Wowsers, isn’t it weird how quickly time flies past? Once again it is time for me to board a train and head up to the wilds of Scotland. Where in the city of Edinburgh for one month of the year is overrun with comedians, performers, musicians & other funny people trying to entertain us unwashed masses.
As with previous years I headed up with Pete who did pretty much all the organizing for the trip, he even printed out a colour coordinated itinerary of all the stuff we needed to see. Very organised is Pete. The train journey was pleasant enough, managed to get up to Scotland in very rapid time. When we got there we got all our things and made our way out of the station to find…glorious radiant sunshine & blue skies…I was very confused. Yes as odd as it may be we had some glorious weather this year, think it rained only once while we were there and even then it stopped just as quickly as it started.
So the following is an account of all the awesome things we saw in our 4 days at the festival, trying to cram in as much as we possibly could. I have to remind you again; Pete’s hit rate for shows is notoriously high & untarnished, so if you’re after some negative reviews I’m afraid you’ll be struggling. I’m not a professional reviewer or anything, I just like telling people about the good stuff I saw.
Phantasmagoria by Hookhitch Theatre Company
The first show I got to see this year was an interesting one; An adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s horror poem Phantasmagoria. Set up is key in this kind of production and this show does not fail in that regard; You are lead by a nervous maid & stoic butler into a small dilapidated room. There a hammy (in a good way) Victorian actor ready to deliver his chilling account of meeting a ghost, however as the performance goes on it becomes a question of the character mental state rather than the story itself. I wish the performance space was bigger to allow more people to see this, however the intimate setting allows for a very immersive & unique theater experience. Great performances all round especially from the 2 sidekicks. Only complaint is that it is all rather brief; By the time you really start getting into it the show comes to an end & could deliver so much more on it’s promise of Victorian horror. Still it’s a really good little piece and certainly worth your time seeing it.
C nova, until 31st Aug (not 18), times vary, £4.50–£6.50.
John Robertson – The Dark Room: Symphony of a Floating Head
Now as many people will know I do not know how to internet that well, so naturally some viral hits tend to slip past me every once in a while. This is one of them and I deeply regret it. Comedian John Robertson created an old school text adventure game on YouTube (which you can still totally play btw), it went viral and became a cult hit (in the very literal definition of cult). Robertson brings this experience live to the Fringe and it is just simply amazing. It is an absolute joy seeing random audience members step up to play and fail miserably in a variety of different & creative ways. Robertson’s insults and mockery is hilarious and delivered with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm, energy & revelry. This is a must watch for anyone with memories of gamings humble beginnings & masochists who crave failure, one of my favorite shows at the Fringe this year.
Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61), until 30th Aug £10.50.
I don’t have many traditions I adhere to in my life, but this is definitely one of them; The first breakfast I always have when I’m in Scotland is always a Full Scottish Breakfast from The City Cafe…
I MEAN JUST LOOK AT IT! IT’S GLORIOUS!!! No word of a lie I have been looking forward to this for weeks and it was just as good as the previous times I’ve had it. Just what you need to set you up for a full day of comedy hi-jinx.
Right, on to the reviews…
Steve Bennett – Groan Up
First show I caught on the Free Fringe; Groan Up is a charming light-hearted show about the trials and ordeals we all have to deal with as we grow up, from subjects such as babies, beards, existential crisis & impromptu rap battles. All are delivered with charm, wit & energy by Irish comedian Steve Bennett via his funny observations on life or by his ukulele. A really nice show & thoroughly enjoyable, also his beard is awesome.
Laughing Horse @ Finnegan’s Wake (Venue 101), 17th – 22nd , 24th – 29th Aug, FREE
Every Brilliant Thing
Depression can be a tricky subject to tackle especially in comedy. Every Brilliant Thing tells the story of a six year old boy finding a way to try and help with his mothers depression; Writing a list of every brilliant thing he can think of in the world, things worth living for. This play really hit home for me as I myself have had dealings with depression in various forms. It’s hilarious, heart-wrenching and a simply wonderful piece of theater. A must see for me.
