COMEDY REVIEW Paul Merton “it it we

Brave new Merton

Merton has taken a valuable piece of advice from his stint as a newspaper columnist - ’it’s not funny because it’s not true.’ So for the most part of his show he ditches the imaginative forays into absurdity that previously characterised his comedy. Now Merton uses the Encyclopaedia Britannica and his life as his jokebooks. He posits the theory, hilariously, that Samuel Taylor Coleridge was the first music hall comedian.

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He even uses his spell in a psychiatric hospital as material, but never demands the audience’s sympathy. He was, as he will tell you, merely ’crackers’ as opposed to the other patients, who were ‘bonkers in the nut.’ It’s brave because it's true and all the funnier for it. (Rory Ford)

a Paul Merton (Fringe) Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, until 37 Aug, 2pm, £8. 50/£ 8 (£7. 50/£ 7).


Overtired and Showing Off ‘k ‘lr

What forces shape a seven year-old girl’s identity in a confusing, plastic consumer culture? That sentence is about as funny as most of this slackly- paced, company-devised slice of surreal domestic comedy-theatre. You'd think there’d be more laugh- mileage in the juxtaposition between a kid's sensibility and adult behaviour, thought and social trends. But recurring teddy-bearz-in-the-hood and bimbo-doIIs-come-to-life routines never catch fire. With any luck, next time Catherine Shepherd, Harriet Smedley and Nick Underwood, who dub themselves Who La Hoof? (terrible name), will put away childish things and play at something more accomplished. (Donald Hutera)

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(Venue 36) 226 2 757, until 37 Aug, 2.30pm, £6.50/£5.50.

THEATRE REVIEW Lounge Room Lizards are

New Year’s Eve 1999. Three plummy students live in post-Withnail squalor. As the millennium dawns, all is not as it should be . . .

The challenges to the imagination posed by the impending millennium and the attendant hysteria are infinite, and this play takes a pleasingly audacious flight of fancy into the realm of technological breakdowns and time warps. However, even the emergence of Oscar Wilde from a cupboard can't enliven a script that is far from being as witty as it thinks it is; and confused staging and uncertain performances make for a chaotic production that wins points for sheer imaginative abandon alone. (Hannah McGill)

a Lounge Room Lizards (Fringe) Punter Productions, Southside Courtyard (Venue 76) 667 2272, unti/37 Aug,

2. 75pm, £5.50 (£4.50).

THEATRE REVIEW Insignificance sir 'k If? t}:

Somewhere in a parallel universe, Marilyn Monroe explains the Theory of Relativity to an Einstein bored with political physics. Her small but besotted husband assures us of his World Series fame, recounting tales of bubblegum card glory while a solipsist Senator McCarthy believes he is the only man alive.

This is an amusing and intimate performance of Terry Johnson's award- winning play, with an outstanding performance by Matt Williams as the nice but dim DeMaggio. It succeeds by allu5Ion; every character looking for a way to validate their own fame, their way of life, their political ideals. lnsignificance affects us all. (Nicky Agate)

u lnsignificance (Fringe) Wishlactory Productions, C Venue (Venue 79) 225 5705, unti/37 Aug, 2pm, £5.50 (£4.50)

COMEDY REVIEW Hope Springs A Leak

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People think the North-East is all about beer, fags, and early deaths; well it's not, it’s worse than that. Or so it goes in this table of a depressed post-coal town in Tyne and Wear.

This heartfelt social satire is both somewhat patchy and a bit amateurish, but it redeems itself through its warmth and couple of achingly funny sequences. Among not least of which is the Freddy Mercury Karaoke scene ’It were like Knebworth arl o’er agin man’ - the pathos of which has not been seen since Tam Dean Burn’s Iggy Pop in Irvine Welsh’s Headstate a couple of years back. (Ross Holloway)

% Hope Springs A Leak (Fringe) Molotov Cocktail, Ca/der’s Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2 75 7, until 37 Aug, 7.75pm, £6 (£5).

DANCE REVIEW Twist at at- v.

Stephanie’s Fridge is a physical theatre collective. They use ropes, rags, mops and buckets, a black cloth backdrop riddled with slits and person-sized holes, religious hymns, Johnny Cash and JUlClly sinister strawberries to contemporise medieval images of torture.

In funny wigs and identical white pantsuits, a game, all-female cast of eight try to keep audience expectations off-balance. There are more moments of amusing silliness than discomfort, yet the simple, suggestive stage pictures stay with you. Exceptional? No. Diverting? Yes. (Donald Hutera)

% Twist (Fringe) Stephanie’s Fridge, Hill Street Theatre (Venue 4 7), until 37 Aug, 226 6522, 7.40pm, £6 (£4).


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