Shows I saw at the Edinburgh Festival 2010

Far be it from me to use my website and unedifying ego to promote only myself, so I am taking the time now to try to review the other shows I was lucky enough to see while I was in Edinburgh.

First off, I need to extol the virtues of the best bar that I know of in Edinburgh - The Banshee Labyrinth. The place has its own cinema. It's own cinema FFS! While I was there I bumped in to the wonderful Shappi Khorsandi, got speaking to some Scottish beat poets, The DNA Poets, and then got invited in to a screening of a web-based episodic TV show. You don't get that in Wetherspoons.

I went in to see Tim Turnbull's Tales of Terror, which I can definitely say was the most left field comedy I saw at the Fringe, but was all the better for it. It was truly unique material he was performing - mostly through the medium of poetry - about horses being possessed by goats and other macabre delights. I will be looking out for him again.

The films I saw were episodes of My Name is Tim. At first, I was apprehensive that it was just going to be another student gore-fest, but the writing is much more astute, and the comedy had me in stitches. The basic premise is that Tim is the last remaining survivor of the vampire-slaying Van Helsing dynasty, so he is the only one left who can adequately cope with the new generation of bloodsuckers and monsters doing the rounds. Episodes are still being posted on to their site, so check them out, pronto!

Sharing my venue, the GRV were several impressive shows all part of the Edinburgh Fringe (and let me take this opportunity to thank the staff at the GRV, for being so helpful and accommodating throughout our run). One of whom was Charlie Talbot with his stand up Someone Better Known. This was a very revealing portrait of Charlie, going through his life up to this point, where he revealed he was suffering from depression and how he was dealing with it. To be able to tackle such a subject without bringing the spirit of the show down to an irredeemable level is a knack, and I left uplifted, rather than depressed.

Later in the evening, the GRV hosted Lady C, a docudrama critique of the impact of the novel Lady Chatterley's Lover on 2010. It was a very daring show, and took great courage from the cast for a play involving unconcealed full frontal nudity. I've never read the book (and a straw poll of the audience revealed that I was far from alone in my ignorance - only a handful in a packed house had read it, compared with nearly half having read Harry Potter), but the presentation of some of the scenes has got me intrigued and it sounds much more interesting that the leering coverage it receives would have one believe.

A bit out of the way, in the more refined surrounds of Edinburgh New Town, Sean Hegarty played his Tim Vine-esque set to a hugely responsive audience at CafeRenroc. Sean was on the BBC NI's reality show Find Me the Funny, and is continuing to work his way up the comedy ranks.

Pauline Goldsmith's PG Tips Also from Northern Ireland was Pauline Goldsmith, whose act was familiar to me since it revolved around growing up in Catholic Northern Ireland. Some of the material ventured off into more risqué territory though, which I certainly wasn't expecting. She went down a treat though.

Shakespeare's Shorts: At the other side of the city in the Beehive, was where I saw my first show - Shakespeare's Shorts. I admit, I only went in on a spur of the moment to escape the rain, but it was well worth it. Taking some of Shakespeare's classic scenes, performers Kate Roxburgh & Shae Kuehlmann, injected a mixture of modern wit and old style physical humour to great effect. The fact that I walked in just as they were calling each other c*nts, coupled with my (currently) distinctive beard meant we were joking with each other throughout the rest of the week.

Out the Window presents Freefall: On the dancefloor of Base nightclub on the Cowgate was where I saw Out The Window's sketch show, Freefall. This was a more traditional comedy sketch show, that wouldn't be out of place on Radio 4 at 6pm, but sometimes the sketches were stretched a line or two too far. But there was definitely material that was strong, and I'd be surprised if I don't see one or more of these guys (who I believe are still in University) hitting the big time soon.

