Colin Hoult / Anna Mann in How We Stop the Fascists (4 stars) | Milo McCabe: The Talented Mr Hawke (4 stars) | Pippa Evans: Joy Provision! (4 stars)

Marissa Burgess reviews: Colin Hoult / Anna Mann in How We Stop the Fascists (4 stars) | Milo McCabe: The Talented Mr Hawke (4 stars) | Pippa Evans: Joy Provision! (4 stars)

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Pippa Evans
Published 05 Aug 2017

Inhabiting some guise or another since the mid-naughties, Colin Hoult returns this year as his theatrical lady alter ego Anna Mann, who struts onto the stage in red lippy, dragging with her a list of ludicrously named former husbands and an over-inflated ego.

Though many at the Fringe this year are inevitably touching on the shift of Western politics to the right, Anna is here to offer some practical advice with How We Stop the Fascists. If only we'd had her back in '39. The message is clear – know your enemy, talk to them, understand them, then report back to the arts crowd. And so Ms Mann bravely ventures about the country to talk to Ukippers and even the token lefty, which is convenient as, anyone who knows Hoult's stuff will already be aware, he's adept at transforming from one character to the next with just the flick of a wig. She even courageously wades in the depths of the north of England.

The chortles just keep on coming as we join Anna on her quest to find the Farages in the provinces with some fantastically nuanced impressions – Nick Griffin being one of the best. Dazzlingly silly, there are many small moments that will keep you giggling far down the road from the venue: trout in the Trent; the sight of a hapless man from the front row selected to take the brunt of the blame for fascism; and even an interpretive dance. And you can never go wrong with one of those.

Who knows who the real Milo McCabe is either? He's always bobbing about pretending to be someone else, too. For the last few Fringes it's been the gloriously fey Troy Hawke. And why not? He's a pretty spectacular character – sporting a tiny moustache, silk smoking jacket and a camp flirtatiousness.

These days McCabe's so comfy in Hawke's cravat and excitable hip wiggle, he can effortlessly take on anything the audience throw at him, whether it be a guy eating pizza in the third row or a random contribution from a pissed bloke. For the more demure members of the audience there's the promise of sweeties and a display of some astounding skill with Scrabble letters.

But in The Talented Mr Hawke, McCabe's agenda is bigger than just gaining triple word scores. Having escaped from Mother's clutches Hawke has discovered the delights of his local Wetherspoon's, where he has unexpectedly unearthed a microcosm of global politics as displayed through his new found friends. There's "The Arsehole" Tory of course, "Miami Pete", the conspiracy nut calling out fake news, and a man shaped like an avocado who's the left winger. They argue between them but Troy has found the perfect political system next door in Poundland, and it's about to bring them all together.

As ever McCabe is brilliantly sharp, lacing his wit with just a touch of the surreal – you won't forget the imagined appearance of a pop superstar on Troy's local high street in a hurry. Maybe we should give him a go at leadership – he surely can't do any worse than Trump or May and it looks like there might be a vacancies there some time soon.

Also looking to improve the world, and an act who's not averse to creating a character or two, is Pippa Evans. Not that there are any characters as such in Joy Provision!, but Evans does conjure plenty of voices and personae.

An Evans show is pretty much a Fringe banker these days: she's a hugely talented all rounder. There are songs, improv and impressions, and of course it's all irreverently funny. Her wit is an easy one, fast dispensing apparently throwaway lines and, in a nod to her times in Showstopper! The Improvised Musical, some big laughs from gags made up on the spot.

Times are grim as we are all aware, world news oscillating between feeling like we're on the verge of world war three and being in an episode of Veep, so for Evans there's only one way to deal with it: embrace the joy and try not to be a prick. She's straight in there with the mimicry skills – within a couple of minutes she's done a Rupert Murdoch impersonation. Evans has good musical back up too, in the shape of a talented duo playing keyboard and plywood box in a wide range of styles. Pharrell's Happy gets a reworking, there's a tribute to Chas and Dave, and even old time music hall.

There are some nice touches of the absurd in the humour, with a quiz show idea inspired by service station reviews, and the importance of accents when considering terrorism. Go see.