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Lady Garden: Top Secret Gig
 
Pleasance, Edinburgh 
4 29 August 2010
 

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Cast List
 
Written and performed by
Hannah Dodd
Beattie Edmondson
Rose Johnson
Jessica Knappett
Eleanor Thom
Camille Ucan
with additional material by Phillip Breen
 
    


Reviews

CHORTLE 

by Nione Meakin
 
9 August 2010

 
The wonderfully fun-loving Lady Garden are back with the follow-up to their triumphant debut – and it's another winner.
 
Energetic, charming and off-beat in a refreshingly uncontrived way, it's obvious these six women perform for their audience rather than critics, seeking live kicks rather than a BBC deal (though there's one of those in the bag, of course). And their unabashed enthusiasm is infectious.
 
Employing props to great effect - among them a remote-control helicopter, a set of Russian dolls and, most impressively, a handful of small children - the show's best moments are the ones that rely only on the group's formidable performance skills. Witness excruciating middle-class politeness played out at in an operating theatre, or the horrors of female rivalry as seen in the casting of a school nativity play, where 'access to myrrh' is offered up as a bargaining chip.
 
Granted, the ideas can be one-dimensional; their 'explosion' of the burlesque genre for example, while light-hearted, is rather obvious for a group so well versed in mocking the subtleties of the female psyche. But in most instances, this issue is bulldozed by the acting.
 
The fury of a patient being told she has scabies is a slight notion that's worked up to hilarious proportions (Lady Garden have a real knack for a well-timed 'fook off'), likewise the Secret Millionaire spoof, where the initial indignity of the money allocation is only the beginning of the punchline.
 
The group sometimes dabble with material of a more surreal nature, not fully explored but offering a tantalising glimpse into the potential shape of future outings.
Hannah Dodds's breathy and unfathomable monologues about dusting ornaments or taking a bath are a particular highlight, let down by a later decision to offer an actual pay-off for her catchphrase. The cult of Asda sketch, which gives new meaning to the phrase 'bag for life' is also delightful.
 
With this much talent and potential, even the terrible name can't hold Lady Garden back.
 
 
FRINGE REVIEW

by Andrew Allen
23 August 2010
 
Sketch comedy is a notoriously savage and unforgiving genre. Get it right, and you create brilliant, fantastic moments of comedy. Get it even slightly wrong, and you crash and burn. Horribly. There’s no middle ground. It would seem that Lady Garden have yet to fail, and in fact, year by year, they’re simply getting better and better.
 
Keeping in with the theme of their 2010 show, we won’t spoil any of the jokes. So that means we can’t go into detail about an absolutely sublime opening gag, which is particularly good for returning fans, but by no means alienates the uninitiated (Lady Virgins?). We also don’t want to spoil the jokes that have a Russian accent, and it would seem churlish to go into details about a sketch that appears to feature a hymn as written by Richard Dawkins.
 
We can tell you, however, that the entire team is upping their game, so much so that, more than ever before, there’s no easily apparent star performer pulling focus at the expense of her colleagues – although that is, to a lesser or greater degree, the theme of a couple of cute sketches that, for the want of a better phrase, happen inbetween the other sketches. It’s also worth noting that a series of sketches features a lone performer, and while the purpose of that is serve a running gag, it highlights that none of the rest of the team get a sketch where they have the stage to themselves, something that is a loss.
 
However, that’s picky. This is gorgeous, laugh out loud, and clever sketch comedy, with a group of very likeable and funny performers.
 
 
FEST MAGAZINE

by David Hepburn
18 August 2010
 
Sketch comedy is a notoriously tricky business, but the six members of Lady Garden appear to have it nailed.
 
With a wonderfully conceived introduction, the six members take to the stage in matching outfits before embarking on a show which crackles with energy and ideas. Their strike rate is impressively high in a medium known for often being a hit-and-miss affair. At their best they are reminiscent of French and Saunders at the height of their powers (perhaps unsurprisingly since Lady Garden member Beattie Edmondson is Jennifer Saunders' daughter).
 
Returning characters and sketches maintain the flow and shape of the performance, with overlying plot arcs introduced to maintain interest. It's impeccably structured stuff which never feels forced or contrived, and no segment ever outstays its welcome. The fact that they are all immediately likable is certainly a boost and each member of the comedy troupe is given her own chance to shine, with no noticeable weak links and polished individual performances galore.
 
Everybody will have their favourite sketches according to personal tastes, but highlights include an Asda trainee, a Russian doll puppet show, a secular version of All Things Bright and Beautiful and some particularly shoddy burlesque. The sheer quality and variety of skits raises the whole show well above many of the more mundane sketch offerings which infest Edinburgh at Fringe time.
 
An all-singing, all-dancing finale brings the curtain down on what is a tremendously satisfying hour of comedy
 
 
BROADWAY BABY

by Adam Harwood
 
It must make many a performer, struggling to get even their front two rows filled for a Fringe show that they have spent months meticulously planning for, that a show with practically no description can perform to large audiences on a daily basis. The appeal of the Pleasance? The power of reviews and word-of-mouth? Whichever way, this all-female cast deserves their crowds as a series of very watchable sketches performed by greatly talented young actresses is very well received.
 
