If it’s Tuesday it must be the Free Fringe!


Tuesday, 6th August

Made it along to Whistlebinkies in time for the Free Samples show at 11am. First experience this Festival of that typical slightly seedy feeling of sitting in a darkened pub stone sober partaking of entertainment far more appropriate to the other end of the day. First up was genial host Toby Muresianu. Great comic timing and a good line in slightly self-deprecating (American, ex-engineering student, Romanian heritage) humour. Next up the deliciously dirty-minded Shirley Gnome – armed with a guitar and a clutch of filthy songs (‘Masturbation or Breakfast?’ should give you some idea… ). Possible potential for audience embarrassment but with her charming manner and undeniable music talent I think she went down well (I’ll give you that one for free, Shirley). Her full show is on at Underbelly (Belly Laugh) and would be the perfect later night entertainment after downing a few shandies with friends. Last up Will Franken. More lugubrious, sardonic, hung-over by his own admission. After the initial introductions and quick impressions (Stephen Hawking is always good value I think) he slipped easily into his character-driven one-man sketches about – among other things – a surreal journey from London to Wales and Daniel Day-Lewis auditioning against someone with cerebral palsy. He professionally filled in for another five minutes when told of a – presumably more hung-over non-show. Well worth a look at his main show at the Pleasance Dome.

Walked down North Bridge, passed a security van outside the Royal Bank with disembodied voice imploring someone to call the police. Danger when anything like that happens at this time everyone thinks it’s a Fringe act. Got ‘jollied up’ with lunch at The Jolly (three courses for only £6.10 folks!). On to Bannermans for A Complete History of the Roman Empire (abridged title) with Ed O’Meara. Always a bit difficult when the audience indicates that they’re possible history buffs. There is that slight look of terror like that on the face of a supply teacher suspecting that his pupils know more than he does. He seemed to be surprised that he’s been getting full houses – it certainly was the busiest show I’ve been to. Not that surprised myself as history – especially ancient – especially Roman – has never been sexier (not much of a statement, I know!) So with that he might have to up the ante a bit – is there anyone on this planet now who doesn’t know Caligula translates as ‘little boots’? Still if you have a scant knowledge of Roman history and want a quick crammer with plenty of non-offensive, groan-worthy jokes this would be right up your via. A bit in the ‘Horrible Histories’ vein so also perfect for ‘that’ kind of older child.

Next up was Chris Coltrane and Compassion is Subversive. Very likeable, bisexual, London-based activist. Very much in the Mark Thomas mode but not annoying like Mark Steel. As well as targeting the Tories he took a pop at humour-bypass groups like Socialist Worker. Ended up with tale of hijacking a ‘fat-cat energy providers’ conference – ending on a positive, upbeat note. Not a lot of political comedy this year so good to give something like this your support.

Only 18.15 but after a day of sitting in clammy, cramped and frankly whiffy underground hovels belonging to pubs I gave up going to years ago decided to make Antonello Taurino in Comedian? No just Italian last stop of my Free Fringe day. What can one say about him? Quite manic in a kind of Roberto Benigni way. I was expecting the material to be more Berlusconi political but emphasis was more on the Church and poking fun at an Italian Stallion persona. I would say more interesting than laugh-out-loud funny with mad dives into fantasies populated by Jesus, Freud and Dante. However he gets my daily prize for being the most laid back re monetary donations at the end. Also saying: ‘Tell your friends if you liked me, tell your enemies if you didn’t!’ Undeniably Italian and just ever so slightly bonkers.

There you go – quick bite to eat in El Quijote and couple of drinks in Ventoux and off home. Love affair with Free Fringe continues. Keep visiting for more reviews.

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