DarkChat - Reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe since 2008

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Reviews 2011


Sunday 14th August


The Dark Philosophers  - Traverse Thetare - 1pm - 9.83/10


With a variety of DARKCHATTERs arriving shortly who specialise in comedy shows I thought I would grab as much drama now as possible. So, where better to start than a double-bill at The Traverse.


The irony being of course is that we had travelled from Cardiff to see the National Theatre of Wales’s latest offering. I was vaguely aware of the writer Gwyn Thomas mainly through an Anthony Hopkins BBC film “ Selected Exits” way back in 1993, but generally he is forgotten and over-looked.


This play beautifully captures both the joy and despair of living in rural Wales in the 1930/40s. Director Paul Hunter, however, ensures this is not a period piece by cleverly relating to the current audience with a reference to appearing at the Fringe.      


The play seamlessly intersperses Thomas’s life and death with two of his stories. This is one of those rare theatrical entertainments creating both huge laughs and then tears. The sequence re-creating his appearance on the Michael Parkinson show is one of this week’s great events while the despair of some of his characters is truly heart-breaking.


The acting throughout is nothing less than outstanding with strong performances from Daniel Hawksford, Ryan Hacker and in particular David Charles who moved  instantaneously into a variety of different characters. Credit must also go to Glyn Pritchard conveying the layers of the writer despite wearing a Greek chorus mask throughout.


A masterpiece.  



Ten Plagues  - Traverse Theatre - 3.45pm - 9/10


After the exhilaration of " The Dark Philosophers" and refreshed by some lovely haggis in the restaurant we were soon raring to return to Traverse One for " Ten Plagues".


You knew from the title that Mark Ravenhill's songspiel depicting one man's attempt to survive the plague in 1665 would not be a barrel of laughs. The choice of Marc Almond to bring these difficult songs to life was inspired as no-one can suffer musically like the former Soft-Cell lead singer.



Any fears I had that this idea couldn't sustain an hour's theatre were allayed as singer and writer beautifully conveyed the different emotions someone living through these extraordinary times would have experienced.


The occasional use of back projection helped to provide a kind of narrative but this is not just a historical drama. There is the underlying presence of the Aids epidemic made even more resonant by Marc Almond's own situation. We all knew he can sing but his voice now seems richer and fuller than ever. He has developed into an old-fashioned torch singer who is now one of the great interpreters of song.


Then just when you think your emotions have been wrung out there is an excellent and unexpected ending which will remain with you long after the show.


Another triumph for the Traverse.



Bosum Buddies - Hill Street Theatre - 5.30pm - 6/10


If you spend a week in Edinburgh there are bound to be some shows you regret seeing in hindsight. Sadly, " Bosom Buddies" was one of them. To be fair it was unlucky to follow shows of such quality as " A Clockwork Orange", " The Dark Philosophers" and " Ten Plagues" in a twenty-four hour period.


We were lured by the opportunity to see one of Jack Klaff's famous one-man shows after we had last seen him here in Robert Llewellyn's " Blue Helmet". But, in contrast to what had gone before this is a bit of a mess. The concept is sound, a variety of real people (some better known than others) talking about their involvement in key moments in history.


The trouble with one person impersonating a number of different characters, male and female, and numerous accents is that it is really hard for the audience to keep up. Jack Klaff is an experienced performer and although he has performed this piece over many years he oddly seemed a little unsure of his material today. Strangely, the only time he seemed in complete control was when he spoke to some late-comers and briefly brought them up to speed with what they had missed.


There is an interesting play here but at seventy-five minutes it is at least a quarter of an hour too long and I feel we caught Mr Klaff on a bad day.


A missed opportunity



New Art Club - Quiet Art of Destruction - Assembly George Square - 6pm - 7/10


A disappointing crowd didn’t put off the New Art Club. The show loosely hinged around the story of how the sleepy village of Meldreth wants to open a new train station and how the other town and “woodlands” object.   The act is really brought to life by the two comedians who maximise audience participation as we are split into Meldreth, Melburn and the woodlands to battle out our disputes.  


The whole thing is madly idiotic and silly, but there is a lot of mileage to be had. Who’d have thought throwing bread and racing to grab the pancake could be such fun?!  The hour is intelligent, entertaining and quite frankly insane. But the duo meander through the cluttered chaos they create, finishing on a pastiche on another comedy duo.


An energetic and maddening performance that deserved a bigger crowd. Looking forward to welcoming them back next year.



Seann Walsh - Ying and Young - Pleasance Beneath - 8.15pm - 8/10


Having come across Sean Walsh on Mock The Week, Darkchat were excited about getting to see him in Edinburgh. And he didn’t disappoint. Walsh excels at appearing baffled by his own observations and this is why audiences warm to him.


From pointing out how ineffective we are at putting scart leads in to how we all used to stand while tuning in our tv’s, Walsh finds comedy in the small things in life and how the simpliest tasks baffle us. Although, I think the audience found it hard to believe he is 25!


While he was nearly thrown by the early hecklers, Walsh soon found his stride, put the hecklers in their place and built a great rapport with the audience. There is something about him that is reminiscent of the character of Pig Pen from Charlie Brown, which just makes him and his comedy more endearing.



David Reed: Shamblehouse - Pleasance Beneath - 8.30pm - 7.92


 Darkchat has taken it upon themselves to visit all three solo-performing Pennies this year. Why? Well, why the hell not, we respond. Our journey begins with “that giant blonde one” (Anne Cox) and his one-man sketch show. Now, in our opinion doing solo sketch comedy is a mightily difficult task, but Reed’s likeability, fondness for the quirky and insane, willingness to include the Darkchatters, and great big eyes saw him through with colours that soared through the air. Not all worked, that’s sketch comedy for you, but those that did were at times hilarious. Darkchat, for one, will never look at a jam doughnut the same way again!



John Robertson : Blood & Charm; Disturbing Stories for Disturbing Bedtimes - Assembly Mound - 10.30pm - 8.1/10


Plenty of charm, not a lot of blood, though rather than sue the

artist we decided to steal his posters instead – that’ll teach him.

Talking at a whopping 1,792 miles per hour, big eyes and hair in

tow, the extremely likeable Aussie told tales of his life thus far –

all the ingredients were in place; a dead father, a series of girlfriends

(albeit Katerina was not listed as amongst them), and embarrassing

excusrsions into the world of Australian Pop Idol

(see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVdV0CBPr38).  

Tipped as ‘one to watch’ by the bearded one, we look forward to greater,

and perhaps more original, things from Mr Robertson.