Sofie Hagen and Scottee: ‘Fat should be something you flaunt’

The comedian and her artist-activist friend have teamed up for Hamburger Queen, a beauty pageant that celebrates fatnessA few months ago, I went to see a show and when I got to my seat, I sat down. Or rather, I tried to sit down. I realised quite quick…

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Russell Brand: My Life by William Shakespeare review – self-help from the Bard

Bristol Old VicNarrating his life via sonnets and speeches, the motormouth comic delivers a show that is both egotistical and endearing‘I’m trying to alchemise the work of our greatest playwright,” says Russell Brand, “into a tonic for our times.” My L…

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From improv to Ishtar: the many lives of comedy genius Elaine May

Trailblazing comic, Oscar-nominated writer and acting sensation Elaine May is back on Broadway. Nathan Lane, Cybill Shepherd and others reveal what makes her tickThe very idea ought to be mind-boggling. Elaine May, now 86, is currently starring as a wo…

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The Lost Disc review – tall tale of a great Glastonbury bootleg

Soho theatre, London
Will Adamsdale shapeshifts to play a crooner, a troubadour and a country singer in an ambitious mockumentary show

‘Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician,” Kurt Vonnegut once said, and comedy isn’t short of examples, from Ricky Gervais playing as David Brent with Foregone Conclusion to Jack Black’s Tenacious D and the Mighty Boosh’s heavy Camden shtick.

For something more subtle, try The Lost Disc, in which mild-mannered Perrier award winner Will Adamsdale shapeshifts into Roger LeFevre (a folk troubadour), Tony Noel (a jazz crooner who sings Christmas songs year-round) and AP Williams (a country singer). In The Lost Disc, fictional former 6 Music DJ Stu Morecambe is on the hunt for an apocryphal bootleg of a performance by LeFevre, Noel and Williams at Glastonbury 1985.

The Lost Disc is essentially two shows in one, then – something which ultimately undermines its various delights. The bulk of it is devoted to the three musicians, with Adamsdale superb as he twists himself with minimal exertion into effectively mimicking Dylan and Donovan, then Tony Bennett and finally Johnny Cash. With each performer, we are sent down a backstory rabbit hole, partly for the sake of pure adventure but also to shore up the over-engineered narrative. The original songs – written by Adamsdale, Ed Gaughan and Chris Branch and performed on stage alongside the London Snorkelling Team – are mightily impressive and bring some warmth to this tall tale. And as well as Adamsdale’s discreet style of star quality, the supporting cast is excellent, notably the versatile Gaughan.

The Lost Disc is at Soho theatre, London, until 27 October.

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Joanna Lumley: It’s All About Me review – Ab Fab gags and Trump tales

Birmingham Symphony Hall
The veteran comic’s enduring ability to captivate a crowd saves a best-of evening that occasionally descends into tedium

They’re a real pop-will-eat-itself phenomenon, these live shows by TV personalities. As with Griff Rhys Jones a few months back, so now with Joanna Lumley: a small-screen celeb taking to the stage to talk through clips of things we’ve already seen them do on TV (top-price tickets: £62.50). They seldom make for gripping live performance, and sometimes – tonight, for example – descend into tedious love-ins, as Lumley fields written questions (“Will you marry me?”, “Can I have a kiss?”) submitted by her crowd.

The entire second act is given over to these questions, mediated by Lumley’s sometime TV producer Clive Tulloh. You might think the Q&A format would occasion spontaneity on Lumley’s part. And so it does, to a very small degree. The rest, though, is contrivance, as the audience’s questions are corralled to fit around her precooked anecdotes and clips.

Joanna Lumley: It’s All About Me is touring until 11 November.

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Griefcast’s Cariad Lloyd: ‘Laughter? It’s about survival. It’s about living’

After her standup success and podcast about death, the comic’s next step was obvious: starring in a cancer-ward romcom

It wasn’t, I assume, the toughest decision in the history of casting. Who you gonna call, Finborough theatre, to star in your new play about a comedian and improviser grieving her dead sister and tending to her dying mum? A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City (yup, that’s the title) could have been written for Cariad Lloyd: comic, improviser and creator of Griefcast, the award-winning podcast about death. Talk about typecasting. Getting to grips with the role of Karla was hard, says Lloyd, “because I had to keep reminding myself, OK, this is where she’s not me.”

In fact, the play is a 2016 off-Broadway success, whose writer, Halley Feiffer, is now working on a new Jim Carrey sitcom. Its maiden UK production coaxed Lloyd back to theatre after years in comedy, improv and, latterly, parenting. “I’d wanted to do a play again for ages,” she tells me over tea on the afternoon of Funny Thing’s opening night. “But initially, because of the baby” – her daughter is 22 months old – “I wanted to say no. Then I read the script and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s really funny. It was annoying, but the part was just really funny.”

A Funny Thing Happened… is at the Finborough theatre, London, until 27 October.

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Vulcan 7 review – the Young Ones meet again as old dinosaurs

Cambridge Arts theatre
Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer write and star in a Beckettian comedy about two past-it thesps making a sci-fi film on the edge of a volcano

Once they were The Young Ones; now they’re “a couple of old dinosaurs”. The tectonic plates have shifted and Adrian Edmondson and Nigel Planer are teetering on the edge of extinction. Vulcan 7, a new stage comedy written by and starring the erstwhile Vyvyan and Neil, and directed by Steve Marmion, is about two ageing actors stuck in their trailer on the slopes of an Icelandic volcano. A send-up of showbiz egos and a peek into the hollow heart of a life spent pretending to be someone else, it starts like a bad sitcom and ends like good Beckett.

The first half is all talk and dramatic stasis. We’re on the set of bargain-bucket sci-fi movie, Vulcan 7, starring old-school thesp Hugh Delavois (Planer) as a butler, and loose cannon Gary Savage (Edmondson) in an undignified costume as an alien insectoid. The pair have previous: they went to Rada together and shared girlfriends before their careers diverged: for Gary, movie stardom and self-destruction; for Hugh, character parts, bourgeois life and an MBE.

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Dazzling drama: the unmissable theatre, dance and comedy of autumn 2018

Gender-swapped classics, Hans Christian Andersen’s closet secrets, two giants of US comedy sharing a stage, plus Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo as rulers in love

Twenty years after they made their names, the individual members of The League of Gentlemen are riding as high as ever – with Inside No 9 a cult smash on BBC2, and Mark Gatiss prominent in practically everything on TV. But they’ve carved out time – after a screen revival last Christmas – to return to their sinister Royston Vasey-based sketch comedy for an autumn tour (their first since 2005). Gatiss promises “some old favourites, some new stuff and some sort of sequels” to the three recent Christmas specials.
At SEC Armadillo, Glasgow, 28-29 August, then touring

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