DarkChat - Reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe since 2008

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Reviews 2012

Sunday 12th August



Domestic Science

The Canon's Gait 12.10



Compered by scientific couple Helen Arney and Rob Wells, this midday show at Canonsgate showcased a series of sketches, stand-up and science with two special guests from around the fringe thrown into the equation for good measure. So, does 3S(HA+RW+2SG) =FUN? Well, yes, as a matter of fact it does.


Arney and Wells are likeable hosts, occasionally quite funny, and are clearly enjoying the experience of delivering show on subjects they clearly feel passionately about; science and one another. They reminisce about their first date, moving in together, and writing a pilot for a sketch comedy which, sadly, we were forced to sit through on a few too many occasions. Our advice; it worked once, drop the second and third iterations.


The guests were there to fill in a (suspected) lack of material, which we felt was quite a shame as there was a lot less ‘science’ in domestic science than we were hoping for, and perhaps less time could have been devoted to the plugging of two other shows, and more on concentrating on the show we came to watch – especially as one of the acts forgot her lines and seemed as though she really didn’t want to be there. We hope she is not a recurring guest!


Overall this is a solid, if unspectacular, midday show that deserves to part of the (free) fringe.  (PW & L)



Carnival of Crows

Laughing Horse @Three Sisters 13.30



‘Little Friday Theatre’ bring their Edinburgh debut with ‘Carnival of Crows’, a one-woman horror tale of puppetry, poetry and (p)comedy. The show stars Poppy, our storyteller, and head on a journey through the twisted tales of a corrupt carnival making its way to the city for a large, unsuspecting audience.


The stage is dark and gothic, the props a menagerie of twisted puppets and figures, and the music a constant thorn on your nerves. Combined, these make for a stunningly atmospheric setting for the show, but even they pale in comparison to the performance before our eyes. It is not simply a one-woman show because there is only one performer, it is a one-woman show because Molly Beth White dominates it will skill and grace from start to finish. Her transformation into depressed puppets and dancing crows has to be seen to be believed, and the tale of the demise of Edward B Friday is a true showcase of ‘creepy genius at work’.


In short, it was a throat-slitting ride, and as we scraped our jaws along the floor in awe during our exit, we look forward to what this highly-promising company has in store for us next year. (PW & DC)



Chris Corcoran and Elis James - The Committee Meeting

Uunderbelly - The Wee Coo 13.30    



After enjoying Elis James’ solo stand up show in 2009 (despite the venue resembling a sauna), Darkchat decided to catch him again in 2012.  One Darkchatter had already seen and enjoyed The Committee Meeting on tour in Wales, so when two Darkchatters went to the Wee Coo, it was possible to compare notes afterwards.  Any fears that an Edinburgh audience would be mystified by some of the Welsh references seemed to be unfounded, with the audience quickly grasping the concept of the show and throwing themselves into the bizarre world of the social committee.


Without giving too much away, the cast play a variety of characters, proving their talents extend beyond stand up comedy.  There is a lot of audience involvement and the rapport between cast and audience provided some great comedy moments.


The apparently shambolic nature of the show – including a stolen prop – and the cast’s improvisations, added to the charm and everyone, including the cast, seemed to be having fun.


The audience was relatively small for this show and with the fierce competition for audience numbers at the Fringe, perhaps a ‘two for one’ offer on tickets would give this show the bigger audience it deserves. (AC & L)



Comedy Manifesto

Ciao Roma 15.20



Venues for the free fringe can play a massive part in the success of a show. Some offer large stages, electric fans and cheap beers, whilst others cram you into the corner of a dark cellar and ask you to sweat through sixty minutes of blindness; the venue for Comedy Manifesto falls into the latter of the two categories.


And so we face a conundrum; reviewing a show we could barely see or hear. Well, it was over a week into the fringe, so you would have expected the performers to have made some attempt at a solution to this by now; standing up, for example, might’ve been a good and simple place to start. But then, as they hadn’t bothered to come up with any material in two years, it’s unlikely they’d care enough to afford us the privileged of seeing their mouths move as the ghetto blaster in the back played out their pre-recorded responses. In fact, maybe there wasn’t even anyone there at all, and that’s why we couldn’t see them?


