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Made in Spain 2 [Sonia Asté, Spanish standup]

Sonia is a delightful Madrileña with a hint of a US accent from years the other side of the pond. Her show is a delightful and affable 50 mins on Spain and Spanishness which doesn’t avoid touchy topics (but she doesn’t put all her gags in one Brexit). She works well with the audience (hey, I got a free abanico AND to play the tambourine!) and her breaking down the show into a ‘tapas menu’ is a neat way to give a fresh order to the riffs. ¡Muy agradable!

I’m Coming  [American Molly Brenner describes her journey to her first orgasm]

First and foremost a very well-written piece and perfectly performed. The comic content and timing was spot on. Irrespective of the topic, this is a very talented writer and performer.
As an old git (now retired from the fray), who enjoyed the ‘second wave’ of feminism and the ‘permissive society’ (so they told me) in the 70s, this was a fascinating topic too. My then wife and I had a very interesting wee book (I Sing the Body Electric, I think) about women chasing the elusive O, so this was an interesting modern take on that, albeit slightly depressing that things haven’t changed as much as we might have hoped back then. Ms Brenner is definitely a talent to watch.

Goddess [A peek behind the velvet curtain! Hilarious one-woman sitcom based on Jacqueline Haigh’s true experiences working as a receptionist in a tantric massage parlour.]

I didn’t think I’d led a sheltered life, but the world of tantric ‘massage’ parlours was a revelation to me, in this witty and personable piece. When she flyered me in my early recce, I could see Jacqueline was a natural performer and so she proved. Intimate but sparkly and charming material, beautifully put across. xxx

Illegal [Jessica Phillippi and Elena Larios play all the parts in the former’s play about attempts to move to another country, either to further a career or simply to survive

To be honest, I would probably have given this a miss, had I not known Elena from performing in the same venue as her last year. But I am so glad I didn’t. An excellent piece of theatre, a well-crafted two-hander with a much larger cast, all well delineated too. Jessica handles the challenges of parallel lives (contrasting the privileged but frustrated and the desperate) and verse drama (which skilfully distinguishes the narrative sections from the dialogues) (almost) flawlessly. The whole piece was excellently acted and had me alternately elated and fearful, and definitely struggling to hold back the tears at the end. One of the high spots of this year’s Fringe for me and I look forward to watching their future efforts (assuming our stupid government keeps letting them work here). Moving and thought-provoking

The Wrong Ffion Jones [Wales has been sealed under a glass dome, a la Truman Show or Simpsons Movie, and turned into a theme park of Welshness; will Ffion lead the rebellion, fired by conveniently forgotten real Welsh history, or will she take the man’s Bevdollars and sell out to be the Voice of Walesland?]

As a ‘fake Welshman’ from the small mining valley of Nottinghamshire, I was taken by the idea of ‘Walesland’ and keen to see this. I know enough of yr hen iaith and Catatonia and Bonnie Tyler’s back catalogues to get the (few) in-jokes, but I think it holds up anyway. Not only the specific idea of small country reduced to a theme park, but also the deeper questions of selling-out v rebellion are explored with a lightness of touch and great, gutsy charm. If I have any negatives, it would be that a few parts dragged a little and would benefit from a bit of cutting or just re-pacing, but overall a fun hour with serious, thought-provoking undertones, and what more can we ask of art? Diolch yn fawr, cariad.

Pickman’s Model [Noni Townshend tells H P Lovecraft’s chilling tale of an uncanny painter and the eldritch source of his inspiration]

I was unable to leave a formal review of this, as my old acquaintance, Noni, has wisely decided not to throw money around, like this idiot did, just to get her show onto the website. But I was very impressed and want to say a bit here. Full brownie oints firstly for not only rmemorising and delivering a finely-tuned rendition of a long tale, but also for doing so in a venue like Bar Bados, with its notorious noise-leakage from some very loud neighbours.

The rendition of the first person narrative, which, as she says, cries out for dramatic declamation, with a slight shift of stance and manner when the real protagonist, Pickman, is being represented, was very effective. Dramatic intensity and the narrator’s sense of foreboding and then horro and deftly applied, and kudos for not overmilking the final line/revelation.

It’s been interesting to see this promising performer come on over the few years since we met at a pre-Free-Fringe pep-talk. I look forward to following further exploits and progress — assuming the ghouls from the graveyard don’t drag her away first.

Best in Class [Working class comedy showcase hosted by Scouser, Sian Davies]

Reviews of showcase gigs are of dubious value, as the line up may not be the same when you go, but Sian makes a great compère and a gifted comic. The two supports when I went were both good and funny and all three were very different in style. As good as some of the ‘top’ comics I’ve seen this Fringe. Well worth seeing.

As an aside, it was interesting how flat one ill-judged gag fell, about a guy having to share a flat with his ex-partner and her new love — the ‘paraprosdokian’ twist being that said new love is female. It’s a good sign of the times that instead of being surprised, the audience mainly tutted (as good middle class folk do).

As a working/lower middle class, E Midland lad who does a fair impression of an arty-farty bourgeois, this was a good selection without thumping too many tubs. No major chips (or couscous, as Sian put it for the benefit of posher punters — surely that should be quinoa anyway?) on shoulders (ee, mine were catered by Harry Ramsdens)

Alba Flamenca [Two fine dancers, an exceptional Gaditano anarchist cantaor, a (Greek) guitarist and a cajónista]

A glass of fino and within minutes of the start I was back in my belovéd Cádiz and wondering why I ever moved to Scotland. Not quite the same as a sultry madrugada by the Atlantic at Peña Juanito Vilar, but in terms of the performers, every bit as good, and as intense as only flamenco song and dance can be. ¡Estupendo!
When’s the next flight to Sevilla?

Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) [Free cwtches and chocolate from the delightfully cuddlesome Carys Eleri, who relates the neuroscience of love, loss and loneliness with song and humour]

As a terminally lonely obnoxious old git with a scientific bent (and an ex obsessed with neurotransmitters and the ‘medicalisation of normality’), this fake (Lincolnshire-born) Welshman found a lot of stuff that was familiar, but learnt a load too. And, more importantly laughed a lot.
The show features smart songs and raps delivered in a variety of styles that would have Jones the Voice gasping in Welsh wonderment. Even if it didn’t make life lovelier in the long run, it was, as a good hug and human interaction always is, a delightful sunny interval in the Vale of Tears.
(To those prone to taking this sort of thing seriously, I am exaggerating for comic effect here; though I do have a Dignitas loyalty card, it’s only because I make them — Barry Cryer even asked me for one)