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Katie and Annabel Try a Fringe
The Camden Head
16th August 2014


Photography provided by Katie Lane and Annabel O'Connell

With so many comics these days going high-concept for their shows (Bridget Christie's A Bic for Her being a feminist rant, Mark Thomas' Bravo Figaro a eulogy to a difficult father, anything Daniel Kitson does ever), it's refreshing to have some comedy boldly proclaim: "This show won't change your life." And it's true. This pair of funny women are traditional observational stand-ups in almost every way, but make absolutely no apologies for that. Nor should they have to as, if this audience was anything to go by, they don't really need to.

First up, Annabel O'Connell. She may have the swagger, poise and all the hallmarks of an American comedian - except the red brick wall - but her sensibilities and humour are much closer to home. Her time in an Irish convent, as detailed here, has clearly had a larger influence on her act than in just the narrative. It's at times sex-mad, an apparent bawdy release after years of nun-enforced repression. An opening gambit of getting the audience to shout some of their favourite things, I won't spoil what, good-naturedly wrong-footed us and worked perfectly to get us on side.

A personable performer, a couple of goes at improvisation and audience banter had a 50/50 hit rate. While we're eager and willing to engage, there could have been sharper responses - even if these were pre-planned. But when things do threaten to derail, it's never more than a couple of seconds as she brings it back with her written material.

By contrast, Katie's initial reception was a little more muted but she quickly won us over. Perhaps the change of gears to a more British - less raucous and brash but no less funny - way of doing things threw the crowd. But Katie soon won them back over with a confident observational comedy set interspersed with a few nods to her past in advertising.

It's really this that gives Katie a USP and a cynical aside on the old Meerkat/Market joke proves it's a justified one. All of her standard material is good, even when it doesn't get the laughs it deserves (a cracking Edinburgh Fringe joke, for example). But I can see real promise and potential in her ad material, which could go some way to giving her a through-line or framework, culminating in proper pay-off. She herself admits she doesn't really have an ending, and it's hard to disagree. Still, what matters is the journey and, despite some set-ups being too long, it's a very pleasant one. Plus, she had a pop at Peter Kay which everyone - except perhaps Pete himself - can enjoy. Gold star.

Rarely is it that my advice to wannabe comedians reads simply "keep plugging away, you'll get there". As you've probably guessed, that's what I'm going to say here. Technically, the pair are on-point, they both have gags that are worthy of Live at the Apollo (read into that whatever you wish) and their warm personae could easily endear them to a wider audience à la Sarah Millican. But there are no quick fixes or shortcuts to fame - unless you're Paddy McGuinness - so do them, and yourselves, a favour and check them out.

Katie and Annabel Try a Fringe opened on 14th August and runs until 17th August 2014 at the Camden Head, as part of the Camden Fringe.

Nearest tube station: Camden Town (Northern)

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