"There are one or two slightly offensive suggestions scattered amid the more complimentary phrases but I am prepared to rise above that if you are."
Scroll down for fuller quotations.
Review of Dear Samantha at the 2019 Victoria Fringe Festival by Chad Jarvie-Laidlaw, in CVTV:
“Bringing her delightful mix of honesty, humble bragging, and melancholy, Miss Samantha Mann returns in Dear Samantha, an advice show that is equal parts funny and touching.
“If you’re not familiar with Miss Samantha Mann, do yourself a favour and become familiar. This multi-award-winning spinster librarian was most recently seen in Victoria in 2017 with Stories about Love, Death, and a Rabbit, a charming and heartbreaking work. Dear Samantha shows the newest phase of her career, that of being a (partially) trained agony aunt, think a live action ‘Dear Abby’ columnist, or, as Miss Mann puts it ‘a therapist, but without the training or any oversight whatsoever.’ Sam Mann dispenses advice on love, life, politics, and really anything that is a dilemma and weighing on your heart. Witty and delightful, her answers are at one moment poignant, the next side-splitting.
“The core of the show is the disarmingly charming nature of Sam Mann, and how she walks on a razor thin line between wry self-deprecation and bragging about her accomplishments. This incisiveness gives her a freedom to say some of the things which we are uncomfortable with hearing about our own problems, or to reframe the questions to show that we probably know the answer to them already. Repeatedly she reminds us that many of our interpersonal issues can be simplified by simply talking to the people with whom we are experiencing problems, and being forthright. Moreover, she reminds us that, regardless of the anxieties that fill a particular moment, there are other moments.
“Samantha Mann reminds her audience that it’s okay to breathe, and encourages them to get their feelings out and stand up for their needs. If you’re looking for something lighthearted and funny, but still with heart and hope, Dear Samantha is just the right show for you.”
Review of Dear Samantha at the 2019 Victoria Fringe Festival by Sheila Martindale, in Monday Magazine:
“We have all known someone who chatters on and on in a never-ending stream of consciousness, moving from one topic to another without pausing for breath. Samantha keeps this up for 70 minutes, and it is hilarious! Maybe a little too fast, as I did not hear every word as clearly as I might have done, even in the front row. Not that this stopped me laughing! What did become clear is that this ‘agony aunt’ really has no sensible advice, her most-used phrase being ‘I don’t know!’ What she does know is how to be entertaining – big time.”
4 and a 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Review of Dear Samantha at the 2019 Victoria Fringe Festival by Sarah Petrescu, for Check The Program:
“Dear Samantha is a disarmingly funny and surprisingly therapeutic solo show from British performer Charles Adrian Gillott.
“Ms. Samantha Mann is a purse-clutching, proper-attired librarian with a non-stop rambling commentary that is both comedic and cutting…
“But what was surprising and truly touching was how earnest people were and how much the questions revealed about a bunch of strangers in a room. Samantha’s advice was unpredictable and mostly lighthearted, ‘Oh I don’t know darling’ she said many times, to wry (How do I know if it’s true love? ‘It’s not.’), to oddly insightful (regarding email etiquette she said niceties were important so we all know we’re not trying to kill each other – this is a paraphrase).
“Samantha made sure to note that anyone with more serious issues or triggered by the show should seek the help of a professional. But for anyone needing a heart or brain break from a busy world, to laugh and not feel alone, this is a decent show.”
4 stars (out of 5)
Review of Dear Samantha at the Victoria Fringe Festival by Adrian Chamberlain, in the Times Colonist:
“Nimble-witted Charles Adrian Gillott is an award-winning spoken-word artist from Britain. For his one-man Dear Samantha, Gillott dons sensible-shoes drag (skirt, white gloves, etc.) to play a skittish spinster who reinvents herself as an advice guru.
“… Her satirical sense is dryer than a vermouth-free martini.
“…The best part comes at the end, when Samantha responds to written questions from the audience (cards and pens are dispersed before the show commences). A veteran improviser, Gillott shot off lightning-fast responses like a gun-slinging Buster Scruggs.”
Four stars (out of five)
Review of Dear Samantha at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Festival by Andrew Friesen, for CBC Manitoba:
“As Samantha, Charles Adrian Gillott delivers a finely-tuned performance that is more down-to-earth than the show description suggests. Samantha may not have the answer to your problem, but she promises to at least "kick it around" a bit… By turns humorous and heartfelt, the show came to life when Gillott turned from Samantha's own stories to advice on real-life problems from the audience… So stick around and submit a question — you'll be glad you did.”
