Onion At The Fringe: Colin Hoult

© Colin Hoult

© Colin Hoult

The Edinburgh Fringe is almost upon us, with a host of TVO favourites set to descend upon the city during August. In the buildup, we’re bringing you an overview of the shows you simply have to see.

As part of the fun, we’re presenting our ‘Soapbox’ pieces, in which a member of team TVO takes a moment or two to reflect on the work of a Fringe-going comic talent, and why we feel they’re worthy of your attention.

The next in line for this passionate plea deal is someone we’ve been a big fan of since our early days: Colin Hoult, who is bringing his long awaited new hour A Sketch Show for Depressives to the Fringe. Or is it? Mog takes the stand…

Colin Hoult is one of the best character performers in comedy today. This is a fact, not an opinion. Having witnessed the man create a densely-populated carnival of fully-realised oddballs, one after the other, live on stage with nothing but his own voice, I can say this with some authority. Anna Mann, star of stage and screen, is one of those characters, and is arguably one of his most loved and fully-formed; Colin doesn’t so much perform as Anna, he is her.

For the uninitiated, Colin’s collection of grotesques and tragicomic failures takes the template laid down before by folk like The League of Gentlemen and then runs with it. His creations are fully realised, three-dimensional alter-egos, and in previous shows it has only taken a headband or a change of hat to completely transform Hoult into someone new.

Colin first came to our attention in the early days of TVO, when his acclaimed live show with Dave McNeill was adapted by UK Freeview channel Dave for a 12 minute pilot. Zimbani, which featured Julian Barratt as its arch titular villain, was a delicious gem of buffoonery and gifted wordplay, and it still feels like a crime against comedy that it was not commissioned to series.

© Edward Moore

© Edward Moore

Since then, Hoult has made a name for himself with his own solo shows – Carnival of MonstersEnemy of the World and Inferno (Yes, they’re all named after Doctor Who stories) – as well as numerous other live projects such as the ghoulish Real Horror Show. The worlds he created later manifested as a BBC Radio 4 series, also called Carnival of Monsters, and he’s made appearances in hit shows like Being HumanDerekLife’s Too Short and most recently Murder in Successville: the latter of which allows him to use his impressive abilities with character-based improv to transform into the likes of Jimmy Carr, Gary Barlow, David Tennant and Ian McKellen.

Fresh from that success, his latest Edinburgh show centres, as its name suggests, on Anna Mann, and also includes a gaggle of Colin’s other bizarrely brilliant comedic creations, from voice-of-society Nick Crippen, to the fez-wearing Cwor (just click on the links to see them in action).

In case the uninitiated are wondering what Colin’s female thespian alter-ego might be like, he’s kindly provided a visual narrative for some of his characters via his youtube channel – which is well worth checking out. Here, below, are a couple of recent videos of Anna to provide a taster, or you can watch all of Anna Mann’s videos here and there.

Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives sees Colin Hoult make a welcome return to the Edinburgh Fringe after some time away. And he’s promised it’s going to be quite a show, which we obviously believe wholeheartedly. We know how hard this fella works, and just how good his past form has been. So in the words of the man himself: “Come meet Anna 2.0.6 or something. She’s more visceral, more brave, more sweary and ready to take the world and swallow it whole”. Recommended.

Anna Mann: A Sketch Show for Depressives is at Pleasance Courtyard at 19:00 from August 3rd-16th and 18th-28th. Tickets are available from the usual places.

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