DarkChat - Reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe since 2008

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Reviews 2011


Monday 15th August


Carl Sagan Is My God, Oh and Richard Fennyman Too 7.75/10 Review to follow


Determined to avoid a repeat of last year’s “Sorry, we’re full”, Darkchat arrived for this free, extremely popular dose of midday science 45 minutes early, and it’s a good job we did as the term ‘filled to the rafters’ has never been more fitting. Combining science, polymers, John Ottway, a bloke from Blue Peter and songs about…science, midday shows don’t come any better and more varied than this. We laughed, we wowed, and we came away singing songs about Bunsen Burners. The fifty minutes that flew by will be remembered fondly!



The Games - Zoo Roxy - 12.30pm - 8/10


The Spike Theatre are presenting an undiscovered comedy by Aristophanes at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with the accomplished cast of three (Liam Tobin, Jamie Wood and Lauren Silver) portraying both the gods on Olympus and mortals down below.  The audience warmed to the performance from the outset. Liam Tobin's range of facial expressions during the academic introduction effectively setting the tone of this romp through ancient Greece.


The performers fearlessly exploited the comic possibilities of their costumes.

Lauren Silver delight at her 'transformation' and Jamie Wood's breakdance

prompting considerable audience reaction early on in the show.  The expert

clowning skills of the cast were supported by inventive puppetry and the effective

use of music and sound effects (the Mission Impossible theme will never

seem the same again).  The pace didn't falter with some hilarious set pieces

including a truly memorable chariot race.


It was interesting that although the company did refer to contemporary culture

on occasion for punchlines, they largely ignored the comic possibilities of

comparison between ancient and modern sporting events and made no specific

reference to 2012. However, for an hour of silly fun, a moral ending with a cast of thousands and some of the worst puns on the Fringe, the Spike Theatre company is the team to beat.



4 Sad Faces, Suddenly  6.25/10


Reunited, no doubt in response to last year’s unfavourable Darkchat review, the 4 sad faces produced another free hour of fun, solidly entertaining and, at times, highly amusing sketches. After a strong opening, the show dipped into a barrage of ‘s’ words but recovered just in time for a strong, fond farewell. Still amateurish in their appearance and production, we fear that ‘the faces’ may never fulfil the potential we spotted in them 2 years ago, but so long as they’re okay with that then who are we to criticise?



Grisly Tales From Tumblewater 7/10


Billed as a tale where Dickens meets Shockheaded Peter, this is a tale from the co-writer of Hamlet! The Musical!  The story is set in Tumblewater, where it always rains and follows the orphan, Daniel Dorey as he stumbles upon and through the goings-on in the town. Much of its success is owed to the lone actor, who obviously relishes the challenge. His talent at acting and storytelling is abundant and he enthrals the audience. The problem with pieces such as this is that it falls somewhere between an adult and a child audience, as if it’s not sure which age group to aim for. It suffers from not being macabre or frightening enough to match something like Lullabies of Broadmoor. But it still has much to offer. The story creates the feeling of a Dickensian world; the plot is appropriately paced and when there is comedy, the audience do laugh. It’s worth seeing, if only on the performance alone.



The Gentlemen of Leisure Present : The Death Of The Novel 7.75/10


Amusing and highly likeable, the ‘GOL’ were two in number, and took us on a merry romp through the world of the novel; from its immaculate conception through to its, potential, online-based demise. If you want to know more, we strongly recommend you stump up the cash and make your way to the caves. If, however, you are reading Don Quixote, like reviewer David  (what are the chances of that?) and don’t want the ending spoiled, we suggest you give this one a miss.



Bepo & Co 5/10


 From the Unwish Theatre company which created the extraordinary Carnivale in 2010, this new piece was eagerly awaited by DarkChat.  The play follows the fortunes of a travelling circus troupe through the nineteenth and early twentieth century as they (rather unluckily) set up their Big Top at some of the flashpoints of the last hundred years.  An original idea perhaps but the endless catalogue of misfortunes and multitude of scenarios lessened the emotional impact, whilst over-direction of the young cast made the piece exhausting to watch.  


An ambitious concept, delivered with some panache but at a dizzying pace.  



The Ginge, the Geordie & the Geek – All New Show 7.5/10


The big question on everyone’s (well, Phil’s) lips: could the trio prove to be the Kings of sketch comedy once more? Well, based on this show they may have to settle for two Jacks and a ten of spades. They remain excellent performers that deliver high-octane sketches of true quality, but they appear to be on a downward slope. After peaking last year, they may find that ‘more of the same, less of the quality’ is not a favourable combination, and we urge them to invest in a breath of fresh air in time for next year, to ensure the bar doesn’t slip any further!



