Sunday 20th August

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Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Last Thursday, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy played a soulful, stylistically varied stripped-back set at Islington’s atmospheric Union Chapel.

Will Oldham is a riddle.  He’s recorded tracks constantly since the early nineties, carving out a cult following whether performing under his given name, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy or variations of the word ‘Palace’.  He’s developed his own brand of troubled folk with a punk aesthetic, written for John Legend and had a song covered by Johnny Cash.  And yet he’s never had what could truly be termed a ‘hit’, neither is he widely recognised in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky – let alone in the UK.

Befitting one of music’s great enigmas, Oldham walked purposefully onto the dark stage in a pair of white slacks and a light blue shirt scattered with silver reflective stars, before starting his minimalist show with barely a word or smile.

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Category: Music
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What’s On London’s Edinburgh Fringe Preview

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

With the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest arts event – officially starting today, we decided to follow the Highland herd and put together a list of the comedy shows we’re most looking forward to seeing this month and then subsequently in London.

Given the vast number of acts performing over the next month in this seventieth year of the Fringe, we can’t pretend our list is completely comprehensive, and apologise to the many worthy artists unmentioned below.  It reiterates just how spoilt for choice fans of live comedy currently are.  But we guarantee this: if you choose to see our suggested stand-up, character, storytelling, musical and sketch comedians, you won’t go far wrong.

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Category: Comedy
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John Robins: The Darkness of Robins, Edinburgh preview

In the third of our Edinburgh Fringe previews, Ian Cater speaks to comedian, broadcaster and Queen fanatic John Robins about recovering from post-breakup despair to find humour in his painful and funny new show, The Darkness of Robins.

Professionally, John Robins has had an excellent year.  The Bristolian stand-up’s new show, The Darkness of Robins, is the most distinctive of his career, well-placed to become one of the hits of the Fringe.  His previous set, Speakeasy, has been condensed into a prestigious Live from the BBC episode available on iPlayer.  And the cult Chortle-Award-winning Radio X show and podcast he hosts with close friend Elis James is going from strength to strength, passing five million downloads and raising ‘Brand Robins’ to deservedly high levels.

However, the past eight months have been emotionally turbulent, as Robins has struggled to deal with his split from fellow comedian Sara Pascoe after three years together.

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Category: Comedy
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Jon Pointing: Act Natural, Edinburgh preview

In the second of our Edinburgh Fringe previews, Ian Cater speaks to Jon Pointing about his brilliant comic creation, acting coach Cayden Hunter, in debut solo show Act Natural.

In our first Edinburgh preview last week, we started with a prediction.  So here’s another: Cayden Hunter will be the breakthrough character act of this year’s Fringe.  The arrogant, vulnerable, hilarious star of Jon Pointing’s debut solo show, Act Natural, has already got much of the London comedy world talking.  That buzz should extend north and, hopefully, onto our TV screens before long if executives can find a suitable vehicle for him.

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Category: Comedy
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Daniel Kitson: Something Other Than Everything review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Kitson’s new show at Camden’s Roundhouse is brilliant, hilariously and thoughtfully addressing the paradox of modern life that we’re both always, and never, alone.

In his fascinating book, How I Escaped My Certain Fate, Stewart Lee lists Daniel Kitson as one of a handful of comedians “whose talents far outstripped mine, who produced work I never thought I’d be capable of in my life”.  So when Kitson drops a new show, the comedy world takes note – this time with entirely good reason.  Because Something Other Than Everything is extremely ambitious, consistently hilarious and utterly brilliant – a tough ask of a two-hour uninterrupted show, and frankly a dangerous one given its full-bladdered 9pm start time.

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Category: Comedy
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Spencer Jones: The Audition, Edinburgh preview

In the first of our Edinburgh Fringe previews, Ian Cater speaks to Spencer Jones about his latest weird and wonderful outing of physical comedy and clowning in The Audition.

There are few certainties in life, apart from death, taxes and a male Dr Who.  But one thing’s become so likely over the past three years as to reach a rung marked ‘inevitable’: there won’t be a more effective clown performing at Edinburgh next month than Spencer Jones.

The South-East Londoner has carved out a niche at the Fringe and in the wider comedy industry, reclaiming the role of Le Bouffon which had fallen from favour since Tommy Cooper died in 1984.  Many tried to revive the belittled art form in the UK; many failed, until Jones introduced his alter ego – The Herbert – who arrives on stage with an odd haircut, translucent leggings and all sorts of accoutrements to be utilised for a 10 second visual gag.

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Category: Comedy
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Wil Greenway: The Way The City Ate The Stars review

Rating:

Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

Greenway elevates the art of storytelling with this lyrical, moving, funny and compassionate tale of love and tragedy in New South Wales.

Eleven months ago, I reviewed Sarah Kendall’s show, Shaken.  In hindsight, and having listened to more of her work since on Radio 4, she perhaps deserved more than three stars.  However, I stand by the assertion that for storytelling to work effectively live, “it needs a higher laughter-count, or a more vulnerable and relatable narrator.  Kendall’s very talented, but projects an Antipodean toughness from the moment she bounds onstage talking forcefully about dick drawings and bowel movements.  As a result, she finds it hard to generate much sympathy from an admittedly difficult crowd, necessary before embarking on a story that portrays her younger self so unfavourably.”

I restate this to contrast Kendall’s countryman, Wil Greenway, who last night delivered an equally challenging story at Soho Theatre with a different outcome.  When he entered the stage after a short introduction from his folksy, melodious backing musicians (Will Galloway and Kathryn Langshaw), I was ready for a similarly forthright, Kendall-esque approach, given the Melburnian’s solid frame, thick auburn beard and topknot.  But it quickly became clear that Greenway’s a gentler type of performer and someone who could end up going very far.

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Category: Comedy
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Legally Blonde: The Musical review

Rating:

Over the past few days, City Academy has delivered an impressive amateur production of Legally Blonde: The Musical at Hammersmith’s Polish Theatre.  As Ian Cater writes below, Alan Pearson’s production features faultless choreography, admirable enthusiasm and a large cast that – by and large – rose towards the standard of its stronger performers.  And by not taking itself too seriously, the show satisfies a range of recipients, whether or not they love the film or its message.

Before Thursday, I’d never seen Legally Blonde or its musical spin-off.

This was largely through choice – rather than opportunity – as the tale of a Valley Girl, Elle Woods, who heads to Harvard Law School to win back her boyfriend and, in the process, disprove assumptions about her intellect ain’t normally my cuppa cha.  I don’t proffer this preface in an attempt to claim any cultural high ground, but to acknowledge how well this show and – in particular this cast – did in winning me over and recovering from a slightly sticky start.

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Category: Theatre