Wednesday, 17 December 2008


Hi Guys and Girls,

Just a quick shout out to anyone who isn't from Edinburgh, but is thinking of doing something different this year for New Year.....

Despite some setbacks in recent years due to the unpredictable weather.... the New Year celebrations in Edinburgh are still some of the best around, with the city investing millions to try and encourage people to come and visit...

So why not come and visit?

Check out :

The official site gives you everything you need to know about the official events in Edinburgh, but unofficial is also a good way to go.

With the credit crunch, more people will be likely to have house parties, which means all the pubs in the town centre will just be busy instead of being utterly rammed as in previous years.

I'm starting off in George IV Bridge in a pub with my mates and planning on staying there for most of the night, but the great thing about being in a central location in Edinburgh is that you can do anything... I'll only be a quick stagger from the Grassmarket if we decide to go for a pub crawl... other good options that were suggested but rejected include the incredibly popular club night "Vegas" which is hosted in Ocean Terminal in Leith.

Whatever you're into, Edinburgh has it all.

If you have more specific questions about Hogmanay in Edinburgh, stick them in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer them.

Friday, 29 August 2008

And Now... The End Is Near....

So that's it.

Unless I manage a trip to the Speigeltent before it packs up and leaves my experiences of the Edinburgh Festival are over for this year!

As well as all the shows I have reviewed I also saw quite a few acts at the Fettes Jazz Festival whilst working there. Despite my lack of interest in Jazz I enjoyed most of the shows - the musicians are undoubtedly the most talented I've seen live (with the exception of the Rolling Stones and the Stereophonics). But given my involvement I would still be competely baised, so I've decided not to review any of them.

I will say that Nikki King was great and I'll be making sure I get my Mum along to see her next year, because it's exactly the sort of thing she'd like. The venue is also awesome. Check out and click in Jazz Festival.

Away from that, there were two big talking points at the start of the Fringe.

The first was all about the "Big Four" venues clubbing together to do a bit of marketing and they managed to rub a few people up the wrong way by calling themselves the "Edinburgh Comedy Festival".

The second was the ticketing chaos.

I didn't have too many problems with ticketing when I was buying tickets, mainly due to the fact that I prefer to go and see random stuff and only decide 10 minutes before the show is due to start.

But from what I heard from performers and promoters, the Fringe Office was a shambles and they really need to get their act together for next year.

I see the head honcho of the Fringe has resigned in order to "Spent more time working more closely with the artists". Don't get too close mate. You might get a pair of size 12 Doc Martins in the spuds if you come across someone who's show you bankrupted!

In a way I think it also vindicated the "Big Four's" decision to club together. They're still millions of miles away from a monopoly and I didn't notice much of a change this year in the atmosphere at the Fringe.

I always tend to hang out at the Pleasance and will continue to do so, because quite simply it's the best place to be during the Festival. I really don't care how they advertise and who they club together with.

Well, this'll be my last blog for a while. I don't have the discipline to keep a blog going all year round, which is why a Fringe blog is perfect for me.

I have no idea how many people read it because we don't have view counters, but I hope it's been a help and I look forward to doing it all over again next year!



Thursday, 28 August 2008

Shaggers (The Return) *****

They say it's never as good as your first time.

And it wasn't. But it wasn't far off.

The excellent Nik Coppen was compere for the evening at the last Shaggers of 2008, he was followed by Dan Willis whom I'd also seen earlier on in the evening but they didn't repeat much of what they had said earlier on, and I'd had a few more beers down me by this point so I continued to enjoy their wonderful sense of humour.

Unfortunately, like a lothario in a taxi home, I can't remember the name of the other two acts. They were both decent and got enough laughs, but Dan and Nik were the real stars of the show.

I really can't speak highly enough of the format of the show, which they are now going to take on to other comedy festivals throughout the world.

Three comedians in a room talking about sex, in a crowded bar late at night is a guaranteed winner and I hope someone eventually makes a bit of money out of it!

Shaggers will hopefully be back next year!


Wha'choo Talkin' 'Bout Willis *****

Rumour had it that Dan Willis was the best comedian on show at the Meadow Bar this year and he didn't disappoint.

He apparently took part in four shows per day at this year's Fringe, so if he ever makes it big you can't say he didn't earn it!

Unfortunately he didn't get a single review in the papers in 2008 so I hope my little tip of the hat to him in one of my last blogs of the year will help make it up in some small way.

Like the act before him, he was relying on material that wasn't all that new (the fresh stuff was on display at his other show) - with subjects including Religion, Kavos, Spiders, The Police Advertising and Hecklers etc... picked at random from a big board by audience members.

The fact that he wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel and was happy to just crack some very decent and polished gags ensured a reliable smooth performance throughout the full hour.

Audience interation was very well handled throughout and he had some great stories about the people who had been in and heckled him throughout his 3 1/2 week run.

Looking forward to seeing him again next year!


Nik Coppin: Stuff ****

After a week or two hard at work, I ventured back out for one final night of festivalling.

I decided to hang out at the Meadow Bar and check out the two prime time comedians to see what they were all about.

The bar is one of six venues hosting the "Laughing Horse Free Festival" which meant that entry to this show cost nothing!

After a slightly slow start, the show got going as Nik eased in to some comfortable material. Nothing groundbreaking. Stories about sharks and some decent gags about his obsession with comic books. He's such a fast paced comedian that it worked well and he had enough decent anecdotes to fill the hour or so that he was on.

He came across as a very likeable chap and was good enough to earn a few quid from me in the bucket that they pass round at the end.

