Comedy Fringe

Adele Cliff: In the Dark (WIP) — Review

Venue: 32 Below

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When shows are listed as works in progress, it can be easy to taper expectations. However, as Adele Cliff bounds on-stage and slips right into the groove, it’s hard to justify giving other comedians so much leeway, such is her ability to make the audience crack up.

Cliff, the current UK Pun Champion, makes light of her notebook, imploring us all to pretend it doesn’t exist. And, frankly, it feels like it doesn’t. This could just be a benefit of the fact that she’s been honing the show for over two weeks now, so is quite well practised. However, there is something beyond her timing being on point; a charming familiarity with the jokes that imply even if she only wrote them recently, they feel totally authentic to her persona – a must in any good comedy set. 

Cliff bounces from topic to topic but the jokes follow on from each other naturally. She doesn’t just stick to puns – although she does pepper them expertly throughout the hour-long show – but her humour is quick-fire, meaning you don’t get too much time to catch your breath before she’s off again. Cliff also picks the right times to engage with the audience and is never overly focused on one person, a relief for many comedy-lovers who get anxious at the prospect of being put under the spotlight.

Of course, not every joke is a gut-buster, but even the ones that only seem to land with a few people or illicit a chuckle instead of a diaphragm-squeezing laugh are well-crafted. Even if you’re slightly underwhelmed by one bit, you’re only a few seconds from another joke, and it’s this Gatlin-gun style that really elevates the set. Moreover, Cliff’s nerdy persona is strongly utilised without being over the top, and perhaps is one of the reasons why this WIP show feels so natural – when she briefly glances down at her notebook, it feels authentic to her character, as opposed to a comedian trying to remember where she is in her set.

Cliff’s set consistently shows why she’s been consistently making various ‘Top Jokes of the Fringe’ lists for years now. Her work is funny and smart in the way that only quick-witted, seemingly simple laughs can be. Much like how good novelists are just bad short story writers, comics like Cliff distil humour into its most basic, avoiding the rambling didactic nature of a lot of modern stand-up, and her comedy is all the better for it. If you’re looking for guaranteed laughs, then there aren’t many better shows out there.

Dates: Adele Cliff’s Fringe run has now finished.
Image: Rebecca Need-Menear