Fresh Comedy In Soho To Banish Your New Year Blues

By Ben Venables Last edited 35 months ago
Fresh Comedy In Soho To Banish Your New Year Blues ★★★☆☆ 3

One way of shaking off the post-Christmas funk is a bit of the silly stuff. And Soho Theatre has two acts we like — both using the same space upstairs but to very different ends. Bec Hill presents charming stand-up while extreme sketch specialists Beasts pull themselves apart for your delight. Somehow together they make a nice double bill — but catch them quick, they’re only on until Saturday.

Ciarán Dowd, James McNicholas and Owen Roberts are Beasts. Photo by Ben Carpenter.

Beasts – Solo

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

Those that think comedy is meant to have a happy ending should watch the sorry story that sketch group Beasts are telling this week. The debris of various substances left on the stage at the finale is testament to a show that climaxes in utter chaos. Though it is organised comedy chaos: Solo has shades of theatrical farce, with pacing like a wind-up toy, where each turn of the key promises yet more frenzied release later on.

The trio of Ciarán Dowd, James McNicholas and Owen Roberts use one sketch to introduce their artistic differences before they each then try to perform their solo shows, which soon descends into an hour of boisterous three-way sabotage.

Smart attention has been paid to the costumes which help announce the different characters and routines. Dowd's linen jacket, open shirt and scarf nicely accentuate the personality and body he so adamantly wants to flaunt in the burlesque performance he has planned. McNicholas's take on a magician's outfit with cape, shorts and cycle helmet has favourable crapness. And the control freakery of Roberts’s earnest playwright is neatly rolled into his mustard polo-neck jumper.

Not that any of them end up wearing much (Arsenal fans will find themselves with a very different mental image of McNicholas when they next dip into the Gunnerblog and Podcast to which he also contributes).

The show is also another success for mentor and director Tom Parry (of Pappy’s), and he will surely approve of laughs peppered with groans as well as the shocked guffaws provoked by the no-holds-barred flesh-jingling ending.

Beasts: Solo is on at the Soho Theatre Upstairs until Saturday 10 January at 8.30pm. Tickets are £10 - £12.50

Bec Hill. Photo by Steve Ullathorne.

Bec Hill — Ellipsis

Londonist Rating: ★★★☆☆

They say you should never meet your heroes and for Bec Hill the memory of accosting her teenage idol constitutes a particularly prolonged cringe, involving as it does a dubious drunken boast about her “award-winning” comedy.

Evidently Henry Cavill's abdomen of steel hasn't won her over, for her meeting was with mid-90s TV superman Dean Cain. (Describing him as a "celebrity bigger than the Queen", she sounds a little like a Bond fan interuppting a Connery Vs Moore debate by shouting "Lazenby").

Now she’s back at the scene of her crime, for the Soho Theatre bar was where last year Hill's enthusiastic efforts to impress Cain ended in drunken shouts of praise (and a bit about the "wheelchair guy") as her hero left the bar faster than a speeding bullet. "Turns out drunk Bec is a bit of a dick," she says.

Bec Hill is not a dick: she's charming and engaging and has enough talent to turn an embarrassing boozy moment into an imaginative show. Ellipsis, with its endearing home-made props and piss-take of common comedic tropes, triumphed at last year's Edinburgh Fringe and now comes to the venue where the inspiration for it was born (in such inauspicious circumstances). And surely that round-trip trumps the empty validation of some token comedy awards?

Hill is a bit nervy in her delivery on this evening: she allows a slightly awkward audience to interrupt her flow and it takes time for her show to warm up. But once she's rolling and dancing from one stand-up style to another in the show's quest to turn her deceit about winning an award into reality, her inventiveness and range are apparent.

An adept performer, we look forward to seeing Bec Hill again and hope she can cut the cord on her moments of self-doubt – just as she does in Ellipsis. She'd no doubt make for an admirable Lois Lane.

Ellipsis is on at the Soho Theatre Upstairs until Saturday 10 January at 7pm. Tickets are £10 - £12.50

Londonist saw both shows on a complimentary ticket.

Last Updated 07 January 2015