I’ve just returned from four glorious days in sunny Edinburgh (it seems wrong to say…), basking in comedic and theatrical genius with the odd road bump along the way. Last year I reviewed in depth everything I saw. However this year it wasn’t possible for 3 reasons.
1# I was there with my girlfriend who wakes up early (unlike my mate Chris who I went with last year who sleeps like a corpse til 11am) so my writing time wasn’t there.
#2 I didn’t take my laptop and have stubby fingers so didn’t attempt writing on Louise’s iphone, also the hostel no longer had a free-to-use PC in the lounge.
#3 It was a holiday so I thought i’d just enjoy it.
Anyway, here’s what I saw (in 3 and a bit days) and what I thought!
Andrew Bird’s Global Village Fete: A bit of an average show to be honest, thematically inconsistent, using the framing device of trying to organise a tour of his previous show felt staged and unconvincing, he’s really funny and you warm to him instantly, but this show didn’t really feel as well thought out, structured or planned as last years brilliant show.
Al Pitcher – Tiny: An improvised show based around a series of funny pictures that Al’s taken round the city. Sounds like a recipe for disaster but actually showed how stunningly good a comedian he is with a little material. Reminded me a bit of Ross Noble, a great fun performer to see.
Hal Cruttenden: Another great show, a political edge examining the contrasting sides of Hal’s personality, actor or hardman, which ended brilliantly. A really strong piece, that felt well structured and well rounded from a performer it’s really easy to like.
Guilt & Shame: I wasn’t sure I’d like this to be honest, it sounded a bit like a classic, “we did some drugs now look at us”, and to an extent it is. However, while it’s not the deepest, most effecting show I saw, I really enjoyed it, it was silly, clever, filthily dirty and with some absolutely terrific acting and the best use of music I’ve seen.
Jollyboat: Genius. From the free fringe, this is how musical comedy should be done, the songs are witty and clever, long enough to get the message across and extract the juicy potential of the joke yet short enough to feel they’re not milking it. A bit of work on persona and developing interlinking sections and maybe audience interaction and this would get the extra star to make it five.
Max & Ivan are… Con Artists: Character based comedy based on the recent glut of heist movies. Two brilliant performers who stormed and sweated through an hour of the most entertaining heist movie references developing strong and nuanced characters. The story was loose and ridiculous and it felt like the ending was perhaps a little rushed, maybe to fit in the time slot, but a good play for anyone!
Axis Of Awesome: 2011 they were brilliant, 2012 made me really angry. I paid to see this, poor interaction, pop culture references 10 years out of date, lazy execution and tedious songs… WHY WHY WHY. Sorry chaps, didn’t enjoy this one, it felt a bit like meeting a girl who’s really hot, and in the past she didn’t know she was hot and that was adorable, but now everyone’s told her they want to do bad things with her and she’s changed. Axis, you’ve changed. I love your work and I really want you to blow my mind.
Mark Watson: The Information: A solid hour from Mark Watson, he’s very easy to like and this show about the information we freely distribute around the internet was both fascinating and a little scary. It also reminded me never to mess with Mark Watson as behind that chilled out friendly exterior is a bit of a demon. A very very funny demon.
The Boy With Tape On His Face: Amazing, funny, silly, daft, silent. Sometimes you see someone doing something really original and different and it makes you curse and wish you’d come up with a concept so good. This is one of those.
Daniel Kitson: Where Once Was Wonder… I’m a big Daniel Kitson fan, he’s brilliant, the master of a turn of phrase and one of my comedy heroes. This of course sets me up for a fall, but he delivered again, and we laughed so much our faces hurt and I left feeling inspired and rejuvenated.
Daniel Bye: The Price Of Everything: A really clever show about value, how we attribute it and how we want to live our lives. It’s clever and uses techniques and elements commonly seen in standup, it maybe feels like it needs a bit of polish, but it’s inspiring, well written and makes you dream of a better world.
Daniel Kitson: As of 1.52pm GMT on Friday April 27th 2012, This Show Has No Title: Genius. Or massively arrogant and we’ve all been conned. I suspect a bit of both, and fair play, it worked for me, a great show, insightful, clever and structurally perfect. I can’t tell you what happens in case someone searches online as I don’t want to spoil it, I imagine some people will hate it (as they are well within their rights to), but I thought it was great. It should also be noted that Daniel (or Mr Kitson) walked into the theatre just in front of us and I froze and couldn’t ask for a photo – I have now done this with 2 of my heroes (Richard Schiff – who I met at York Theatre Royal), and I can’t decide if this makes me a better person or a cowardly twat.
Piff The Magic Dragon: Didn’t really like it to be honest, it’s a magic/comedy show, and it’s shy about containing the magic part. A clever idea, maybe inspired by Tommy Cooper thematically, but he made comedy from his failures and then just as you doubted him, added in a showstopping successful trick. This needed some overwhelming tricks to counteract the undewhelming deliberate failures.
Markus Birdman: A brilliantly under rated comedian, funny, clever, with a great narrative to his show, brilliant comic timing and an impressive ability at artwork. One of our favourite shows, and, I really, really hope he gets a break and is seen by a wider audience!
Tony Law: Utter Noonsence: And something mad to finish with, Tony Law is surreal, he doesn’t do conventional, he breaks convention with a stick then kicks it to death. He’s also tremendously funny, and honest, it’s rare a comedian admits he doesn’t know how to end a show, but to embrace and use that? That’s genius.
(Apologies for the writing of these mini-reviews, I’ve just got back from a 5hr train journey and I’m really tired… Best, Sam)