Brighton Fringe 2019
At the age of 23 Josh Berry has already become a regular BBC Radio 4 Contributor, performing in the satirical radio show, Newsjack and Dead Ringers. A very talented young impressionist, Josh takes us on a comedy tour of the modern world.
The first thing to say is that Josh is clearly a prodigiously talented impressionist. A confident, energetic and talented performer with a gift for mimicry. If he doesn’t go on to become a big name something is very amiss. That’s not to say that this show is the finished article, it isn’t, but it is going to get better, and for his talent alone it is still worth seeing.
He was on at 8.30 on a Sunday evening of a Bank Holiday weekend, which does account for why some of the audience may have been a little ‘tired, emotional and a bit difficult’. The show was sold out and performed in a very tight space, with broken air con. It was very hot, something that told on both performer and audience.
Most of Josh’s voices were spot on, capturing accent, tone and emphasis with seeming ease. Where he performed two or three handed scenes, which one assumes is very difficult to do, he does it with confidence and skill. His circle of Scottish voices sketch was clever, skilful and funny. He also married his impressions to some lovely physical mimicry, capturing recognisable gestures, tics and behaviours and making them funny.
His material worked best when, like all good satire, it was biting, mean and slightly cruel. Some of it was very, very good indeed. For example, highlighting Russell Brands pseudo-intellectualism or Louis Theroux’s faux amiability. When it hits the spot it does so with force and precision. As a satirical impressionist he is already on a par with the likes of Rory Bremner, Jon Culshaw and Ronnie Ancona. No mean achievement for a 23-year-old.
However, there are parts of the show requiring further development. One or two of the impressions rely too much on ‘doing the voice’ as the joke. Given how good he is when his gags hit the mark, these bits should improve with relatively minor re-writes.
There is an over reliance on two voices throughout the show, less is more in these cases. Personally, I’d have liked to have seen more of his excellent John Bercow as well as Donald Trump, Jacob R-M and Boris.
Whilst the audience tended to the younger end of the spectrum, he should trust that his material can be funny without identifying who each voice is. His impressions are good enough that those who know the characters will identify them anyway, those who do not are unlikely to be helped by the name. If the audience don’t know the characters, then they will know their type and still be able to find the material funny.
Where Josh was not relying on famous names but using sketches featuring modern stereotypes, such as Middle-Class Mum and Woke White Girl, they were a definite hit. Whilst WWG did draw a comparison with Clare in the Community it was still funny. It will be interesting to see what other characters he can add to this part of his act, there is plenty of potential here, to exploit his vocal talents.
There was a lot of audience interaction, he tried to feed off talking to the crowd. Whilst it was a tired, late and slightly drunken crowd, sitting in a hot box, this doesn’t appear to be Josh’s forte. He is too good a performer to waste his talent and ability with filler material. That the funniest ad-lib came from a Teacher in the audience shows why he should consider reducing this element of the show.
This is a good show, it is a chance to see a huge talent on the way up. As he grows in maturity and hones his material there is a real expectation that he will develop into something special.