"Laugh out loud"
"Tomorrow's television stars"
"Masters of characterisation"
“This is sketch comedy at its very best” - Alistair McGowan
“Sharp and original writing, brilliantly performed: this is sketch comedy at its very best. Croft and Pearce are new on the scene and they’re fresh, sexy and playful; they have a great sense of timing and wonderful chemistry. It’s French and Saunders meets Peep Show – they’re excellent sketch comedians and I’d highly recommend them.”
★★★★ "Wickedly funny, delightfully written"
It has been a couple of years since Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce brought their own special magic to Edinburgh but it is obvious that the highly successful duo still have their own take on sketch shows off to a fine art.
I always feel that sometimes energy can be lost is in other example of this genre with ‘scene’ changes, but that is something that can never be levelled at these two ultra-talented performers. Could be it’s always prop light, or chops and changes from one thread to another, yet their style of setting up a number of scenes and gradually pulling them all together is something they excel at.
The same largely dysfunctional village characters are given another airing, Jean and June, Jess and Dan together with the totally unsuitable ‘ Brown Owl’ and these together with a number of new kids on the block enable Croft & Pearce to move the story along at the same time as showcasing their acting abilities and wickedly funny, delightfully written material.
I have seen them perform a number of times over the years and on each occasion loved the hour spent in their company. This year is certainly no exception and I’m already looking forward to next year's instalment.
- One4Review, Edinburgh Fringe 2018
★★★★ "Croft & Pearce impress with their entertaining sketches, interwoven storylines and assured ease"
While sketch comedy inexplicably continues to toil in the minds of television commissioners, it repeatedly excels in live venues across London and beyond. As a case in point, this week saw Croft & Pearce take over the Museum of Comedy for five nights and impress with their entertaining sketches, interwoven storylines and clever dissection of British society, cutting across gender, class and geography with assured ease.
Although less energetic than the likes of Birthday Girls and (ironically) Lazy Susan, this is partly circumstantial and part deliberate. ‘Circumstantial’ because Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce are due to give birth within three days of each other in August – no doubt beginning to take its toll as they wind down their schedules. The pair addressed their bumps head-on, as they vied for the well-wishes of office colleagues in the first scene. And ‘deliberate’ because this approach allows them time to return to developing plots and lay bare more of their characters’ emotions.
The best example by far was the recurring tale of Jess and Daniel: progressing from an awkward romantic weekend in Paris (“I’m wearing no knickers, Daniel.” “Well, I’m wearing the aftershave my mother bought me.”) to an uncomfortably revealing hen-do (“What’s Daniel’s favourite part of your body?” “Oh, it’s probably my arsehole, isn’t it?” “Er, he actually said your eyes.”), and then – excruciatingly – Daniel’s attempts to seek solace from his father post-breakup through a fog of male pride and awkwardness.
Other high points were Pearce’s Ozric – the unpleasantly pedantic IT specialist who reminded everyone of the worst person in any office whilst also engendering pity for his underlying insecurities – and Croft’s Scottish Pet Shop owner, Goliath, who was equally funny and vulnerable. In fact, the pair’s portrayal of men was unerring throughout. The crowd-pleasing June and Jean (middle-class women suicidal over first-world problems: “When I’m gone, tell the gardening club the pesto was homemade. It’s not a bad legacy.” “Jean, don’t do it! You’ve only just bought the Brabantia and you’re getting on top of the recycling!”), and Geordie Brown Owl generated a high laughter count.
- WhatsOn London, May 2017
★★★★★ "A theatrical roller-coaster ride of laughter-packed comedy...breathtaking"
Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce are supremely talented. Two performers doing a comedy sketch show with no props, no set changes, no funny costumes; just their skill as actors and writers – it’s a big ask. But these two are more than up for the challenge. Right from the get-go the characters and situations are startlingly oddball, and one sketch ends and another starts seamlessly; sexual therapy classes, mad office politics, ludicrous middle-class ‘problems’, amorous encounters, suicide attempts, on and on. And, cleverly, the sketches start to cross-reference each other, with characters from previous sketches being slyly referred to. To sustain all this requires huge acting talent, and the pair switch between their enormous cast of characters; their accents, genders, facial expressions, and vocal ranges with unerring and hysterical accuracy. A theatrical roller-coaster ride of laughter-packed, brilliantly-observed character comedy that is breathtaking in its sheer skill. Unbeatable.