WitTank 9.38/10


So impressed were we last year with Wit-Tank that a full quota of Darkchatters returned for a second helping. Our hopes were high, but not even we expected to be served up a five-course banquet with champagne on tap and as much gammon as you could eat. This was sketch comedy at its very, VERY best, and our only worry was that we’d soon be forking out a tenner to see these guys in the Pleasance rather than £9 241 in the Caves. The performances matched the quality of the writing, and we laughed for 58 minutes, merely giggling through the scuba diver sketch. We recommend strongly!



Thom Tuck Goes Straight to DVD 8.33/10


Aka “the little Penny”, Thom Tuck took us on an interesting journey that navigated through every straight-to-DVD Disney animated sequel movie that had ever had the misfortune to grace HMV, with the occasional pit stop into moments of his personal life (yep, the old ‘break-up’ strikes again). Regardless of whether you have the fortune to see it in 3D or not, we’re certain you’ll enjoy this funny, entertaining hour of comedy delivered by a very naturally comedic performer. Whether you access the theme of the show or not, and not all of us did, the solo Pennies continue to impress.



Richard Herring : What Is Love Anyway?/10/10


I had worried that last year’s show, Christ on a Bike was Richard Herring’s pinnacle. That, when at last I had stumbled on his comedy, he had worked himself into a cul-de-sac of comedy brilliance. But I needn’t have worried. Herring’s “What is Love Anyway” equals, if not surpasses previous years. Coming on the stage to Howard Jone’s What is Love? Herring’s  show centres around seeking to define the concept of love, and then destroy it! He plunders his life experience with an astonishing honesty and his delivery is perfectly pitched to squeeze out every last laugh from the audience. Herring mocks his own teenage vitriolic poetry about a fellow inter-railer, a guy more sexually successful than him. And all the audience relates to the fact that holding hands in the playground is far less fun than playing British Bulldog! But the stories that really seal Herring’s comic talent is his grandma, Ferrero Roche and Julia Sawalha. An odd and eclectic mix! Herring holds the audience in his hands as the story of his relationship with Sawalha unfolds in all its painful comic timing. And the reasons for buying chocolate for a loved one is a tale of economic warning for any potential suitor. Herring’s talent is in the telling of his tales. He has a commanding stage presence that relishes details and the audience’s anticipation of plot. But there is a warmth and sensitivity to his material. In discussing his love for his grandma and her journey into dementia, you can feel that the audience are verging on tears with empathy. But Herring brings you back....glitter and snow globes. You know you shouldn’t laugh, but you have to. This is as good as comedy gets. A show that has no dips; Herring is faultless. So, if you want to find out what happens when you finally get to go out with the person you’ve been secretly stalking for years....go see Richard Herring. For many, he is their ideal man. That is, the head of Richard Herring and the body of Richard Herring. And we said nothing about them being attached.



Barry & Stuart – Show & Tell : The Show 5.5/10


After scaring Richard Herring and frowning furiously at the Hamiltons, Darkchat, Mr Cox in tow, took their seats in anticipation of laughter, screams and vomit (though the latter only directed at the Hamiltons sat behind us). Sadly, all three were missing from the ‘show’ – we use apostrophes there because we weren’t entirely sure whether we had witnessed a show, or merely a plug for the artists’ second show which started straight afterwards. Magician-hating Mr Cox described the act as ‘crap’, the performers as ‘smug’ (though that’s far kinder than how Katerina described them), and Christine Hamilton’s dress as just ‘too showy’. Overall, we were disappointed, and left wondering whether our money would’ve been better spent on Paul Daniels.



88MPH - The Caves 2.5/10


In spite of the title of the show, the fastest thing about this snore-inducing montage of sketches was the speed at which we made our way through the streets of Edinburgh to get to the blasted show. It all started brightly; Huey Lewis greeted us with his unmistakeable tones, and then we were whisked off to Wales for a Superman sketch. From then on, we got as much joy out of the show as if we’d been watching one another taking a crap on a sick, blind puppy. 88mph? We’re sure there’s a decimal point missing there somewhere.We actually had more fun trying to find our way out of the Caves & en masse we walked into another show in error. In retrospect we should have gone straight there!