Review of Dear Samantha at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Festival by Maureen Scurfield, aka Miss Lonelyhearts, in the Winnipeg Free Press:
“Although ‘Dear Samantha’ started too many of her answers saying, ‘I really don’t know. I mean, how can one?’ she’d then go on to be funny, clever — and sometimes surprisingly sincere, with short, helpful answers. Her comedy style? To say the proper thing — with not-so-sympathetic asides that ranged from witty to outrageous, to coolly dismissive. As an improv artist, her brain is quick and clever, and her speech slows down to allow the audience to really appreciate her talent.”
Review of Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit at the 2018 Edmonton Fringe Festival by Alexandra Dawkins, for edmontonfringe.ca:
"An incredibly charming individual full of the most lovable oddities and idiosyncrasies, Ms Samantha Mann will have you laughing, crying and questioning your own faults and habits... A beautiful portrait of a woman exploring the details of her life, [Charles] Adrian delivers a heartfelt and comedic performance which shines with generosity, instinct, and a beautifully precise character."
Review of Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit at the 2018 Edmonton Fringe Festival by Roger Levesque, in the Edmonton Journal:
"You get the sense the Fringe tour packs high excitement for a single librarian who is feeling the sands of time slip away. Her poetry is sharply minimalist, and you have to wonder why she’s having dreams of terror (material for a sequel perhaps?). [Mann’s] rabbit mimes are just nutty, but when she slips on her tap shoes to knock out Ain’t Misbehavin’ you can’t help reveling in her understated talents."
Four stars (out of five)
Review of Behind The Agony at the 2018 Buxton Festival Fringe by Richard Stamp, in Fringe Guru:
"As we file into the theatre, Ms Mann invites us each to write a 'dilemma' on a square of green card – which, after shuffling to anonymise their authors, she reads out and comments on towards the end of the show. Adrian treats these contributions with a the requisite degree of respect, but Ms Mann simply isn't cut out to be an agony aunt; time and again, she appears on course to say something balanced and supportive, only to spoil it with a naïve afterthought which reveals what she really thought all along. Her clumsiness and unconscious candour are both startling and endearing, and if this one basic joke is constantly repeated, that's only because it gets funnier and funnier each time.
“Yet the irony is that, in blurting out truths no-one else dares mention, Ms Mann often gives the best possible advice. One laugh-out-loud sequence sees her run through frequently-asked questions, sorting them into categories as all good librarians should: and her chosen headings, things like ‘Just talk to them!’, deftly illustrate how often we turn straightforward situations into intractable dilemmas. If anyone else dispensed this advice, it would sound rudely simplistic – but Ms Mann seems genuinely puzzled that anyone could overlook something so obvious, and thereby delivers some genuinely important lessons for life."
Four stars (out of five)
Review of Behind The Agony at the 2018 Buxton Festival Fringe by Jim Marriott, in the Buxton Fringe Review:
"For the finale of the show, Aunt S reads out the ‘agonies’ filled in on little green cards by the audience at the start of the show; it’s here that Charles Adrian shows his flair for ad-libbing – snappy, witty, hilarious, lightly outrageous and always sharply-observed. Comedy at its best; peals of laughter from the audience."
Review of Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit at the 2018 St Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival by Maurena Taylor, in Cult MTL:
"As promised, we are brought through stories of love, death and a close friend’s rabbit currently in her care, each revealing new depths to the woman onstage. The stories of love reveal regrets, the stories of death reveal potent familial love and her discomfort with the rabbit in her home seems to mirror her discomfort with her own timid and fear-filled attributes that have governed her life. It is only when Samantha shares her poetry, a hidden love, that we begin to travel through her revelations with her at an increasing rate. She graciously allows her gentle, morose retrospect to remind us to never let fear deny us of the joys in life, and that it is never too late to find your courage."
Review of Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit at the 2018 St Ambroise Montréal Fringe Festival by Rachel Levine, in Montreal Rampage:
"This sensitive show is a study of loneliness and human disconnect without ever being moribund. I enjoy character driven shows where the personality of the narrator is the show, and we see this person at a critical juncture in his or her life. The dramatic moment isn’t epic, but it is to the person in question. Shows like this are good art. They remind us that everyone matters, that the universe would be less without any one of us.
