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Brighton Fringe 2019

Paul Duncan McGarrity: A Practical Guide to Storming Castles

Paul Duncan McGarrity

Genre: Comedy, Historical, Stand-Up

Venue: The Black Dove


Low Down

Delivering his accurately researched Guide to Storming Castles, in armour and with lots of shouting, Britain’s foremost Stand-Up Archaeologist brings something very different to the Brighton Fringe.


1Delivering his accurately researched Guide to Storming Castles, in armour and with lots of shouting Paul McGarrity’s show brings something very different to Stand-Up Comedy.

The venue was a small cellar bar in Brighton. This quirky room is an intimate and charming comedy venue. Set up for a standard size person to stand or sit centrally on the small stage, it was more challenging for a big guy in fighting chain mail and a helmet.

Unfortunately for Paul, the venue hadn’t helped matters by adorning the walls with unremovable bric a brac, meaning he was unable to use his projector. Whilst he was able to arrange his laptop screen so most of the room could see it, it did result in lost detail on some slides. On the plus side Paul is a good enough comedian that he was able to turn this into a feature, adding to the charm of the show.

Having arrived early the audience filtered in as he was setting up. His funeral play list, oddly providing the background music. He seemed to enjoy chatting, joking and laughing with us as he pottered about. Given the size of the room, with its’ low ceiling, Paul hadn’t planned to do the show in armour, it was only the egging on of the early arrivals that persuaded him to do so.

As the country’s foremost Stand Up Archaeologist, the show benefits from high levels of historical accuracy. Make no bones about it, we are in the company of a geek, a very clever one. Whilst this implies that a certain level of intellectual rigour is required in order to enjoy the show, it’s far from the case. He is a skilled comedian, mixing well delivered material and quick improv to great effect.

Interwoven with the facts there are stories from his personal life, about how he ended up standing in a hot room, in full fighting armour, talking about storming castles and the painful reality of medieval combat. These little peeks into his experiences bring texture and depth to a warmly, heartfelt show.

Paul is an imposing figure; he’s a big Middlesbrough lad with a short haircut and scars. He looks less like an academic and more like a football hooligan. Dressed in chain mail he could easily present as truly terrifying. However, his winning smile, quick banter and excellent material ensures that he’s the friendliest of blood-thirsty medieval warriors.

His material intertwines historical facts, descriptions of castles, some politics and philosophy, self-deprecating jokes, personal revelations, bodily injury, impressions, rousing speeches, subtle punchlines, dick punting and laugh out loud gags. Paul is personable, friendly, engaging and charismatic as well as being very passionate about his subject. That passion elevates this show from a standard comedy performance.

The audience loved it, many staying behind to talk to him. Even the fellow archaeologist, in the crowd was laughing. He is the most entertaining Archaeologist since Indiana Jones.

Whilst the subject matter means that this type of comedy show, isn’t for your Friday/Saturday night club crowd it makes a valuable addition to the circuit. We are seeing more science and factual based comedy about, Robin Ince, Simon Singh, Richard Wiseman being good examples. Too many comedy shows are about middle-class thirty somethings bleating on about growing up and having children. The Guide to Storming Castles, offers us something different. You can learn things and have a good laugh at the same time. When comedy is delivered by someone with a passion for their subject it makes it a little bit special. I’d recommend this show in a heartbeat.