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Archive for the category “2013 Edinburgh Fringe Reviews”

I Really Must Talk About Kevin…

At this late stage of the Fringe I would have thought that my must see list would be closed – but happy to say I’ve been proved wrong. Went along to Joke Thieves (Espionage, 10pm) the other night and the definite stand-out of the stand-ups was Kevin Dewsbury. So… went along to see his full show Out Now and had a tremendous time. Now in the vast sea of comedians on the Fringe (free and otherwise) originality is going to be a issue. There are blokey blokes aplenty and more than a bit of gay/camp humour. Kevin’s USP is that he’s a ‘blokey gay’. Along with that he is also very, very funny with a hugely engaging personality. From his easy banter with the audience when setting up his show (no prima donnas here!) to keeping us all entertained over an hour that just flew by. One-liners, camped-up versions of well known songs (‘Going Homo Down at the Gay Disco’ to the tune of ‘Going Loco in Acapulco’ still has me smiling) as well as hilarious – and at times poignant – tales of coming out. There’s such a lot to like about Kevin – and you don’t have to be gay or a bloke – see for yourself by catching him at The White Horse at 6pm tonight or tomorrow.

Hot Picks of the Free Fringe – Toby Muresianu

For those who may have come late to the Free Fringe – for whatever reason – and now realise that it is indeed the true Fringe you will probably be in a desperate situation right now – so much to catch up with and so little time. Let me help with my must sees.

Toby Muresianu is American Jewish, LA based, part of the Facebook generation – in the literal sense as he was a classmate of Mark Zuckerberg, former software engineer, app designer, atheist, vegetarian. All these topics and more inform his material which is sharp, insightful and intelligent – reminds me a bit of classic Woody Allen with that style of drawing you in on the personal and mundane and ending up talking about the Universe and the meaning of life. Clue is in the title of the show, I guess… His delivery is refreshingly laid-back with quiet confidence which is a nice change from the in-yer-face brashness that many stand-ups feel they have to employ to grab your attention. Imagine an updated Groucho Marx or a Jackie Mason with better diction. Another thing I like is despite having impeccable geek credentials he doesn’t take the easy route of ‘laugh at me cos I’m a nerd’ school of comedy a la Big Bang Theory or ‘let’s laugh at everyone else’ a la Infinite Monkey Cage (god help us!). And you have to admit the guy has balls when he lays into inept rich kids who dabble in the arts (‘I’m a photographer. No, I think you just have a camera…’) when that kind of person will more than likely be sitting in your audience. Toby also comperes the Free Samples show every day at Whistlebinkies at 11am where you can catch part of his act but either way do yourself a favour and see this guy before he becomes huge.

Three Charming Men and One Devil!

Sunday, 18th August

Sunday at the Free Fringe and the first charming man of the day at the Canons Gait at 14.25. Now Wil Hodgson might not be your typical dreamboat – ex-wrestler, skinhead, beer belly, tattoos (lots of them, proper ones, mind – care bears and the like), slightly monotone west country accent. But after ten or so minutes in his company you will be smitten as he moves effortlessly and eloquently between his favourite obsessions which manage to be both brilliantly bizarre and achingly nostalgic at the same time. In anybody else’s hands the main topics of comic books and porn would be tawdry and obvious. But Mr Hodgson has such a head-swimmingly comprehensive knowledge and deep, deep love of his subject matter you’re hanging on his every word (he goes quite fast so you have to concentrate!) Porn? Yes, I know, girls – but imagine if you will ‘genteel porn’ with W I type women indulging in some lesbian action, the film of which being handed around in a raunchy version of Dad’s Army (just one of the gloriously surreal scenarios that is conjured up). What I love about Mr H though is his unashamed love of women – real women – big women – tough women. An hour in his company is better than any course on empowerment with his rejection of size zeros and tales of overcoming the bullies. Oh and you’ll learn a whole lot about the history of comic books and lots more besides!

