David, Tom and Sophie: Live in Scotland

Fri 21st – Sat 29th August 2015

reviews

Llewelyn Hopwood

at 10:23 on 26th Aug 2015

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David, Tom & Sophie: Live in Scotland is what the Free Fringe is all about – emerging talent in the world of comedy that shows great potential for great value. However, unequally distributed hilarity is not what an average Fringe audience member looks for in a show, which is unfortunately what the quartet has to offer. Although there are many funny ideas and spectacles in this show, on the whole, one cannot help but leave the venue with a feeling of having seen most of this before.

David McIver does a commendable job as the opening act and host, with laughs coming from unexpected recurring motifs. But this is done within the context of tiresome self-deprecating material, which leads to an altogether forgettable act.

Sophie Henderson is the least impressive of all the comedians, purely for being the least original. Her chosen theme of being a lonely middle-aged women with successful friends has been milked dry, and doesn’t seem to suit her true quick-witted style, which may lead to funnier material were it pursued. Instances of sincerely funny jokes are few and far between, with the biggest laugh coming from the label that she gave to her age of 31 -“the oldest I’ve ever been”. Her opening material can be summarized as an embarrassing attempt to sarcastically complain about her upper-middle class upbringing and lifestyle, and frankly, the punch lines to the tongue-in-cheek complaints about how awful and downtrodden Guildford is can be seen from a mile away.

The stand-out stand-up was Tom Wragg due to a charismatic performance of original material. The way he seemed to improvise based on objects he found in the room is a particular highlight of his absurdist performance, and opening his act without saying a word is refreshing, as is the way he boils impressionist stand-up comedy down to its textbook form, reading out a list of “things I don’t like”. Although some of his routine could easily fall flat on its face were the audience an unwelcoming one, the probability that this man will make you laugh is still very high.

The closing comedian, Alexander Bennet, offered a lively performance and wasn’t afraid of silence nor of diverting from the usual format of a relentless stream of mediocre jokes badly strung together. Nevertheless, there was still a firm level of standard-issue abandoned-father jokes and ruminations on suffering from depression which did very little to excite new ways of laughing.

The show’s decision to have the fourth performer be a guest comedian every performance is a decision to be weary of, for this leads to a lottery that may lead to a significantly worse show than the relative mediocrity that it already harnesses.

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Fergus Morgan

at 11:05 on 26th Aug 2015

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David McIver, Tom Wragg and Sophie Henderson are Live in Scotland, and that’s a good thing. We can all agree that three intrepid young comedians pushing the limit of their overdraft, living on nothing but porridge for a month, and performing for free in the characterless basement of a characterless Mexican restaurant every day is ‘what the Fringe is all about’. And to be fair to the three performers – and their special guest Alexander Bennett – there are flashes of potential in their sets.

David McIver opens. His short slot is commendably well-constructed but so middle-of-the-road in its humour that it becomes instantly forgettable. He squeezes some promising material out of a recent break-up, but his self-effacement is never believable enough to truly engage. It is difficult to feel anything for a 20-something with their life stretching ahead of them, whose only discernible problems are a slight social awkwardness and some post-breakup blues. McIver is probably best when he tentatively approaches the absurd, imagining a conversation with a sympathetic dog, but even this needs a good deal of fine-tuning.

Sophie Henderson spins her privilege round to her advantage, riffing sarcastically on the terrible life she has led in her wealthy family home in Surrey. Guildford is horrible, we are told, with its wide, cobbled streets and beautiful architecture. This opening is as high as her routine reaches though, and it soon lapses into predictable 30-something whining about successful friends.

The third of the regular acts, Tom Wragg, is a breath of fresh air. His quirky, frenetic comedy blows away some cobwebs through sheer confusion. He hurtles around the stage, hurling a PBH Free Fringe backdrop over people, seizing audience members and getting them to throw a plastic bottle repeatedly against the wall, before closing with a bizarre routine with a ukulele – which he cannot play apparently. His set is mostly physical, but when he does begin telling some jokes, his offbeat, repetitive style is enjoyable.

But Wragg’s greatest strength in comparison to the two preceding comics is his confidence. He seems unfazed by quizzical looks from the audience, and entirely sure-footed in his odd, and entirely original, comedy.

Special guest Alexander Bennett closed, and his self-assurance quickly marked him out as a more seasoned stand-up than the three regulars. The premise of reading out a selection of laws that he believed were necessary to introduce quickly got the audience onside, and although he hardly had them in the palm of his hand, he did at least then have the freedom to experiment a little more.

All four comics had something to improve upon, but improve upon it they must. At present, Live In Scotland is an entirely forgettable hour of comedy.

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