Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fringe reviews: Edinburgh 2011 (part 2)

Here's the second part of my Fringe reviews from this year's festival. 

The Suitcase Royale in Zombatland (Pleasance Two, Friday 19 August, £10)
One of the revelations of last year, Australia's Suitcase Royale were on form again with their new show. Their form of comic musical theatre is unique, with surreal tales of the outback set to their own brand of junkyard skiffle. If anything, the music was even better this year, although the tale of a failing caravan park overrun by zombie wombats lacked the human touch of last year's doomed love story. As ever, their rapport with the audience kept a thread of humour and warmth throughout the show. 4/5

Devil's Advocate (Buff's Bar, Saturday 20 August, free)
I saw a couple of the Edinburgh Skeptics' shows last year and ended up writing the quiz for one instalment of this year's Devil's Advocate panel show. Unfortunately, the Skeptics had found themselves in the upstairs bar of Buff's Bar in West Register St, way off the beaten track and completely hidden from view. With no chance of picking up any passing trade, the audience was small and the show was further compromised by the loss of Ash Pryce, whose 'baby' this show was. 

The subject this time was 'Holy Books', and of course I'm going to say it was a great set of questions because I wrote them. What followed was an hour of funny banter and intellectual one-upmanship, which was a great way to start the day if you get up at noon. 4/5

The Oxford Imps (Gilded Balloon Nightclub, Saturday 20 August, £10.00)
Improv is an acquired taste. Oxford University's improvisers seem to have acquired the taste from 20-year old re-runs of 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?', because they aren't really taking the genre any further than that. As they poured onto the stage doing enthusiastically wacky dancing to the music, I turned to my companion and said, "I hate them already." That distaste grew with the attitude of their compère, who had no idea how to engage the audience other than by grinning and generally acting smug. 

Of the troupe of six, only the balding American showed any serious talent, although most of them had at least one good moment. Given those limitations, it's perhaps a good thing that they kept within the comfort zone of a predictable structure, so that the show was an amusing diversion for an hour rather than an embarrassment. But considering the talent that could be seen for the same price, and the far more dangerous and inventive impro on offer from the likes of The Noise Next Door, a tenner seemed a bit steep for a bunch of university amateurs larking about. 2/5

Andrew Bird's Village Fete (Underbelly Balcony, Saturday 20 August, £9.50)
No doubt about it, Andrew Bird is a lovely fellow and an hour in his company is a complete pleasure. His show is essentially his impression of moving back to a village with his young family after living in London, observing the quiet insanity of village life. His observations are spot-on, and he mines a vein of humour seldom tackled by mainstream comics, where the irrelevant minutiae of life acquire a significance that makes the death toll in Midsomer Murders entirely understandable. 5/5

The Boy With Tape On His Face (Pleasance Courtyard, Saturday 20 August, £12.50) 
Back by popular demand after a sell-out show last year, Sam Wills justified his reputation with a breath-taking show of silent comedy and naïve clowning. Given that his entire mouth is covered for the whole show, his communication skills are remarkable. It's pointless describing it because it has to be seen. 5/5

Translunar Paradise (Pleasance King Dome, Sunday 21 August, £10)
Two dancers with hand-held masks, accompanied by a woman on accordion, tell the story of a marriage cut short by cancer. Sounds like the most awful kind of pretentious Edinburgh show, and it is, but performed with such skill and poignant emotion that it works – so well that many of the audience were in tears. There were times, especially in the third quarter, where I lost touch with what was happening, and some of the tribulations suffered by the couple were telegraphed a long way off, but it retained its power. The accordionist deserves special mention, using her instrument not just for music but also sound subtle yet clever sound effects. 4/5

David O'Doherty (Pleasance One, Sunday 21 August, £15)
O'Doherty's performance was capable and slick, but relied too much on the audience being in on the joke. This was absolutely a show for confirmed fans. As someone who didn't know his material, I was lost at times. This was less of a show and more of an epilogue to previous shows I hadn't seen. He's a capable comic, but this show was a bit lazy and very much over-priced. 2/5

Tom Stade (Pleasance Above, Sunday 21 August, £12)
I'm surprised only two people walked out of Tom Stade's gloriously offensive show. It was self-conscious too, with Stade asking the rhetorical question, "Why d'ya do that, Tom?" when he went over the top, as he did on many occasions. I did feel for the teenage kids in the front row as Stade compared their sex life of their parents, sitting next to them, with that of the couple a few seats along. The young man (about 19) became Stade's partner in crime throughout the show as he built a story of espionage and criminality, killing sacred cows everywhere he could find them and mounting their stuffed udders for entertainment. 5/5

1 comment:

  1. Andrew Bird was good.

    I've enjoyed reading your reviews. In fact, you achieved what I assumed was impossible - made me question being so West-of-Scotland growly about Edinburgh and its Festival...(not for too long - I recovered from the wobble).

    Try Glasgow - book yourself into one of its many 'festivals'. Edinburgh in August is maybe just a home-from-home for a certain class of Londoner...?