Next up George Telfer in his one man show about Richard Burton. Set in the tiny Mata Hari space of Espionage the action is up close and personal. The predominately female audience no doubt attracted by the glitz and glamour of the whole Burton/Taylor legend. This Burton however is post Liz and more a burnt out case as the great man prepares for his stage comeback in Equus. Whilst Mr Telfer doesn’t deliver an impersonation of Rob Bryden proportions there is a Welsh lilt and pieces are genuinely moving such as when memories of the death of his beloved brother are evoked. The consummate professional Mr Telfer effortlessly incorporates late-comers and noises off from the bar into the show. Making a nice change from stand-up this is a classy treat for fans of the golden area of Hollywood.

Onto the third charming man of the day – Mr Meredith with his staggeringly entertaining singalong show – Knees Up Around The Organ. What? Singalong? Yes, yes, yes! Honestly Mr Meredith and his organ should be available on the NHS such is the pure, unadulterated, joy that they provide. Now if the thought of dreary singing classes at school or mouthing hymns (does that sound rude?) fills you with dread get yourself along to The Voodoo Rooms before Saturday and put yourself in Mr M’s capable hands. Starting with some delightfully camp (‘I’m an old fashioned homosexual – I crook my pinky when I…’ well you can guess!) banter, there’s a warming up of the vocal chords with a quick tongue twister before diving in with real oldies like ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ and the like. There’s time later for requests – and this gives you some idea of what a star Mr M is – he sang a song in Mandarin to whoops of delight – and tears of laughter – from a Chinese contingent in the audience! Finishing up with more ‘modern’ crowd pleasers like ‘Daydream Believer’ and ‘500 Miles’. The hour just flew by leaving a roomful of very obviously delighted people. It might not seem trendy, it might not seem cool but when you’re having so much fun, who cares? Mr Meredith – what a charmer.

Now on to the ‘devil’. What can I say? Lewis Schaffer comes well recommended and there is no denying he is good at what he does. Which is out-there, unhinged, confrontational comedy. Lulled into a sense of false security with Mr S looking dapper and shaking audience members’ hands before the show. Five minutes in though and a borderline racist, tourettes-like outburst directed towards a late arriving Canadian/Chinese party set us pretty much on course for the rest of the show. I, being a woman, was described as Satan – and I probably got off quite lightly compared to others in the audience. Revmulvey was a ‘nazi’ , a Scots-Muslim came in for a verbal attack (you can guess…) and other people accused of being ‘gay’, ‘ugly’, ‘stupid’. Men in the audience seemed to be enjoying it more than the women – no surprise. A bit like being on a scary fairground ride that you got on by accident. Probably made worse by the whole mingin’ atmosphere of the Heroes @ The Hive venue with its superglue floor and pervading smell of vomit – glad to get out. If that’s your kind of thing though – go see – and at least you’ll be able to say you went… and survived!

Geordies, Germans and Beer!

Friday, 16th August

ImageAnother 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!

Festival Thursday with stalkers, religion, Phillip & Marjorie…

Thursday, 15th August

Curious day of festing. Bought tickets a while ago for the show Histoire d’Amour on the official Festival. That started at The Kings at 8pm so took the chance to fit in a couple of Free Fringe shows beforehand.

Kicked off with Phillip and Majorie’s Marriage Preparation Course for Regular People and the ‘Gays’ at the Dram House (Fantoosh) at 14.30. From the moment Majorie collars you in the street and you get delivered into the – not so – capable hands of Phillip upstairs as he sets up his ‘technical thingummyjig’ to present said course – you know it’s going to be fun and games all the way. And that’s exactly what it was. Marjorie (small, American, feisty) and Phillip (tall, Yorkshire, a bit useless) are your classic comic double act but are that rare and quite beautiful thing – when you get it right – the husband and wife team. Think George Burns/Gracie Allen or Lucille Ball/Desi Arnaz (yes, we do have to go back quite far!) but here there is no straight man/woman or even a ‘gay’ – that’s a typical P&M joke so that’ll give you some idea… It starts out as as a Power Point type presentation of how to sustain a perfect union with faint shades of scientology about it but very soon we get to the party games and just general silliness. Have to say though – P&M do keep to the script and keep the well-planned visual aids flowing. I know you can’t pick your audience but I think P&M would have a ball if they could organise a ‘couples-only’ event as their comedy really flies when the usual couples’ bugbears get aired (money, sex, family…) but they did their best with getting the singletons involved as much as possible. All in all – recommended for a good hour of fun, fun, fun.