"Charles Adrian is so perfect as Samantha Mann and capturing her mannerisms. What looks like a slip up or a failure is actually very deliberate. His ability to embody this character at a deep, emotional level is acting at its finest and most precise. Overall, the show that has a meta-feel to it that adds a level of depth, but also gives a chance for the show to feel more urgent."
Review of Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit at the 2017 Victoria Fringe Festival by Janis La Couvée, in Dispatches from the Victoria Fringe:
"At one time Victoria was awash in maiden aunts like Ms Samantha Mann—genteel, civilized, educated, tied with strong bonds to family and whiling away the days as life slowly passed them by. Some, like Samantha, can pinpoint with exactitude the moment things shifted. This is extremely clever work, a character everyone can’t help but fall in love with, happily dithering away and absolutely refusing to get to the point—tangential reflections piling up one on top of the other, hinting, always hinting, at missed opportunities and deep emotional wounds. And then, voilà, now comfortable with the audience, come the revelations of hidden talents and hopes, of daring to take a chance.... Ms Samantha Mann is simply delightful, anyone would be happy to spend an entertaining and lively hour in her company and would not fail to be moved by her eloquent and expressive storytelling."
Review of Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit at the 2017 Victoria Fringe Festival by Sheila Martindale, in Monday Magazine:
“We have all known someone who hops along on a stream-of-consciousness chatter, starting a topic and quickly jumping to another, never really completing a sentence or a thought. Spinster librarian Samantha Mann, created and performed by Charles Adrian from London, England, is one such dotty character, and this show is a real hoot, as well as having elements of sadness and pathos.
“There is no hint of the drag queen here – Adrian is a perfectly charming lady who is quickly approaching middle age, definitely losing her grip, and who can drive one crazy with her whimsical approach to life and to conversation.
“It is what is NOT said that is so significant – those tiny gaps as this delightful character moves from one thing to another, leaving so much unsaid about this or that. A psychoanalyst’s dream under the right conditions.
“This is the kind of show whose poignance stays with you long after the last laugh has drifted away.”
Review of You Bring The Agony, I'll Bring The Aunt at the 2016 Buxton Fringe Festival by Ian Parker Heath, in the Buxton Fringe Review:
"Ms Mann is no stranger to the Fringe and with this helping of 'help' she may have found her metier. As you might expect from the title, the show centres upon the agonies of the audience and your soon-to-be favourite Agony Aunt and part-time librarian's advice on resolving them... Do not think of this as therapy in public, think of it as as an exposé of the mores of Middle England. Witty and delivered with an assured confidence, Charles Adrian has created one of those characters you'll remember after the Fringe has finished. The audience last night loved the spinster-librarian who is a member of that long tradition of much put upon ladies who take an almost forbidden delight in sniping at those whose manners are, how shall we say this, strained. Remember the continuity announcer from the late Victoria Woods shows? If I was asked to describe the show in a sentence it would be this: Charming with an acerbic underside.
Review of Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit at the 2015 Buxton Fringe Festival by Rufus McAlister in the Buxton Fringe Review:
"Stories About Love, Death and a Rabbit is an outstanding piece of character comedy. Charles Adrian Gillott plays Ms Samantha Mann, a single, middle-aged, middle-class woman: shy but excitable, restrained but wanting to let go, if only she could bring herself to dance. Her mannerisms are consistent, her frantic speech perfectly paced and the whole character brilliantly observed. The humour is incredibly clever; whilst it is never rude, edgy or provocative, it feels distinctly mature... It’s funny because you are so immersed in the character, which has captivated you from the very beginning. I can’t hope to explain it; it is just wonderfully written and charismatically performed. There are poignant moments too, as Samantha gives poetic musings on death and living life with too much fear, changing the tone, but not at all out of place. She does not end there, though, and leaves us with a hilariously understated piece of physical comedy, which I won’t spoil. Gillott is clearly a talented comedian and comedy actor, and this is a class act."
Bruce Dessau reviewing the 2015 Old Comedian Of The Year competition:
"Ms Samantha Mann was the biggest oddball of the evening. She – I think it was a she – claimed to be a poet rather than a stand-up and wondered in her posh voice if she should be there at all. The audience was confused, but clearly amused by this character and again I could have seen a different set of judges awarding the prize to Mann just for being the most refreshingly off the wall contestant. But again, Mann had to make do with the glory of being a finalist."
