The National Trust Fan Club is what happens if you imagine a Dave Gorman show delivered by your bouncy Auntie Joyce and her preoccupation with how to pronounce ‘scone’ (to rhyme with ‘gone’ in case you were wondering: no arguments).
To NT or not to NT: that is the question.
The premise: a breeze through Helen Wood’s personal quest to visit 100 National Trust properties in a year. The content: a few cute husband stories, occasional historical snippets, and the sort of 'poems' people send in to ladies’ periodicals. The result: a very gentle hour of comedy chat that (other than an ill-advised foray into menstruation) seemed to tickle the funny bones of what can be a much-neglected Fringe demographic.
Wood works hard to forge a rapport with her audience and is mostly successful. There is a charm and sincerity to her work that makes it hard not to root for her; and if that doesn’t grab you, she even offers a free cream tea to one lucky audience member.
Do you have to be a member of the National Trust to enjoy the show? No, but it helps. The very specific community of hardy hikers and history geeks is something of a niche one, and the in-jokes will work better if you know what they are. Do you have to be of a certain age? Not at all; but it will undoubtedly play better to those whose comedy idols lurk more around the Miranda Hart end of the comedy spectrum than the Frankie Boyle. As a proudly signed up member of a number of non-existent history and comedy fan clubs, for me, it failed to scratch enough of the historical or comic surfaces: but if a fairly broad sweep of cosy cliches and repeated scone observations is your bag then this may be the show for you.
The most winning element of the show is the nod to Wood’s lovely parents and how the places and memories of our childhood shape us. It is clear how much this mission means to her, and the childlike glee with which she recounts her delightfully obsessive ‘collection’ is almost infectious. Oh, and the venue is easily the most comfortable and deliciously air-conditioned on the Fringe. Bliss.