Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fringe round-up

I thought I'd quickly round-up the shows I've been to see at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to which I went twice over the last week. This is more a reminder of what I went to see than any attempt to give proper reviews of the shows (like the last couple of years) - I will mainly be using phrases such as "it was funny", with maybe a sprinkling of my favourite adverbs "quite" and "very", so the level of review will not be particularly insightful.

The first trip was last Tuesday, and first up on the bill was As It Occurs To Me (or AIOTM [AIOTM] as it is know by all the cool kids). This is Richard Herring's sketch show that's performed in front of a live audience (of geeks - and how true that was!), but then gets put out unedited in podcast form. This was the first performance of it outside of its two previous London runs. I very much enjoyed the show, although prior to it had been worried about it's quality given the fact that Richard Herring had been tweeting about how little time he'd put into writing the script (it's normally written in a huge rush in the day or so prior to the performance, but this one had been cutting it even finer than normal!) If you'd never listened to the podcast before the whole thing should be complete nonsense, but there were a few AIOTM (AIOTM) newbies in the audience and even they seemed to go along with it and enjoy everything too. It was fun to see how it worked live on stage compared to my normal method of listening to it via the podcast - one problem with the live performance though was that I couldn't make out some bits (which I expect were picked up by the microphone) when the audience were laughing or cheering, plus Richard's Scotch accent could become unintelligible at times. At the end, of course, we had the return of the dead Tiny Andrew Collings, and also the real Andrew Collins, which provided the highlight that all the regular fans of the show were after. Another highlight was Tam Dalyell and Susan Boyle's duet of "(I've Had) The Time of My Life".

Next up I went to see the follow on to a show I saw last year: Two Episodes of Mash - which consists of selection of short sketches. Last year we'd seen this show with a pretty small audience, but the room was far fuller this time round. It was enjoyable show with a consistently good level of jokes - often you could see the punch line coming, but it was still very amusing to see how it would be delivered, or whether it would be subverted in some way.

The day was capped off with seeing spoof hospital radio DJ Ivan Brackenbury. I'd noticed this show in the Pleasance on several previous years and had seen it get consistently very good reviews, but had never been to see it. This time Tim Binns (the comedian behind the character) had decided to just do a best bits show as he was also doing a another show with a new character. I should have been to see this show in previous years, because the very good reviews were well justified. Essentially the act consists of giving shouts out to, or requests for, hospital patients with various ailments and then playing an (in)appropriate song based on that. This sounds like it may get a bit same-y and repetitive and just descend into bad punning, but it's done in such a good and likeable style, and with such good timing, that I was laughing along all the way through.

On Saturday a crowd of us went through for some birthday celebrations for me. We kicked things off with the mildly amusing Big Comedy Breakfast featuring three stand-ups (Marc Burrows, Sarah Pearce and Barry Ferns). It's quite hard to do comedy at midday and the audience generally weren't really ready for laughing hard, but each set had it's moments and a memorable joke or two. One of my friends even managed to make a name for himself during the set (he bonded with Barry over both their parents poor choices of first names), and I was closely beaten in an audience game of rock-paper-scissors and denied a chance to play TME (Tape Measure Extension - although it's a game I have played myself in the past). The show has also given further amusement to a friend of mine who was being told about one of his officemates spending the weekend "canoeing".

This was followed by Itch: A Scratch Event in which a variety of comedians/performers are given a stage to try out some new material such as a sketch, mini-play, or character - it's a different line-up during the festival, so you don't know who you're going to see. This was good value show and provided some interesting and funny performances - we did get told at the end who all the performers were, but I can only remember that the first sketch had Simon Munnery in it, and the Segue Sisters did a couple of song. I'd recommend going to this show in the future as there's a decent chance that you'll see at least one thing that's really good, and it's definitely value for money.

Finally we went to see The Roaring Boys Will Set you Free, which had a 5 star review in Chortle! The main premise was that depression had driven Danny, one of the two performers (Danny and Jonny), to start watching The One Show, which he soon realised was a source of unending mundanity and had to be stopped. We then saw him formulate a plan about how it could be stopped and his attempt to carry it out. I don't think we got quite the show that got the 5 star review (there was not corpsing from the performers), but it was still a very fun and funny show. There was a level of audience interaction that worked very well and added to the show, rather than making anyone in the audience feel awkward or picked on. There were several songs too (the theme of their show is still stuck in my head several days later) mainly performed by Jonny and based around his failed romance. Despite the premise being routed in depression it's a very upbeat show with a lot of energy, which rubs off on the audience.

That's my round up for this year. There was obviously a lot of stuff I couldn't see that I'd have liked to, but there's always next year.