- TheatreBath, Bath Comedy Festival 2017
“Top notch British talent at its finest”
‘Croft & Pearce Are Not Themselves’ is top notch British talent at its finest. Prepare for a sidesplitting sketch show featuring BBC Radio 4’s beloved comedians. This is the show to catch if you are looking to laugh out loud. From great existentialist debates to common life crises, it is no surprise that these fab female comedic geniuses are Spirit Of The Fringe Award winners with multiple sell-out performances under their belts. Do not miss out.
- The Culture Trip, Edinburgh Fringe 2016
★★★★ “Fresh-faced duo can be tomorrow’s television stars”
Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce are remarkably fresh-faced to be billed as Fringe favourites, but that they are. The full houses are not only a sign that their characters found their way on to Radio 4 earlier this year, but also down to substantial return business.
The cast of characters has been developing and now many have the fully rounded feel that should lead from radio to TV. Like all good sketch comedy, it worked on radio due to the quality of the writing and performance, but watching the interplay between two, who have known one another since schooldays, makes every creation from the Geordie Brown Owl to the office temp waiting for her big break in musical theatre really fly.
There are few props and the most basic of costumes, with most performed in jeans and T-shirt, but it’s easy to see how they will translate to a full production. They are also smart enough to know which are strong enough to reintroduce at different points throughout the hour.
- The Herald, Edinburgh Fringe 2016
★★★★ “A dynamic show from two strong performers”
A good double-act can always bring the house down, and this pair of Fringe favourite pairs show us how to do just that.
It’s a very welcoming and mild-mannered sketch show that looks at the miseries of the well-to-do middle-classes, but a clever one that takes these brief stories and weaves them into an entire world. In Croft & Pearce Are Not Themselves, the comedy duo take on the roles of disillusioned Brownie leaders, frustrated office workers and not-very-well-suited couples and eke out the comedy found in the everyday. Jumping between sketches, we begin to see how each sketch is interrelated with throwaway lines that come closer and closer together to make a coherent whole.
Each sketch gives us a relationship full of complexities, the layers slowly revealed. Using mime, physical tics and music, Croft and Pearce make a world on-stage that revolves around the hidden parts of relationships, be they between parents and children, partners or friends. By building up a world, they rarely leave space for us to actually dislike anyone – once we’ve seen how someone reacts to a break-up in front of their friends, we then see them violently weeping and can only feel more involved in the story. This is a dynamic show from two strong performers, and it ends on a rare personal note from the two old friends.
- The Skinny, Edinburgh Fringe 2016
★★★★ “Smart and jolly funny”
They’re on ‘all ruddy month!’, proclaims the Twitter of this talented sketch pair, sending up their own plummy delivery. It’s getting tougher to catch them, though, as they’re selling out from good word of mouth, plus their own successful Radio 4 show earlier this year.
Fiona Croft and Hannah Pearce are Oxford-educated drama students, with a show full of the stereotypes they know those labels conjure up: there’s an irritating musical theatre wannabe, Melissa, practising Cats ballads in the law firm where her senior partner dad has wangled her a temping job; or the well-intended, prominently toothed, upper class Dan, repelling his girlfriend with OTT displays of romance.
Their characters are neatly interwoven: posh housewife friends Jean (Dan’s mum) and June are a highlight, taking turns to lure one another back from suicide, with hope-giving pep talks about an upcoming Brabantia recycling bin delivery, or a new husband-and-wife run deli in the village. The deli lovebirds turn out to be much less smug than they appear, and there’s a stale smell of bitter disappointment about school-of-hard-knocks Geordie Brown Owl, or callous supermarket promo manager Vee. They clearly have a very good ear and eye for dark details, and the result is smart and jolly funny.
