One of the best parts about summer is the myriad of festivals that take place during these sunny months. Of course, the Edinburgh Fringe is the big cheese of performing arts festivals, but it’s far from the only one: if you’re looking for something a bit closer to London, then look no further than the Underbelly Festival. Similar to the Fringe in format, and running from mid-May to early July, Underbelly is a fab way to spend a day in the capital and soaking up some great shows. There’s plenty of comedy on, as well as musicals, circus shows and lots more. We’ve selected some of the best stuff that’s on this year at both the Earl’s Court and Cavendish Square sites.
Circus Abyssinia: Tulu
The incredible circus troupe Circus Abyssinia will be appearing at Earls Court this year, with their brand new production Tulu. Following on from their successful show Ethiopian Dreams, the group explores and celebrates the life and achievements of Ethiopian Olympian Derartu Tulu with amazing contortion, unbelievable acrobatics and jaw dropping fire juggling. The whole thing is a display of speed, skill and athleticism, and will leave you almost as exhilarated as the performers themselves. Circus Abyssinia first formed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017, and became the first circus company created for Ethiopian perfomers.
Morgan and West: Unbelievable Science
The funny thing about science is that everyone finds it boring when you have to learn about it at school, but when its presented in a live show format that shows off the most important things chemistry, physics and biology have to offer, things suddenly get much more interesting. Morgan and West have built up a reputation as magicians and self professed “time travellers”, and now they’re applying some of that magic to the world of scientific education. The great thing is, both are real societies, and know their stuff. You’ll be learning a lot as you marvel at the what the duo get up to on stage, accompanied by their signature warmth and wit.
Milton Jones- Milton Impossible
One of the country’s best loved comics will be at the Underbelly this year: Milton Jones is performing his show Milton Impossible. In this new show, Milton chats about his previous life as an “international agent” (hence the title) before he was given a new identity and “forced to appear on Mock The Week, Live At The Apollo and Radio 4.” Known for his whacky hair, colourful shirt collection and word play focused one liners, you can expect a hilarious evening. Tickets will sell out quickly, so make sure to book yours ASAP.
Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula The Sea Witch
It’s always fun to see the villain’s side of the story: how they came to be and why they act how they do. This new musical from the award winning theatre group Fat Rascal Theatre has sold out shows up at the Fringe and around the UK, and now Unfortunate: The Untold Story Of Usula The Sea Witch is coming to London for its first show in the city. Elliotte Williams-N’Dure takes on the role of Ursula, the villain from The Little Mermaid, as she gives her side of what really happened in her life under the sea and before meeting Aerial. It boasts an original poppy soundtrack, and plenty of raunchy filthy humour.
Film Reads- Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring
Dreamgun’s Film Reads is an event where you can have a ton experiencing a very reimagined version of your favouite films, from Star Wars to Harry Potter. In this 60 minute show, a group of unprepared and unrehearsed comedians take on a rewritten version of the scripts of Hollywood’s biggest movies, and perform them in front of a live audience, often with messy but very funny results. This particular instalment of film reads will see the group take on the first Lord of the Rings film- The Fellowship of the Ring. Expect very different but very funny takes on Frodo, Gandalf and Gollum in this must see live show- and presumably the film has been cut down a fair amount to fit into an hour.
London Comedy All Stars
The London Comedy All Stars show is one of your best chances to see some great stand up comedy in the city, with the show proving a popular one with comics. Some its past performers include Ed Gamble, Jamali Maddix and Phil Wang. It runs each Friday of the festival, each night with a lineup of some of the best stand ups in the business. The lineup this year includes Zoe Lyons, Rich Wilson, Lauren Pattinson and Jacob Hawley. Each show runs around 90s minutes for an interval, so if you’re looking for an evening of comedy entertainment, there’s not much better than the All Stars.
Bromance is a hugely acclaimed circus show that’s earned a mass of 5 star reviews, and is exhilarating yet touching. Barely Methodical Troupe are the group behind this show, centring around themes of affection and camaraderie that are often shied away from by society. As the show’s synopsis itself puts it, the show “is a tour-de-force of cutting edge physical heroics, wittily exploring male companionship and its limits.” You’ll marvel at the amazing acrobatics, parkour and backflips all while feeling a genuine sense of emotion. The show’s been receiving awards ever since it debuted nearly a decade ago, so it’s definitely one you don’t want to miss.
Laura Davis- Work In Progress
Australian comedian Laura Davis is a bigger name in her native country than she is in Britain, but she’s still received plenty of acclaim and awards and attracted praise since she debuted in the UK a few years ago. This new work in progress show lets you see her try out new material to build into a new act, with a looser and more experimental edge. With a distinctive, bold comedic voice and darkly razor sharp humour, this new show is sure to be a treat for those looking for a great evening of stand up at the festival.
Eme Essien- Girl’s Night Out
Bringing her show Girl’s Night Out to Underbelly this year, Eme Essien is a rising star on the comedy scene. The premise of her show revolves around how girls seem to take ages to get ready for a night out, told through hilarious character comedy. While trying to get ready for a Saturday night out, Eme is constantly interrupted and bothered, and juggles trying to figure out what to wear, how her hair should be done and what she’ll get up to that evening. As the show’s synopsis puts it, everything is “uncensored, dishevelled and sincere… …this is the internal conflict of a woman trying to achieve modern ideals and aspirations.”