Fringe Comedy Reviews: The London Alternative

Holly Burn, Joz Norris and Ben Target represent London's alternative comedy scene at this year's Edinburgh Fringe.

Feature by John Stansfield | 17 Aug 2015

The beauty of London’s comedy scene is its more than healthy alternative pocket, which keeps great swathes of well-thought-of Edinburgh acts in paying gigs all year round. Attracting the quirky and avant-garde thinkers from around the country, those too strange or delicate to make it on the cut throat club circuit, head the way of Dick Whittington to the warm bosom of the The Invisible Dot and Weirdos Collective. Holly Burn is a Newcastle native who now calls London home for her carefully constructed character comedy. For this particular Edinburgh Fringe she has brought another section of her psyche with I am Kirsty K [★★☆☆☆]. Playing an excitable Geordie teenager who has gathered the crowd together for her nan’s funeral, she picks out members of the audience to be members of the mourning party. It’s an original way of staging a show but unfortunately the caricature of a working class girl who misses her nan is a little two-dimensional, with shouting being no substitute for characterisation. It’s a shame because Burn can write masterfully, but the whole thing feels like it could have used a few personas other than the ethereal presence of a disembodied promiscuous nan.

A common collaborator with the aforementioned alternative comedy group Weirdos Collective, Joz Norris seems like a children's teacher who has been put in charge of some adults for once. Which is not an insult – Norris’s show Hey Guys [★★★☆☆] is a collection of strange thoughts, half ideas and audience participation. The kind of show that would amaze if it was happening in a more intimate setting, but the cavernous hall of The Hive is a reminder that this show is not quite ready for this amount of exposure. There is gold in some of his material and he can craft a great joke: a section on Subway and The Shawshank Redemption is also inspired, but the hour is loosely strung together by the idea that life as an artist is tough. This is only really punctuated by Norris’ whole act, not in the material put forth.

If Norris is a kindergarten teacher then Ben Target is the head of PE. In Imagine There’s No Ben Target (It’s Easy If You Try) [★★★★☆] he enters in a white suit and with a helmet full of lights. He greets us as if he we’re Denzel Washington in The Preacher’s Wife, here to save us from a lonely life. He quickly gets the crowd to join him in the play area and gets into his gym gear, leading the audience in a warm-up before splitting them into two teams and pitting them against each other. Target is the king of subversive prop comedy, here opening up his bag of tricks to share with the competitors. There’s no real logic to it and the whole thing feels like a corporate team-building exercise – yet fun, which must be a first. You can’t help but share a bond with your fellow sportspersons as Target leaves, dressed once more in his suit, safe in the knowledge that he has changed more lives.

Holly Burn: I Am Kirsty K, The Mash House, until 30 Aug (not 18), 6:20pm, £5

Joz Norris: Hey Guys!, The Hive, until 31 Aug (not 19), 2pm, free/£5 (PWYW)

Imagine there's no Ben Target (It's easy if you try), The Hive, until 30 Aug (not 18), 3pm, free/£5 (PWYW)