This was a show of two halves and boy, was it two very distinct halves!
The first was Fringe favourite, Holly Burn’s solo show, I am special, followed by local comedians, Steffan Evans and Drew Taylor regaling us with Tales from Wales. Burn was a absurdist high-concept character act, whilst Evans and Taylor were more traditional Welsh-based observationists. This is not to say either is bad, but, in this case, it certainly divided the audience, most of whom were friends and family of the latter.
This was unfortunate for Burn since what she had was a brilliant concept and commitment to character, whisking the (willing) audience away into her surreal stories and demented delusions. She pinpointed the infantilised nature of the celebrity life that people aspire to, yet with good wordplay and playing up the physical theatre, with a fantastic piece based on Kabuki theatre.
However, I certainly felt that I was the person enjoying it the most, with the humour and style often quite niche to a theatrical and comedy world outsider. I also understand that whilst the loud, shrill cries interspersed throughout were used deliberately to depict how annoying and whiny the character could be, it was also actually quite annoying and those who don’t understand the intention would be even less willing to find it funny.
Interestingly, Burn was educated at Ecole Phillippe Gaulier, a famous Parisian clowning school that has become very popular as of late with the alternative comedy scene. This training is evident in her masterful theatricality but, like many acts who have been similarly trained, it occasionally has the whiff of GCSE-level devised theatre, which is prone to alienate the common audience.
Nevertheless, Burn is a very talented and gloriously weird comedian with characterisation and storytelling skills to leave you breathless.
In the second half, the audience completely filled up and certainly the Welsh pair received a far warmer reception than Burn; the two did their own separate half hours of their lives as Welshmen. Both started with life in small villages in the Valleys, with Evans starting off with stereotypical fare about Welsh farmers’ relations with sheep and women, which was too explicit for most younger readers.
Evans, however, went on to create some fantastic (if sometimes disgusting) imagery, with a self-deprecating charm and clever humour mixed in with the crude to win the whole audience around. The most impressive feat is his bilingual humour as a proud Welsh speaker, which managed to work for both the Welsh and non-Welsh speakers in the crowd (myself being the latter).
“If you like Subbuteo, then it’s the show for you”
Taylor was also likeable, with some very good pithy remarks and a very funny and befitting ending for the show in general, but, occasionally, the references were dated (if you like Subbuteo, then it’s the show for you) and quite a bit was rather unmemorable.
I was unsure whether their show was a guide for life in Wales and the problems that Wales faces in terms of gentrification and government cuts for non-Welsh watchers or more as something for Welsh audiences to relate with, but overall was enjoyable and worth a watch (Welsh or otherwise)!
If you want to keep up-to-date with the next shows that these guys are doing, you can follow them all on Twitter:
This show was part of Cardiff Comedy Festival – if you want to see what other shows they have on, check out their website here.
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Cover image credit: Holly’s Twitter