The usual Edinburgh preview season has just about wrapped up in Liverpool, with a whole host of practice runs at indie venues across the city before the acts make their way up to the Fringe. For right or wrong I’ve been rather unadventurous with my time and stuck to what I know this year; as the acts I caught are no strangers to MADEUP this review is a round up of shows that may have featured on this site before in one guise or another.
First, Gill Hardie and Keddy Sutton’s Scottie Road the Musical (pictured top) is heading up to the fringe after a few years of honing around Liverpool, and previewed for one night only as part of the Shiny New Festival at the Lantern Theatre. The story of Caz ‘n’ Britney, two Scouse birds who fall from grace and end up behind bars in a ‘musical misadventure’, the show parodies well-known show tunes from Chicago and Les Mis to craft its tale. Scottie Road has always been a big hit with Liverpool audiences and the preview proved no exception, but with so much strong material and Hardie and Sutton’s obvious love for improvising, it was clear they might have struggled to kill their darlings and cut the show down to a supposed hour in length, which originally seemed to be the intent. I’m not even sure if they lost a single song – highlights as ever including the Kick Off Tango (their version of the Cell Block Tango), Funny Tummy (an ode to women’s troubles taken from Funny Honey), and relative newie Master of the Scouse (Les Mis’ Master of the House, sang by the prison chef). But as enjoyable, tear-enducingly funny and as impressively performed as ever – and with the more Liverpool-centric gags either ditched or explained – Caz ‘n’ Brit are ready for the challenges of a month-long run and a non-native audience, who surely won’t be looking at their watches anyway.
It was a short set from Jollyboat that followed the girls on the same night at the Lantern, but with plenty of bang for your buck. No strangers to Edinburgh – or a few Liverpool warm up gigs beforehand, which have become a bit of a tradition for them – this year the musical comedy duo seemed to be concentrating on getting the best out of old favourites rather than developing new material. Perhaps this is as a result of making it onto so many festival bills recently, as this was definitely more of a gig than a cabaret show. Fortunately for the repeat viewer, songs like their pirate pop song mash up and Jesus rap hold up to repeat listens, and as performers Tom and Ed seem to be enjoying themselves more than ever. As ever, if Jollyboat float your, erm, boat you can’t go wrong with seeking them out up in Edinburgh.
This week, Legion of Doom previewed their new one hour show Fear and Laughter at 81 Renshaw. The sketch troupe, who can be found on a monthly basis heading up their own Comedy Knight at Mello Mello, go for a bit of darkness with their daftness this time. The trio of Rob Bond, Oli Bond and Lee Hithersay have honed a mix of Young Ones anarchic silliness with a wide variety of fantasy and video game references, and more than a bit of Chris Morris-esque uncomfortable surrealism into one successfully bonkers hour of well-paced sketch comedy. With seemingly less of their recurring characters making the cut than last year’s Edinburgh show Sketchpocalypse Now, there’s a feeling (inherent in the name of the show, I suppose) that the performers enjoy toying with and disturbing an audience as much as making them laugh – professional actors Rob and Lee keen to outdo each other on that score, with third member Oli taking a bit of a back seat this time. They may very well end up half naked or with their faces scribbled in green in the pursuit of comedy, and things aren’t always done in the best possible taste, but the material is smart and well-written, and the pay-offs are satisfying.
A strong opening sketch featuring a young girl rebuffing the demands of the Archangel Gabriel gets things off to a good start and sets up a theme that weaves through the show. Petulant classmates teasing schoolboy Whistler’s painting of his mother is clever and deliciously childish at once; there’s the theatre company run like a football team, the hilarious live Japanese translation of A Christmas Carol and an oldie-but-goodie Game of Thrones gag. But it might be a short, gleefully ridiculous Daniel Day-Lewis sketch from Lee that steals the show and sticks in the mind.