Next – downstairs in the same venue (Sneekit Room) at 16.00 – was The Human Being’s Guide To Not Being a Dick About Religion with Matt Thomas. Now I must confess at the start Matt’s whole middle-class, Home Counties, did-I-mention-I-was-a-graduate? – persona put my Scottish, working-class woman’s teeth on edge. It wasn’t helped by members of the audience – friends, perhaps? – blokes (see description above) naturally – laughing just a bit too uproariously at every joke. For myself I found the matter-of-fact statements near the start about ‘watching football’ and ‘having sex’ the funniest. But do you know what? I stuck with it and felt a right mean old cow by the end as Matt delivered up a satisfying and heart-felt fifty minutes or so taking pot shots at most religions including Rationalism (yes, I meant that). And yes, he did – tentatively, at the end – address that big old Islamic elephant in the room. All in all a bit like a would-be-groovy-agnostic-minister giving you his best sermon. So go see if that sound good to you. And sorry Matt for being judgemental at the start– it’s not you, it’s me…

Time for dinner at Indaba at Tollcross. Have been meaning to go there for a while but it always looks busy. This time got in at the back of five and were first ones there – started to fill up quite quickly though. Not sure why it’s so popular unless the meat and fish options hold some special cache for those that like that kind of thing. Tapas type dishes were pretty pricey for what you got (three thin slices of halloumi on some salad leaves for £5.95? Hmmm…). Fifty pounds for two has bought us a whole lot more – and better – elsewhere. Also change (which had been intended as a tip, still…) wasn’t returned to the table which I always think is a bit cheeky!

On to the main feature – Histoire d’Amour by Chile’s Teatrocinema at The Kings. Now I know that I’m a complete devotee of the FF but sometimes it’s nice to see something big and fancy on a big official Festival stage. I chose this as a good few years back I saw a fantastic show called Cegada d’Amour by a Catalan theatre group which had a similar ‘teatrocinema’ technique which merges cinematic and live action on stage. Cegada d’Amour was a marvellous, gaudy Almodovar-type comedy but Histoire d’Amour is altogether a darker and more challenging affair. Presented as a black and white graphic novel / comic strip it worked well as the super-titles (it’s in Spanish) appeared like comic book text. All well and good – but the subject matter is a completely other enchilada altogether. The story is basically that of a stalker repeatedly capturing and raping a young woman he becomes obsessed with in what becomes a vile and sick game of cat and mouse. Now as one of my favourite past-times is fantasising about female retribution I was pretty much looking forward to when the victim (and yes, she can only be described as such) gets the gun and blasts her tormentor’s brains out or chops off his limbs a la Sin City (which it resembles in places). But unfortunately we are not given that satisfaction – she marries him in the end, has his child and then has the cheek to die on him. What is even more distasteful is the way he describes both her and her family as being some kind of sub-species that he can control – Crime and Punishment-like. No doubt a piece like this is meant to challenge and I did feel exactly that. Retired to Ventoux afterwards to fathom the meaning of it all – it must have been symbolic of Chilean political history, right…right? Any road up – what a downer! Also back of ten and Ventoux had stopped serving coffee – 24 hour Festival city? Don’t make me laugh! Had a whisky instead, walked to the bus-stop in the pouring rain to get bus home.

Return of the Curate’s Egg Fringe

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Saturday, 10th August

Started my Free Fringe day with the marvellous Joan Shepard in Confessions of an Old Lady #2 at Fingers Piano Bar. Not the greatest of venues with entrance directly off Frederick Street and noises off from the bar including a ringing phone. Needn’t have worried – Joan is every inch the pro and held the audience in the palm of her hand with her tales of over seventy years in showbiz. And what tales! A child star given her big Broadway break by Laurence Olivier, sharing scenes with Tallulah Bankhead and Ethel Waters, turning down Elvis Presley (and a career in film along with it), starring in a ground-breaking revue with Lenny Bruce… But this is no mere name-dropping exercise and it’s testament to this astonishing woman that what shines through is a life-long devotion to the two great loves in her life- her husband and the theatre. Joan’s voice is still strong and commanding, only using a microphone when she does her musical numbers but I think this is more for visual effect as sound-wise she sure doesn’t need it. Warm, funny – ‘I never got real famous, well none of you has heard of me, right?’ Joan is the kind of person you wish you had as a friend so you could have regular access to her brilliant anecdotes. If you love theatre, classic showbiz tales or just want a life-affirming hour during the Festival madness do yourself a favour and get yourself along to Frederick Street at 2pm any day before the end of the Fringe.

