festbuzz Review: The Comedy Reserve

Posted by Jodi on August 20, 2009

What: The Com­edy Reserve
Where: Pleas­ance Dome
When: 8 — 31 August (not 18 and 25)
How Much: £7.50 — £8.50

In 140 char­ac­ters or less: “Doc Brown intro­duces a mish–mash of up-and-coming come­di­ans. Be warned — qual­ity varies considerably.”

In the­ory, The Com­edy Reserve is a great idea. Three up-and-coming come­di­ans share an hour-long show with a respected, but still rel­a­tively unknown comic per­form­ing com­pere duties. In prac­tice, how­ever, it’s some­thing alto­gether less than the sum of its parts. Doc Brown, London-based rap­per turned stand-up and brother to author Zadie Smith, cer­tainly per­forms the role of MC to the height of his con­sid­er­able abil­i­ties adding such much needed cohe­sive­ness to a bill of come­di­ans, each with an entirely dif­fer­ent con­cept of humour.

Jared Hardy is barely on stage before launch­ing into an excep­tion­ally self-deprecating rou­tine which, try as it might, can’t quite recover after the audi­ence loses con­fi­dence early on. Hardy claims to resem­ble “an emo Harry Pot­ter” but with his slight West Coun­try lilt, painfully scrawny frame and the admis­sion that he hails from Bris­tol, the char­ac­ter Sid from Skins is per­haps a more appro­pri­ate com­par­i­son. Like his small-screen coun­ter­part, Hardy appears ago­nis­ingly awk­ward and, while endear­ing in some small way, seems out of his depth in front of an Edin­burgh crowd.

Cana­dian comic Pat Burtscher (or “Pat Butcher!” as a lady in the next seat squealed with delight), by con­trast, seems excep­tion­ally sure of him­self though appears entirely unaware of the fact. Whether drug-induced or oth­er­wise, Burtscher spends the early part of his short set in a stu­por, only snap­ping out of it to bat­tle an errant mic stand. By the time he finally man­ages to attain some­thing vaguely resem­bling lucid­ity, he’s riff­ing off the sex­ual dif­fer­ences between men and women, end­ing in an out­ra­geous — and excru­ci­at­ing — mas­tur­ba­tion gag. Burtscher is cer­tainly an intense per­former but his dozey demeanour and crass pay­offs are some­thing of a let-down.

Final act Chris Stokes is a minor rev­e­la­tion after the pre­vi­ous two comics. Like Hardy, Stokes plays on themes of per­sonal dep­re­ca­tion and poor esteem but pos­sesses just enough self-assurance to pull it off. He is a decon­struc­tivist, play­ing on social mis­con­cep­tions and dis­man­tling them on stage. The pace is slow and mean­der­ing but there’s a sur­re­al­is­tic ele­ment that acts as a smoke screen, keep­ing the audi­ence dis­tracted while Stokes weaves addi­tional lay­ers into the fab­ric of a some­times thin ini­tial joke. His per­sonal life proves a rich source of mate­r­ial, as tales of his veg­an­ism and of liv­ing with his flat­mate are used as spring­boards for intro­duc­ing new con­cepts. It’s dif­fi­cult to see a rel­a­tively off­beat act like Chris Stokes truly going main­stream but the come­dian can cer­tainly expect to attract a cult fol­low­ing if this per­for­mance is any indication.

There are undoubt­edly laughs to be had at The Com­edy Reserve but with Doc Brown con­fined to his role as Mas­ter of Cer­e­monies, it’s left to Chris Stokes to lift the show above the level set by Hardy and Burtscher. As it is, he can’t quite man­age it sin­gle–hand­edly and his com­plex, dead­pan rou­tine may prove some­thing of a turnoff for many. Was the ticket price for The Com­edy Reserve a cou­ple of pounds cheaper it might seem a more rea­son­able prospect but as it is, it’s hard not to come away with at least a slight sense of disappointment.

Fes­t­buzz Rating:

Words: Jodi Mullen