Roundabout @ Summerhall (Venue 26a), 19th – 24th, 26th – 30th Aug, £8.50
James Wilson-Taylor – Bat-Fan
A show about Batman, what more is there to be said really? *sigh* Ok I’ll go a bit more into it; Through the power of stand up, sketches & most importantly musical theater audiences are taken on a journey through on fans love of Batman, from the characters creation in 1939 right up to the latest version appearing in Dawn of Justice next year. I have to admit at points it was hard keeping my own inner fanboy in check at points, but Wilson-Taylor won me over with his sheer enthusiasm & obvious love for the character. I mean he did a song including the villains Crazy Quilt & Ten-Eyed Man, he included a clip from the 1980’s Italian Batman rip-off/porno! (Yes, that is a thing) So he obviously knows his stuff. Except I do disagree with him on one point; I think Ben Affleck will make a good Batman, and have done for years. He even managed to deliver an entertaining show despite several technical hitches, so well done on that one. Very entertaining, well worth your time.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), 18th – 30th Aug, £12
BLAM: The Show
I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. It is described on the posters as “Die Hard meets The Office” and it’s pretty much right on the money. Through physical comedy, musical, sound effects, amazing stunt work & an even more amazing transforming stage an ordinary working office is transformed into a world of action movies & superheroes. This is one of the most amazing stage shows I’ve ever seen, the technicality & skill gone into this is just mind blowing. It’s funny and mind-blowing and you really need to catch this one, you won’t regret it!
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), 19th – 23rd, 25th – 31st Aug, £16.50
Joseph Morpurgo – Soothing Sounds for Baby
Another one I’m not even sure where to begin with… I am already familiar with Morpurgo’s work from the superb improv group Austentatious (which I’ve been a huge fan of for quite some time) but I’ve never seen any of his solo shows. Well I managed to catch this one and let me tell you it is amazing! I don’t even want to go into details (not even sure I can anyway, my brain is still a little fried) but think humor along the lines of Look Around You or Time Trumpet, jokes so random & clever it’s just simply brilliant to watch. Rumor has it he might be up for the Perrier Award this year and if he is it’s well deserved, do not miss this one!
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33), 19th – 31st Aug, £10.50.
Bebe+Luna Present…The Cabaret Farce!
With so much comedy stuff going on at the Fringe it’s sometimes easy to forget there’s plenty of other stuff to see too; Theater, Circus Performances, Drama, Dance, people giving out flyers, loads of stuff. One thing I’ve never seen while I was up here before was a Cabaret night, so The Cabaret Farce was my very first experience of this. And what a great experience it was; Stunning starlets Bebe & Luna attempt to deliver the most glamorous & entertaining nights the Fringe has ever seen, however of course it all goes horribly wrong; special guests not turning up, script errors & inter band politics. General chaos & mayhem ensues and it is hilarious to watch unravel. For me a lot of the comedy came from the subtle bits; The glances & facial reactions the performers give each other (Especially Luna), the drummer & keyboard player fighting over who plays the last chord, the bass player who has no idea when his solo is, and the struggling assistant trying to keep all of this carnage under control. Add to this some truly brilliant musical performances, especially some of their musical mash-ups that must take a ridiculous amount of concentration to do! This is one hell of a great show and well worth checking out. I really want this one to do well as the venue is a bit off the beaten path, but it’s a really nice venue & you should definitely seek it out if you like what you’ve read here.
I also want it to do well as I randomly appear to be engaged to one of them!?! Long story short; I have often stated for years that one of the hottest images I can think of is a beautiful woman in her underwear playing the accordion. Seriously, that’s one of my things. Anyhoo that mental image is featured in this show; Luna plays the accordion. I passed comment on my Twitter and to add fuel to the fire in my heart they sent me a picture of Luna with her accordion in action. I jokingly responded “…marry me” and I got the response “it’s very sudden but why not?” …sooooo, not sure what to do now…I’m confused and panicking and what does this mean and..all I can say is Luna, please call me? *swoons*
Momentum Venues @ St Stephens (Venue 166), 15th – 30th Aug, £10.50.
