Edinburgh Festival: Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck

Edinburgh Festival 2017: Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck

There are few hours in your life that will be as joyous as the hour you will spend with Ada Campe.  An old school variety act who I am sure would have been gracing the boards of Wilton Music Hall in its height (which I am assuming was the late 1800s…).  Ada has a magical air about her that really makes me believe she is ageless and has seen it all.  And will live for at least anther 100 years.

Ada Campe takes us on a tale of her youth after attending a funeral of a dear friend.  She shares such nuggets as ‘I used to know your grandmother.  We would travel together, travelling in the luggage compartments on trains.  Snogging!’  Just joyous.

Ada cut her teeth in entertainment by working her summers at a carnival on the Welsh coast.  Dressed as a strawberry (I’m not sure why, it made perfect sense at the time, though).  Here she met some talented women who taught her the art of cabaret.  She shares some of their acts with us including some magic (not good magic – nowhere on the poster does it say good magic…) which leads to some spectacular audience participation.  The balloon magic was a particular highlight for me.  It was such innocent, silly and wonderful fun.

5 stars.  Definitely one to see.  You’ll be glouriously delighted you went to see this show.

Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck is on at 3pm until Sunday 27 August at CC Blooms (Venue 171)

Sarah Southern

Damian Barr’s Literary Salon

Sarah Southern

Monday night was quite the cultured evening.  My friend Rebecca had bought tickets for us to attend Damian Barr’s Literary Salon at the Savoy.  Quite grand surroundings to start the week in.  Damian Barr began his salon a few years ago, I believe in smaller venues such as Shoreditch House, and it has gained quite a following and now is able to sell the Savoy ballroom.

Damian wrote a book a few years ago called Maggie & Me about his experience of growing up in Scotland whilst Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minster.  I was someone’s plus-one for his book launch of this and had the pleasure of meeting Damian and see what a fun and warm man he is.  As such, I was looking forward to experiencing his Literary Salon.

The evening starts with a glass of fizz (part of your ticket!) and an opportunity to chat with other people on your table.  Damian then opens the evening with some light, funny chat before welcoming his first author.  On Monday we had the pleasure of Tim Murphy, Amor Towles and Reverend Richard Coles.  Each gave a reading from their book, had a in-depth chat with Damian and then a question or two from the audience.Half way through was an interval to get more fizz from the bar and to listen to the house band.  All very civil and enjoyable.

It is definitely a very well read group and it was standing room only for some.  I would definitely suggest getting there early to bag yourself a seat.  If you can’t make it to the Savoy the evening is recorded and I believe uploaded to i-tunes, and I think, British Airways play it on their planes too!

Tickets for future Literary Salons can be booked online.  Details via on Facebook.

Sarah Southern 


Comedy Class: The Performance

The Performance

Week seven has come around very swiftly and it is time to showcase what we have learnt and developed over the past few weeks.  The girls and I have been rehearsing together and really working hard at making each of our routines as polished and sharp as possible.  I’d be inclined to say comedy is a team sport.  You might  have some really funny ideas but sometimes you need other funny people around you to make that idea a perfectly formed joke and have it land just as you want.  I am really proud as to how the three of us have worked together in class and developed out friendship out of class.  I really hope after this experience we continue to write some funnies together as it has been one of the best aspects of this entire experience.

Alas, no amount of workshopping with the girls can help me learn the routine.  That is a solo sport.  I recorded it onto my phone and rather than my weekly podcast listening I have taken to listening to my own voice over and over and over.  Each night I would then hold a number of performances alone in my living room, again recording it.  I would then sit with the original script and see what I had missed out.  Or see what I had said funnier this time round and make tweaks.  It was pretty intense and maybe having a hectic week at work too didn’t assist in the process.

We were lucky enough to be performing at the Comedy Pub close to Leicester Square.  Like all pubs and clubs, it looks awful with the lights on.  Arriving early to see the space and have a quick run through when it was empty was strange.  I hadn’t expected the lights to be so blinding as you stand on stage.  Doing your routine to an empty room perhaps doesn’t do much for the confidence ahead of the real thing but at least gets you used to the microphone.  And the bright lights.

