By Sara Sukudom
Humour may be subject to personal taste, but Aaaaargh! It’s the Best of UK Fringe Comedy managed to gain a fair share of laughs from all who attended the show last month as part of the Perth Fringe Festival.
Located in the courtyard adjacent to State Theatre, Northbridge, the red-and-yellow circus tent looked at home within the heart of Perth’s quirky cultural hub. The 215 spectators lined up to be seated under fluorescent pink lights, forming a half-circle around the performance area in a surprisingly intimate setting.
Despite having a different line-up each year, the show maintains the same flavour of comedy – one that fans will instantly recognize as being distinctively ‘UK’. Indeed, the cheery acceptance of life’s misfortunes is exhibited from the start by emcee Vladimir McTavish, who appears from behind black curtains with a drunken swagger. The lights switch to yellow and blue over the Glaswegian comedian, who does well to set the tone for the evening, interacting with front-row audience members whilst performing his edgy pub-like routine. One man sketching the comedians as they perform becomes a running joke for the night, as well as a fellow Scotsman in the crowd who is asked to lead the audience applause.
Then the first comic steps up to the microphone. On this night it’s Gordon Southern, a stand-up comedian and writer from Essex. He delivers an upbeat, punchy routine on a host of topics, from hipsters to ‘English bodies’ to religion. The observational material is well-adapted to the audience, and accordingly earns many laughs around the tent. This is helped greatly by Southern’s solid stage presence. The comic moves about with an energy that matches McTravish’s and engages the audience, incorporating impressions of Australians and horses alike into his script. The routine takes about fifteen minutes before it wraps up with a few improvised jokes, and the comic disappears into the curtains amidst applause from the crowd.
McTavish returns as blaring pop music takes up the speakers. With showman’s flair, he thanks Southern and announces the next performer.
The second act of the evening sees Cornish comedian Matt Price take the stage. Immediately, his style contrasts to that of the previous performer. Price is far more subtle, making use of pauses, amusingly prolonged audience eye-contact, and anecdotal jokes. This is not surprising to anyone who is familiar with his work, being well-known for its comedy woven into storytelling. With a shorter time frame this evening, however, he sticks to briefer recounts and cordially self-deprecating humour. The audience hears of his nicknames at school, a daunting gig he did at a prison, and odd experiences involving a bathroom wall. He interacts openly with first and second bench spectators; and although his pace falls a bit awkwardly on the audience, most of his stories end up with a good chortle.
After another succinct interlude, the final performer is introduced. Nik Coppin is a vibrant character, reflected on first impression by his bright cyan shirt and gold chains. The comedian speaks loudly and moves vigorously around the space. He is mixed-race – with a mother from London and father from Barbados – and bases the bulk of his routine on this idea. This produces a steady trickle of laughs, even if the material could use a little more freshness. Still, Coppin’s presentation is anything but dry, as he displays an open enthusiasm for his stories and snickers along with the audience. His final joke ties up the routine neatly and is met with laughter and claps as the show concludes.
Overall, Aaaaargh! It’s the Best of UK Fringe Comedy was a fun night out. The ambience was good and the comedians were all pleasantly entertaining. Although the three routines worked independently rather than building on each other, each was funny in its own right, and served well as tasters for the comedians’ solo acts. Had the show gone on for longer it may have lost part of its initial momentum, but the snappy one-hour slot kept it tight and enjoyable.
Rated 18+ (minors accompanied by guardians),