Tired, formulaic and repetitive, the comedy manifesto have become the ‘Hearsay’ of the free fringe, and we all know what happened to that bunch of losers!  (PW & L)



Fat Kitten Goes Speed Dating

The Voodoo Rooms 16.50



There is a definite divide in the comedy world; those that see value in improvised comedy, and those that see it as a load of unfunny people performing a fixed routine onstage with only slight alterations to kid the audience into believing that what they are seeing is spontaneous.


Whatever your opinion is that’s up to you, but when done correctly, improvised comedy has the potential to be hilarious and unique. Beforehand we felt it relied heavily on the quality of the performers, but after seeing this show we feel there is more to it than that; the games they choose to ‘play’ are perhaps even more important, and this is where the show fell flat on its feline face. The concept of audience-suggestions ‘speed dating’, with their personalities dependent upon the luck of drawing playing cards seemed imaginative, and it was, the first time. And the second time. The third less so. And the as for the fourth…


And so this was the problem; after ten minutes we’d seen everything the show and the performers had to offer, with a further fifty minutes of repetition to follow. Surely the group must have more ideas in their locker, and it’s a shame they restricted themselves to just one. We hope there is more to see, otherwise we suggest a scenario involving a bag and a river for this particular litter of kittens!  (PW & L)




Assembly Inverleith Allotments 18.00



Everyone knows there are an increasing amount of performances in the Edinburgh festival, a lot of which  are comedy or generic student shows in stuffy, hot, cramped venues. Each year it becomes harder to uncover different and unusual events.


Site specific shows occasionally appear each year and though the weather in Scotland's capital is changeable ( to say the least) it is generally worth checking out those performances set outdoors.


Nutshell theatre's " Allotment" amazingly is set  in an allotment in Inverleith. To be fair I doubt if many people make the trip to a venue in A1 of the fringe brochure but the journey itself is worth the admission price alone. We haven't visited this area for a long time and it was lovely being re-united with the lovely sights of Inveleith Park and the Botanic gardens. It was so peacfeul and tranquil you would not have known there was a festival going on until you reach the designated allotment and are warmly greeted with a lovely cup of tea and a scone.


The show revolves around two sisters, Dora & Maddy from childish exuberance to ageing resentment. The gardens are a vital ingredient of the play but it is the quality of writing acting that grips the audience from beginning to end. Nicola Jo Cully and Gowan Calder beautifully capture the essence of these souls over countless decades without ever resulting to caricature or mawkishness. The weather was kind & as the play reached its climax the sun made a welcome appearance just at the most opportune moment.


This reviewer was enchanted and moved. Please go, but take time to enjoy the beautiful scenery around you. (DC & AC)



Andrew O'Neill and Marc Burrows Do MUsic & Comedy and Hideous Murders

Canons Gait 19.15



2 years ago "The Men Who Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing" won the DARKCHAT award for Best Music. Last year Marc Burrows won the DARKCHAT award for Best Free Show so the expectations were high for his show at Canon's Gait.


These were somewhat tempered with the news that Andrew O'Neill would not appear tonight as he had a better gig elsewhere. However, Marc Burrows had wisely recruited three comedians to fill the gap.


He still gamely played and sang a few numbers from his band, impressively as normally he is only the bass player. Despite a big build-up I was expecting some generic unknown free comedians and was surprised to discover the opening act was Wil Hodgson with a highly impressive set ( a possible addition to next year's spreadsheet). He was followed by Rob Auton, hitherto unknown to me, discussing his love for the colour yellow and his sketch about a builder mistakenly painting his room maroon is one of my festival highlights. ( He is a definite for next year's spreadsheet if he returns).


Sadaly, the final comedian (whose man I thankly can't remember) had no discernible material instead spending too much time finding out exactly why a couple were late and asking what a heckler didn't like about him. Fortunately, the man concerned decided not to provide a full critique of how this performer had forgotten the basic role of a comedian, TO BE FUNNY.


