Black Country Cider Lions - Free

The Black Country Cider Lions’ compere Rob Kemp reminds us near the start of the gig that the room we are in is bespoke. It didn’t exist two weeks ago and may never exist again. It’s an apt setting for much free fringe comedy – the comics who come up with fun, sophisticated sets that are great to watch but lack the ambition or peculiarity to seize the moment and Fringe immortality. Kemp and his two friends Rob Jackson and Leon Clifford – who rotate the role of compere each gig whilst the others perform full sets of material – are just such an act: hit-and-miss, unexperimental, but also smart, original and at times very funny.

Kemp cuts the figure of a younger, less soiled Vernon Kay, with boundless energy and touches of surrealism at the edge of his boyish persona. There is something of the Alex Horne about his opening gambit of handing out free health food bars to the audience, giving an ostensibly banal action an off-beat charm through sheer goofy charisma. Some of his material lacks satisfying punchlines but there are many good ideas that I would love to have seen develop over a longer set. His impression of ‘zombie comedy’, for example, is a must see.

Jackson’s set is likable but laden with basic errors such as constant glancing at his notes and a tendency to link material with the phrase ‘something else I’d like to tell you is…’ His one-liners are often very good but it all feels unfinished, both in terms of working up the material and an unmemorable ending. It’s a feeling that pervades many a line, where the word ‘really’ blunts some very sharp writing. However, he can write and we are rarely more than forty seconds from laughter.

Clifford’s set similarly lacks thematic or narrative cohesion, but he has an ingenious device up his sleeve to hold it all together. Handing a man in the audience a list of all the topics he will cover and asking him to read them out one at a time drives a real pace through the set, punctuating each joke like quick-fire bullet points. It also allows him to play the fool to his audience straight-man, using the topic headings as set-ups to some fantastic punchlines. He’s the best writer of the group, using rhythm and repetition brilliantly in his comparison of himself, a ginger lion, to his dark-haired opposites.

The Black Country Cider Lions aren’t writing material for prosperity. They’re three guys with good comedic instincts who want to make people laugh. They do so, often very well. It’ll be great to see what they come up with in the future. However, if you want to see them catch them today because, like the room they’re in, there’s no guarantee they’ll still be around tomorrow.

Reviews by Tom Moyser

Laughing Horse @ The Free Sisters

The Girl with the Hurricane Hands (and Other Short Tales of Woe)

★★★
Pleasance Courtyard

A Tale of Two Cities: Blood for Blood

★★
Traverse Theatre

Breakfast Plays: Tech Will Tear Us Apart (?)

★★★★
theSpace @ Jury's Inn

Droll

★★★★
Summerhall

The Castle Builder

★★★
Summerhall

4D Cinema

★★★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

The Blurb

Leon Clifford, Rob Jackson and Rob Kemp take it in turns to assault your brain for an hour of focused comic meanderings including jokes about the Black Country, cider and lions, guaranteed. Roar entertainment!

Most Popular See More

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Pretty Woman: The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Hairspray

From £21.00

More Info

Find Tickets