So it’s that time of year again; Edinburgh Fringe. For the whole month of August the city of Edinburgh becomes a cavalcade of comedians, artists, performers, musicians, tourists, and people handing out flyers…so many people handing out flyers. Seriously, it’s nearly a week later and I’m finding them in pockets in my coat I didn’t even know I had.
Same as last year I went up with my chum Pete for 3 days of Fringe madness, wanted to stop a bit longer but my bank balance said no. Fringe time is a very expensive time for the city of Edinburgh. Our train journey up was quite pleasant, with Pete’s phone maintaining signal throughout the journey & mine cutting out constantly (Screw you O2). Most of the journey was spent with us playing through classic point & click adventure games on Pete’s laptop, including such gems as Another World and Goblins (If anyone can remember that last one, well done. 10 Geek points to you).
Some time was also spent going through the itinerary Pete had made up for our adventure, he did it on a spread sheet and printed it out and everything. I usually leave the ticket buying to Pete as he’s way better at finding interesting & funny things. He also has a very good hit rate when it comes to selecting gigs, a record he is very proud of indeed. This also means I end up seeing a lot of stuff I’ve never heard of before.
So what follows is a general review of what we saw this year over the 3 days we were in Scotland…
We arrived in Edinburgh Station to find rain. Lots & lots of rain, in fact pretty much all of the rain. It was at least another couple of hours before we could check in at the nearby Travelodge, so we tightened out coats and headed out into the wet. We grabbed a quick pint & headed to our first gig of the festival…
Chris Cook – Charlatan
Pete wanted to vary our Festival experience a bit this year; There’s a lot more going off at the Fringe than stand ups. Pete is somewhat of a magic nerd, so first up was magician Chris Cook down at the Voodoo Rooms. His show was incredibly entertaining; Chris is a natural story teller, very funny, lots of audience participation & has a great repertoire of close-up tricks that still have me scratching my head. In addition to all that he is on the Free Fringe, so you really have no excuse to check him out.
Bec Hill – Ellipsis
I have been a big fan of Bec since I randomly saw her on my first Edinburgh Fringe adventure a few years ago; She appeared as a guest on a late night improv chat show called Monkey Toast. We enjoyed her banter so much that we went to see her own show the next day. Her latest show Ellipsis features more of her brilliantly unique brand of alternative comedy; puns, songs, flip books, dancing to Electric 6, and a fun positive outlook that I find lacking in a lot of other comics these days. But underneath the silliness & bright colours is a message; about beating self doubt and being confident & happy with what you do in life, a message I really need to take on board myself. If you’re looking for someone to brighten your day, don’t look much further than Bec Hill.
Also we seem to have developed a Fringe tradition; I bother her on social media from time to time. Last year I got a high five and I managed to get another one this year. It was epic, went pretty much like this…
Vikki Stone – Instrumental
Another new comedian for me on the recommendation of Pete. On her flyer she is described as “The bastard love child of Victoria Wood & Tim Minchin”, which is pretty much an accurate description. Her stage is littered with instruments, including an accordion, keytar, oboe, piano, flute, bongo, and many many more. All of which feature in the show at some point. Her jokes, rants & stories are constantly backed by a cavalcade of joyous sound & music. It all ends in a very heartwarming story, teaching us that the best way of dealing with grief is with comedy. A performer I highly recommend looking out for.
This was a biggie for me personally; The original cast of Who’s Line is it Anyway reunited on stage. On the night we attended the line up featured improv legends Stephen Frost, Greg Proops, & Colin Mochrie. With Marcus Brigstocke joining the original cast (who did very well and definitely held his own) and host Clive Anderson. Seeing these men on stage was a dream come true, the show that got me interested in improv in the first place. Also they used one of my suggestions, I cannot describe the nerdgasm I had 🙂
Another random find from Pete; An interactive theater event where you are the survivors of a zombie apocalypse, hosted right in the heart of the city (Assembly George Square Gardens). You and a bunch of survivors get picked up by an elite military squad, charged with exploring a nearby building for a mystery homing beacon. And things get much more complicated when the living dead arrive, ending up with you running for your life & building barricades. I honestly don’t want to write much more about this as I don’t want to give away any plot points or spoilers, but what I can tell you is that it’s absolutely brilliant. Also there’s alternative paths to take, so it’s never the same experience. If your after some adrenaline fueled late night fun, go check this out!