Didn’t have a plan for the next show – whole George/Princes Street area quite mental what with Saturday shopping and confused stag/hen parties getting added to the Festival mix – decided to get respite (of a sort) on the Royal Mile, ended up doing a Nigel Farage and got stuck in the Canons’ Gait pub. Show there is The News at Kate presented by Kate Smurthwaite. Unlike Nigel though I was lucky and didn’t get barricaded in and was allowed to leave when I’d had enough (about 30 mins). Don’t get me wrong Kate’s really funny and is an engaging host but the whole set-up that followed (and seems quite popular at the mo): inviting mates/acquaintances to do ten minutes and then have a natter with them, is fraught with quality control issues. Get the right guests and this could be great, if not you’d be better off listening in on a random bus journey conversation or making up your own entertainment.

Quick sprint down to Calton Road and along to The Fiddlers Arms on Picardy Place in time for The Anti Social Network – a short piece (30 mins) regarding the dislocation of personal relationships in the age of social networking. Basically a one woman show (with assistant ‘sound-man’ working the laptop) written and performed by Paula Varjack. Sensitively written and with fine, understated acting this is an effective and affecting piece. Well worth a look.

A two minute bus journey down Leith Walk gave some much needed refuge from the city. Dinner at Origano and coffee/drinks in Tourmalet. Both excellent as usual. Could have stayed longer but there was more Fringe festing to be done! Stopped off at The Street to see An Evening with Samantha. Now Samantha Mann is technically a drag act but owes more to the Hinge and Bracket (look it up, kids…) school rather than Divine or Madame Jojo’s. Now this could lead to a degree of misunderstanding on the part of the audience which pretty much happened last night – we were constantly reminded that it was ‘spoken word’ rather than ‘comedy’ – I really don’t think we had to be told! The persona is that of a wittering, dithering, rambling woman past the first flush (think perhaps Mavis from Coronation Street) but stand-up it most definitely is not. Maybe there is some deeper meaning or intention going on here but I’m afraid I didn’t get it. Sorry, Samantha.

Stopped off to see what the Voodoo Rooms had to offer but as this seemed to be a fat guy in a Nazi uniform (offensive) and a local councillor who likes to get his face in the local paper (even fatter and even more offensive) decided to make a quick exit before I was tempted to give one of them a leather-glove-double-slap!

Evening ended on a high though with Anil Desai’s Another Night at the Movies at the City Cafe. Effortlessly entertaining, with excellent quick-fire impressions (de Niro, Pacino, Homer Simpson). Great routine with Anil charming the audience from the very start as he placed bowls of popcorn around the room. This guy is a mega talent – another one to see before he hits the big-time.

Wandered around a bit after that but Old Town was getting a definite ‘End of Days’ feel so hopped on the bus back home.

Funny Guys

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Thursday, 8th August

Funniest day of the Fringe yet with two five star shows. Started the day seeing the Alan Partridge film – classic British humour – was expecting a lot and wasn’t disappointed. Was a bit worried that any comedy seen later that day wouldn’t be up to the same standard but such thoughts were blown away with the first show: Toby Explains the Universe (Free Fringe at The Dram House, venue 299, 3pm)

Toby Muresianu is American Jewish, LA based, part of the Facebook generation – in the literal sense as he was a classmate of Mark Zuckerberg, former software engineer, app designer, atheist, vegetarian. All these topics and more inform his material which is sharp, insightful and intelligent – reminds me a bit of classic Woody Allen with that style of drawing you in on the personal and mundane and ending up talking about the Universe and the meaning of life. Clue is in the title of the show, I guess… His delivery is refreshingly laid-back with quiet confidence which is a nice change from the in-yer-face brashness that many stand-ups feel they have to employ to grab your attention. Imagine an updated Groucho Marx or a Jackie Mason with better diction. Another thing I like is despite having impeccable geek credentials he doesn’t take the easy route of ‘laugh at me cos I’m a nerd’ school of comedy a la Big Bang Theory or ‘let’s laugh at everyone else’ a la Infinite Monkey Cage (god help us!). And you have to admit the guy has balls when he lays into inept rich kids who dabble in the arts (‘I’m a photographer. No, I think you just have a camera…’) when that kind of person will more than likely be sitting in your audience. Toby also comperes the Free Samples show every day at Whistlebinkies at 11am where you can catch part of his act but either way do yourself a favour and see this guy before he becomes huge.