Soon, Kate opened the doors and people flooded in.  Like, really flooded in.  The ten of us in class who made it to week 7 had all invited people. But I wasn’t expecting over 100 people.  It was standing room only and the room was really buzzing.  The lovely Naomi Paxton, who took our week 5 class, also came along which was so brilliant.  She gave us some calming words of encouragement.

Kate took to the stage and warmed the crowd up and introduced the first act.  There was no turning back now.  Alas, I had to wait until the second act  to do my routine.  The nerves kept bubbling up.  Oddly, not for performing but the concern I would forget part of the routine.  So much of it linked together that if I missed one part it would impact on a joke later in the routine.  But as soon as it was my turn that didn’t matter at all.  It all flowed, I forgot nothing, and people really laughed.

Somebody did record  the evening and when I have the footage I will post it.

This was a challenge set by my life coach, the wonderful Gill Thackray.  It wasn’t about doing the routine per say but doing something new, doing something that took me out of my comfort zone and doing something totally different to my everyday.  It has been the best experience I have had in a long time.  I genuinely looked forward to class each week and felt happy and elated after each one.  Two hours of laughing really helps.  Meeting the people on the course and making two genuine new friends has been a wonderful addition to the experience.  It is harder to make new friends the older you get so I am so delighted to have met two women who I respect, enjoy their company and love writing the funnies with.  And I am pleased I have found comedy.  It has been such a great experience I am not sure I can just leave it there.  I have already signed up for Kate’s next level class and also starting an improv class.   I don’t know where this will lead me and I am not really thinking of it that way.  I am seeing this as a different form of professional development and a form of therapy.  It’s a cliche, but laughter really is the best medicine.

Thank you to Gill for making me do this; Kate and Naomi for being wonderful teachers; Jen and Jo for being brilliant ‘comedy wankers’; Laura, Briony, Ruth, Joe, Liz Tricky, Katherine, Stacey, Himi, Hanna, Rebecca, Jo, Matthew, Alexandria, Rog, Rosie, and indeed my parents who came along to support me.  Truly, thank you.

The comedy class is taught be Kate Smurthwaite and is run by City Academy.

Sarah Southern

Comedy Class: Week 6

Week Six

Week Six and it is the final class before the showcase.  This is rehearsal class.  This is our one opportunity to share our routine so far with the class and receive some feedback.  We have about 5 minutes in which to perform so five minutes of material has to be written somehow.

The various homework assignments Kate has set us suddenly make perfect sense and it is amazing how you quickly you start to form a short routine and how it will fit together.  Trying to craft an actually funny joke is the difficulty.  But workshopping ideas with friends in class has been great and soon a rather average idea suddenly seems to roll off the tongue and actually made people chuckle.

Sharing the routine so far with class was thrilling but also terrifying as you suddenly remember that in 7 days you need to have learnt this off by heart and do it in front of friends, family and strangers.  And, then it dawns on me that I have not told anyone I have been doing this course so currently not a single person is coming to watch and support me.  That was quickly rectified the following morning after class.  Some somewhat startled responses to inviting people to such an unusual night out.  All have ben incredibly supportive and no matter what, whether I make people chuckle, or I flop, this has been such a wonderful experience that has really challenged me, excited me and been so exhilarating.  I really cannot recommend it enough.

Fingers crossed for week 7 and the live showcase!

The comedy class is taught be Kate Smurthwaite and is run by City Academy.

Sarah Southern

Comedy Class: Week 5

Week Five

Week Five of comedy class and Kate is not able to take the class.  She has sent a fine deputy in Naomi Paxton who does the best warm up games ever!  It made me realise why people who went to drama school are so fun.  They spent years doing really daft stuff as part of their learning.

Naomi has us write an ordinary sentence down and we had to say it as ourselves and pass it to the next person in the circle.  They then have to read it in a different way, ideally funny.  It’s amazing how raunchy, inappropriate, excitable you can make the sentence ‘I buy biscuits on Tuesdays’ sound.

Much of the class focused on the positioning on the stage and stage presence.  How you can make sure the audience looks and notices you. Naomi used so many games to do this that we were all a little giddy from laughing by the end of it.