Didn’t end up getting much sleep the night before; As I mentioned above we went to see Generation of Z, an experience I was fully prepared for. I had a Red Bull before going in, I wore my army boots, I had stretched, and i can totally outrun Pete in an emergency. I WAS READY! The final part of Generation of Z features a mad dash down a road, dodging precariously placed Zombies along the way. For some reason I decided to reach maximum acceleration running down this roadway & just bolted. However, I was going so fast I couldn’t really alter my direction that well; I managed to dodge the first zombie in my way, but the second one was a bit more of a challenge. So I did what (in the short amount of thinking time I had rapidly approaching this undead fiend) I had to do…
I attempted a ‘Wall Run’
And I pretty much pulled it off! With the exception of the most vital part; The landing. I ended up doing the comedy “Falling but I can’t stop running because I’m falling” run, and face planted on the cold hard concrete floor. However to my credit I rolled, shot right back up & ran away again. Having a horde of undead creatures moaning behind you is excellent motivation. But by the time I got back to the hotel, what I can only describe as a chicken egg sized lump appeared on my left knee. So I spent the rest of the evening with my knee elevated, wrapped in a hand towel soaked in freezing cold water, in an attempt to stop most of the swelling. Still, I can proudly say I hurt my knee running away from a zombie. Sounds quite bad ass when I put it like that!
The day started with us heading straight to The City Cafe for a large ‘Full Scottish’ breakfast, something I’ve actually been fantasizing about weeks before heading up to Scotland. Sausage, bacon, egg, toast, mushrooms, hash browns, potato cakes, black pudding, haggis… *drool*
And even better than that; IT STOPPED RAINING! So with our clothes dry for the first time in 24 hours, we stepped out to our first show of the day…
Another random find by Pete from the Free Fringe; Imagine every cheesy 80s buddy cop movie trope & reference, presented in a frantic, farcical & hilarious stage show. That’s Ghostcop! Jack Spector is a badass cop in the Edinburgh Police Force, shot down on his first day on the job. But he’s not going to let that stop him, as his ghost returns to earth to bring his own killers to justice. There are shootouts, one liners, hilarious foreign accents, an uptight police chief and even a volleyball sequence. A show so jam packed with nods & jokes you can’t help but love it. Hunt this one out.
This was a random find by me actually; I just stumbled across it on Twitter as I think a couple of comedians I follow have all appeared on it at some point. Completely unrehearsed, a group of random comedians attempt to recreate classic films on stage all within an hour. Taking on the roles of actors, props, scenery, and at some points even the audience are asked to help. It’s a different cast every day and a different film; We were there for the cult classic ‘Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back’. A recreation that featured a drunk Darth Vader (wrapped in bin bags), a tinfoil carbonite freeze, and a Han Solo who seemed to be the only one attempting the original dialogue from the movie. It was hysterically funny, any fans of improv or movies should go see this. And at one point i was even the back half of an AT-AT walker!
We went to see Kightmare live last year & absolutely loved it. The classic TV series recreated live on stage; With magical characters, hideous monsters, in-jokes, and most dangerous of all, word puzzles! So with them back again with a new updated show it was a must see, and it’s even better than before. All the performers are on fire; Everything out of Lord Fear’s (Tom Bell) mouth is comedy gold, to the point I would happily watch his own solo show (Maybe a chat show or something, talking about how evil he is all the time). Treguard (Paul Flannery) is great at reigning in the chaos, I love Binkie so much I just want to hug him. However the stand out character has to be the new addition of Pickle the Wood Elf; A character I completely forgot about and then was instantly reminded how incredibly annoying he is! Played brilliantly by Jessica Fostekew, to the point where I’m a little bit in love with her now. I hope they’re going on tour again after Fringe and they come near me, as I would happily see this again. Probably the funniest thing I saw the whole time I was at the Fringe.
