Live : Craft of Comedy Fringe15 - 19.06.2018 : Tabernacl, Llandudno : Saturday events
Craft of Comedy is a comedy writers' industry weekend, and 2018 is the first year it has been 'fringed' by live performances. If anyone in North Wales has the connections to curate a comedy festival, Craft of Comedy's Steve Doherty does. Llandudno based, and with an extensive BBC production CV, he has built up the hugely respected annual comedy writers' conference at Venue Cymru, and it is he who has also overseen the fringe programming.
His associations and standards meant a stellar bill - the two events reviewed here sat midway through five days of shows. Mark Watson, Neil Innes and the cast of Deadringers had already performed, and Mrs Barbara Nice, Nick Revell and Robin Ince were to come.
The chosen venue, a former Welsh Baptist chapel full of character, is the perfect scale to form a natural (though friendly) bear-pit. It was full at noon on Saturday as Marcus Brigstocke hosted 'Early Edition' - a satirical look at the day's papers and social media - backed up by the sharp and informed wits of Rachel Parris, the insight of writer Sarah Morgan and the intelligence of Al Murray.
For an hour the conversation ranged over everything from upskirting legislation (no one can have left not understanding the difference between a parliamentary filibuster and an objection), private education, Dignitas and Trump (Brigstocke's impression gets a strong B+). It was always funny and engaging, but what stood out was the genuine warmth of it - it was as if we'd collectively voted the four funniest people from our school year to scoff and chortle through the day's press, such was the feeling of audience connection. Which was the tone repeated in the evening.
Stand Up at the Seaside is a well-established North Wales comedy brand - and it was fitting that Craft of Comedy joined forces with them to present an evening of Welsh Comedy, improbably hosted by Brigstocke. The line-up he coralled was wonderful. Opener Noel James' set is a high speed downhill comedy slalom - lose focus for a minute and the consequences are fatal for the rest of it, the flow and genius of the jokes (puns and surreal tangents) requires your full attention, and repays it in spades. Next Anglesey's Kiri Pritchard-Mclean demonstrated she is a star patiently waiting for the world to catch up to the fact. She shifted through often coarse but always very funny material with the offhand tone of a Tesco till conversation, and for much of her set people either side of me were crying with helpless laughter.
This left Ignacio Lopez to close the evening. Half Spanish/half Welsh, Lopez makes the most of his own contradictions and those of the country he finds himself living in. With a rich Spanish accent his ludicrously fluent comedy created an uproar made of mirth. Just before he came on, someone behind me questioned why he was headlining - there were no doubters when he left the stage.
North Wales now has a genuine connoisseur's comedy festival in a wonderful venue, nestled at the edge of the queen of Welsh resorts; the verdict so far has to be brilliant. A chance meeting with comedian and promoter Paul 'Silky' White, confirmed the quality of the main, conference event, but it is the shows that the outside world will judge. With Doherty at the helm The Craft of Comedy Fringe should grow into a unique event worth travelling a very long way for.