We missed Kate in class but it was a really beneficial experience to have a totally different style of comic come in and teach us.  She gave a different perspective, especially as she focuses more on character comedy.

The comedy class is taught be Kate Smurthwaite and is run by City Academy.

Sarah Southern

Comedy Class: Week 4

Week Four

The pressure was on for week four of the comedy class.  We had to come prepared with a talent to share with the class.  Kate had set us this challenge not to prove how good we are at singing, dancing and the like but to get us prepped for performing.

After a somewhat challenging week in my personal life I hadn’t quite got round to preparing for my talent.  Not such a problem as I have little talent to share.  It’s at times like this I wish I could sing a ditty or two.  As was proven when one class mate took to the stage to share her pitch perfect impression of Cher.  Or when another recited an original song with accompaniment on her ukulele.  Or indeed when the retried gymnast in the room did his entire routine whilst in a perfect headstand.  The bar had been set high.

The only talent I do have buried deep down is my ability to do accents.  I decided to take the class on a regional tour of the United Kingdom and share the many sites in various accents and observations.  It seemed to go down ok and I really enjoyed the performance side of it.

The pressure of performance was perhaps a bit much for some as there were three drop outs from class this week.  A shame as we are all getting on so well and enjoying all the task together.  Hopefully they will be back next week.

The comedy class is taught be Kate Smurthwaite and is run by City Academy.

Sarah Southern

Comedy Class: Week 3

Week Three

Homework last week was to think of the person who annoys you most and what sentence sums that person up.  I am full of love at the moment so I am not really hating on anyone.  But one sentence does stick out that drives me mad.  ‘Don’t you know I am gluten free’.  You can also change gluten to vegetarian, vegan and the like.  Why would I know you are gluten free?  I’m not your personal chef?!

We all shared our hatred sentences.  Then in the voice of how the person would say it.  This was very fun.  We then had to think of how that person has sex.  Well, if you weren’t having fun before now you certainly were now.  It was wonderful to see how far people would go to describe the likely sex habits of the person who annoys you most.

As the classes are continuing you can see people develop in confidence and how they are slowly showing their comic style.  It is brilliant to see.  The three girls in the class are really supporting each other and enjoy doing group tasks together – which I love.  Pleased that we are ‘representing’!

The comedy class is taught be Kate Smurthwaite and is run by City Academy.

Sarah Southern

Comedy Class: Week 2

Week Two

Week two could not arrive soon enough for the comedy class.  Kate had set homework for us so it was difficult to avoid thinking about class during the week.  Homework is mainly short writing tasks.  As I said last time, comedy seems to be about writing non-stop.  All the time.  Getting ideas out there.

Week two in comedy class was all about status and dealing with the audience.  Despite the show case being weeks away the nerves of the performance are already showing in the class.  Kate ran us though some exercises in status and how being the higher status character can impact a situation.  It was super fun to do and great to see people’s personalities and humour coming out.  Also interesting to see who are the extroverts and who are the extroverts to the max!

We then moved onto hecklers.  Kate talked us though some of her heckler stories when doing live shows.  The class is worth doing alone to hear Kate’s tales of the stand up circuit and her life as a comedian.  It really is an insight into a very different life.

Heckling, it turns out, is super fun.  Each person had to get up and begin a set, whilst the rest of us hurl abuse.  Non-stop hurling of abuse.  It was brilliant to do.  There were no holds barred.  We all went for it and just kept hollering at the poor person trying to entertain us.  We used all the tricks of the trade that Kate had taught us but most of us could not get through the brutal abuse being hurled at it.  Kate assured us no crowd would ever be as mean as we were to each other.  So, that’s a relief.

The comedy class is taught be Kate Smurthwaite and is run by City Academy.

Sarah Southern



Comedy Class: Week 1

Comedy class: why do it?

Signing up to a comedy class might not seem the best New Year’s Resolution but it was mine. At the end of 2016 I started seeing a life coach to mainly to help me make the right decisions in my career but to also think about the wider choices I make in life.  I am lucky to have found Gill Thackray, who runs Koru Development, who is the perfect coach to bring the best out of you.  In our first session she set me a challenge that would take me out of my comfort zone.  She said I had to undertake a stand up comedy class.  I duly Googled comedy classes in London and found City Academy run a class with Kate Smurthwaite so I signed up and tried to get my funny on.