Steve Bennett reviewing the 2015 Old Comedian Of The Year competition:
"Yet another character next, with the intriguing Ms Samantha Mann, the creation of Charles Adrian Gillott and a genteel, well-spoken poet who probably thinks Radio 4 has got a bit too racy since it stopped being the Home Service. She’s put off whenever the audience laughs at her oh-so serious musings, so making it forbidden and all the more potent. And since there’s plenty of wry, off-the-wall wit in the writing, there are plenty of giggles to be stifled during this classy, different act."
Chris Neville-Smith, of chrisontheatre.wordpress.com, on calling Samantha the Best Individual Performance of 2014:
"What seems, at face value, to be a light-hearted comedy about an inept middle-aged spinster attempting poetry is actually a very, very clever piece of solo theatre. The main joke is supposed to be that Samantha Mann barely gets around to doing any poetry, instead waffling away to the audience with one digression after another, but it is in these digressions that the story comes together. And to cleverly piece together this story under the cover of such convincing hesitation, repetition and digression is one of the best performances I've seen, easily up there with the best performances I've seen in full-scale full-budget professional shows."
Review of Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit at the 2014 Buxton Fringe Festival by Richard Stamp, in Fringe Guru:
"This delightful show sits halfway between comedy and solo theatre, delivering plenty of laugh-aloud surprises yet concealing a sharp-edged poignancy too. Hosted by middle-aged librarian Ms Samantha Mann, it's a broad-ranging monologue about loves lost, lives lived... and the trials of sharing her home with a rabbit. Though she seems at first prim and practical, Samantha gradually reveals both an intriguing past and an adventurous personality, stumbling through a public journey of self-discovery which I felt positively privileged to join her on."
Four stars (out of five)
Something from Ben Walters, of nottelevision.net:
"Wry, mischievous and strangely moving, Samantha Mann's Stories About Love, Death & A Rabbit is a beguiling and ultimately uplifting experience - something like the secret life of Miss Prism imagined by Alan Bennett and performed by Hinge or Bracket."
Review of what Samantha calls "my winning effort" at the 2014 Anti-Valentine's Anti-Slam by Koel Mukherjee, of Sabotage:
"Watching her was so, so entertaining, not least because she was so recognisable as an open mic archetype. I've seen that poet - awkward, apologetic, disorganised, self-deprecating - in fact, I'm pretty sure I've been that poet. With such a tour de force of acting it almost wouldn't have mattered what the poetry was like, but it turned out to be just the right level of painfully mediocre. 'I am nobody's wife... and nor do I want to be... just yet (I was brought up on second wave feminism).' The sight of Mann agonising over expressing such banal and clumsy words was both endearing and hilarious."
Reviews of An Evening With Samantha at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe:
"A lady of a certain age who believes official forms should have a 'long-term single' option, to help differentiate between people like her and single people for whom a change in relationship status might be just around the corner, Samantha Mann is a minutely observed comic creation for those who love cringe humour." Roger Cox, The Scotsman
"Ms Samantha Mann, a drag persona created by the lovely Adrian Gillott, has a full solo show that is delightfully feminist. Samantha shares her story of how she doesn't ask for permission - just starts living her life to the full and breaking out of her societally- and self-imposed expectations. It's a feel good hit." Chella Quint, The F-Word Comedy
"Whilst in the Fringe Guide this show rests under the category of 'Spoken Word' with a subcategory of 'comedy' I'm not sure I could call it either, as, although certain aspects of those genres are present in An Evening With Samantha, they are far from the predominant or the most excellent aspects of this experience. With a show containing conversations with the audience, a spoken word guest, anecdotes, memories and tap dancing, Samantha Mann (who is, if you haven't guessed from the show photo, a man in drag) invites you to spend a bizarre and unique evening with her. The one thing I can be certain of from this piece is that Samantha is a consummate and delightful character: Nervous, well-spoken, eccentric, and dressed in a brown curly wig; glasses; white gloves; and a pea-green coat and long dark skirt, Samantha made me feel contrary combination of unease and discomfort throughout the show. I found myself utterly engaged in her character, waiting to see what she would do next." Isla Van Tricht, Broadway Baby
Photograph at the top of this page by Katherine Leedale