Laurence Owen – Cinemusical
I actually first randomly encountered Laurence Owen at a Musical Comedy Awards Showcase last year and I was really impressed with what I saw then, so when I saw he was up doing a show this year it was one that had to be on my list of things to see. What he brings is a one man musical dealing with cinematic conventions such as poorly presented female characters in Disney movies, generic Bond villains actually having feelings, happy cowboys & cartoon animal sidekicks wanting more out of life. All his observations on film are quite scarily accurate, all the songs are excellently scored & well performed, Owen is hilarious & charming, also he does possibly one of the best Yoda impersonations I’ve ever heard. He is an exceptionally talented comedian & musician and this is well worth your time. You can also pick up a copy of the original soundtrack to this show which I of course now own, because Empowered is an awesome (and sadly true) track!
Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68b), 18th – 23rd, 25th – 30th Aug, FREE
I’m going to give this one a huge benefit of the doubt; We were late going in to see this one due to technical problems they were having, issues that persisted throughout the show. But this is the risk you run when you have a tech heavy show. There was no sound to any of the accompanying game play videos, which kind of killed the atmosphere of the gig dead, but they did well to carry on regardless. The premise is simple; 2 random comedic guests come up, talk a bit about video games and then played each other at them. Unfortunately the guests this time round didn’t have much knowledge of games so that didn’t really go anywhere. Sure it was funny in places and a laughed a lot (what more do you need from a comedy gig), but I can’t help but feel there’s a better way to implement this format. I really should have loved this and I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t.
Just The Tonic @ The Caves (Venue 88), 19th – 29th, £6.
Bec Hill – Caught on Tape
I’m going to try to be as impartial as possible with this one but it is super hard. I randomly stumbled across Bec on my first ever trip to the Fringe when she appeared on the late night improv chat show Monkey Toast. Thinking she was really funny me and my friends went to go see her show the next day, I’ve been a huge fan of hers ever since. We randomly seemed to develop a yearly tradition where we would high five in the most epic way possible, it mainly went something like this. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to go down to London and do a stand up workshop with her & performed my first stand up set. I now view her as my ‘senpai‘ (therefore regularly seek her wisdom & constant approval) and, dare I say…friend. So with that in mind here is my totally impartial opinion on her latest show ‘Caught on Tape’; It’s great 🙂
No seriously it is! The subject of this show is ‘Regret’ (A subject I can more than empathize with) and Bec handles it with her usual silly, creative and clever style. It will make you laugh and really make you think & feel something. It’s a wonderful & charming show and is a true joy to watch. I really took something away from this one and I have never been more proud of Bec, it validates that I made the right choice in choosing her to look up to.
Gilded Balloon (Venue 14), 17th – 18th, 20th – 31st Aug, £8.50.
Adam Riches is Coach Coach
This was one from Pete’s must see list as I myself am not familiar with Riches previous shows at the Fringe. The show tells the story of the often over-excited Coach Coach as he and his struggling team of misfits attempt to beat their most fearsome rivals in the most exciting fictional game known to man; Volfsball! Imagine every sports movie cliche, parody & joke boiled down and crafted into an hour of daft manic energy and sheer chaos. This is that show and it’s awesome! Riches surrounds himself with a great supporting cast, it’s hilarious and under all the carnage is some seriously well crafted & sculpted jokes and references. If you’re in the front row you will be included in the tomfoolery, in fact you’re not even safe if you’re towards the back as we discovered. Coach Coach is a brilliant & fun show and a must see for anyone, especially if you have been subjected to sports movies in your life.
Pleasance Dome (Venue 23), 16th – 30th Aug, £14.
Daniel Kitson – Polyphony
Another show suggestion from Pete and another show that simply blew my mind; I have always been aware of Kitson’s previous works but never really seen any of it before, now I can safely say I understand why he has the cult following that he does. The premise is simple, and by simple I mean stupidly complicated; Kitson has written a one man play, all the other parts are recordings played on 20 IPods connected to speakers handed out to various audience members around the theater. Each of them a single track that with timing all comes together. That’s literally all I’m prepared to tell you! As what follows is so hilarious, smart and ridiculously meta that quite frankly my brain still hurts thinking about it, Kitson seems to operate on so many levels you never know where he’s coming from at any one time. Did he mean to make that mistake there? Don’t know, you’re going to have to go see it yourselves to find out more, although looking at the Fringe website he is sold out all the way to the end of the festival (again, not surprised) so if he tours this I highly suggest you get tickets for it asap, as they will sell out too!