First day

I have never walked into an evening class where everyone is so open and friendly.  It was immediate hellos and chit chat that you don’t get when you under take a short course in marketing.  There are 12 of us in our cohort: 9 boys and 3 girls.  We start easy with saying who we are and why we have chosen to do the course.  It’s a real window into the soul and fascinating to hear people’s reasons and life stories.  It it a really fun group of people.  Just as well as we have six weeks of classes together followed by a live show case performance.  Even in week one questions are being asked about the show case.  Where will it be? Do most people normally turn up? What if we freeze?  It’s weeks away so best not worry about it.

Week one makes me realise comedy is all about writing stuff down.  All the time.  Kate gets us to write non-stop about us.  Just a list of words that are about you.  We then share them one or two with the group.  Amazingly, some of the words are actually very amusing whilst telling us so much about each other.  We then do a list of things that we hate.  The first thing that comes to mind is the f**king photocopier at work which reminds me I must stop using the damn thing to stop making myself so angry about it.

Kate then asks us to write two minutes non-stop about one of the things on our hate list.  We can’t let the pen stop moving, we just have to keep writing and writing.  We then have to share our scribble with the group.  Perhaps a little daunting for week one but no.  Kate makes up holler and whoop when each person steps up to perform.  She gives us a great comedy intro and acts as our hype girl.  No matter how brilliant or good someones performance was we all whooped away and supported each other.  The comradely was perfect even after a two hour class.

Week one complete.  It was a joy of an experience.  Can’t wait for week two.

The comedy class is taught be Kate Smurthwaite and is run by City Academy.

Sarah Southern

London Lates


Have you set yourself some tricky New Year resolutions? Perhaps doing Dry January?  Are you now at a loss as to what to fill your evenings with rather than the pub?  Fear not!  The amazing cultural institutions of London are ready for you with some London Lates.  The many museums and galleries have a great programme of activity to keep us all entertained for January and many are free.  Great news!

Here is a small selection of the many brilliant evening events that London museums and galleries are hosting.

National Gallery

Every Friday evening the National Gallery stays open until 9pm.  It is free to wander round the collection but you can buy a ticket for the current temporary exhibition, Australia’s Impressionists.  Tickets are £7.50 but free if you’re a member.  Friday 27 January sees a whole evening dedicated to the exhibition with a number of events, including live music, for Australia Late.

If you’d like to take a life drawing class you can on Friday 20 January.  Tickets available online. Alternatively you might want to learn more about Turner with a lecture from author Franny Moyle. If not, just take in the Gallery and enjoy.

Science Museum

Lates at the Science Museum have been very popular especially with the recent space focused events.  Our love for Tim Peake has been high, has it not.  Science Museum Lates are the last Wednesday in the month and January sees the focus on Childhood Wonder.   Entry is free but some events are ticketed including a silent disco and a comedy club.


Join the Tate on Friday 27 January for their Uniqlo Tate Lates, which are held on the last Friday of the month.  It promises to be a mix of art, film, music, talks and workshops. January’s Late will focus on Robert Rauschenberg with DJs playing until 11pm.  What sounds most intriguing is the Adventures in Sound and Silence with Professor Trevor Cox which promises to ‘trick your sound perception and fool your senses using a range of instruments’.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum has their late on the last Friday of the month: 27 January.  The late is free and is a perfect opportunity to meet scientists and learn more about the Museum’s extensive collection.  Temporary exhibitions are open, this month you can see Wildlife Photographer of the Year – free to members and patrons!  Other Friday nights are taken up with different types of late: Crime Scene Live and Dino Snores for Grown Ups.  These are ticketed and sell out quick!

National Portrait Gallery

Every Thursday and Friday the National Portrait Gallery host the Late Shift between 6pm and 9pm.  This is a mix of classes, talks, music (including DJs), films and performances.  The temporary exhibitions stay open late too so you can enjoy them.  Entry is free with some events ticketed.

Sarah Southern