The Nineties room in City Cafe is utterly rammed. As with any show, expectations are high when the room is packed to the brim like this. Simone Belshaw insists on a grand entrance, trying it several times until she gets the desired reaction. Goblin and Fiends does not disappoint, with an hour of stand-up that ticks pretty much every box for late-night comedy.

After introducing herself, she immediately welcomes on a guest comedian. Tonight, it’s Patrick Healy. His down-to-earth, self-deprecating humour has the crowd in stitches. Cutting a relaxed figure on-stage, he always has a small smile across his face as the audience laugh at almost everything he has to say. It is a strong guest appearance that adds variety to the show.

Belshaw herself is blessed with a fantastic talent for delivery and performance. Funny little facial expressions speak a thousand words, communicating to the audience exactly what she wants them to. Belshaw’s set is full of observational comedy about being a woman (or ‘tickling the balls of privilege,’ as she puts it) and the unwanted judgement it can bring – IVF treatment a particular focus of hers. She laughs off such criticism with an easy-to-love scorn. Her relationships are another topic addressed in her comedy, again picking up on how her life is expected to go a certain way. Never does she try and make her problems out to be the worst that there is, instead playing her own experiences out on-stage for comedic effect. 

Such topics are of course not unique to Belshaw, and the punchlines are pleasing if occasionally unsurprising. Nevertheless, this work-in-progress is as good a set as you are ever likely to find on the Free Fringe. Belshaw wins the crowd over with some good observational jokes and a feminist attitude as she laughs in the face of demeaning expectations. As good an hour of comedy as you would expect is helmed by a seriously talented comedian.