Fringe Friday: Weeks Four and Five... and Seagull Fringe Awards!
It's finally over! Team Seagull hasn't had the best time of it, having to take unexpected breaks for various illnesses (including COVID), but we made it—and we saw a lot of good stuff! The last few weeks' reviews follow, then stick around for the inaugural Seagull Fringe Awards!
Alasdair Beckett-King, Nevermore (WIP)
Caroline of Brunswick, 27/05/22
I think I've tried to go to an Alasdair Beckett-King show every year there's been a Fringe for the last five or so—I've just always been indisposed or priorly engaged. After finally seeing him for this show, I've definitely been missing out. Beckett-King has a style I would characterise as Weird Observational; beginning with a common-or-garden noticing or remembrance, but then spinning out into strange flights of fancy. Little pre-recorded video and audio asides peppered the set, keeping you guessing as to where the next gag was going to come from. I keep reaching for words like "comfortable" and "cozy" to describe the show—his stylings might be offbeat but there's the feeling of being in very safe hands; the swings into surreality give the whole thing a pleasantly otherworldy air, despite its material grounding. Once again this Fringe, a work-in-progress show which sets a benchmark I would be very happy to see non-work-in-progress shows meeting.
Nathan Cassidy, Hot Tub God
Caroline of Brunswick, 28/05/22
We've already seen Nathan Cassidy once already this Fringe for the transcendent Observational, so you pretty much know what it is. We're on the poster; he's Our Guy, reigning and defending champion. Hot Tub God somewhat like a response to Observational—it begins gesturing towards a similar structure, but unwinds itself midway, then spins off in another direction. Like all Cassidy's comedy, we get digression-heavy storytelling with plenty of repeated bits—here, shouts out to his Amazon Prime Special and repeating the question of "Why is there an atmosphere in this room?" As a pedant I am compelled to point out the Immaculate Conception refers not to the conception of Christ but of Mary, but immaculate is also the word for the show itself. Not to spoil the awards section below, but he's the one to beat.
Agent November, Major X Ploe-Shun
Pavilion Gardens, 02/06/22
I wasn't sure what to expect from Agent November: Major X Ploe-Shun, having never played an escape game or completed an escape room, but I ended up having a lot of fun when we tried it out—and not just because there was a dog called Noodle on our team.
Major X Ploe-Shun is an immersive spy experience, but unfortunately I'm bound by the Unofficial Secrets Act and can't tell you the details of the assignment. What I can tell you is that alongside a team of other agents, we worked together to find clues, solve puzzles, decipher and defuse, all with 53 seconds to spare. The agent who assigned us the challenge was helpful but not overbearing, directing us just enough when needed and nudging us towards the right answers.
The puzzles were difficult, and at times I was worried I wasn't solving them as quickly as others, but we all had skills to bring to the table to help with different clues: for example, I was very good at using the walkie-talkie and saying 'over'. I think it would have flowed more easily had we all known each other, as you're getting to know the other agents while playing, but it was also a good way to get to know people and I can see it being a fun bonding experience or team away day. I especially enjoyed that it was a nice sunny day and we were running around Pavilion Gardens—only slightly hindered by the wind!
Sarah Iles & Carly Smallman (w/Paul Savage), Tarot, Nice to Meet You
The Secret Comedy Club, 02/06/22
Presented by comedians Carly Smallman and Sarah Iles (who works for a psychic hotline!), we knew we had to go to this show after seeing Carly Smallman a couple of weeks prior.
The intimate audience size worked well for the show, which was by its very nature incredibly interactive. They gave us a crash course on tarot, advised they wouldn't answer any medical or legal questions, and then invited fellow comedian Paul Savage on stage to provide some comedy. He was very good (my main takeaway being that autistic children really do love trains) but I wanted more tarot!
Anyone who wanted a reading could ask a specific question or ask for a general reading, with one card. I asked for a general reading and they pulled the page of pentacles, which provided a lot of helpful insight into something I'd been thinking about recently.
