Wednesday 18th August
Exceptionally Average – 2/10
Midday comedy at the Counting House is generally best avoided, but against all advice young, heroic, sexy Darkchatter Pippin felt compelled to experience it at least once this summer, and handed the gauntlet to Dave Baucot to prove you can find comedy in that darkest of venues (other than the goalkeeping of Pepe Reina, that is). As it turned out, laughs were indeed few and far between (I spent the last twenty minutes looking in my empty coke glass for some but, alas, to no avail (but for a quid in the bucket at the end I hardly feel cheated. It’s called ‘exceptionally average’, and he just couldn’t compete with those kinds of high expectations.
Brotherhood of the Leaky Boot – 4.5/10
Last year’s favourites ‘Four Sad Faces’ return, minus two of the sad faces but with a 31-year old guy with a speech impediment in tow. Thankfully, there were enough sad faces amongst the Darkchatters in the crowd to make up the numbers. In short, this was very disappointing – we expected them to go forward, and they’ve instead rammed the car into reversed and backed into some mad old bint pushing a shopping cart. Belly laughs had been replaced by gentle ripples of chuckling – mostly by the cast as they made fun of the new guy’s age. No classic ‘Tetris’ and ‘Burger King’ sketches to remember this time, just…oh, we’ve already forgotten.
G3 : The Ginge, Geordie and Geek – 9/10
To put it simply, this is how sketch comedy should be done; fantastic. If we had to be honest, it started a tad weak for our liking, but come the third sketch we started laughing and I don’t think we stopped until we landed in Bristol over 12 hours later. Probably the most complete balance of writing and performance we saw at Edinburgh this year; these guys used every sketch trick in the book – props, recurring characters, music, audience participation, references to modern culture, the odd spot of nudity – with impressive brilliance. Oh, and a shoe-in for ‘Best Ending’ of the festival – hilarious.
Tom Wrigglesworth’s Nightmare Dream Wedding – 7.75/10
We return to the land of the Wrigglesworth, and immediately apologise to three ladies for unintentionally joining the queue at the front rather than the back! Still, we made it in and enjoyed another gentle chapter from Tom’s life; this time the disastrous few months leading up to his wedding. We weren’t sure if it was brave or lazy to devote an entire 60 minutes to a subject that every comedian in history has used for material at some point, and although we doubted the validity of a lot of it (getting thrown out of a Jeremy Kyle show for being offensive? Getting mixed up with a Mr Wragglesworth?) we enjoyed but feel it will be our last visit to the world of Mr W.
Idiots of Ants – 8.1/10
Another hilarious and extremely impressive sketch outing from ‘The Idiots’. In terms of what’s on offer at Edinburgh, they really put on the most complete show. They once more wowed us with technology, engaged with the audience (though the less said about the particular members of the audience they had the misfortune of engaging with the better), entered a video game, smashed the boundaries of sexism, spat over one another, showed a bit of flesh, and rounded things off nicely with a picture of said audience member. The problem is, we came away divided; we’d seen it all before, and for some that wasn’t quite good enough.
Greg Davies – 8.5/10
Q – How does a male comedian get a high vote from a certain long-legged Darkchat member?
A – Get him up on stage in the first minute and give him a really big hug!
The 6’8 comedian took us down memory lane to experience some of those pointless moments in life that stick in the mind without ever really justifying their presence there; fathers, school experiences and University featured heavily. It’s a far from groundbreaking prospect, and we feel your enjoyment of the show will hinge on how much you like Greg himself. Thankfully, we approved and rate this show highly!
Penelope - 8/10
Based on the Greek myth of Penelope, Enda Walsh has created an intoxicating play about 4 men trapped in their own Homeric legend. The men live in an empty swimming pool and are competing for the hand of Penelope to save them from their fate. Each displaying a different type of maleness, one by one they soliloquise their apparent love for Penelope and their desire to stay alive. Their quests turn out to be tragic and hopeless. But Walsh’s wordplay is lyrical and punch drunk, and gives this play its beauty. Brilliantly acted, it is a delight to watch.
Holly Burn - 1.5/10
Where to start?! There is a point to Holly Burn’s show, but for the life of me...god knows what it is. At best, this could be seen (maybe) as “alternative”, along the same lines as The Frank Chickens, or Frank Sidebottom. But I suspect, it’s just a shambles. One which, Holly is obviously oblivious too! The show starts with her death and ends with her birth. Where Jason the Incredibly Rich Tiger comes in, lord knows. The audience were staggered. In their shock and bewilderment, they could only laugh at her. And yet, everyone should see this show. It’s so bad, it has to be witnessed. Believe me, a cult classic in the making. As they say, if only you see one show, make this the one.
