Stiff & Kitsch: By All Accounts Two Normal Girls (C Royale: 14-28th Aug: 16.40: 60mins)

“Two extremely talented comedians who deserve to be playing to full houses”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars

There’s something to be said for taking a label someone gives you and owning it, turning it into a badge of honour. It takes guts and good humour. And that’s exactly what Rhiannon Neads and Sally O’Leary display by the bucketload in their latest outing as Stiff & Kitsch in By All Accounts Two Normal Girls – a show so named after a quote from my review of them last year.

The premise of the show is a discussion and self-help guide on how to achieve the level of “normality” the two girls have (according to, erm, me) by taking a comedic look at different aspects of their lives from jobs, to health, wealth and everything in between. Opening quip “things are about to get normal” sets the tone for a witty, honest and accessible hour of fun.

Each section is punctuated with a trademark musical number, which work really well to summarise and highlight their main comments, with choruses including repeated lines as blunt as “Keep your bullshit to yourself” (in reference to seemingly narcissistic social media use by their peers), and “I haven’t a fucking clue”, which we’ve all felt about one thing or another. What pleases most about this duo is their slick back and forth – in both the songs and general banter – the whole performance maintains a beautifully unrehearsed aura, like they’ve put it together especially for you in that moment.

The professionalism and confidence from Stiff and Kitsch have pleasingly stepped up a notch from last year – there is a bit more a swagger and presence within their performance, not un-aided by the life-size cardboard cut-outs of themselves that adorn the back of the stage. Yet with this growth as performers what they haven’t lost is their likeability: the sense that they are still one (or two) of us with the same flaws and insecurities as everyone else. What they do really well is to make each one into something to laugh about, and there are certainly plenty of laughs to be had in this show.

While my main criticism of their show last year is still largely accurate – the variety and creativity within the musical numbers is somewhat lacking – it is the only blemish on an otherwise polished and very funny show. I didn’t stop smiling once throughout the whole hour.

It’s not always easy to admit that you were wrong, but this time I’m glad to: Stiff & Kitsch aren’t two normal girls: they’re two extremely talented comedians who deserve to be playing to full houses. And if they call their next show that, I am retiring.

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 19 August)

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

+3 Review: Tiff Stevenson: Seven (Assembly Roxy, Aug 8-14, 16-28 : 19.10: 1hr)

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“Stevenson has a presence you could smash a wine bottle on”

Editorial Rating:  4 Stars Nae Bad

When you see a comedian on TV, it’s almost a coin flip as to whether they’ll stand up to their digital performance when you’re maybe ten feet away. For some, it’s clear that they’re funnier as a bundle of pixels – but, as in the case of Tiff Stevenson, proximity makes joke grow funnier.

Even when loping around the stage, Stevenson has a presence you could smash a wine bottle on. Despite being wrapped up in a thick web of humour, it’s clear from the outset that there’s an iron core to every joke: it’s as if scientists managed to fuse Belva Lockwood and someone’s drunk aunt. Pushing their own distinct beliefs is something, consciously or otherwise, all comics do; and Stevenson is a masterclass in delivering it without sounding evangelical. Even if you don’t agree with what she’s saying (however you’ve managed to come to that outcome), you’ll be hard pressed not to laugh along with her.

From the get-go, it’s an unmistakably zeitgeist-y set. In a surprisingly speedy hour, Stevenson runs the full gamut from bus bombings to baby showers, joyously flicking up v’s behind her as she runs from topic to topic. We might be awash in a sea of Macintyres, but Stevenson is one of many happy islands where comedy’s rebellious, fringe roots are still dug deep. No subject is too taboo, as she very happily reminds the audience throughout – however, often the transitional link between these subjects can wave from tenuous to unneeded, but as it takes up perhaps a minute of time in total, it hardly spoils the bunch.

If there ever was a complaint, it was that sometimes Stevenson doesn’t seem to trust her own considerable wit enough. Several times throughout the show, a fantastic joke was extended far beyond its peak, simply for the sake of explaining it. Whilst none of these jokes fell into “unfunny”, it certainly blunted the otherwise fantastically sharp tongue which dominate the rest of the show.

To talk too much about Tiff Stevenson’s set at the Roxy is to do her a disservice: half of the enjoyment comes from the unexpected directions she swerves with every punchline. But if you’re looking to start your evening on a high note, you’ll have no tiff with her.

 

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Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 6 August)

Visit the Assembly Roxy  archive.

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED

Qyeen SweeTs: NorthernXposure (The Stand, 18 – 30 Aug : 22.40 : 1hr)

“A clever balance between physicality, language and accent”

Editorial Rating: 3 Stars

This show is part stand-up, part forthright declaration about feminism and heritage, and part mish-mash of the two. The comedy sections were generally well delivered and funny, the ranting clear and powerful, if somewhat serious, while all the bits in the middle were neither one nor the other, so it was difficult to know whether I was supposed to be finding them funny or not.

There were elements of the show which were particularly enjoyable, and to me where SweeTs strengths, are in the stylistic imitation of the various characters in her story. In particular “lassie” – the well-spoken lady from London, and her other interrogators on her visit. She used a clever balance between physicality, language and accent to make her characters at once recognisable and human.

Indeed, the parts of the set which focussed on storytelling (tales of her recent trip to London and recounts of her school days) were the easiest parts to follow and interweave jokes and caricatures. SweetYs excels at honing in on key moments and delivering one liners deadpan irony, while her selective repetition of some lines in her stories, each time delivered with a slightly different emphasis to show the thought process were also very amusing. We all know that sometimes if you say something more than once it might make more sense, and this idea SweetYs explores with great success.

What I was most disappointed in and let down by about this show was its climax. When referring to her encounter in London she loudly and proudly declared to her gathered audience that she was indeed the only female African Scottish rapper, and was prepared to do a rap to any beat she was given to prove that yes, she did rap. So that was when the beat kicked in, and I was expecting some lyric spitting of a very high calibre. Unfortunately, what followed was a rather measly few lines as a chorus and a lot of pregnant pauses filled with strutting around the stage and trying to get the audience to clap along.

Like much of the show, I couldn’t tell if this was an ironic moment, or a genuine attempt at rapping. Either way, the impact was lost and this turned into a bit of a downer on what otherwise was quite a promising performance.

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Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 18 August)

Visit the The Stand archive.

THIS REVIEW HAS NOT BEEN SUBEDITED