Talking of Whistlebinkies moved on to the New York All-Star Comedy Hour there at 4pm. Closing act was Alex Edelman – definitely the stand-out.  Again American Jewish but in the more animated style, talking about serving in the Israeli army and working at the KFC in ‘the dirtiest train station in New York’. Plenty of good material there and a nice line in self-deprecating humour – pointing out that his latest designer haircut makes him look like Anne Hathaway, not sure which came first – the joke or the cut, good visual joke at any rate. Definitely worth checking out his main show.

Day of comedy was going so well, could it get any better? Well, astonishingly, it did! Went to see David MillsThe Gospel Truth at Heroes @ the Hive (5.30pm). The venue is yet another sticky-floored nook of the whole Cowgate underground network resurrected from olden times to house present day entertainment whilst cleverly managing to maintain that filthy, urine and beer sodden historical detail – lovely! Mr Mills starts by making reference to said surroundings – ‘Breathe it in, breathe it in…’ And what follows is just under an hour of deliciously waspish, bitchy and just ever so slightly camp humour. The image is sharp-suited, clean-cut, American evangelist but the comedy is full blooded drag-queen with added depth. Topics included why does David Bowie keep on bothering us with his latest artistic endeavours, the intricacies of how Elton John and David Furnish ‘fathered’ their children and the problems of employing political correctness when you’re part of a trans-sexual, trans-gender, inter-species three-way marriage!! As is usual with a Fringe show in the afternoon the audience is smallish but that works well in this case as intimacy is the key with the front row just inches away from the host, perching early Dave Allen style on a stool. Everyone comes in for a bit of light ribbing leading in with topics like Scottish independence (launching into a hilarious routine about a messy, expensive divorce with Wales as a layabout child) and when it’s generally time to stop and take a good long look at what our lives have become.(‘De-clutter, de-clutter’) OK we’re maybe getting a bit deep here but like with all great comedy there is that edge of pathos which draws you in before delivering the sucker-punch. This man is solid gold and I can’t urge you strongly enough to go and see him. And I know the phrase: ‘Go and see him before…’ is getting a bit shop worn but it couldn’t be more apt in this case as I’m pretty sure David Mills would just not be the same in (mercy!) a stadium gig or on TV.

Still early, got a bite to eat and swithered about seeing some sceptics show with flying ectoplasm at The Southsider but decided day couldn’t be topped. Will check out said show at later date. Enjoyed pint of Carlsberg at £2.95 – bargain!

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

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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.

Free Fringe – Hanging with Edgar Allan and the Strippers

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Sunday, 4th August

‘But you’ll miss all the titties if you leave now!’ exclaimed the girl with her frightfully nice Home Counties accent as quite a few of us headed towards the exit after about half an hour of the Silhouette Burlesque cabaret at the Tron Kirk Free Fringe venue. Well, to be fair the women among us could just as well get home and look at our own. I shouldn’t be churlish as it was for free but as I witness the inexorable rise of burlesque at the Fringe – and in general, I guess – I’m reminded of a David Mitchell quote describing Cafe Rouge: ‘Giving shit a veneer of middle class respectability’. So it goes now with burlesque that the middle classes can see a strip-show without feeling bad about it. Nobody gets exploited, right? Hmmm… Obviously there are major differences – seedy, geared-towards-men clubs and pubs versus church halls and a practically family friendly atmosphere. However, it’s like – ‘what are you bringing to the party, girls?’ ‘Well, my tits, I suppose’. Case in point there was a Ms Whiplash character last night who could do quite impressive things with a whip. But what got the biggest cheer? When she ‘got them out’ and shook them about a bit. So there you go girls, you don’t need to bother learning a trade when you know how to jiggle ’em. In the real world I’m thinking that the dividing lines between burlesque and regular stripping must be pretty blurred – I hope so for the girls performing in these free venues as the pubs pour out and trust that their skills were learned in a strip-joint rather than the local-council-funded-female-empowerment-evening-class. Honestly though, if you like that kind of thing, it is free.