La Petite Mort - 7/10
Not just a cabaret show, this is an informative lecture on the history of the orgasm and the vibrator! Not as outrageous as it may like to think of itself, La Petite Mort is an enjoyable way to spend an hour. The songs are original and well sung and the singer engages well with the audience. But the show is just too polite. The singer could be saucier, or sassier. The songs could be racier. Although it received good reviews at last year’s fringe, if it is to return next year, it needs to be bolder. Otherwise, it will never contend with the likes of Meow Meow.
Loretta Maine - 9/10
Whoever says, girls can’t do comedy, should go and see Loretta Maine. Loretta is Pippa Evan’s alter ego, a pitch perfect parody of a “typical” female rock star (Courtney Love anyone?). With her band, DogVagina, Loretta sings tales of relationship break ups, how she hates her mum (and Sarah Perkins) and how bland and boring Katie Melua is (no one would disagree with that). All the while, swigging from a wine bottle. Loretta is cool. The sell out crowd thought so too. The songs are well constructed, Pippa can sing and builds a great rapport with the audience. The show has been receiving some good vibes at the festival. But, in the words of Loretta Maine, if you didn’t enjoy the show...just fuck off home.
Delete The Banjax - 8.75/10
A triumvirate of sketch acts rule the Edinburgh roost. Idiots of Ants, Pappy's and the indomitable Penny Dreadfuls have existed on a higher plane these last few years, but in Delete the Banjax, the future is emerging.
Led by the energetic Dan Cook (face of an angel, voice of a pervert), Delete the Banjax lay the charm on thick and, in contrast to some more established acts, each person has his or indeed her own, obvious comedic identity. The production values aren't as high as their more known counterparts, but firstly, it adds to their charm, and secondly, that will increase as they establish themselves, which with this show, they surely will.
Excellent writing, top-end performances and a real zeal and enthusiasm make the Delete the Banjax experience a highlight of this year's festival and it's with great interest I wait to see where they go from here.
Non-Conformists Guide to Civic Responsibility - 7/10
Radio 4 allowed Andrew Lawrence to broadcast his wryly amusing themed monologues. The DARKCHAT reviewer arrived alone and left alone. No-one fainted, fell asleep or vomited. (See reviews for The Vaudevillains/ Ray Bradbury 2116 and Carnivale). RESULT.
Ray Bradbury 2016 - 2/10
There are some shows that should never be made into a musical. And alas, this is one. Not that it’s awful or badly acted; it’s just dull. The story of creating life sized dolls that turn out to be menacing isn’t exactly new; we’ve all seen something similar in any black and white horror films, or in the Twilight Zone. If the show had stopped there, it may have been short but the audience would have been saved being bored until they were finally allowed to clap. It’s a shame, as the performances are worthy of a better script and show. But this musical should disappear into its very own twilight zone.
Curiosity Killed the Cabaret - 8.2/10
One of the bonuses of coming to the second week of the Fringe is taking advantage of the free BBC Radio shows. This usually turns up some unexpected gems and Curiosity Killed the Cabaret is one of these.
Hosted by the delightful Ali McGregor this was a quick trip through some of the best cabaret style shows of the festival. The strangeness of these acts was perfectly showcased and the opening number Sweet Child O' Mine played by the Oompah band and showing the vocal dexterity of the Australian Chanteuse.
Other acts included the Fitzrovia Radio Hour recreating their four-minute mystery which we had seen the previous day but was oddly funnier today as we had better seats to see their hysterical and very precise hatwork (which is not a phrase you ever think you'll say!) The diverse strangeness of this style was epitomised by the appearance of Asher Treleaven reading a surprisingly smutty Mills & Boon passage, the old-fashioned impersonations of Anil Desai and the sophisticated musical musings of Frisky & Mannish in a cleverly, witty combination of Noel Coward and Lily Allen songs!
All to soon it was the final number with all the acts and audience combining in a surprisingly fine full version of Bohemian Rhapsody. As well as enjoying the programme on it's own merits, these variety ttype shows allow you to sample brief snapshots of other acts you wouldn't normally see. I've therefore added Ms McGregor, Asher Treleaven and Frisky & Mannish to next year's 'Should see list.'
Thursday 19th August
John Hegley - Morning Wordship - 8/10
You can never be disappointed with John Hegley. But I also thought you could never be surprised with him either. But I’m glad to say, that I was wrong. There was more youthful energy and vigour in Hegley. And he did not fail to disappoint. There were more tales of his family and witty interchanges with the audience. And of course, there were his ditties on glasses and his bungalow in Luton. Hegley is the Edinburgh version of a comfy pair of slippers; but this is a good thing. Sublime and deadpan. Hegley is god.