The opening, performed by six girls who make way for their more professional counterparts at an early stage, evokes memories of the Spice Girls and their mini-me lookalikes, but this soon gives way to sketches in which characters are often very quickly built-up - some in a Little Britain style, others somewhat more relevant to Big Train. The Russian Dolls sketch, where the varying dolls all look to the largest one for warmth in a bitter Moscow winter, is delightful in its simplicity, as is the sketch where an atheist is present in a choir singing 'All things Bright and Beautiful'.
 
Other sketches allow more character-building, allowing even Laura the sound-girl to become more involved in a sketch about helicopter crashes. The performers, who include among their number Beattie Edmondson, daughter of Jennifer Saunders and Adrian Edmondson, are a group full of female solidarity, with one even offering moral support to another's relationship with Muslim cleric Abu Hamza.
 
Certainly this show is one of the more simplistic and watchable sketch shows that the Fringe has to offer, requiring little by way of brain-power or concentration from the audience. Fun and charming for all ages.
 
 
THE NEW CURRENT

 
Last year I was lucky enough to see the new female comedy group Lady Garden. Over the course of their show I fell in love with their quite Northern sense of humour, as did the sell out crowd at the time, so when I heard they where going to be back I was interested in seeing them. The group has a nice mix of maturity, silliness and creativity that really does make their shows more than your average sketch show, and last nights sellout audience where with them at every step of their Top Secret Gig.
 
Since last year Lady Garden has gone from strength to strength and have even sighed a development deal with the BBC so seeing them in the port-a-cabin was a little strange. But the crowd didn’t mind, or even notice, so it was just me who wanted these new BBC favourites to be in much more grander surroundings.
 
Their show opens up with a genuine and cute surprise – this would be something I think could work in their future show for Auntie with them doing different sketches every weak. It was clear from he very start that within a year the group had managed to continue building on the success of last year and had managed to create a whole new show without the need to rely on any material of last year – though there was one sketch I was really hoping to see again!
 
Lady Garden managed to bring a level of fun, class, and ingenius material to life that made this sellout crowd laugh hard - there was a great mix of ages as well with two guys in the front row must have been about 15 totally loving it. And that Lady Garden’s appeal, their humour and accessibility genuinely appeals to a much broader fan base, they are never crude but fun and make even the most common swear word sound so good. Their new show has a wide range of sketch’s and topics from dating, doctors, norther burlesque dancers (which is incredible), any more and I’d ruin it for you!
 
Some of their sketches are BBC TV specials on their own, for instance their Northern burlesque dancers itself could be a one off half hour ‘Operations Good Guys’ style show, it is just perfect.
 
There are many things that make Lady Garden one of the best comedy groups on the comedy circuit to day, one of them being their relationships, on stage they work so well and so tightly that it comes across so well from stage, and the second is their show itself. That might sound like a copout but they take chances with their writing and even in this type of venue they are able to showcase just how creative and crazy they can be.
 
‘This new show is yet more proof of the wide-ranging ability that this group has, their writing is spot on, well delivered, and inventive, these girls are going to be massive and have really set the bar not only for comedy sketch shows but for female comedy performers. They really do have the comedy world talking!
 
 
THE NATIONAL STUDENT

by Ian Phillips
11 August 2010
 
Lady Garden have really upped their game, this is their best show yet. The pace has tightened, the ideas and staging are sharper and the skill and nature of their performances is honed further.
 
This six PERSON sketch group (Eleanor, Camille, Beattie, Hannah, Rose & Jessica) has got a lot of performing under their belts now, they’ve become Edinburgh regulars, they’ve got their own ‘residency’ night in a London pub and they’ve not been shy in getting themselves out there elsewhere. Their experience shows; an extra playfulness and mischief is revealing itself with devilish fracturing of the fourth wall and a move away from more traditional sketch structures. Their style and performance has also developed, their attention to detail and measure in delivery is much sharper.
 
Lady Garden have carved themselves a unique brand and image, they maintain a girly quality (despite their years!!) and someone’s floral curtains have gone missing, but I finally feel this year that they have thrown off the label of ‘new young female sketch act’ and they are now simply a strong contemporary sketch act to be reckoned with.
 
 
WHAT'S ON STAGE

21 August 2010
 
Back for a third consecutive year, this all-girl sketch group are ringing the changes. Not only have they ditched their regulation green tunics for some natty new floral numbers, their material also seems cut from a different (dare I say more meta) cloth.
 
From the opening mini-me joke to a final run-in with their tech lady, lines are blurred between comedy and reality in ways we associate more with the likes of Tim Key, who conquered this same room last year. Accusing an audience member of stalking “Her eyes are following me round the room” is inspired. It’s only a shame some jokes lack the ebullience that made Lady Garden such fun to watch in the past.
 
As ever, there’s some superb acting on display. Special mention for Hannah Dodd’s creepy housewife, one of several episodic jokes that add depth to the set. But having loosened up the format, Lady Garden now need to tighten up their editing to ensure the next dose of comedy is big as well as clever.
 


 
   
  

 

 
 

 
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