Lovin’ the Free Fringe generally though. As I predicted it’s a marvellous egalitarian free-wheeling democratic big bundle of fun which is destined to change the face of the Fringe forever. Sampled Dead Famous at the Dragonfly bar on West Port. Hosted by Edgar Allan Poe and Marie Antoinette it was totally bonkers but great fun. We as an audience managed to outnumber the cast by 2.5 to 1 which I imagine is pretty much a result considering the sheer number of shows on. Still, plenty of opportunity to participate if you wanted to. If you’re a Poe fan you must go as the guy Paul Wady is basically his reincarnation. And if you have any Poe party-pieces – get them ready as you could be called upon to take the floor!

It’s That Time Again!

fringeClammy, sticky, by turns torrential rain and blazing sun with a stiff old breeze blowing in from the Forth. This is Edinburgh in August. This is Edinburgh Festival time.

Ah, the Festival – to explain – includes the Fringe which once upon a time was just the delinquent offspring of the official Festival, a mere side/freakshow who grew and grew and ended up eating its own parent. Nowadays The Fringe is the thing with the ‘Official’ pretty much sidelined. As a native Edinburgher I’ve seen all the different trends and incarnations. Back in the day the Fringe was a great way of swotting for English exams by having the chance to see various productions of Shakespeare and the classics – some more ‘experimental’ than others – for just a couple of quid. In those day there was a heck of a lot of nudity as well which I guess was good for higher biology. Into the nineties when comedy became the new rock n roll, the Fringe in effect turned into a huge comedy festival with prices inflating along with egos. Keeping your ear to the ground though it was entirely possible to see the big names of tomorrow – The Mighty Boosh, League of Gentlemen, Vic & Bob, Steve Coogan and so on.

Wonderful, what’s not to like? Well… I won’t lie to you – people in Edinburgh do get mightily pissed off at this time of year: It takes twice as long to get anywhere, crowds of post-pubescent children (well, they seem that way) stick endless flyers in your face if you dare go anywhere near the Royal Mile, you daren’t go anywhere near the Royal Mile, you get sick of tripping over ‘faces off the telly’ pretending they don’t want to be recognised when actually they do. You get sick of jokes about how people from Edinburgh hate the Festival/don’t go to the Festival/rent out their homes for ridiculous sums of money. But….what’s this? Things have to change, right? And I really believe the Fringe has done just that – mainly through the rise of the Free Fringe. Hopefully this little blighter is going to take on the mantle of its now bloated ‘punk of yesteryear’ daddy. I will be throwing myself into the FF and will be giving reviews and tips right here so keep checking. In the meantime here’s the first instalment of my Festival diary.

Thurs, 1st Aug.

Fringe officially starts on Saturday but a few shows are pitching their tents early. Was on a bus going down North Bridge, all bus stops closed due to an ‘ongoing incident’ at The Scotsman Hotel. Turns out it was some kind of ‘chemical incident’ involving the death of two people thought to be Russian, thought to be a suicide pact. Edinburgh is all a twitter with thoughts of Litvinenko-type murders and shock at how this could happen at a five star hotel (four star would have been OK… ?) Went to The Jolly for a pizza and vino. Wandered through the Cowgate and past the Three Slappers (aka The Three Sisters) – was mobbed as usual, God knows what it’ll be like come Saturday. The Underbelly venue seems to have some kind of cowshed drinking den complete with hay-bales going on. Can see that ending in tears and bits of straw in unwanted places… Sore feet and losing the will to live ended up in Ventoux for a bottle of lager bier hell and a flat white (trust me!).  Revmulvey speaking not much louder than usual but people at next table seem to think he’s a Fringe act. Got last bus home.

https://www.edfringe.com/

http://freefringe.org.uk/

http://www.eif.co.uk

 

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