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Review: Machynlleth Comedy Festival

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 15:00 UK time, Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Friday 23 to Sunday 25 April 2010.

It's Friday, the sunshine is glorious, and I'm sat in a hot car just by Merthyr with stinky cheese sandwiches creating quite an aroma. We've snailed our way to this point, and I know the Brecon Beacons, the countryside, and freedom are past one more roundabout.

I love escaping the city at the best of times, and to head up the A470 is familiar territory as my family still live amongst the hills of mid Wales. But this afternoon I'm heading for the inaugural Machynlleth Comedy Festival.

Photograph of people at the Machynlleth Comedy Festival

Photograph of Henry Widdicombe, courtesy Machynlleth Comedy Festival.

The brainchild of young Welsh comedian Henry Widdicombe (pictured) and a dedicated group of volunteers, it's the best invented small festival since Gwyliau Coll (the lost festivals in north Wales), Hay on Wye, and Green Man for a boutique festival experience bringing something unique, different, cosmopolitan almost to the sleepy but lovely town of Machynlleth.

The town has an incredible amount of venues which are perfect for shows big and small. As a local by default, its nice to see 'cool' events going on in Mach, but also that it's an income-generating pattern that hopefully will follow the success of Hay and Green Man for generating growth in an area - just as long as it doesn't spoil or change the nature of the lovely town.

Although fairly quiet in terms of numbers, Machynlleth festival had a great atmosphere, and camaraderie, with everyone sat out in the sunshine surrounded by the stately Welsh slate first parliament of Wales, the Owain Glyndwr centre, and leopard print tent.

My first show on the Friday night was Robin Ince, whose usual 'angry man' routine of 'rage against stupidity' was numbed by the lovely picturesque train journey to Machynlleth. His show rails against newspaper columnists and generally against the moral majority. Strangely, although I was tickled, his Guardian/Express/Mail rants are fairly obvious, and the flappy sketchy manner in which they're delivered could be much smoother, without losing any of the humour. I felt he was distracted.

Robin Ince

Saturday, I wanted to see some newer comedians on the circuit, and started the day with Behemoth, John-Luke Roberts and Nadia Kamil which was a whirwind of sketches and crazy antics, including marrying an audience member and totally humiliating each other and us watching. I found myself the butt of one very long joke - felt like an eternity at the time to me!

Nat Luurtsema's stories of personal crisis are both traumatic and shocking, so you laugh along tentitively to her inner monologue. Then I sat through a very jetlagged and delirious show from Sarah Bennetto, whose whole set was based around her 'accidental' trip to Buckingham Palace - told with very subtle and clever twists and turns.

Finally, I joined the Welsh Comedians, Glyn Wise, Daniel Glyn, Beth Angell and Tudur Owen for a lively showcase of welsh comedy, Glyn only on his third gig, Beth was absolutely pure filth, Dan full of stories of Cardiff cabbies, and Tudur Owen has the funniest analysis of Anglesey's airport. Great material, great variety, very funny, and very Welsh.

That was the last of my trip to Mach's comedy festival, even though many shows continued into Sunday. The streets were filled with performers, lovely food stalls, and sunshine, and it was a world away from hectic city reality - good luck to the organisers and may we see the festival grow from strength to strength.


Read more about Welsh comedy on the BBC Wales Arts website.

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