- The List, Edinburgh Fringe 2016
★★★★ “Comedy actresses of exceptional talent”
Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce are comedy actresses of exceptional talent and are returning to Fringe 2016 with another hour of sketch comedy that is beautifully linked. Each vignette is funny in it’s own right, but with the immaculate writing and storytelling, they link seemingly unrelated characters into a complete story with consummate skill.
Another touch I like about all their performances over the years they breathe life into some of the same characters that have cropped up in previous years productions. It isn’t necessary to have seen the previous shows, but if you have then it adds to the enjoyment for me anyway.
Characterisation is well defined, be it the suicidal returnees Jean and June, Melissa the bosses daughter who sings throughout the day, the Geordie Brown Owl, the bullied brownie or Aussie relations Dougie and Barb are amongst the highlights.
Although trapped in a shipping container in essence the actors create an illusion of space venturing in the audience at times to get assistance from a punter or two to flesh out the process.
This is a very good show well worth catching and a nice way to start off the Fringe Day. For me I am already looking forward to next years instalment.
- One4Review, Edinburgh Fringe 2016
★★★★ “A real tour-de-force”
Croft and Pearce are a comedy double act with some hot credentials, having toured across the country with rave reviews and having had their own Radio 4 show (having had their break on Radio 4’s “Sketchorama”). The pair came on stage all smiles, but without a word of introduction launched into their first sketch; what followed was 2 hours of non-stop sketches. It was a real feat to hold the audience’s attention for so long (albeit with a short interval), but the two 50-minute halves of the show whizzed by in what felt like fifteen minutes. This is a real accomplishment given how dated and lacklustre the sketch-show format has become in recent years, to the point that they have almost disappeared from our TV screens.
Croft and Pearce achieved this with a diverse range of characters and situations, many involving the pair scrambling up into the audience. It was a real tour-de-force given the sketches ended with two seconds of music and down lighting, with one or both of the pair remaining on stage: just one glance to the floor, then head up as another character is born. The performance was very well crafted, perfectly executed and clearly highly rehearsed. In simple plain clothes, the pair easily took us to different worlds and characters without any need for props, which was impressive. Likewise, the use of regional accents was very good, as was the use of French.
Some of the characters featured throughout the show, as per the sketch show format, and to Croft and Pearce’s credit, a few of these characters did become memorable and lovable. Moreover, some of the characters became interlinked as the night went on, which was clever. Some of the most memorable characters included June and Jean, a pair of middle-aged retirees who continuously try to kill themselves as they encounter ridiculously banal 1st world problems, before bringing themselves back from the brink of despair with more and more inane small joys. Sketches like these worked best because they involved shrewd observational humour that you could tell the pair was most familiar with …
The show finished on the pair using written cards to communicate thanks and that the show had ended. This was very sweet, and it was a clever touch that the pair never actually spoke to the audience as themselves. The show, even at 2 hours long, left us wanting more, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing more from this talented pair in the future.
- North West End, Manchester 2016
★★★★ “Delivering ‘the business’”
Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce have been delivering ‘the business’ for a year or two now, looking back I first saw them in 2012 and the standard has always been exceptionally high, and the 2015 offering is of the same very high quality as before.
They rely on well written sketches, initially seemingly portraying random characters in short snappy segments using their writing obviously and primarily their performance skills. Yet as the hour progresses they gather up all the threads and weave these segments into an entity. Each section, however short, generates spontaneous applause and peals of laughter are there throughout.
They always work with few props so the energy never drops even if the pace of the vignettes are not constant, and I love the callbacks, some even to previous years shows with the characters they revive, one such I particularly like is the Geordie ‘ Brown Owl’.
