Heads Up: The Comedy Hullabaloo

Much hullabaloo about nothing? The RSC plays it for laughs

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The Independent Culture

What are we talking about? A brand new comedy festival in Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon, held over four days at the end of May. Spread across four venues – The Courtyard Theatre, the Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club, the Idolize Spiegeltent by the river and the Swan's Nest Hotel – Stratford will play host to over 30 comedians.

Elevator pitch Will Shakespeare, Mark Watson and a cow walk into a bar…

Prime movers It's the brainchild of Underbelly – known for the Edinburgh Fringe and their big purple Udderbelly cow tent – Stratford-upon-Avon Arts Festival and the infamous Royal Shakespeare Company.

The talent Plenty of names to look out for … there's smart-cookie Mark Watson, who recently did an amazing 25-hour stand-up gig for Comic Relief, is the author of five books and has a first from Cambridge. Observational stand-up Ed Byrne hails from Ireland and now is a global success story, while Danny Bhoy's talent has spread through word of mouth. Mock the Week viewers will recognise deadpan Milton Jones, Doc Brown will be bringing his rap stylings, and drinkers everywhere know Al Murray, the pub landlord.

The early buzz Local papers have been anticipating the fun with a pun or two: "Prepare for no-holds Bard jokes as some of the biggest comedy names in the UK head to Stratford," chortles the Coventry Telegraph, while the Rugby & Lutterworth Observer wrote "Expect a right Hullabaloo in Stratford this spring. New comedy festival The Comedy Hullabaloo will be a four-day feast of laughter running over the late May bank holiday."

Insider knowledge For something a bit different, catch Matt Forde, former Labour-advisor turned stand-up, bringing his acclaimed Political Party to town; it's a combination of topical comedy and political debate.

It's great that… this small Warwickshire town, steeped in history, will have its share of the big names in comedy within intimate venues.

It's a shame that… there aren't more female comedians on board (or maybe they're doing a Twelfth Night and are under male guise.)

Hit potential It's the talk of the (funny) business. With Underbelly's past successes and the fact it's on a bank holiday, Stratford is finally getting a comedy without errors.

The details The Comedy Hullabaloo is at various venues, Stratford-upon-Avon, 23 to 26 May 2013