Fringe Friday 2023: Week Four

Week four of Brighton Fringe, featuring Mythos: Ragnarok, Dead Dad Show, Mediocre Gay, and more.

Fringe Friday 2023: Week Four
Source: The Brighton Seagull 

We're nearly at the end of the wonderful Brighton Fringe season. But before we start ruminating, there's another week of shows to review!

Mediocre Gay (Work In Progress)

Despite not being a mediocre gay myself (I'm an adequate bisexual), I had a fun time at David Ian's debut solo show. He takes us on a journey from the first time he has sex at university, to reuniting with old flames in Las Vegas, all the while rethinking what it means to be the perfect gay and how, despite having thought he was, maybe he isn't.

Interspersed with tales of what it's like growing up with parents who own a Wimpy™️ restaurant, running a radio station by himself in school, and the lack of gay scene in Aberdeen ('Although maybe it's improved'), Mediocre Gay was a scrappy but well-concluded tale from someone who, in my opinion, is the perfect gay just by being himself.

Carly-May Kavanagh

Michael Welch: Ethnic Reveal Party (Work In Progress)

Ethnic Reveal Party is a party alright. A celebration of silliness, this work-in-progress gathers laughs throughout the show.

A fresh face in comedy, Michael Welch has attracted the attention of the scene for a reason. His natural ability to engage with the audience in an awkward yet very charming way is lovely. His story is relatable and easily adapted into tragicomic jokes that are extended though audience interaction. Welch does what a lot of theatre-goers are after; he helps them find themselves in his own story.

Welch’s dad jokes (as in, jokes about his dad) almost make you feel guilty for laughing. Alongside the multiple stories about different phases of his life we see photos of him as a child as he explores and explains his feelings of his ethnic ambiguity and growing up not knowing the background of his father’s side. Welch almost tips his toes on the side of emotional, which in my opinion would be a welcome addition to the laughter.

Bordering on the offensive, slightly messy yet hugely entertaining, Michael Welch’s Ethnic Reveal Party is sure to be a success—especially if, in his own words, he delves more into “the race stuff” and continues to delve deeper into his background. We still think you should take that Ancestry DNA test, Michael!

Roosa Herranen

Alex Mason: Delicate Flower (Work In Progress)

Source: The Brighton Seagull 

While structurally still showing signs of being a work in progress, this show was frequently hilarious and confidently delivered, with the material itself very well-crafted. Mason's flow was excellent, knowing when to let a joke breathe, and he dealt well with a sometimes-too-enthusiastic audience. He was able to bring a lightness to often-dark subject matter, and while there was a lot of Feeling Lost In My 20s material (Fringe show subject terrain so well-worn that its mountains have been made plains) it still managed to feel fresh and (to me) true.

Adam Englebright

Ruby Shrimpton: Unstitching

Unstitching is an explosive yet profound one woman show by Ruby Shrimpton.

The show promises to be an “existential comedy about self-expression and Eurovision” and on those key words it definitely delivers. Delving into the history of Eurovision, from the start to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool, we go through the decades with Shrimpton. Liverpool-based, her recent anecdotes are amazing and a lovely personal touch.

Almost like a fever-dream, we see Shrimpton lip sync to a song after song while unraveling her self-made, beautiful knitted clothes under colourful disco lights. There is something about the chaos that becomes cohesive in moments of clarity and vulnerability with spoken word. Especially the moments where she approaches the audience by coming closer and opened up more were beautiful, and the show would have benefitted from even more of them. During her spoken word readings it is very clear that Shrimpton is an experienced writer with a talent for the written word.

Shrimpton’s stage presence is undeniable and her confidence radiant, offering her audience an enjoyable experience, leaving you questioning and pondering about the meanings in the clearly intended surrealism.

I think Ruby has only scratched the surface and there is much more to unstitch.

Roosa Herranen

Róisín McCallion: Keeping Up Appearances

While some of her lesbian jokes may have felt slightly dated, self-titled 'perpetual disappointment' Róisín still put on a very solid hour of comedy. With her woes over never being able to be the most successful lesbian from Halifax (that honour was bestowed to Anne Lister), and her bemusement over Facebook community groups (she'd love Brighton Past's hijinks), she also wove in her struggle with eating disorders and found some humour in it.

A quirky and oddly-compelling show, it did feel at times like we were being pulled in too many directions (rescue dogs to Facebook groups to wanting to be a nun to Charles and Camilla being voices on the Elizabeth line to football), she did at least pose a very important question to the audience, courtesy of her grandpa: when a British woman dates an Australian, who do they support in the cricket?

Carly-May Kavanagh

Mates: The Improvised 90s Sitcom

Mates, the Friends-inspired improv show about three British friends living in rent-controlled apartments in NYC during the nineties failed to strike a chord with me. The enthusiasm of the performers was admirable, the audience suggestions fun, the sound design on-brand, yet it failed to fully keep my attention during the hour-long show.

