Comic putting special into special needs

“I’m a musical comic, but don’t put that first because it puts people off.” Ria Lina is not easily pigeonholed: her father is German and her mother is Filipina, she is a trained actor, singer and dancer, has a PhD in viral bioinformatics, was a digital forensic investigator at the Serious Fraud Office, and has written and presented her own documentary for Channel 4 which seeks to dispel the myths surrounding oriental women.

Despite all this, Ria Lina has been criticised in the past for relying upon simplistic stereotypes for her humour, with such classics as It’s Not Easy Being Yellow or The Mail Order Bride Song, in which she purports to describe her own parents’ relationship.

In fact, it is in these common stereotypes that Lina believes good comedy can be found. “You have to find a balance bewteen the truth of your life and what everybody else has enough understanding of or cultural reference points to be able to find funny.”

Most people wouldn’t make such jokes about their parents, or for that matter, their son (have a listen to The Internet Porn Song), but Lina jokes that with her kids there is “an understanding that mummy entertains grownups. But not in that way.”

She suggests that much of her humour, which teeters on the brink of acceptability, might find its origin in her own mother’s lack of social artifice.

In her new set, titled Thpethial, Lina reveals that she was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a high functioning form of autism. She decided to air this in response to a complaint from an individual who thought that she picks on people with special needs.

“Before I found out, I had no special needs. Now suddenly, by society’s definition, I have special needs.” Her show will be exploring what these labels mean, and whether one should be upset by them.

“It’s a brain topology, it’s a way of being, it’s a way of thinking, it’s a way of looking at the world and it’s a reason for me and my comedy and what I do. It’s the right fit.”

Ria Lina appears at The Good Ship on Kilburn High Road this Monday. Doors open at 6pm. For more information and tickets, visit http://www.thegoodship.co.uk

Originally published by The Kilburn Times

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Review: Elegant Nymphs

The ‘Elegant Nymphs’ are fed up. Without any of the special powers or movie deals that all the other mythical creatures get, they have decided to come to the Edinburgh Fringe to make their big debut… with this sketch show. It is energetic and intelligent, tailored to an audience who appreciate humour that is slightly off(beat), or to those who simply delight in the majesty of elegant nymphs. However, be warned: they can and will have sex with you without you knowing.

Highlight sketches include a sinister remake of ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ and a TV game show to find the world’s most emotionally strong man. Hugh Stanley and Anna Harris create a wordplay extravaganza, composed entirely out of 90s pop culture references for the 90s suckers out there. However, perhaps some of the most amusing bits are when the cast are just hanging out, being their normal nymph selves. In “real” life, Hugh, hoping to seduce Anna with his beat poetry, just cannot contain his creepy side and accidentally ends up stalking her and shrieking in her face that he has a horrible physical deformation.

Ollie Jones-Evans is clearly the star of the show, and entertains us with the gift of his gangliness, which has presumably instructed his particular brand of awkward physical humour. The other performers, Hugh, Anna and Rajiv Karia are also excellent performers, and they complement each other with their great energy, comic timing and general pizazz. The only thing I would say is that perhaps they would do better to stick to their longer scenes, as the weird characters and hilarious scenarios that they create are what I enjoyed most about the show.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and so if you, like me, love nymphs, ‘The Mighty Boosh’, or laughing, then make sure you pay a visit to the Bristol Revunions! One last piece of advise: I would think about where you decide to sit, because being licked by Anna Harris may be a risk factor (or pleasure) of sitting in the front row.

Originally published by Ed Fringe Review.

Review: Max Fletcher-Delicious

If you’re familiar with the illustrator David Shrigley, then you can gauge something of Max Fletcher’s act. His short skits seem at first to be almost tableau versions of Shrigley’s badly drawn cartoons; Max uses no facial expressions whatsoever – in his case this is not such a positive – and the point of it all is intriguingly missing. Come to think of it the handwriting for Max’s ‘bit’ menu, from which you can request which ‘bit’ you would like him to perform, is written in handwriting that is weirdly close to the artist Shrigley’s own outrageously childish scrawl.

At first I wasn’t sure if this was theatre at all, not having seen any semblance of a character portrayal, with Max ducking in and out of skits without any pause to delineate the start and end of each one. However, as Max gains confidence the humour loses some of its strangeness. For the first half I was a little uncomfortable, mainly because of his own negativity about the show, and was sad at the thought that I would have to give Max two stars, him being so likeable. However, both he and the audience warmed up and the overall feeling I gained from the mish-mash of all the different sketches was one of strangely enjoyable offbeat humour, although it is possibly not for everyone.

So that you can know what to ask for (it’s a show personalised to each audience), I would advise going for the longer skits. Highlights included: ‘THE CLINT EASTWOOD BIT’, ‘THE JOEY FROM FRIENDS BIT’ and ‘THE BIT ABOUT FAILURE’, although we did not exhaust the ‘bit’ list in the slightest. I would be intrigued to know whether ‘THE FLAMINGO BIT’ ever materialises, as it was not at that time available to us due to insufficient props. The main thing I would say is that he could do with less self-criticism and a few facial expressions, if only every once in a while.

Originally published by Ed Fringe Review

Review: Lold on a Minute

At first I was intrigued; the show opens with a slide projection of the script of a friendly crowd-warming computer who tells us of his attempts to build up a good atmosphere, while at the same time amusingly defeating any possibility of this because of the awkward blaring sound of the projector. Despite playing the exact same characters in various different guises, and the fact that their unidentifiable cockneyish “character” accents do eventually grate, Hugh Stanley and Archie Manners are still enjoyable because of their good physical humour, energy, comic timing and generally charming manner.

However, at most points I was not entirely sure where the jokes were, but supposed them to be the shoutier bits. I found what I did gleam to be humour to be oddly unoriginal, often asking for laughs simply for insinuating that Archie’s character was gay. There are some attempts at poking fun at society, which I found to be uninteresting as they didn’t particularly play with the ideas in any depth. A skit involving the questioning of a criminal monopoly car offers some respite because of its originality and charm, but again its merits are mostly in the performance rather than the joke writing.

I did however enjoy the magic they performed together – it is infused with character and is sweet, but sadly is not given nearly enough stage time. Archie is the skills behind this part, going on to do his own solo magic act, which was impressive even if there was a moment when he almost lost his cool after mistaking a female audience member for a man.

I wish I could say that as it was their first night this fresh-faced duo still have plenty of room to improve, but unfortunately their performance is already spot on, and without a change in content I do not know where they can improve this production. Throughout I felt they hit the slapstick mark just fine but that I was watching a cheesy low brow entertainment act rather than the more intelligent, current humour I think they are aiming for. If they were to allow themselves slightly different aims to their comedy and incorporated the magic tricks into the rest of their skits, rather than leaving it as a separate and rather irrelevant add-on, then I would have been much more satisfied.

Originally published by Ed Fringe Review