Note: This review is from the 2023 Fringe

The brilliant Best in Class initiative was founded by Sian Davies in 2018 as a means of combatting the systemic difficulties facing working class acts trying to break into the industry. Working on a crowd-funding basis, Davies and her team have set up a yearly revolving line-up (Pandemic permitting) of acts to take to the Fringe – the apotheosis of this inequality – as a showcase. Previous acts have included Tom Mayhew, Lindsey Santoro, Jordan Grey, and Tamsyn Kelly. This evening sees three of the class of 2023 take to the stage, and providing a very fine show.

Chipper Bristolian Dani Johns comperes the evening, and does what a good MC does, warming up the crowd ably with some effortless, charming banter, and a few cracks about her recently turning 30 (though you would stake money on her still getting routinely ID’d for anything above a lottery ticket). Unfortunately we don’t get too much of Dani. Apart from her brisk, no-nonsense opening, she gets only a fleeting appearance between acts and to bring the proceedings to an efficient close. Keep an eye out for her popping up as a guest on other shows, where she’ll no doubt get a further chance to sparkle.

Lee Hudson is a stand-up from South-East London with a great line in self-deprecating material about his family. The majority of his set is a brilliantly-told story about his lothario father who has been married and divorced four times. Hudson sketches his father with affection while not hold back on his myriad thaws, and it ends with an excellent surprise twist.

There’s something a little old-fashioned about Hudson, like a modern spin on a classic club comic who can still get near-the-knuckle without any of that ugly ’70s residue. There’s something about his slightly schlubby persona that erodes some of the edges of his cruder material – but if you can’t fire off a beezer of a wanking gag on a Friday night, when can you? – and one admits a solid slab of unpretentious crassness appeals to the latent caveman in many of us. Very solid indeed.

Katie Mitchell has a slightly slow start to her set, but swiftly wins the crowd round. Certainly a striking presence, this old school goth is instantly distinctive, bringing a smidge of Romantic decadence to proceedings. Proving that working class needn’t preclude flamboyance, she also adopts a bold, theatrical delivery for some of her more surreal, whimsical material. One great example sees Mitchell pull out a lavishly framed picture of an armadillo and launch into a series of Shakespearean insults. ‘You militarised badger!’ ‘You lemon drop bastard!’ ‘You armoured cat!’ It’s surprising and cute, and the best kind of random.

In another, more conventional but equally brilliant piece, Mitchell details her coming out as a lesbian. She contends that coming out to queer friends is not the best move (they’re too ready with a questionnaire), so best to do it to a straight ally. Here, she impersonates a Humans-esque android offering supportive platitudes with a rictus grin. It’s a very inventive, and very funny sequence. A charismatic performer with a strongly individual look, it would be intriguing to see a longer set from her and see how she balances her material.

Not just a worthy initiative, ‘Best in Class’ is a great showcase of genuine talent. The rest of the class of 2023 are Ashley Gorman, Jacob Nussey, Jen Nolan, Leroy Brito, and Katie Tracey.

‘Best in Class’ runs until Sun 27 Aug 2023 at Laughing Horse @The Three Sisters – Maggie’s Chamber at 20:15