John Robertson: A Nifty History of Evil
Next door to Base, in Opium Nightclub (which work surprisingly well as comedy venues) was my pick of the festival, stand up John Robertson. He is from Australia, but I am confident that he will be making a much bigger splash on British media over the next year. His act was (along with Tim Turnbull, and Paul Ricketts) one of the few I saw that maintained a very definite theme throughout, and his was how to be an unconscionable bastard. By using the great dictators of the past, he went through the various means by which to be overlord of all. It really was hilarious, and being part of the PBH Free Fringe, was the gem of  the festival for me. I'll be looking out for him again, and will recommend more people to see him.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="245" caption="John Robertson Nifty History of Evil. My Favourite show of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival"][/caption]

Paul Ricketts: Kiss the Badge, Fly the Flag Down the road in the Just the Tonic at the Caves was where I caught the aforementioned Paul Ricketts. His show's theme was his response to the racism he has experienced from England fans throughout his lifetime, and how that reconciles with him wanting to support England for the past World Cup. He presented videos of interviews he conducted with children in a school he teaches in, and with celebrities, such as Adrian Lester from The Hustle, Steven K Amos, and Billy Bragg. It was an informative and funny show, and certainly brought up the dichotomy of the multicultural make up of the England team, wrapping themselves in the flag, and the electioneering BNP also wrapping themselves in the same flag. Although the videos could have done with some post-production work to enhance the visuals and audio, I would recommend this show.

I was generally disappointed by the lack of theatre at affordable prices, or at least the lack of publicity for such. It appears that comedy is abundantly more prevalent at the Edinburgh Fringe, although it may have been my fault for not looking in the right places. One I did go to see in the Bedlam Theatre was The Wake, by Jonathan Brittain. Ostensibly it was a one man show, but there was another actor planted in the audience, and their interactions became the fulcrum for the show. I have to admit that I had an ulterior motive for going to see this particular play, in that I am currently writing a play about a wake, and I wanted to see if my time was being wasted by covering material that had already been done. It appears that our two plays have different subject matter, and consequently I shall continue working on Sitting Up for Michael.

One of the pitfalls of trying to promote a show at Edinburgh is that flyering people usually annoys them, or they'll ignore you anyway, so when two charming American guys sang to get me to take a flyer, I was suitably impressed, and went to see The Young Dads' show in the Carlton Hotel. Their show, A Perhaps Too Intimate Evening of Music and Hilarity was similar to Flight of the Conchords in that they performed almost entirely through musical comedy. The angle was that the company trying to promote them was consulting focus groups to try to hit as many niche demographics as possible, so they would change their performing personas. Most of them were great, but one or two verged on lazy stereotypes. Also while they were performing a PowerPoint Presentation was being projected behind them, which complimented the songs. Again, for the most part these were brilliant, but at times it was hard to decide which to concentrate on, the lyrics they were singing, or the visuals. It was a highly original show though, and I expect big things from these guys, and they got a huge turnout on the night I was there.

Finally, the best show I saw at the festival was Simon Donald is Completely Hatstand. I was aware of Donald's work because I have read Viz, and love its brand of off-kilter humour, but this was his first attempt at stand up. His talent lies in creating characters, and each one he played on stage was absolutely spot on, with perfect attention to minutiae. Between donning a hat and jacket for each character that were placed on a hatstand on stage (hence the show's name, as well as a popular phrase that originated in Viz that became parlance for eccentricity), Donald gave some anecdotes about his time as editor of Britain's 3rd biggest selling magazine, that were both informing and funny. I have never seen an audience so crippled with laughter as this show, and I hope he tours with it, because I would love to see it again.

I didn't have time to mention the street theatre performers I saw as well, who are keeping the art of the circus alive, by juggling chainsaws, hopping a ladder over a defenseless boy lying on the ground, and tightrope walking. Nor did I have time to see some of my friends from London Comedy Writers who were performing, Strong and Wrong, and ComComedy

I can't wait to go back to Edinburgh, and I have learnt enough now to know how to make the most of it next year, both as a performer and an audience member.