Dave Chawner: Freelosophy (Work In Progress)
Freelosophy, not a show about saving money on utilities during the cost of living crisis we're informed, is all about the history of Western philosophy. Dave Chawner loves philosophy, and is keen to make it clear that it isn't all just fusty, boring, white men: he wants to do for philosophy what Horrible Histories did for history. That is, win a BAFTA and make bank.
All jokes aside, the University of Southampton graduate (Ed: his department's slogan was 'philosophers do it deep', over in politics ours was 'politics students do it on the back benches'), took us all the way back to the Presocratics, to Chrysippus of Soli, the stoic who died laughing at a donkey eating a plate of figs, the beef between Diogenes and Socrates, and his love of school debate club ('It's fight club for people who are bullied and have allergies'). An enlightening, educational, entertaining hour.
The Crisp Review: LIVE
We all felt bored during the lockdowns, but evidently nobody more so than Adam Evans, who started reviewing crisps on TikTok. His mission? To be sent free crisps. And it turns out you can just email them to ask for those.
Nevertheless, what followed was a chaotic hour of TikToks of crisp reviews past (a highlights reel of sorts), a mockumentary-style video where him and his loved ones talk about the success of the crisp review. The second half of the show sees him distribute crisps from Spudos, who have provided crisps for the show, and he holds a Q&A with Spudos founder Del Currie.
This show delivered exactly what I'd hoped for: a man who likes crisps, reviewing crisps, live. I'm still upset that he called Walkers 'damp' though.
Bald Man Sings Rihanna
For our last show of the year, allow me to pull back the curtain a little bit on the process of selecting shows to review. When you're trawling the comedy listings, the titles are usually non-explanatory, so you're looking for descriptions that stands out a bit more than the boring '[Award]-winning [Comedian]'s show about [probably three things, the last of which is quirky] or the 'hilarious' "Five stars - [Comedian]'s mum" The title/description combo for this show ran:
and that was honestly the funniest listing I'd seen, so I signed up right away. The show itself delivered on its promise: a bald man (Gary Sansome) did sing Rihanna (and a bit of Kendrick Lamar as well). He led us through some joyously silly riffs on the themes of some of her better-known songs, and in between that, got distracted by reading the show notes another comedian had left blu-tacked up off to the side of the stage. Sansome was energetic and engaging and was easily able to handle a very distracting and distractable audience. This show was a wonderful way to close out a wonderful Fringe.
🏆The Seagull Fringe Awards 2023🏆
a shameless ploy to get on some more comedians' posters for the second year in a row
Best Standup: Nathan Cassidy
Some comedians treat Brighton Fringe as a warm-up for Edinburgh, but Cassidy always brings a truly polished show every time we see him. Life is about beautiful connections, and Brighton Fringe is about Nathan Cassidy, an incredible comedian making the best shows you could hope to see.
Runner up: Joe Wells
Joe Wells is a natural performer with a unique (or is it?) perspective on the world that felt so validating yet was also just really funny. I had stomach ache from laughter!
Roxy van der Post
Best Show: Mythos: Ragnarok
A show combining a loose retelling of Norse mythology with pro wrestling, this was all the best parts of both: weird and often quite nasty stories involving a lot of death and incest plus walk-on music and cool moves. Like nothing else we saw this Fringe.
Runner up: Billie Gold's Praise Kink
Billie Gold's Praise Kink was an absolute joy that made me feel empowered, emboldened, and part of a community, even though I went by myself.
Roxy van der Post
Best Concept: Selena Mersey: Madonna/Whore
It might have felt like 'performing open heart surgery' on herself, as Selena Mersey so eloquently put it, but Madonna/Whore was every bit as entertaining, confessional and moving as I was hoping. Discussing weaponised incompetence, emotional labour and the devastation of being a feminist, bisexual woman dating a man with a healthy amount of what I can only describe as comedy burlesque mixed in, Mersey summed it up best when she said: "It's messy maybe, but it makes sense to me and I feel better." Reader, it made sense to me, and seeing this show made me feel better.
Runner up: Peter Fleming Meets Doctor Who! (Work In Progress)
Character comedy about an unpopular BBC kid's producer from the 60s prosecuting his beef with Doctor Who sounds a bit out there, but this absolutely killed, despite not being completely finished.
Best Audience Interaction: Tarot Nice to Meet You
Their poker faces are terrible (I'm not sure saying 'fuck' when you see a card is good), but if anything, that made it all so much more fun. Carly Smallman and Sarah Iles know their stuff, try to find a positive spin on everything, and going to their shows is like catching up with an old friend.
Runner up: Lachlan Werner: Voices of Evil
This brilliantly ridiculous and camp ventriloquy show about demon possession, self-belief, sexual awakening, and one gay boy's love/hate relationship with a maternal witch puppet gave me my favourite audience interaction of Brighton's festival season. After being asked, and miserably failing, to repeat the witch's convoluted retelling of a nightmare involving James Corden amongst other monstrosities, the witch told me I was very brave and gave me a little kiss on the forehead.
Best Play: I was kinda the bad guy
Jasmine-Rose Johnson's debut play I was kinda the bad guy is one of the best plays I've ever seen during the Fringe. The portrayal of a co-dependent relationship was excellent, I was really impressed with the slow unravelling of one character and the eventual realisation of their unhealthy relationship. Most of all, I liked seeing our main character Diane regain control and that she was 'beginning to see the beauty' in it. You can't help but root for her, and I can't wait to see more from Jasmine-Rose Johnson in the future.
Runner up: My First Time Was In a Car Park
Molly-Rose Treves (actor) and Phoebe Wood (director) were the absolute stand-out creatives of the Fringe for me, so passionate and dedicated to this sensitive and important story. They deserve all the awards!!!
Roxy van der Post
One To Watch: James Danielewski: Rainbow Trout (Work In Progress)
With his energetic delivery, excellent timing and elegantly layered joke construction, James Danielewski delivered what might be the best, bawdiest work in progress show I've ever seen. He displayed an impeccable instinct for the right moment to push every joke up a level and kept the audience, our editor especially, in a consistent state of paralysed laughter.
Runner up: Maximus Polling (Blue Blood or How To Kill Your Way To The Top)
The success of this black comedy rests firmly with lead actor Maximus Polling's clipped, drawling charm and (serial) killer cheekbones - and he largely rises to the challenge, handling about a million on-stage costume changes with impressive nonchalance.
That's it; clear the chairs away—we're done. Brighton Fringe and Festival '23 is in the books—thanks so much to all of our wonderful contributors and, of course, all the performers! This year was even better than last year, and we didn't even get COVID midway through! We're going to rest for a bit; regular programming resumes next week.