sun 20/04/2014

Edinburgh Fringe: Rob Rouse/ Daniel Sloss/ Teenage Riot/ Mark Nelson/ The Fitzrovia Radio Hour | Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe: Rob Rouse/ Daniel Sloss/ Teenage Riot/ Mark Nelson/ The Fitzrovia Radio Hour

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Rob Rouse: a suitably potty-mouthed routine about putting his son in nappies
Rob Rouse: a suitably potty-mouthed routine about putting his son in nappies

Rob Rouse is one of those hugely likeable comedians guaranteed to make you laugh and so it proves with The Great Escape, prompted by his family’s recent move to the Peak District, an expertly crafted autobiographical narrative with lots of fresh observational comedy thrown in for good measure.

Rob Rouse, Underbelly ****

Although the Peak District has a slightly lower crime rate than south London, Rouse tells us drily, there’s still plenty going on that would shock their previous neighbours, including dirty dancing by septuagenarians at weddings and a bit of dogging in the local layby. Rouse skilfully weaves his shaggy-dog story (sorry), much of it not remotely believable, but hilarious none the less, describing his family’s first few months in their new village home, complete with dry-as-stone local humour, generous neighbours and local hospitality that verges on the overwhelming.

It’s not all perfect, though; trying to buy embarrassing goods in the local chemist in a place where everyone knows everyone else is a trial, and apparently there’s a strict roadkill etiquette, which leads to a lengthy routine involving how a stinking sheep carcass ended up in his car boot. Rouse also cleverly works in a section about his son’s potty training that’s worth a show in itself, but thankfully he avoids being twee about the trials of being a dad; it’s terrifically, er, potty-mouthed.

Rouse combines great physicality with large dollops of northern sardonic humour (he's from Macclesfield), and has a real skill for painting vivid pictures of all the characters he mentions - including my favourite, a dog that can only “speak” Polish. But the payoff is not a feelgood piece of anthropomorphic nonsense; instead, like much of Rouse’s humour, it contains a very subtle comment on how Brits really think and behave. Until 29 August Veronica Lee

Daniel Sloss, Pleasance Dome ***

When he made his Fringe debut last year, the then 18-year-old Fifian Daniel Sloss, the now 19-year-old version tells us, was criticised for doing mainly masturbation jokes. As he reasonably points out, if he was talking about having sex with lots of women, nobody would believe him.

Again, wank gags play a big role in My Generation, but they’re joined by ones about parents, girlfriends, music festivals and the downside to turning 20, as he will do soon; his hand no longer fits into a Pringles can, he tells us. Sloss has clearly studied how comedy works and has great stage presence, but much of his act feels like a simulacrum of the art rather than the real thing - but one undoubtedly feels the presence of a possibly great talent in search of its voice.

Sloss is still rather inept at interacting with the audience, particular non-teenage members, where his banter seems forced and often rude, rather than cutting or quick-witted. But there’s no denying he has a natural comic’s way with words, and maybe his sitcom pilot on BBC3 tonight, The Adventures of Daniel, will prove where his real talent lies. Until 30 August Veronica Lee

Teenage Riot, Traverse **

The latest work by controversial Flemish company Ontroerend Goed is theatre but not as you know it. For most of the show, the teenage cast fight, swear, snog, cut up worms and make a mess inside a huge centre-stage box. Video projections on the front let us in on the action. The result is occasionally edgy, but also strangely tedious. It is as if Lars Von Trier was directing an episode of Skins.

A major difficulty is that adults, having been young themselves once, have a pretty accurate idea of what teenagers are like and this one-dimensional piece adds little to the picture. Brief lectures on dieting and sexual technique hardly shed new light on the timeless trope of adolescent angst and pre-occupations.

Towards the end the ensemble emerges en masse to burn family photographs and accuse the ageing audience of being the real problem. But maybe their true frustration is knowing deep down that they will turn into us one day and their own children will probably be as oppositional about them. You might learn more about youthdom than you would from Kevin & Perry Go Large, but only a little more. For a production that explores what it is like to be young, Teenage Riot is suitably childish. Until 29 August Bruce Dessau

Mark Nelson, Underbelly ***

Although newcomer Mark Nelson calls his show Offending the Senses, there’s nothing much to offend here; as he tells us straight away, the word is there just to sell tickets.

It’s a neat way to get us on his side and the twentysomething Dumfries native, although at times appearing a little fazed when some of his darker material falls flat, has a pleasing assurance on stage. He has two kinds of material, the lighthearted observational - “Scotland has the most violent and obese teenagers. So if I’m being chased by a gang I make sure I run past Greggs” - and the edgy, which includes references to Jordan’s disabled son and murderer Raoul Moat.

Nelson doesn’t yet know where to pitch his comedy, but he can certainly write good gags and this hour passes enjoyably enough. Until 29 August Veronica Lee

The Fitzrovia Radio Hour, Underbelly ****

The performers’ evening dress and clipped accents tell us that we are in a 1940s radio studio and so it proves, as, just before they go on air, the producer asks us ever so politely to turn off our “field communications devices” - a neat touch in a spoof that gets historical details just right, but sees them through a very modern eye.

The Fitzrovia Radio Hour (written and performed by Alix Dunmore, Jon Edgley Bond, Tom Mallaburn, Phil Mulryne, Ton Pengelly and Alex Ratcliffe), consists of three mystery plays punctuated by singing ads for soap products. It could all be original material, so well observed is it, and the sound effects - all done on stage before us - are a consistent joy. There’s also a lovely running gag involving hats - the performers can’t speak their roles without donning appropriate headgear - and the casual xenophobia and imperialist attitudes of the day are nicely slotted into the mix.

This is a lovingly crafted and beautifully acted show, although once you have got the joke, that’s it - The Fitzrovia Radio Hour doesn’t digress into something else, not even a little off-air rivalry or romance, and the two women in the cast are underused. But if an hour of spoof 1940s comedy is your thing, you will love it. Until 29 August Veronica Lee

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