Aidan Goatley – 11 Films to Happiness
I saw Aidan’s previous show, ’10 Films With My Dad’, last year and was instantly a fan. Especially as I can completely relate to the shows subject; Films are a thing I also shared with my Dad growing up. So with his brand new show ’11 Films to Happiness’ up at Fringe this year I knew I had to go see it too, and I was not disappointed. The show talks about “Chicken Soup Films”; Films that make you feel happy regardless of the fact that they may not be that good, and how they relate to your life. Aidan is a really funny man and clearly very passionate about the films in his list, and is so honest when it comes to how they affect him personally it’s very heartwarming to hear his stories. Also he includes a reference to The Swarm…I don’t think I’ve ever encountered this before, especially in a comedy show! He gets bonus points for that surely? I also bother Aidan quite regularly on Twitter so I know how nice he is. We also met up before the show for some banter. Rather than use this opportunity to get some advice or insight into comedy, we just talked about movies for an hour or so. Also he introduced me to possibly the greatest ice cream I’ve ever had in my life, something I can never pay him back for. Bless you Mr Goatley.
This one came out of the blue. Me and Pete were wandering the night, getting some drinks, wondering whether to find another show or head back to the hotel. We found ourselves getting a pint at The Counting House where we stumbled upon this little gem; A multimedia improv interactive comedy show where the audience choose what happens. Everything to what the character looks like, their job, their sexual preference, their accent, and of course what they do through the story (Our character was a Lesbian Dame Judi Dench with huge balls from Mars…trust me that’s not half as random as some of the other choices). The story is presented via a projected computer screen and all the characters & dialogue are brought to life by the performers either side. It really is something different and every entertaining. When we went there wasn’t much of an audience which caused a few performance issues, but I feel we as a crowd really tried for them & they carried on regardless. This show really does deserve a larger audience so I implore you to hunt this one out.
Our last day in Scotland and it started as the adventure began, with more rain. So with our bags packed & check out of the Travelodge we proceeded to see our last performances of the Fringe Adventure…
Ian D Montfort‘s Midday Seance
Ian D Montfort is a character of Sheffield comedian Tom Binns. In fact I was in The Little Laugh Comedy Club at The Lescar in Sheffield a few years ago when Tom first tried this character out, that’s my one claim to fame & I’m sticking to it. So needless to say I am a fan of Mr Binns and his characters, always good to see a local lad doing well. Ian D Montfort is a parody of spiritual mediums and uses a lot of the same techniques & tricks for comedy effect (rather than milking money from grieving relatives). But I have to say this show has probably the best premise for a show I’ve heard of lately; Ian told his booking agent to book the gig for 12:00, midnight, when the spirits are at their most active. However this agent got this wrong and booked it for midday, but Ian has decided to make the best of a bad job and carried on anyway. I don’t want to go into much detail as it will spoil things, but this show and this character is really funny. Also it makes a nice change to have a show of this level during the day rather than having to wait till late night when everything else is on.
And here we find a huge gap in our show viewing line up. Mainly because the ones we wanted to see were either sold out or with the timescales we could get to in time/would class with our last show of the festival/would leave us running frantically to try and get to our train home. Me and Pete just ended up wandering round a bit, grabbed some food & drinks in places, got more flyers handed to us. Pete raised an interesting point that whenever we’re in Scotland the zoo announces one of the pandas is pregnant, which makes me now suspect one of his main hobbies is inseminating bears in his free time between shows. There was a point where he went off for a bit, he said he was heading back to the hotel but I don’t know that for sure now. Either way, we just killed time before seeing our final show…
Thunderbards – Seconds
I wanted to see these guys last year but they clashed with another show we already had tickets for, so I made damn sure I would get to see them this time round. I’m fortunate to have done some improv with Glenn Moore (one half of Thunderbards) when he lived up in Sheffield a few years ago, so I know what a funny talented bastard he is and was wanted to see what he’s been up to since then; A two man sketch show involving time travel, random characters, and a lot of sweating (Seriously, they work for your laughter). It’s manic, nicely paced & brilliantly written. It was a joy to watch and I hope to see more of them in the future, maybe in a venue that’s not a very warm box.
And that’s it! We jumped on the train and headed home. Most of the journey was spent playing 7 Degrees of Separation; I gave Pete ‘Sir Alec Guinness to Seth Green’, it’s a toughie but it can be done, feel free to have a go yourselves! Also as is tradition I am now battling the lurg; It seems I’m allergic to Scotland, I always end up with something whenever I head up there. Totally worth it though!
So those are the shows I saw, I hope you try to go see them yourselves. Not much in the way of negative comments; As I said previously Pete has a very good hit rate and it’s a record that remains untarnished so far…. And I hope one day I will be able to join them in having a show to see. That way maybe I’ll get an invite to one of Vikki Stone’s impromptu games of rounders. One can only dream….