The 21st June saw the second day of Nottingham’s Student Fringe Festival, with the standard just as high as the previous day. With dance, mime, music and poetry alongside previews for Edinburgh Fringe and much more, it was once again an unmissable day showcasing some of the best that the arts have to offer.

Speechless by Charlie Davis

“Addressed the all-too-real problem of ‘fake news'”

Plays will struggle to be more relevant than Charlie Davis’ topical comedy Speechless, especially in its addressing of the all-too-real problem of ‘fake news’. Not only was it politically charged, but moments, especially the introduction of the character of ‘the Pen’, were side-splittingly funny. Although the play is clever and engaging, the many aspects of social commentary and forms of comedy attempted to implement some scenes and subplots which felt somewhat unnecessary. Nevertheless, this was an enjoyable play.

7/10 -Great show, but room for improvement

Escape for Dummies by Josh Mallalieu & Laurence Cuthbert

“Every character is an exaggerated caricature”

It’s often very difficult for a family show to be genuinely funny for everyone, yet Escape for Dummies manages to achieve this and more. The label ‘family’ show should not put off people without children from watching. This comedy, telling the story of shop mannequins attempting escape, is wordless; dialogue’s replaced by grunts, physicality and the brilliant score, making it feel similar to Mr Bean in parts. However this familiarity works to the shows advantage. Every character is an exaggerated caricature with their own hilarious idiosyncrasies, with even the minor characters making the audience roar with laughter. Though at StuFF it was an incomplete state (continuing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival) it is well worth your time.

9/10 – Unmissable, almost perfect.

Twenty-Something by Lynton Appleton

“Incredibly intelligent and shrewd piece of writing”

Showing the lives of two siblings, Twenty-Something exhibits some of the most brilliantly written dialogue I have seen in theatre; it felt both natural and quick-witted, immediately making you feel for both characters.  The simplicity of the scenes built up cleverly as the issues between the siblings were slowly uncovered. For audience clarity, transitions between flashbacks could have been clearer by utilising lighting and/or props and costumes, however the play remained fluid. This is an incredibly intelligent and shrewd piece of writing that was acted amazingly. It was a great show even if I didn’t wholly agree with the characters’ motivations and subsequently the show’s stances on the issues introduced.

8/10- Excellent, highly enjoyable

Footnotes by Lewys Holt

“I had experienced a piece of art”

Abstract and contemporary dance shows tend to be somewhat alienating, and certainly Lewys Holt’s one-man show Footnotes could easily have fallen into this, especially considering the significant amount of show-time dedicated to dancing without musical accompaniment. However, Lewys’ genuineness, instant likability and frequent breaks from dancing to hilariously explain his fleeting thoughts (often meaning subverting or dissecting common idioms and metaphors) meant that the show was remarkably easy to watch. Although I can’t pretend to have understood it all, I left feeling entertained and realising that I had experienced a piece of art.

7/10 -Great show, but room for improvement

The Fall of Byron Montrose: Poet, Gentleman, Lover by Ben Macpherson

“It was an absolute pun-fest”

The Fall of Byron Montrose is an absurd one-man comedy monologue telling the story of a man whose life is undergoing enormous changes, the nature of which is difficult to explain without giving away several jokes. From start to finish it was an absolute pun-fest with quick-fire barrages of twists being thrown at you throughout. The plot itself was remarkably engaging, partly down to the hilarious nature of delivery, but also the breaks in the bombardments of puns in poetry form. While some puns were groan-worthy (although isn’t that the mark of a good pun!) and by the end I was left feeling like I never wanted to hear a pun again, most of them were hilarious and the audience laughed throughout. The play is utterly ridiculous yet entertaining.

7/10 -Great show, but room for improvement

The Iconoclasts by Ben Price

“It was so beautifully moving”

Music, magic, drag and dancing combine in this unmissable explosion of intriguing characters performed by immensely talented actors. Catapulted into the complex and dysfunctional lives of the Iconoclast family, the audience is taken on a rollercoaster of emotions as the family reunites to restore their family name in the aftermath of the death of sister Estelle, with hilarious and tragic results. The heart-breaking song written in Estelle’s memory was my personal highlight; it was so beautifully moving that people were genuinely crying. Another unforgettable moment was the hilarious Brexit-themed parody of Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman’. As a sucker for well-performed musical numbers I couldn’t help but leave feeling thoroughly entertained and moved.

10/10- Utterly faultless

StuFF Your Ears With Spoken Word by UoN Poetry Society, Poetry is Dead Good and Phlexx

“An inspirational end to an incredible festival”

As the evening rolled around it was time for some spoken word poetry. The poems varied from the beautiful to the absurd, from the moving to the hilarious. The wide variety of poets and poetry from across Nottingham all spoke brilliantly, including those in the open-mic section of the night, for some of whom it was their first time performing. If you haven’t before, I would highly recommend watching some spoken word poetry, it’s not only entertaining but also opens your eyes to the poet’s personal experiences. It was an inspirational end to an incredible festival and I can’t wait to see what next-year’s StuFF has to offer.

Daniel McVey

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