The double-bill 'episodes', 'titled' The One With the Suncream, the Opticians and the Rubber Duck, and The One With the Family Portrait and the Dog, felt a bit like watching one of those episodes of a TV show you've seen dozens of times, but it's not your favourite one. You've heard all the jokes before, maybe it's The One Where Matthew Perry's Alcoholism Is Raging or The One Where Courtney Cox Dons A Fatsuit, and it's half got your attention, but mostly you're just too far away from the remote control to be bothered to change the channel, so you sit with your boredom and scroll on your phone instead. Except, doing that in this situation would have been terribly rude.

Carly-May Kavanagh

Amy Webber: No Previous Experience Needed

Amy Webber’s No Previous Experience Needed is a show about the desperation of a freelance artist constantly looking for work.

The absolute brilliance of this show lies in not only Webber’s effortless performance but also, and especially, in her talent. A fantastic musician, singer and performer, Webber proves herself in every way possible. With the aid of comedy, we meet Amy the opera singer who doesn’t like opera, Amy the awkward radio host as well as Amy the established BBC jingle writer.

Through personal stories from family anecdotes to therapy sessions, Webber takes us through her life and career as an artist, and to also where it all began. Her childhood, her degree in opera and the aspiring pop star career are all smoothly weaved into the action. From failures to wins, she shares it all with no reservation. Her unabashed openness is inspiring… and funny as hell!

Webber brings the audience into the experience by inviting a member on stage for some dance moves as well as interviewing other audience members. A likeable and approachable character, she manages to bring out not only roaring laughter but also some interesting stories. Even having to deal with a slight disturbance, Webber handles it masterfully by turning the situation into something hilarious and lighthearted.

You can’t but wonder, how is someone this utterly funny and charismatic ever out of work?

Roosa Herranen

Mythos: Ragnarok

Source: The Brighton Seagull 

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. The cast of wrestlers were having a whale of a time with the material, and while the "matches" won't be troubling PWG any time soon in terms of workrate, they were exactly right for the show they were in.

We went to a matinee where about 50% of the audience were of kids on half-term who were clearly having a great time, and 50% were people in wrestling shirts who were also having a great time. It made me realise I've not seen any live wrestling in about three years, and I really missed it. As of time of publishing there's still a couple of shows left in the run and I'd strongly encourage you to go along; it's 100% worth your time.

Adam Englebright

Simon David: Dead Dad Show

Dead dad shows are a cliché. Or are they?

Simon David has put together a unique, hilarious yet poignant show combining musical theatre numbers performed with such vivacity and talent you can not look away. David’s charisma is magnetic and his natural sense of comedy and comedic timing leaving the audience howling with laughter.

We are taken through the journey of David’s father finding out about his cancer diagnosis, to him creating a performance of his own inspired by his son’s passion for theatre, and to him eventually passing away.

We see clips of a video recording of David’s dad’s own show. He beautifully and admirably describes his feelings about his life ending, a touching example of humanity. We see funnily crafted alternative universe scenarios of David and his last moments with his dad.

Dead Dad Show is a touching and hilarious tribute to David’s dad Simon, the person he was, the person he raised, life with him and life after him.

Simon David offers us a glimpse into grief and the very human avoidance of dealing with it, into loss and a beautiful father/son relationship. David has managed to honour is dad Simon in the most appropriate way; in a way only he could.

Roosa Herranen

Viking 9-5

Source: The Brighton Seagull 

Though he gave the impression of a 2003 Blue Peter presenter after hours, Tom Draper, former Viking, took us on a fun journey of his life post-graduation up to the grand old age of 23. Warning us not to heckle him by saying he looks like an eighth century Anglo-Saxon (he was clearly a tenth century Viking), the University of Exeter graduate eschewed a career through the Civil Service fast-track scheme (he did get on it, you know) or a 'proper bullshit middle-class job' like consulting in favour of moving to York to be a Viking. Or rather, just any job that would fulfil the criteria of his 'Not Have No Money Plan'.

While it's hard to empathise with someone from a middle-class background being told by his parents that if he moves to York they won't give him money, it makes for some fun storytelling as he tells us about annoying museum-goers, children and their stupid questions, and demonstrated just how excellent[1] his customer service skills were.

The show then turns into a look at the second (and final) part of his 'Not Have No Money Plan', winning a gameshow. Though he would have quite liked a go on Tipping Point (the questions are really easy), he ended up on Pointless, where the most shocking lesson for him was just how nice people can be on Twitter sometimes. I know, right?! The most shocking lesson for me was just how much one man can have it in for Alexander Armstrong.

A fun, if slightly disjointed, hour of Viking-related and gameshow-centric comedy.

  1. They were not the best, actually. Sorry. ↩︎

Carly-May Kavanagh