Head Sets

Thu 4th – Sun 28th August 2016

reviews

Emily Cole

at 11:11 on 9th Aug 2016

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Sometimes painfully awkward, sometimes side-splittingly funny, the beauty and equally major flaw of ‘Head Sets’ is that you get a different set of comedians every night. The premise is simple: comedians perform stand-up behind a hung cloth with a gaping hole in which they insert their head. Yes, many a ‘this is not the first time my head has been in a hole’ jokes ensued that are vastly overdone and extremely unimpressive. This teamed with a sensationally poor spiel from the resident MC, Suzanne Lea Shepherd, who has hopefully learnt from the evening that accusing an audience member of ‘liking to groom children’ based on his Catholicism is simply not funny.

Nevertheless, there were some absolutely golden moments in this production. The flamboyant, no-holds-barred sensation that was Stephen Bailey instantly redeemed where Shepherd spectacularly failed. His sharp and quick-witted set makes Bailey a memorable talent certainly worth keeping your eye out for. Similarly, Joey Page, a whacky and refreshing comic, who can only be described as the love-child of Noel Fielding and Joe Wilkinson, stormed the stage, fantastically taking on the hole challenge in the most inventive response to this set-up. Finally, Bethany Black entered the frame: a wonderfully self-depreciating, honest and downright funny comedian covering topics from drug-abuse to lesbian relationships in an incredibly stimulating set.

Where these comics flourished, some floundered, clearly unprepared and desperately searching for a gag that wouldn’t nose-dive, crash and burn. In these cringe-worthy attempts, an anxious grasp at comedic straws in the form of us reviewers occurred: a bold move that did not pay off. It seemed surprising that such a simple idea could have such a drastic effect upon the performance of regular comedians and provide such a range of successes and atrocities in comedy. The exciting prospect of ‘Head Sets’ is having this vast array of comics back-to-back, but this structure also separates the men from boys, the smart from the desperate and the funny from the overwhelmingly unfunny.

An incredibly unique and clever concept that can genuinely be a hilarious and intriguing platform in which to discover new comedians on the scene, especially as part of the Free Fringe. However, as audience members, be prepared for awkwardness but the potential to discover some hidden gems of talent, and for comedians, simply be prepared.

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Caragh Aylett

at 01:20 on 10th Aug 2016

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'Head Sets' feels like the sort of show that might have been dreamed up by two people who had had slightly too much to drink, but it works. The format of the show is that each comedian puts their head through a hole in the curtain in order to perform. Each night there are four different comedians who take part.

When the comedian really commits to the performance, Joey Page on that night on which I saw the show, it really works. His decision to experiment with the unique quality of the audience only being able to see his head is excellent. From asking audience members to draw his body for him to using his hands as faces, his preparation for the performance is clear and it really worked. Page is original and funny and his artistic decisions ensure that the audience feel entertained and willing to see his solo performance.

However, the lack of preparation by other comedians is clear. Saskia Preston appears as though she has only just found out that she is performing. While making the audience laugh in places, her ten minute set is riddled with 'um's and 'ah's and it leaves the audience feeling uncomfortable. When she seemingly runs out of material she seeks out the reviewers in the audience and makes jokes about this, which appears as nothing more than lazy material which is not particularly amusing. 'Head Sets' offers comedians the chance to sell their individual comedy shows but Preston does not take advantage of this and certainly does not make me want to watch her solo performance.

Other two are weakened by their decision to make easy, crude jokes that gain some laughs but are certainly not entertaining or memorable. Like Preston, they too appear unprepared but at least they are able to complete the entire set without struggling for material.

The experience of 'Head Sets' is entirely reliant on which comedians are on each night. If you are left with a comedian struggling to finish their set the performance will drag with little humour. However, If you are lucky enough that someone like Page turns up who is prepared and ready then it is clear that the format of the show can really work.

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