Fringe Comedy Reviews: Voodoo Rooms

Feature by John Stansfield | 26 Aug 2015

Over the last two Edinburgh Fringes, The Voodoo Rooms has been host to the best newcomer and best show in the Foster’s Awards. Both in the same room in fact, and both by the same person: John Kearns followed his newcomer nod for Sight Gags For Perverts by scooping the main prize for ‘Shtick’. This year also finds the Voodoo Rooms in good form.

Early in the afternoon, Jess Fostekew presents her show Imaginary Colin [★★★☆☆] about the world her unborn son or daughter will inherit. Opening with ten minutes explaining why she might look a certain eight months bigger than she does on the posters, Fostekew moves on to a holiday she took with her dad and granddad to Sorento. Relatives often prove ripe for comedy and Fostekew’s grandfather is no exception; an old cad, he is fleshed out by Fostekew's clear affection for him and her sadness at his diminishing memory. Fostekew is such a vivid storyteller, creating powerful images and scenes for the audience. The theme of leaving a world for her offspring is squandered a little as she goes in search of bigger crises facing the world, and it is clear she’s not entirely sure it’s the right world to bring another human into.

In the next room, David Mills is gleefully explaining to the audience that, like them, he’d never heard John Kearns either. Though this was obviously a fib, the two couldn’t be further apart in style and substance. Mills' show Don’t Get Any Ideas [★★☆☆☆] starts strongly enough with musical accompaniment from Lawrence Owen, and the duo break into Billy Paul’s Am I Black Enough For You? The answer, of course, is a resounding no. Mills dresses and presents in the manner of a club comic from 60s Vegas, but his act is anything but clean. Taking on all comers, he takes simple pot shots at pop culture and aims to offend as often as to amuse. Mills’ verbal dexterity is to be commended but needs a bigger pay off, though admittedly he did have the most inventive way of asking for donations at a free show.

Not particularly aiming to offend but certainly doing so is John-Luke Roberts’ ‘Dead Dad Show’ entitled Stdad-Up [★★★★☆]. Opening with a strip tease to Nobody’s Fault But Mine by Nina Simone, Roberts is clown, insult comic, abstract commentator and one-line merchant. Furthermore, he's all this while trying to heal the rift with his now-deceased father. A difficult relationship with a clearly difficult man, Roberts refuses to play both the sympathy card and the canonisation of the dead. He performs as the domineering figure (both mentally and physically) for the second half of the show, going through his usual routines of tailor-made put-downs, dealt here in his father’s abrupt Birkenhead accent. The emotional denouement in which Roberts interacts with his mirror image has just the right amount of humour for the soul searching that marks the show as the most worthy piece of comedy – and to think it starts with a man pixelating his own penis out of an image.

Later in the evening, character comedian Kieran Hodgson waxes lyrical about his boyhood hero Lance Armstrong. In Lance [★★★★★]. Hodgson takes us through his recent history shaped by his love of cycling and his academic prowess. He plays all the roles in this one-man show about dreams dashed and lying your way out of trouble. While on the bike we meet Rob the scout master, Kieran’s pals both at home and at university, as well as Lance himself in several brief cameos to move the story along. More a love letter to Yorkshire and leaving home, Hodgson has penned a beautiful, poignant and most importantly very funny show about innocence lost, and how you can never truly go home again.

Imaginary Colin, The Voodoo Rooms, until 30 Aug, 2.55pm, free

David Mills: Don't Get Any Ideas, The Voodoo Rooms, until 30 Aug, 5.15pm, free

John-Luke Roberts: Stdad-Up, The Voodoo Rooms, until 30 Aug, 6.55pm, free

Kieran Hodgson: Lance, The Voodoo Rooms, until 30 Aug, 9.10pm, free

All shows above are part of PBH's Free Fringe; for a complete list of shows at The Voodoo Rooms visit