Brighton Fringe 2015
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 generation’s “Joyce Grenfell. “ But this is slightly dismissive, as Neary’s 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, Celia’s husband, and his absence was keenly felt.
However Neary’s song, Do You Remember Brit Pop? Had the audience laughing out loud, and was wonderfully reminiscent of Vic Reeve’s I Remember Punk Rock.
While she wasn’t quite yet at the top of her game with "Face Full of Issue", it’s 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 Burn’s "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 who’s forgotten to take their Ritalin, but did very little else. Burn’s 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 weren’t 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 it’s 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 would’ve fared better in a more familiar comedy club setting. It’s 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.