Phil Ellis: Hedgehog!

By Ron Bingham

Will a hedgehog turn up to justify the title of the show? There weren’t quite as many disasters as I have seen in previous shows, but there was enough comedic chaos to keep the audience enthralled.

Phil is the master of the carefully constructed awkward comedy show, where every disaster that happens might just possibly be a tightly scripted part of the act. This became a problem during our performance when three drunk Scotsmen sat at the back of the room chatting loudly and drinking during the first half, as we couldn’t tell if they were really just a bunch of annoying gits or part of the act?

If you enjoy embarrassing routines about surprise families, extremely dodgy post-lockdown gigs with decrepit sheep, the lyrics of a classic song from the 60s or dodgy circus acts, then Hedgehog! is the perfect show for you. It’s not for everyone, but if you enjoy watching people who’ve just hit forty explain how their dreams and expectations plummeted as they aged to a truly appalling level, I can recommend.

Hedgehog is on at Just the Tonic at The Caves

Phil Ellis: Au Revoir

By Ron Bingham

After six years of performing at the Fringe, and with nothing to show for it apart from four broken relationships, two lost houses and five unaired pilot episodes for the BBC, Phil Ellis has decided this will be his farewell performance.

As he is a very deceptive performer, it is difficult to be sure whether any of this is true or not. Are those drunks in the audience real? Was that clown supposed to die like that? Is Phil really running that much overtime? (I can say yes to this at least as, even with all the hurry-ups from his soundman, we still finished ten minutes late). Was young Phil really that sexy looking and saucy? Why was that swingball set (totem tennis) on a stage much to small for it to be used without losing a few audience members? Was the can thrown by those drunks meant to swish so close to my head that it parted my hair and left a trail of Guinness foam in my hair? Only multiple visits would be able to determine the answers to these questions and, sadly, I think the rest of the run is sold out.

The show was packed and the audience was loving every minute of this show, even the melancholy and tragic bits. Phil is a comedian who, with an able band of willing to be very embarrassed friends, will leave an audience very happy but slightly mystified as to what was real and what was a fortuitous accident. Mug someone for a ticket to Au Revoir if you have to. One of my must-see shows this Fringe and I hope to see his “we reformed the band” visit next year.

Au Revoir is on at Heroes @ The Hive until August 25

Phil Ellis Has Been on Ice

By Ron Bingham
Phil Ellis

What a gloriously shambolic hour of deliberately bad comedy we had here. The premise is that Phil was frozen three years ago due to an incurable disease and now that a cure is available he has been unfrozen. First he is required to undergo a series of tests and challenges to determine whether it will work.

These tests involve selected audience members and are extremely humiliating (but only for Phil). It’s worth coming to see this show just to see whether Phil can survive to the end as he really does go overboard in trying to destroy himself (especially his knees). There was also one routine where he had to undergo exercises and chose a VERY fit gent from the audience to challenge him. I have never seen a man go that particular shade of purple (or a random audience member do quite so many one handed push-ups).

The audience were in stitches at a lot of the ridiculous stunts and I haven’t laughed out loud so much in ages. Don’t go expecting any highly crafted verbal gymnastics or elaborate props/puppets and you’ll get to see an excellent hour of very silly comedy with a little message of hope at the end.

Phil Ellis Has Been on Ice is on at Just the Tonic at The Mash House until August 27

Phil Ellis – Unplanned Orphan

By Ron Bingham

Oh dear. Sometimes it’s hard to review a show and not reveal too much.

This is ostensibly a show about North Manchester’s most reliable comic who received a phone call from his parents on his thirtieth birthday and was told he was adopted. The show is really about how things can go wrong, really wrong. Really Really Wrong. I mean so wrong you are not sure whether he is really this inept and what is happening around him in the show is just a terrible accident, or whether this has all been finely crafted and planned and he is playing a part. Don’t worry, it becomes clearer by the end.

Phil has a chart on the wall, on which he marks off the people who walk out of his show before the end. When I was there it went up from 21 to 24 (there were only sixteen of us at the start).

I recommend this show (without saying any more about what happens) to those who love chaos and disaster, when it is happening to someone else. Try not to feel too sorry for him when he starts begging you for money and definitely stick around until the very end of the show, as you will see the funniest fight scene at the festival. This should receive both no stars and five stars, if we operated a rating system. One of the most dangerous shows at this year’s Fringe.

Unplanned Orphan is on at Underbelly, Bristo Square ​ at 5.25pm

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