This was a strange show. It was still enjoyable though, any chance to hear songs from our favourite Steam Punk band is always appreciated. It must be stressed that this performance was a one-off and when Mr O'Neill returns the show will return to its normal format. Go and see what we missed. (DC & AC)



Dracula: Sex, Sucking and Stardom

Paradise in The Vault 20.40



Edinburgh’s fondest memories are often of those shows that really shatter your expectations, in either a good or a bad way. We confess to having had low expectations of a ‘comedy based on a classic horror novel’ and justifiably so, but we left feeling that strangest of emotions; thoroughly overwhelmed at having been proved so very, very wrong.


In spite of this three-male cast having to make a last-minute female substitution through illness, and resultantly having a script-in-hand performer on stage, ‘Last Chance Saloon’ performed a simply hilarious portrayal of Bram Stoker’s classic. Using sketch comedy, songs, minimal props and references to Andrew Lloyd Webber, the performers managed to make fifty minutes disappear in what seemed like a matter of seconds. This was as close to absurd comedy perfection as Edinburgh potentially has to offer, with only a disappointingly average final five minutes adding any sort of negative to procedures. We can only imagine what the show would have been like with its intended cast.


All we can say is this; go and see it, or we’ll be even more disappointed with you than you should be with yourself.  (PW, L, DC & AC)




Dan Mitchell - Free Egg

Assembly Roxy 22.30



Dan Mitchell is a friend. I know him and met him in Cardiff for a pre-Edinburgh interview. He is here due to reaching the final of ITV's " Show Me The Funny", which I think he should have won, but I am biased.


So, here he is in his 1st full length show at the festival with "Free Egg". No, this is not an inducement to gain a bigger audience with the promise of gaining complimentary farm produce but a vomit reference.


Dan Mitchell is not your average observational comedian. He sees things differently to the rest of us. Few comedians would appear on stage in a household appliance pretending to be a West End musical star singing an Andrew Lloyd Webber song. The focus of the story is what happened in his head when he was ill and unable to leave the house.


The material is solid and includes some tried and tested stories from previous shows but it is when he riffs with his audience that the evening comes alive. Suddenly his brain is in warp- factor drive and he is a Geordie seagull talking to other long-necked birds.


This is a highly enjoyable hour and depends upon the quality of the audience. If you supply sufficient ideas he will reward you with comedy gold. Sadly, he has yet to make a name for himself at the festival so audences could be bigger.


So do yourself a favour and go, then you can say " I saw Dan Mitchell before he was famous." (DC)




Casual Violence: A Kick in the Teeth

Just The Tonic 22.00



Darkchat prides itself on ‘discovering’ new sketch talent, charting their rise to stardom, and (often) witnessing their infrequent appearances on a variety of late night BBC3 comedy shows and the occasional television advert. Well, if ‘Casual Violence’ follows that route, we’ll eat one anothers’ heads.


A top sketch show generally includes a connected theme, some form of audience participation, jokes you don’t see coming, the occasional return of only the very best characters, and performers that are clearly in their natural element. Well, casual violence ditched these elements in favour of a more painful approach to comedy. Casual violence? Give us the more extreme version and put us out of our misery!


An amusing detective that narrated his own investigations was the highest of a very low series of points, but the sketch group managed to even ruin that by bringing him back on four more occasions! We left wishing we’d received a kick in the teeth long before the show even started; that way we could have spent a far more enjoyable evening bleeding on a crowded bench in a hospital A&E waiting room with the smell of vending machine coffee warming our nostrils. (PW & L)



Pappy's Flatshare Slamdown

Pleasance Courtyard 23.20



Have you ever had a night of very silly drunkenness and wondered to yourself  "Gee, I wonder how funny an audience would find this?"

Well, now we know, because this is basically the premise of Pappy’s late-night show at the Pleasance.


In the form of a ‘gameshow’ where points don’t really mean anything, the audience provide witticisms on various subjects (including a number of audience members) and get awarded credits or punishments – think of it as a sort of Mock the Week with slightly lesser-known comedians.


As with the aforementioned panel show, the strength is always dependent on the quality of the performers, and thankfully Pappy’s are sufficiently skilled and likeable to pull off a good show, as were the two special guests that accompanied them. Their exploits will be available as an online podcast, and though we won’t exactly be rushing to experience them, we did enjoy being a ‘spectator of silliness’ for a small fee.  (PW & L)