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Brighton Fringe 2015

Jo Neary & Holly Burn: work-in-progress double bill

Jo Neary & Holly Burn

Genre: Comedy

Venue: The Bosco Theatre


Low Down

Contrasting character performances by two strong female comedy actors.


Jo Neary is something of a national treasure. Her uptight, retro-looking, middle-England, middle-aged Celia character has cemented her reputation as her generations Joyce Grenfell. But this is slightly dismissive, as Nearys repressed Celia is a far more sophisticated character struggling to come to terms with a modern world of internet identity theft and Lars Von Tier films.

Neary addresses everyday issues through the wide-eyed ingénue perspective of Celia, highlighting the ludicrousness of what we take for granted.

This show focused on a mock village fete, centered around the general theme of technology and science, which finally culminated in an endearing rendition of My Name is Luka by a woman in twin set and pearls desperate to break free from her self-imposed social shackles.

Neary was accompanied by the Yorkshire tooth-whistling Centre-partin Martin on ukulele, who played various ditties, fake adverts and interludes. However, the show lacked the grounding touch of the overly capable Fred, Celias husband, and his absence was keenly felt.

However Nearys song, Do You Remember Brit Pop? Had the audience laughing out loud, and was wonderfully reminiscent of Vic Reeves I Remember Punk Rock.  

While she wasnt quite yet at the top of her game with "Face Full of Issue", its definitely one to catch at Edinburgh and later in the year. Neary is a skilled performer with her jokes coming so thick and fast that if you pause to laugh you may miss two or three!

In contrast Holly Burns "I Am Kirsty K" was a character in search of material. The hyperactive Geordie girl ran around waving, shouting, and inappropriately touching herself, like some ADHD kid whos forgotten to take their Ritalin, but did very little else. Burns jokes needed to be a lot stronger, or even existent, as it felt like she was scrabbling around for material from an audience who felt impassive at best. It may well be that we werent the target audience, as we could see this going down well with a younger, boozed-up late night comedy club crowd. It does feel like there is potential for the energetic North-Eastern chav-like Kirsty, but its usually better to have a show written before you attempt to perform it. 

Both actors felt a little bit exposed in the cavernous tent, and perhaps wouldve fared better in a more familiar comedy club setting. Its important to note that this was the first night of these works in progress and the seeds planted here are bound to blossom into some fruitful performances down the line. Watch this space.