Sketch comedy is usually not one genre that I make a point of seeking out that is except when it comes to these ladies.
- One4Review, Edinburgh Fringe 2015
★★★★ “Slick, delightful and very funny”
There’s something lovely about watching performers who’ve been working together a long time, and sketch duo Croft and Pearce establish the kind of practised rapport that only comes from putting in the years together. The show goes to some dark places you might feel guilty for laughing at – the repeated attempts by a pair of middle-class mums to kill themselves in the most British-bourgeois ways possible (we first meet one trying to asphyxiate in a Waitrose bag-for-life) really shouldn’t be as funny as they are. Elsewhere we meet a foul-mouthed Brownie leader, a schoolteacher with an admirer, and a work experience girl with relentless, oblivious bluntness…what’s here is slick, delightful and very funny.
- Three Weeks, Edinburgh Fringe 2015
★★★★★ “Fantastically talented comedians”
Making their way north for the fourth year on the trot, Croft and Pearce have brought us their best show yet. Magnificent sketch after magnificent sketch tells the story of Dan and Jess, Spanky and the new receptionist, Julie and a bemused audience member. But these are more than character studies or brief skits about relationships- these are stories from a great, inter-connected comedic world told by two fantastically talented comedians. The tiny hilarious moments of the everyday are blown up and presented to us through brief scenes caught between evermore cataclysmic fights, and from the off we’re brought into their world through an evening class in creative writing and a grudge against two friends.
Playing perfectly to their audience, Croft and Pearce return again and again to Jean and June, a pair of highly-strung society types constantly on the verge of breakdown over the trials and tribulations of buying side-tables and casserole dishes: As well as providing fantastic gags, this pair show a real depth of character that couldn’t be achieved with just a fleeting scene, and it is by returning to existing stories that Croft and Pearce achieve the realism that sets this show apart. There are a lot of sketch shows at the Fringe every year, and a lot of double-acts of various types, but few in which the duo will inhabit their characters so fearlessly, and the effect, quite simply, is hilarious.
With great writing and exceptional comic timing, Croft and Pearce have a fantastic knack at starting a vignette with low-key, subtle humour, before building up both energy and comedy, and taking us from the ridiculous to the sublime and back again. Underneath it all, what we see are two great friends on stage doing what they love. They play with their characters, their audience and each frantic conversation with ease, and have us laughing from start to finish.
- Broadway Baby, Edinburgh Fringe 2014
★★★★★ “Loads of laughs throughout”
There is sketch comedy of various quality throughout the Fringe, some good, some less so and then there is Croft and Pearce. Both Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce are fine comedy actresses and are able to produce a whole host of sketches and a plethora of characters with barely a prop, hence changeover dead time between sketches is virtually non-existent. This obviously keeps the pace and energy that they build up and keep the action flowing.
I love the writing of the pieces, the way they interlink and even the call back to last year’s show with some of the characters, although you don’t need to have seen last years show to enjoy them.
Croft and Pearce interact with their crowd and elicit loads of laughs throughout their all too short hour. It was a delightful performance executed with the style and ability that I have grown accustomed to from this accomplished pair. I am already looking forward to next year’s production. On leaving the show it was interesting to see almost everyone in the packed house had a cheesy smile on their face. Surely testament enough.
- One4Review, Edinburgh Fringe 2014
★★★★ “This talented duo are engrossing, well observed and frequently head-flingingly funny”
If someone were to ask me to describe British culture in an hour, I’d point them in the direction of ‘Croft and Pearce’. A socially awkward house of mirrors, these sketches exaggerate British archetypes to brilliant comic effect in an extremely fluid and well oiled show, in which the actors swirl and lunge from one bit to the next, armed with nothing but two stools and an empty stage. The characters played by this talented duo are engrossing, well observed and frequently head-flingingly funny. If you’re a fan of the likes of ‘Armstrong and Miller’, or indeed, if you simply enjoying laughing, ‘Croft & Pearce’ are most certainly worth your time and money.