Roundabout @ Summerhall (Venue 26a), 19th – 24th, 26th – 30th Aug, £12
Aidan Goatley – 10 Films With My Dad & Year of the Goat
Mr Goatley has two shows this year; I’ve mentioned previously how much I love Aidan’s show 10 Films With My Dad. Well it’s up at the festival again for it’s fifth and FINAL year, so naturally I had to see it one last time. I love this show; It’s funny, touching and just makes you feel good. Comedy doesn’t always have to be about pointing stuff out that’s crap! Sometimes it’s just nice to have a laugh & smile at things that make you glad to be alive, like movies and family and dogs dressed up as sharks.
His other show Year of the Goat is more along the lines of traditional stand up but it is still carried out with Goatley’s usual wit and positivity. His stories are interesting and funny, each punchline lands well and he’s just a really funny lovely guy. Please go see him!
10 Films With My Dad – Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68b), 19th – 30th Aug, Free.
Year Of The Goat – Ciao Roma (Venue 283), 19th – 29th Aug, Free.
NOTE: The 200th performance of 10 Films With My Dad will be happening on Friday 28th Aug and Aidan is planning on having it recorded for release on DVD. I’m sure it would really appreciated if we could pack out the room for this special day. Also you can also help by reserving a copy and contributing via his Indiegogo page HERE.
Morgan & West – Lying, Cheating Scoundrels
Since last years visit to Scotland me & Pete always make sure to see at least one magic show amongst all the stand up and sketches, this was our selection this year and we were not disappointed; Morgan & West, a pair of time-travelling 19th century magicians, present an intimate evening of card tricks & tales of their gambling exploits with some of history’s greatest people. I am a big fan of card manipulation & tricks and the duos talents are just astounding. Their tales are funny & engaging, both are excellent characters you could just sit and listen to all day, also the small intimate setting makes for a really immersive & captivating show. Being able to see the tricks done up close and presented so well really makes this show what it is; A magnificent show.
Just the Tonic @ The Community Project (Venue 27), 19th – 30th Aug, £15.
Phil Nichol’s Cray Cray Cabaret
Our last show before heading back south of the border; This show is loud, crazy (as the name implies) & really fun. Phil is a good host and ably assisted by Bec Hill, the musical accompaniment by backing band Good Company is amazing, and it’s a really fun night. The only thing that affects this gig is if they have some comedy acts appearing you really want to see, so have a look and get yourselves down.
The Assembly Rooms (Venue 20), 20th – 30th Aug, £12.50.
Ok I’ve been writing for ages and there’s still lots of little things to cover, so onto the speed round!
- Go to the Hendricks Gin Emporium on George Street, it’s lovely. The drinks are really nice, also the atmosphere is very eclectic and kooky which is my kinda thing. They also do a show there which I didn’t manage to see, but you totally should because I bet it’s terrific. All the performers & staff there are lovely, one of them juggles lemons while playing the piano. Check it out!
- Food Places – Lots of nice ones! Wings is ace, a Full Scottish at City Cafe is a must, Oink do one of the best pork sandwiches I’ve ever had, I would kill someone for an ice cream from Ciao Roma.
- Lou Conran – Small Medium at Large; I had tickets to see her new show but I ended up missing it because I’m lame like that. Please go see it, don’t be lame like me. It’s in a caravan how cool is that!?! It’s on at Assembly George Square Gardens 18th – 23rd & 25th – 31st Aug.
- Discount Comedy Checkout – Didn’t get to see or hang out with these guys this year, they are lovely and awesome and you should check them out. Great improv comedy and they are only up in Edinburgh until the 21st Aug so hurry up and see them!
- Edinburgh your tram and bus system is awesome, seriously you have no idea how good you have it.
And that’s it really! There is so much that I wanted to see but just couldn’t manage to get around everyone, will just have to add them to the list for next year and hope they are there. Although I may have some of my own plans for next year…watch this space! It was an awesome festival this year, really good atmosphere, met loads of new awesome people and just had an absolute blast. Huge thanks to my compatriot Pete for organizing the vast majority of this trip and of course to all the above people for making me laugh so much. Hope the rest of the month is kind to you, love you all! x