Comedy preview: Janice Connolly/Mrs Barbara Nice; Edinburgh Stand

Mrs Barbara Nice'(comedian Janice Connolly)
Mrs Barbara Nice'(comedian Janice Connolly)
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Here at the Evening News, we don’t give out five-star reviews willy-nilly.

To be a worthy recipient, you need to be an exceptional talent who can put on a flawless production. Case in point: Janice Connolly, aka chirpy, Take A Break-loving housewife, Mrs Barbara Nice, who returns to The Stand, next Thursday.

Connolly’s Fringe show was one of the most engaging productions in Edinburgh during August, and not without good reason.

If there’s one thing most modern stand-ups can barely achieve, it’s being able to perform just 15 minutes of good, clean, inoffensive comedy. As Groucho Marx said, to do quarter-of-an-hour of clean comedy is the mark of a true comedian.

Connolly is one such lady. Placing a firm emphasis on fun, her character is a middle-aged Stockport wife (and mother of five) who just wants to help everyone see the joy in simple everyday things like, tupperware and Poundstretchers.

She’s no Mother Theresa, however, and it’s impossible not to love her malapropisms.

“Barbara is very friendly. She doesn’t give the audience a hard time – well, only if they deserve it,” laughs Connolly.

“When I started doing Barbara, I was already older than other comedians, yet I knew she was the kind of character worth doing. She’s inclusive and likes to raise everyone’s spirits. Comedy just needed to be a bit cleaner.”

Inclusiveness isn’t just a part of Barbara’s outlook – it’s a big part of Connolly’s life, too.

As artistic director of Birmingham’s Women And Theatre production company, one of Connolly’s main aims is helping reflect the lives of ordinary people, encouraging social inclusion and giving a voice to those not usually heard.

Barbara Nice may be Connolly’s bread-and-butter now, but she’s probably still best known as Holy Mary in the BBC sitcom Phoenix Nights.

Discovered by Peter Kay during a new-act competition in Manchester, this chance encounter proved to be a springboard for Connolly’s career.

“People know me best through that, and it’s great to be attached to Phoenix Nights, it really helped me a lot.

“It kept me in acting work, kept me in the public eye and allowed me to do some more television and become independent with my comedy.”

It’s a quick return to the Capital for the comedienne and while her appearance at The Stand next Thursday will be smaller than her Fringe show, it’ll be worth every minute she’s onstage. If you’re lucky, she might even be the compere.

“It’s going to be great coming back so soon,” she assures. “I thoroughly enjoyed the Fringe this year. I’ve been doing Barbara for at least 14 years now, and like a rolling stone, it keeps going.

“Okay, it might gather a little bit of moss, but as long as the people want her to be there – she’ll still be of service.”

• Mrs Barbara Nice @ The Thursday Show, The Stand, York Place, next Thursday, 7.30pm, £8, 0131-558 7272 / www.thestand.co.uk