- Three Weeks, Edinburgh Fringe 2013
★★★★ “Good writing, clever wordplay and some deliciously-crafted characters”
Comedy cuts: Winning formula that subverts the mundane
SET-UP, punchline, pause for laughter. It’s the standard comic equation. Yet, each year in Edinburgh, we see plenty of brave pioneers who dare to be different, hardy souls who don’t need jokes, or indeed, laughs.
While good comedy doesn’t always necessarily need follow this prescription slavishly, even the most surreal, absurd and downright daft acts still adhere to its general principle; mess up the first two, and that short wait could be an agonising one.
One female double act who have clearly been paying attention in comedy class are Croft and Pearce. They’ve put together a sketch show featuring plenty of good writing, clever wordplay and some deliciously-crafted characters, each turned through just the right degree of oddness.
Whether it’s the Brownie troop from hell, their bitchy local TV presenters or suicidal sixty-somethings June and Jean – who always somehow find the strength to carry on despite their incredibly trying circumstances – there’s real evidence of continual honing and polishing and a sense of purpose, as protagonists and scenarios slowly start to overlap and interact.
- Edinburgh Evening News, Edinburgh Fringe 2013
★★★★ “Fast-paced…they take the place by storm”
‘Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce, our two comedy actresses, from the off until the conclusion an hour later delivered one of the slickest shows of this genre’
The above quote is what I said about their 2012 show, yet I thought it only right to reiterate it once more having seen their 2013 offering. In what is a fast-paced, interestingly staged series of sketches, these two slender, brunette, similar-looking friends take the place by storm, as they weave scenarios and characters together into what was a thoroughly enjoyable and intriguing hour.
The show is props light, which is often unusual for a sketch show but then these two don’t need to rely on trappings and accoutrements to create their characters, they manage admirably using their undoubted talent.
There are plenty of shows offering sketch comedy on the Fringe this year, as always, but if you want something that has that little extra then why not check out their master class.
- One4Review, Edinburgh Fringe 2013
★★★★ “Deeply funny…Well-deserved laughs came thick and fast”
Croft and Pearce call themselves two very similar friends who also ‘look very similar’, but you could have fooled me after I watched their show. The two take on such a wide variety of characters it becomes difficult to see them as they are – two slight, brunette women with a gift for comedy. Well-deserved laughs came thick and fast throughout their hour.
With minimal costumes and props, their show brings a mix of eclectic but startlingly plausible characters to the fore, from a technician with a passion for grammar to a pair of WI Jennifer Archer-types who have lost the will to live.
Croft and Pearce use very subtle physical and vocal shifts to bring their weird and wonderful creations to life. Their commitment is absolute and deeply funny. There are just enough recurring characters to give a sense of progression to the sketch show, without turning it into a straight narrative.
The two have developed a series of moments of audience interaction that produce guffaws of laughter, particularly from the people who are picked on. It’s not so much the breaking of the fourth wall – this is fringe, after all – but when they ask auditors to break it back that proves key to making it different and better. Just as with the well-weaved narratives of the sketches, the effort they put into going a cut above the obvious joke really pays off. Hardworking and hilarious, this pair has earned your complete attention.
- Broadway Baby, Edinburgh Fringe 2013
★★★★ “Impressively funny…with the potential for these two to appear in a televised cocktail of their creations very likely”
Featuring sketch after sketch after sketch (quite literally), Croft and Peace, starring in a show of the same name, proved that they know how to create scenarios and characters in an impressively funny manner.
After a few relatively tame opening scenes, along came a ‘news reader V weather woman’ sketch that caused much hilarity. This substantial laugh seemed to give the show a boost of energy that saw the talented twosome create worlds before our eyes, with some very clever dialogue and characterisation.
Using a range of accents and mannerisms, this production felt well-rehearsed, confident and unafraid to involve the audience within some of the scenes. The swift transitions, leading to a silent finale, gave the show a professional calibre, with the potential for these two to appear in a televised cocktail of their creations very likely.