Neither had the poker face to disguise their feelings on readings, good or bad—but that just added to the fun. Their ability not just to do readings but to find the best in them and make it funny was tremendous. This show is one that would definitely stand up to repeat attendance!
Ted Hill, All the Presidents Man (WIP)
The Caxton Arms, 03/06/22
This was a genuine revelation; a combination of Powerpoint and historical comedy that proceeded at a raucous pace through nearly 250 years of US presidential history. There were high-effort Excel drawings of money, pictures of a young Gerald Ford and more graphs than some stats lectures I've sat through (but far more entertaining than any stats lecture I've sat through). A suprisingly personal story is threaded through the heart of the show, too, providing an anchor that prevents the rapid-fire gag material from flying off into space. An absolute must-see whether you have the slightest interest in US presidential history or not.
Joe Wells, I Am Autistic
Caroline of Brunswick, 04/06/22
Watching an autistic man make very funny jokes about autism for an hour was a very nice closer for our Fringe shows; Joe Wells is now firmly on my radar to see again.
With jokes about his 'severely not autistic brother' and warning us not to heckle ('it's a hate crime'), Joe's show reminded us just how important it is to be ourselves. I thought halfway through that, actually, every comedian should be like Joe and not make eye contact - there's something very comfortingly anonymous about it, even when you're sat in the front row.
He spoke about the struggles of being an unelected spokesman for autism and the pressures that can bring—something anyone who's 'different' has experienced in some capacity—and the difficulty in being told off for doing what simply comes naturally to you. I left the show feeling proud of being autistic, something that hasn't always come easily, and with Joe's voice ringing in my ears that being yourself is the most radical thing you can do.
🏆The Seagull Fringe Awards🏆
a shameless ploy to get on some more comedians' posters
Finally: before we wrap up for the year, we thought we'd pick out a few of our favourites from this year's Fringe.
Best Standup: Nathan Cassidy
We've probably used up all the superlatives talking about Nathan Cassidy. Still the best in the game, he brought three shows to this Fringe, all of them absolute bangers. We couldn't give this to anyone else.
Best Show: Ted Hill, All The Presidents Man
We were blown away by this fast-paced run through US presidents laced with a story of personal adversity overcome. If Ted Hill brings his historical PowerPoint show to a club near you, run, don't walk!
Best Concept: Dharmander Singh, Bollywood and Birmingham to Berlin and Brexit
Dharmander's journey from inner-city Birmingham to feeling like a Berliner was a genuinely heartwarming, thought-provoking one. A show that I think will age nicely, as we get further from the Brexit vote and Dhar gets more Berlin experiences.
Best Audience Interaction: Sarah Iles and Carly Smallman, Tarot, Nice To Meet You
They literally read the cards for us! If you're looking for a fun show with a lot of audience interaction and connections made, and you're not afraid to ask some deep questions, this is the show for you.
Best Improvised Show: Real Positive Poles, After Dusk
A journey into a wondrous land of imagination, a delight not only of sight and sound, but of mind. We would highly commend taking a trip to the improvised Twilight Zone!
Best Sketch Show: Biscuit Barrel, No Time To Digestive
I can't think of another show that fits as much as the Biscuit Barrel does into an hour: there's barely time to recover from laughs before they're doing something else ridiculous. A+ sketch comedy.
Best Play: Anne Boleyn
A sensitive, well-performed play in a tiny theatre; the cast made very good use of the small space and it was a joy to watch.
One To Watch: Alice India
Alice India is someone who you can't help but instantly want to be friends with. She's effortlessly cool and very very funny, and I'm not just saying that because we talked a lot. She's going to do great things!
That's it; clear the chairs away—we're done. Brighton Fringe '22 is in the books; we look forward to doing it all again next year—hopefully without the COVID. We're going to go and take a nap now 😴