Bosnich 2 - 5.9/10
Quarter past noon in an almost empty late night venue where the bar hadn't yet opened is not the most promising place to see stand-up. Fortunately after Darkchatter Allden professionally controlled the host's opening music and he (the host not Rick) uncovered the fact that I had been to Kiev (in Ukraine no the chicken!) we were into an hour of surprisingly impressive comedy. Some acts were better than others but the highlights were a highly confident lady singer with comedy songs (that were actually funny) and an old fashioned monologue (my favourite sketch this festival) about a Radio 4 presenter having to improvise an episode of The Archers.
Overall a successful journey into lunchtime free fun, proving good comedy doesn't just exist with overpriced TV comedians at the main venues. Take a chance, it is worth it.
Ed Reardon - 8.2/10
Our favourite current radio show is Ed Reardon's Week, so it was a no brainer to clear our schedule to see a live recording at The Pleasance. We were excited to see Jonathan Price outside the venue and were hopeful he would make a guest appearance but oddly he was merely an audience member.
Instead of his usual supporting cast he was backed by two actors appearing in the Fringe to portray actors reading from his back catalogue of work. The strength of this show is the combination of beatifully crafted and funny lines (with plenty of Radio 4 style references) and the deadpan delivery of Christopher Douglas (also the co-writer) in the title role.
As ever Ed Reardon berates the fates that have prevented him from receiving the writing success he feels he deserves and today we hear excerpts from Educating Peter, Bloodsisters and amongst some of his plays just not in the right place at the right time.
A highly enjoyable hour including some great off-air comments about the age of Radio 4 Commissioning Editors. If you don't know the show please seek it out, you won't be disappointed.
Metamorphosis - 7/10
Having not read any Kafka (is it ok to admit that?!?), I wasn't sure what to expect. Another hot, humid and swamp like venue didn't bode well. And on being invited in by the cast to sit on cushions, in easy reach of the actors, I begin to feel distinctly uneasy. But I'm glad to be proved wrong, as this is a throughly enjoyable production.
Any concerns that this would be a dry and dusty production were quickly swpet away. Extremely well acted (all enduring extreme conditions) by such a young cast, the audience were kept fully engaged. The atmosphere rightfully grew in glominess as the play unfolded, until we were all shrouded in sadness by the end.
No need for applause, the actors imploring us to leave by handing the audience bags and jackets; this was a remarkable experience. And if you wish to support young and flourishing talent, do go and see this production. You won't be disappointed.
Metamorphoses - 6.75/10
Following ticket confusion DARKCHATTERs headed off to two different but similarly named productions. Whilst our colleague set off for Franz Kafka's "Metamorphosis" we attended the Yvonne Arnaud production at the Vault. For once a show starting late (this was a theme of this year's fringe, a throw-back to a less professional era) worked in our favour as we were running late.
At this stage of the week I found afternoon shows (especially in an intimate warm venue) are most likely to find me closing my eyes and grabbing a quick power nap. However, the quality of the acting and production ensured that I remained conscious, always a good sign when attempting to write a review.
I can't say I was overly aware of Ovid's classic so the opening scene clearly explaining the role of the author of narrator was well done and appreciated. Once the story progressed we basically followed the exploits of Orpheus in the Underworld, a more familiar story.
For a young cast the acting was consistently high throughout with impressive production values for a small venue. A highly restful diversion in a noisy boisterous festival. A company to be followed in the future.
Colin Hoult -Enemy of the World - 9/10
It's with no little trepidation that I tend to visit shows based on nothing more than Twitter instructions from comedians who I've decided to stalk SLASH follow. A one man show too? Eek.
Ludicrously lacking a nomination for a Fosters award, Colin Hoult's show is nothing short of spellbinding and undoubtedly one of the best things at the Fringe, this year or any other.
He inhabits each character so completely, that at no point does it feel like a one man show (and in honesty, his eerie musical support is further proof).
His songs are catchy, his monologues funny and unexpectedly moving. And all the while, the mood he creates is magical.
If you've seen the score already, I only haven't given 10 because a couple of characters are somewhat crowbarred into his theme of evil, and I'm sure future shows will redress this.
I've a select few acts upon whom my Edinburgh trips are planned. Colin Hoult is now Captain of that ship.
Mesmerising. And all with the lead in Gutted! The musical later in the day. An incredible talent that I feel fortunate to have seen.