Wednesday August 12th
12:50 John Hegley - The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet - Pleasance Courtyard
This year was the 20th anniversary of our first John Hegley Edinburgh Festival siting. One of the most charismatic and personable performers, this poet/comedian has an effortless control over his material and audience. Increasingly, he dwells upon his French roots and interest in art.
Not many performers have the confidence to ask (and act upon) their audience's opinions to new poems in this top quality opening show of his 2009 run, even if two of us were called scum when eliciting our response! A perennial delight.
15:10 Show With No Name - Counting House
After showing up for an Oscar Wilde play to discover it was cancelled and being replaced by an hour of stand-up comedy, it was annoying to still be waiting for the comedy an hour later. What was on during the hour was an impressionist who did impressions of people no-one in the audience had ever heard of, an American woman who embarrassingly thanked the audience for being wonderful after not laughing even once, and two young men who shouted a lot. Awful; deserves to have no name.
16:00 Noir - Gilded Balloon
The Edinburgh Fringe is all about trying different types of entertainment. In contrast to the endless diet of comedy, 'Noir' is an evocation of 40's detective and black and white movies through music, acrobatics and movement.
Recommended if you want to try something a little different.
16:20 - The 80's Movies Flashback - Counting House
Thumbs up to the idea but every fibre of your being down to the pitiful execution. 20 years after lighting up our screens, the characters (not the actors) of famous 80s movies such as Back to the Future and Top Gun return to discuss what they’ve been doing in that time; if only they hadn’t bothered. Awful performances, limited co-ordination and no jokes ensured the only memorable thing about it was the soundtrack, which deserved at least a point.
18:30 - Lilly Through The Dark - Bedlam Theatre
Absolutely brilliant, Tim Burton-esque. Father dies and Lilly travels to find him. Tears all round, highly moving and puppets. Go!
19:00 - Tom Wrigglesworth's Open Return Letter to Richard Branson - Pleasance Garden
A gentle tale told by a very likeable comedian; when travelling to London, the artist in question overhears a train conductor charge an elderly lady £115 for a ticket as the ticket she held was only valid for a later train. Continually amusing and quite funny rather than hilarious, this was an enjoyable early evening show that highlighted the comedian’s ability to entertain. Will be interesting to see him in a different light during the next festival.
20:15 Dark Angels - The Royal College of Surgeons
Unnecessarily complicated plot, badly acted, singing little better. 'Obsession is my profession, this is my confession' So bad a member of the audience collapsed with narcolepsy.
20:30 The Penny Dreadfuls Present... The Never Man - Pleasance Courtyard
It really is worth saving the best till last. A wonderful mystery play centred on a man who wakes up on a mystifying theme-park island with no recollection of who he is or how he got there. The performances are wonderful, the characters larger than life (who will ever forget the Welsh butchers?), the jokes non-stop, and the plot captivating. Each scene begins and ends stronger than the last - The Penny Dreadfuls once more deliver a perfect ten (to most Darkchatters)!
22:15 Bongo Club Cabaret - The Bongo Club
Divided Darkchat. Something for everyone or a practical demonstration of the reason why variety died out. An excellent compere, Dusty Limits, introduced some hit and miss acts including excellent acrobats, a dire comedian (Carey Marx) and the most frightening way to eat a banana!
Thursday 13th August
12:00 Matinee - Pleasance Dome
Really good fun, acting out scenes from films eg Superman, Bruce Lee... No props and few words. 4 guys and a girl. Nothing you've not seen before perhaps but a superb 'Thriller' dance finale.
12:45 Been So Long - Traverse
Despite being a musicals fan, the phrase new British musical normally sends a shiver down my spine. However "Been So Long" proved to be an enjoyable exception.
A character driven piece about loves lost and found in a bar with good songs expressing the feelings of the characters. The performers impressively managed that rare combination of superb singing and impressive acting abilities.
It was also a welcome change to see hand-held microphones instead of the annoying "Madonna" face-mics.
14.30 Bach Cello Suites. St Andrews and St Georges church.
A largeish audience of mixed ages for a gentle relaxed afternoon of Bach. Not perhaps the best performed recital ever seen but an oasis of calm amidst a hurricane of culture outside.
19:30 Kit & The Widow 'All That Twitters' - Stage By Stage
Perennial double act with polished topical humour, especially a hilarious song about the food at Nandos.
And one Darkchatter got to see Kit wash his van, having adopted, as he said "The Alan Bennett Lifestyle". A welcome return to form.
20:30 Janeane Garofalo - The Gilded Balloon
A dismal performance at Latitude and disappointing reviews made me regret my pre-Festival ticket purchase. Fortunately, with expectations lowered, I was pleasantly surprised by the aggressive stand up from the likeable American comedian.
I smiled through most of the show but it wasn't until her unexpected closing rant about the porcelain-like Natalie Portman that I laughed out loud.
22:05 Mikelangelo and the Black Sea Gentleman 'Dead Men Tell A Thousand Tales' - Assembly at the Mound.
It shouldn't have worked but somehow it did. Each member of the group shared the glory of an unusual combination of Eastern European and Rockabilly music. A strange ending with Mikelangelo (bearing a strong resemblance to Terry Scott) returning in swimming trunks and showing he was no Chippendale but much funnier and more charismatic.
An astonishing end to a true Edinburgh Fringe Festival day.
Friday 14th August
12:45 Helen Keen 'The Primitive Methodist Guide to Artic Survival' - The Gilded Balloon
Helen Keen's look at artic exploration was both funny and interesting. A likeable and accomplished performer. One to watch for the future. Oh and one Darkchatter got to be an iceberg.
17:10 Nicholas Parsons' Happy Hour - Pleasance Courtyard
I can't say that I was looking forward to this show but one of the best parts of the Festival is being proved wrong. The packed show began with the veteran broadcaster winning over his audience with highly amusing patter, including chatting to most of the front row and answering an audience member's mobile phone.
Next time I shall go earlier in the week, as today's three guests, Daniel Sloss, Barbershopera, Jo Caulfield all sold their shows so well I wanted to see them. Oh well, there's always next year.
19:00 Barb Jungr Sings Songs Of War And Peace 'Tell It As It Is' - Queens Hall
This Darkchat favourite chose some very dark songs to reflect the times but lightened the mood between them with some very amusing stories. A true emotional rollercoaster - we cried. A marvellous singer at her very best who deserves a wider audience.
22:00 Camille O'Sullivan 'The Dark Angel' - The Assembly on the Mound
'PJ Harvey in cabaret on acid' Singing David Bowie, Nick Cave, Edith Piaf and, most surprisingly, doing monkey impressions. And she touched my ear.
24:00 Adam, Jason & Friends - Assembly on the Mound
For the second year running, ended our Festival with Hills, Byrne & Friends. The show lived up to expectations with guests including Tao, the bizarre but amusing Pyjama Men and Sarah Millican who won over the late night audience with some very funny and surprising rude material. A perfect end to another great week.