- The Edinburgh Reporter, Edinburgh Fringe 2013
★★★★ “There isn’t a sketch group out there that is as perfect as this”
This is the duo’s follow up from their hit debut last year and there isn’t a sketch group (Totally Tom/Max & Ivan don’t count) out there that is as perfect as this. Their writing is viciously cruel, at times dark, but never not funny, what they produce is a show like no other with perfect sketches.
Their first sketch sees the duo compete in a race with a prerecorded announcer informing the crowd of what the duo are doing via their social media. This would set the tone of their show which at times appears to be rather middle-class but that only adds to the charm the duo bring to their sketches. One of the recurring sketches is the sexual tension between two female teachers but one of the highlights has to be the suicide attempt and the hard as nails Brownies…
Thoroughly enjoyable, witty, and dark hour, things can surely only get bigger for the pair.”
- The New Current, Edinburgh Fringe 2012
★★★★ “One of the slickest shows of this genre I have seen in years”
Now if there is one thing that sketch comedy needs is a slick presentation. A running gag or two, some quality material and able performers help as well of course, but for me anyway any dead time, when nothing is happening loses all the energy that has been built up.
Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce, our two comedy actresses must agree with me for from the off until the conclusion an hour later they delivered one of the slickest shows of this genre I have seen in years. And as there was plenty of funny material too, I started to try and list the different sketches, but sheer numbers defeated me and together with an evolving running gag into the bargain all my boxes were ticked.
Although probably 12-00 is not the most ideal time for a show of this type it was already attracting a healthy sized audience on the performance I attended and on leaving after the end of this packed hour everybody had a smile on their face. So just maybe it’s the ideal start to the Fringe Day.
- One4Review, Edinburgh Fringe 2012
★★★★ “Empresses of structure and style”
“The way they mock British women is sharply funny. Empresses of structure and style.”
- Fringe Biscuit, Edinburgh Fringe 2012
“A promising double act who deliver a fast-moving set of sketches”
“Hannah Croft and Fiona Pearce are a promising double act who offer a fast-moving set of sketches which include a royal correspondent revealing Kate Middleton was vajazzled for Zara Phillips’ wedding, an excruciating audition for a press-on towel advert, and meeting an old school friend when dressed as a hot-dog.”
- The Sunday Express, Edinburgh Fringe 2011
“A well thought-out sketch show with two naturally funny artists”
“Croft and Pearce have a special chemistry, and deliver what is one of the most articulate and well produced sketch shows I’ve seen. Their characters vary throughout the production, and don’t fall into the ‘typecasting’ prevalent in other duo sketches.
A good way to start your day of festival fun off, with lots of laughter and audience participation.”
- Scotsgay, Edinburgh Fringe 2011
“These ladies’ energetic sketches are brimming with ideas”
“The duo’s debut Edinburgh show gets off to a promising start. Making an effort to be topical with a Kate Middleton sketch, Croft (or is it Pearce?) impersonates a royal correspondent intent on turning the Duchess of Cambridge’s bland personality and unremarkable wardrobe into juicy tabloid tidbits. Repetition is used to hilarious effect, as Croft continues to stress Middleton’s allegiance to ‘up-and-coming British designers,’ and the dialogue between the correspondent and Pearce’s bemused television presenter veers comically into surreality as they end up debating whether or not Middleton could potentially be Beyoncé.”
“Further sketches showcase the pair’s knack for constructing comic situations out of everyday scenarios. A sketch set in a creative writing evening class sees them utilizing the audience as their students; a clever way of keeping viewers’ attention by immersing them in the scene. This sketch was also commendable for its employment of a Bridget Jones-esque comedy of failure; watching the teacher crumble as her visiting ex-classmate and rival, now a bestselling author, wins over her class with effortless charisma makes for bittersweet laughs.”
- Broadway Baby, Edinburgh Fringe 2011