DAN ANTOPOLSKI Truth-seeking weirdly magical stuff me

After three years break from the Fringe, Perrier nominee Dan Antopolski returns with more of his brainy brilliance. As a new dad, his daughters make up a large chunk of material, but his status as someone who now ‘tries to get girls into their knickers’ hasn’t softened his edge. His white- man rap about children being wonderful (but babies being c-words) is hilarious and strangely heart-melting, while his reaction to modern-day ‘nonce-vigilance’ and post-baby sex-deprivation show off his clever mix of Mr Sensitive Cereme and a cheeky, backwards boy.

He keeps the busy room hooked with a confident but relaxed delivery, although when somebody in the oven-hot venue has the cheek to nod off, Antopolski wakes them to ask: ‘what are you? Breakfast?’ (it’s the most important meal of the day). He also enjoys a very convoluted, surreal flight of fantasy, where Spanish-accented worms stop to argue, and racist jokes spiral into lengthy court battles. A couple of these dark trips down the rabbit-hole don’t work, which he clocks pretty much straight away and apologises for, but mostly they let us peek into the place where this innovative, truth-seeking, weirdly magical stuff all comes from.

Some of his wordplay brings to mind a more acidic and cocky Demetri Martin, (he is ever-so-slightly up himself at points but, after all, this is someone who was cast as Jesus in The Da Vinci Code, albeit just for a few seconds) but mostly he stands in a comedy spotlight all of his own. Satisfyingly unorthodox, intelligent and ridiculously playful. Thank heaven with special thanks also to hell for Dan Antopolski.

(Claire Sawers) I Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, until 24 Aug (not 20), 8.50pm, {3950—21050 (£8.50—i‘9. 50).



Pacy set that’s both clever and funny one

‘We haven't even flirted with the line yet' warns Danielle Ward as one joke gets a hesitant reaction. She isn't lying; the rest of Ward's material, all rapidly told, invokes death by decapitation, the sex drive of a Siamese twin and some depressing revelations about her own late blooming. But then this is a comedian who comperes her own comedy night entitled Freakshow. and has written for enough political comedy shows to be a self-confessed cynic.

The subject matter may be dark, but it's all told with charming enthusiasm which makes segues from depression to the length of consciousness of a severed head seem like children's story time. Dressed like a schoolgirl and talking like a CBBC presenter only adds to the incongruity. Ward‘s strength is in the written word rather than performance, and clever wordplay takes the show beyond just another personal anecdote. Ward's observations are finely tuned, selected with just enough truth and wit to make all that line-flirting nearly acceptable. (Emma Lennox)

I Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550. uni/124 Aug (not 75), 70.45pm, 2850—29. 50 (27—88).


Turning loneliness into laughter

Ushering her audience through to their seats in the guise of an Australian lifestyle coach who runs classes in helping people deal (very badly) with crippling symptoms of loneliness. Pippa Evans begins a thoroughly mixed character show. Runner-up in this year's Hackney Empire New Act competition, Evans clearly has acting ability oozing from her being but

transferring that skill into killer comedy is another story. Her lead characters of Loretta Maine. 3 psycho—singer who can twist a tune away from being a delicate flower to a poisonous weed in the blink of a verse. her overbearing on-the—edge Oz guru and a Party Rings-obsessed loser all manage to instil sympathy and terror in the front rows.

Fortunately. the least memorable creations of the cocksure City broker and the off-stage monotone woman with tendencies that go way beyond the suicidal don’t hang around long enough to spoil the fun. Ultimately a tender and well-worked show which leaves a pleasantly bitter taste.

(Brian Donaldson) I Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 24 Aug, 4.45pm, £8.50 (£7.50).

CLEVER PETER It’s the League of Pythons! oooo

Sketch shows are generally hit and miss affairs, but Clever Peter's unswerving ability to hit the target would put Phil Taylor to shame. Don't let the inclusion of libidinous gorillas and plastic penises fool you into thinking their brand of humour isn't sophisticated: here are three performers of exceptional talent. Given the venue’s sweltering heat, they may come to regret choosing their trademark of colourful jumpers. However, the energy and the jokes never let up as one brilliant gag follows another. With sketches that include a terrifyingly over-affectionate father-in- law and a possessed Enid Blyton, it's madcap yet dark, a little Monty Python meets The League of Gentlemen. Voiceovers feature prominently, from a snooker-style commentary on a bad first date to two sexually frustrated office workers' inner monologues. Both Richard Bond and Edward Eales- White are excellent. but the Terry Jones-esque William Hartley, with his extraordinary facial expressions and uncanny ability to impersonate Russell Crowe, really stands out as a possible star of the future. (Tom Maxwell) I Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 25 Aug (not 72 8 l9), 70pm, £8—L‘9 (£6.50—L‘7. 50).