Fringe Comedy Reviews: Character Comedians

Character comedy? At the Fringe? It'll never work. Or, more accurately, it will – we look at the individual flair of Alison Thea-Skot, Lily Bevan, Morgan Berry, Susan Harrison and Lily Pelham

Feature by James McColl | 28 Aug 2015

There is a certain mischievous pleasure in Alison Thea-Skot’s eyes as she summons one of the men from the front row to the stage in Some Like It Thea-Skot [★★★★☆]. She slips out of her first character, Cleon Deon, and that same chap soon realises that he is in for a rough night as he becomes the unsuspecting victim of a rumpus display of affection, and most of the show's routines. Blackouts and quick wardrobe changes sees in the next character, this time a femme fatale, then Supergirl followed by a Liza Minnelli type. Thea-Skot has an obvious passion for show tunes, which adds spice to her cannon of devious and gleefully naughty characters. Quick-fire humour, audience interaction and kung-fu action accompany the sense of naughtiness and elation that drives this fantastically funny show.

A far more relaxed vibe runs through Joe Rowntree’s show, as his Morgan Berry character takes the time to welcome the crowd and offers them a chocolate bar (“I don’t know about you, but I could really use the energy”). This time it's a single-character show, and that character is very disarming. Today, Berry is here to talk to you about rabbits – more accurately, dead ones. As the counsellor for lost loved rabbits, Morgan plucks several members of the audience for the important roles, one of which must keep evil spirits at bay using only a plastic crow and ability to squawk. Although Rowntree doesn’t fully dip into the weird and outright bizarre, Watership Down [★★★☆☆] is a mixture of surreal silliness, obscure impressions and general lunacy.

Susan Harrison brings Jennie Benton Wordsmith [★★☆☆☆], a young student and spoken word artist ready to entertain anyone who will let her. In order to do so she has some charmingly oddball songs, stick insects, crisps and also a love of Countdown. There are loose connections to the current trend in spoken word performers, but Jennie seems strangely out of touch and distant with acts like Kate Tempest and Scroobius Pip. Instead, Harrison focuses more on the antics of an overenthusiastic teenager. Unfortunately, it is rather uninspired, although a change to a more theatrical show halfway highlights the interesting directions this show could take, and Harrison's potential.

Another show with a collection of characters is Country Files [★★☆☆☆]. While clearly demonstrating the impressive performing range of Sophie Pelham it does not do the same for her comedic ability. It is unfocused and lacks both the necessary bite and insight to elevate it above weak-satire. With a glass of sherry and sausage roll in hand, we are introduced to the village cast of snobs, toffs and countryside elite. Some rays on light shine through, as the badger and fox characters generate the majority of the laughs from the audience. With a more purposeful frolic through the village, this could be a show that has some teeth, if that’s what Pelham wants it to be. Until then, it feels a touch underdeveloped.

Lily Bevan's debut Pheasant Plucker [★★★★☆] weaves a small narrative between the character monologues that breaks down the repetitiveness that can set in with shows producing character after character. Parading through the city, she meets a multitude of modern life misfits, including a yoga instructor, a psychic and an MA student, that are just are misguided and lost as Bevan seems to be. Her natural comedy instincts produce a string of characters that culminate in a deeply satisfying show, leaving the audience in no doubt as to how strong character comedy can be when done well.

Alison Thea-Skot: Some Like it Thea-Skot, Cowgatehead, until 29 Aug, 8:45pm, free

Morgan Berry: Watership Down, The Banshee Labyrinth, until 30 Aug, 6pm, free

Susan Harrison: Jennie Benton Wordsmith, Underbelly Med Quad, until 31 Aug, 1:25pm, £6-10

Sophie Pelham: Country Files, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 4:45pm, £7-9

Lily Bevan: Pheasant Plucker, Underbelly Med Quad, until 31 Aug, 3pm, £10-11