The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the tag “Free Festival”


The blurb for Ben Van der Velde’s show starts like this – ‘Thanks to Genghis Khan’s friskiness we’re all 8% barbarian’. The flyers and the poster have Ben suited-up and wielding an axe. So far so interesting.

To kick off there’s a quick scan of the audience with assumptions made. There’s a big bloke who must be tough; a wee woman who’s probably feisty and a couple who look as if they may be pot-heads. Tricky that last one – especially when said couple were asked how they enjoyed getting high and the guy replied ‘eating a lot of food and watching shit TV’. Back to the big bloke sitting with his mates at the back of the room who give a collective cheer when the question ‘is anyone Jewish?’ is asked. Ben looks momentarily stunned but recovers quickly with some neat ad-libs re the subversion of stereotypes.

This leads into the main part of the set which is about Ben and his being Jewish but he’s non practising and not religious at all. This brings a whoop of delight from an audience member who gets a bit of a counter-Dawkins/Hitchins put-down. But this part of the set is more about Ben with tales of doing a disastrous gig for kids at his local synagogue and whether he should get his son circumcised. Generally all good stuff – but I wasn’t sure about a throwaway line relating to FGM.

After this bit Ben tackles the thorny subject of Brexit – but not as I’ve seen a few comedians do it at this year’s Fringe: ‘What was that about, eh?’ and move swiftly on. He asks for a show of hands and of course being a ‘lefty liberal audience’ we all stick our mitts up to indicate we did ‘the right thing’. All except for one person at the back – what ensued was quite a confused/confusing exchange with Ben back-peddling a bit down the road of ‘some of my best friends are… ‘

The show ends with a story involving a backpack-carrying Muslim where the message is ‘don’t make assumptions’ but as there are so many confused assumptions already in the room the message gets a bit lost. It’s a shame as the whole idea of shared DNA suggests inclusiveness which is always good for coaxing an audience on board. As it was there was more of a pervading air of disengagement when we should have been getting gee’d up for the big finish. Ben is undoubtedly a very accomplished comedian and he proves he can think on his feet when a curveball is thrown at him. Maybe he shouldn’t invite too many to be thrown at him in the space of one show though.

(Review for 21 Aug)

It’s back! The one, the only…

Clever PeterFantastic start to the Festival/Fringe – Clever Peter at The City Cafe. These guys are award-winning and have had their own show on Radio 4 (but don’t let that put you off!). Apparently their influences are Monty Python and they have been compared to League of Gentlemen. Sure enough I saw shades of the MP ‘Yorkshire-men’ sketch and LoG without the prosthetics but I was reminded more of early Channel 4-era Armstrong and Miller which is no bad thing. There’s three of them and one behind the scenes (okay – rather like League of Gentlemen… ) and the whole thing is delightfully lo-fi with a couple of wigs and basic props serving as the fairy dust. Various awkward social situations are played out – meeting prospective in-laws, travelling on the underground etiquette – and all have a satisfying and clever pay-off. Sketch shows – particularly good ones – are a rare breed on the Fringe these days, and to get this level of energetic professionalism at an afternoon free show has to be a bargain of Aldi proportions! Honestly though, these guys are so good I will definitely try to get along to their non-free show at the Pleasance – which incidentally they were hot-footing it to just as the show at the CC ended. Until the 24th August every day @ 16.15 at The City Cafe; and then at the Pleasance Courtyard @ 17.45.

Serendipity is a wonderful thing and it does happen – quite frequently I’m glad to say – on the Fringe. Walking along the Cowgate, looking for our next show, we were accosted – in the nicest possible way – by Mark Simmons; the time and the place (20.00 @ Just the Tonic, The Mash House) suited so we went along; glad we did as an hour in ‘Mr‘ Simmons company is a very satisfying one indeed. Very much in the Tim Vine mould with loads of one-liners, visual gags and a few slow burn set-pieces that resolve themselves very nicely. A bit more laid back than Mr Vine, with a gentle Kentish-lad-accented delivery  and more than a passing resemblance (self-acknowledged) to Ed Sheeran, Mark has bags of star and ‘alternative-heartthrob’ potential – if the younger girls in the front row were anything to go by…  So instead of staying in to watch Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy or going to see Tim Vine interview members of the audience get yourself along to see Mark Simmons do what they used to do – ie being funny, creative and engaging. You won’t regret it!Mark Simmons

Finished the night with the totally manic Japanese Terminatol at The Free Sisters (Maggie’s Front Room @ 22.15). Energetic, sweaty and just a little bonkers – Hiroshi Shimizu has balls of steel (if not epic size – one of the stereotypes explored) doing his stand-up routine in English (admittedly he probably wouldn’t have a terribly big audience if it was in Japanese). A fascinating and breakneck journey through racial stereotypes – not just Japanese and British – using characters like Superman and Godzilla as cyphers. Well worth a view if you’re in the vicinity at the time. Hiroshi also does a mind-bogglingly early show at the same venue at 10am – moving to a 9am (!!!) slot the following week. So if you need something other than caffeine to kick-start your day – he’s your go-to-guy!

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