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Mark Cooper-Jones: Geography Teacher - Free
Published on Wednesday, 15 August 2012
4

4 stars

The Cabaret Voltaire
Comedy
4-13, 15-19, 21-24 Aug, 3:50pm-4:30pm
Reviewed by Andy Frain

 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.
 Recommended for age 18+ only. Venue may not permit under-18's - check with venue before booking.

Mark Cooper-Jones really is a geography teacher. If you couldn’t already tell just by looking at him, with his patched elbows and slightly deranged hairstyle, you’d soon work it out from his initial plea for the audience to stand when he enters the room. Mark Cooper-Jones is also, it transpires, very funny indeed.

Familiar to Fringe audiences as one-third of hit sketch group WitTank, Cooper-Jones’ solo show is loosely based around his travails as a teacher and the children he teaches.  This is mixed up with the occasional “no talking when I’m talking” shtick which one would expect from such a character.

However, it is at these points that the show is at its weakest. The aforementioned entrance and associated standing is a pretty feeble opening, and reprimanding audience members on the front row for talking during the performance merits only a few titters. Indeed, Cooper-Jones is at his strongest when he drops the persona entirely, and focuses on just being a stand-up comedian. Be it finding single members of the audience and reminding them how nice it is to be in a relationship, or a hugely entertaining rant on the value of a private education, Cooper-Jones excels at switching from genuinely observant humour to entertaining surges of faux anger.

Whilst his portrayal of a geography teacher leaves much to be desired, his tales from his time in the classroom are certainly worth listening to – ranging from dressing up as Shakespeare and being undermined by 7 year olds, to his excellent dissection of a pupil known only as ‘Smelly Jonathan’. As a comedian, he is extremely watchable, and at no point did I feel that the show began to sag, due primarily to Cooper-Jones’ subtle ability to interact with the audience in a far more relaxed manner then many of his contemporaries.

But it’s back to the geography teacher persona for the finale.  While the idea of a capital cities quiz to finish the show is amusing, it begins to wear thin the longer it goes on (although full credit must go to a man who has memorised all 196 UN-recognised capital cities).   These are relatively minor quibbles though and, in any case, Cooper-Jones proved adept at turning a joke that was struggling into a joke on itself.

The fact that Cooper-Jones’ jokes are based on substantial real-life experience gives him a depth that many young comedians lack. A few faults aside, the show is excellent and contains the perfect cocktail of long build-ups and sharp one-liners.  He is clearly already a confident performer – and I think this really is one of the best free shows in this year’s Fringe.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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