Friday, 16th August
Another day – another ‘pick of the Free Fringe’. Good choices all round. Started with Gary Colman at Whistlebinkies at 14:45. Described in FF programme as Jack Dee-like deadpan comedy which I think is doing Mr Colman a great disservice. He’s actually very animated and his routine about his family and life-so-far is very upbeat. Ex-squaddie, ex-professional snowboarder, happy family man, late forties – but not ready to hang up his comedy boots yet – he wrings every bit of comic potential out of his descriptions of everyday domestic situations including having to perform an intimate daily procedure on his pet dog and just stopping short of TMI on his wife’s birthing experience. There’s a lot of the ‘cheeky chappy’ about Gary and a touch of the Frankie Howerds with his summation of the audience – ‘I really must try and get a younger, trendier crowd’. The joke being that wouldn’t be his audience at all. Very good natured and engaging with a constant flow of laughs Gary is another comedian which makes you think ‘why haven’t I seen him on the telly?’ Well recommended. By the way – I know I have this tendency to compare acts with long-dead comedians but Gary did mention Arthur Askey at some point – got a big laugh from me at any rate!
Onto the Grassmarket Community Project at the foot of Candlemaker Row for tea and scones – very rock n roll, I know! But honestly – if you’re looking for a little oasis of non-alcohol-fuelled-calm in the sea of mentalness that is the Cowgate/Grassmarket at the moment – check it out.
On to Base (part of the grubby-club triumvirate along with Sneeky Pete’s and Opium) just a couple of minutes along the Cowgate to see Christian Schulte-Loh in Attack of the 50 Foot German Comedian. Pretty self explanatory except he’s a mere six foot seven not 50 foot. Big international crowd queueing to get in probably making the other acts due to start feel just a bit inadequate. Again another top notch comedian. Quote in programme promises ‘a funny German – the only one’. Now that was the joke some time ago but it seems these days that there’s a bit of a bumper crop. Personally speaking – I’ve seen/heard Henning Wehn and that’s been about it. As you can imagine there are the usual topics – WWII, football, the Euro economy, Teutonic precision and efficiency… Effortless working of the audience – focusing on the different nationalities of which there were a few – including an American couple in the front row who provided Christian with a rich seam of comic potential. But as well as the US (having the best record of invading other countries), the English (always apologising), Scots (drunkards), Austrians (cellars, the one who shall not be named) the Germans came in for most ribbing with perceived arrogance and their over-fondness of forming rallies. A consummate professional, Christian didn’t let the energy drop for a second. Definitely well worth putting him on your FF timetable of must-sees. He also performs nightly at The Kilderkin pub with other comedians in a show called World War III – will be checking that out. Also good to hear him talking up the FF and – with expected German attention to detail – giving a concise political history of the movement to date. Ausgezeichnet!
Final FF stop along at The Three Sisters for A Brief History of Beer. Now out of the main cluster of dank, sticky-floored, urine-scented pubs and clubs that serve as FF venues around the Cowgate The Three Sisters (or ‘Slappers’ as it’s known) has to be the skankiest – but hold your nose (and possibly use the toilets somewhere else) and brave Edinburgh’s answer to Dante’s Inferno to check out this show. A young American couple with bags of energy present a whistle-stop journey through time to explain why beer is so wonderful. The home made set (a la Starship Enterprise) and props are delightfully quirky and they also use to good effect stock and home movie-like footage projected as way of illustration. The material is actually quite educational and fact-driven but performed at break-neck speed so it never gets bogged down. Both the performers have more than a bit of star quality about them and I don’t want to get you too excited but they put me very much in mind of a quick-fire, character-driven sketch show that I saw at The Fringe some years ago (as a child, you understand…) with a double act called Mullarkey and Myers featuring a certain Mike Myers. Wonder whatever happened to him? So if you want to possibly bore generations to come with I remember when I saw… remember the names of William Glenn and Trish Parry. Oh, and go and see them first of course!