More of a 3 1/2 than a four but I saw him give a 5* performance at Shaggers later that night so he gets the benefit of the doubt.

The run has now finished, so here's his website:


Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Richard Dawkins (Edinburgh Book Festival) *****

Just to warn you, this is going to be a bit like my Tim Minchin review, except it's not for a comedy show.

I went to see Richard Dawkins because I'm a massive fan of his. I have read his latest book and am planning to read a lot more. I have also scoured youtube for interviews and debates that he has taken part in, and I post occasionally on the message board on his website, so I knew pretty much what to expect.

I think that Dawkins is one of the most influential scientists in the world at the moment and I truly believe that along with Steven Hawking, he will be remembered as one of the Greatest scientists of our time, so it was a great privilege to see him speak in person.

Anyway, to the event.....

The hour compromised of two sections. The first being an interview from the chair, followed by 30 minutes of Q&A from the audience.

With a mainly actively atheist audience already knowledgeable about his writings, it was decided that instead of throwing meat to the lions, Richard would delve deeper and speculate more about the origins of life on our planet. The result was fascinating.

All theories were pondered over, including all the ridiculous ones.

The only criticism I could give is that the event was nowhere near long enough. With very detailed questions being asked, it took time to get through them and I imagine only 7-8 people got the chance to ask their question.

But overall, I really enjoyed the experience of the book festival and I would certainly recommend that people go and see their favoutire author appear. It has a fantastic atmosphere, and you always get chatting to people on the queue as they will generally, like you, have read and enjoyed the work of the author you're going to see.

I think I managed to convince a 70 year old lady that youtube wasn't just full of teenagers showing off and that you could actually find some interesting and even intellectually stimulating stuff if you looked hard enough!

Unfortunately most events at the Book Festival are one off events, but that doesn't mean that you can't pick someone else to go and see. It's easy to forget that there are loads of other festivals on at the same time as the Fringe, offering a much more diverse range of events and talks and the book festival is one of the best.


The Edinburgh International Book Festival is held at Charlotte Square and finishes on August 25th.

You can book tickets for other events here:

You can find out more about Richard Dawkins on his website:

The Great Big Comedy Picnic ***

Having seen Ashley Frieze perform at Shaggers the night before, I was keen to see more of his stuff and my 5th trip to the dentist in two weeks meant that I would be walking straight past the Meadow Bar at 5.30pm on Wednesday, more than slightly hungover on the last day of my holidays.

So, in I went.

The audience was somewhat different to the previous evening. Instead of being around 2/3 full I was joined in the audience by an Auzzie bloke and a girl from South Africa who worked together, a family of four from Manchester and towards the end of the show a local couple. That was it. 7 people rising to 9 for the climax of the show!

One thing you need to make a comedy show any good is an audience. Unfortunately the torrential rain scared a lot of people away, and it was still pretty early days in the Fringe.

So when my favourite comedian from the previous evenings late show repeated the material that had gone down so well the night before, he was met with a few blank stares (although I still found it funny the 2nd time round). The afternoon was summed up when Ashley realised that having got all 7 audience members to introduce themselves, that only 2 at the most would have actually heard of the TV show Rainbow....

Unfortunatley I can't recall the name of the 2nd comedian who went on after Ashley. He was pretty average.

I'm giving it three stars because it has the potential to be a good show, even although it didn't work on the day.

Shaggers *****

It's been over a week. Please accept my apologies. If anything makes you want to stop blogging it's the sight of 195 e-mails in your inbox on your return to work!

I went back to work on Thursday, so my last chance to go out and see a show and stay out late and get drunk was last Tuesday. So that is what I did.

I was catching up with a mate and we decided that Shaggers would be a safe bet for a show to go and see before we headed off to a club.

The premise of the show is that three comedians are invited along every night to talk about shagging. Some already talk about sex in their own shows, which is fine, they can use that material. If they don't, well they just have to darn well think of their funniest sex stories and confess them to the audience.

With the acts changing every night (and me being several beers into a session) I didn't try hard enough to remember the names of all the acts that were on... I've managed to find two of them using google - Ashley Frieze who was excellent, and Tony Cowards who showed a remarkable amount of balls by telling the story of where he was when he found out that Princess Diana had died (in a Las Vegas hotel with a hooker) and also what happened when he had phone sex in his office on a Saturday (complete with a picture on his mobile phone of the stain).

The show's start time means you're always going to get the fairly drunk crowd that is neccesary for this type of show, giving it a great atmosphere.

With different acts every night, I'll definately be back before the end of the Fringe!


Shaggers is on every night at the Meadow Bar at 23.50 and it's FREE!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Day Off

After three days of non-stop show watching, my stamina finally gave out on me - mainly due to the 7 pints of Kronnenberg Blanc I consumed at the Meadow Bar.

I was originally going to see the late show called Shaggers, but ended up staying in the bar with a few people I knew. I'll definately catch it before the end of the Fringe though!

I was also out last night and I'm going out again tonight, (to a night club rather than a show) but I'll force myself to head out of the house tomorrow and take a wander up to the Royal Mile now that we're in the full swing of things.

The previews have finished now and the money I had set aside for the festival has long since disappeared, and I also have to go back to work on Thursday, so the reviews and blogs will start to become slightly less frequent that the 6 times a day I managed last week!

I still plan to see lots more shows, but they'll be a bit more spread out and they'll mostly be of the free variety.....

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Jim Jeffries - Hammered *****

Hammered is the name of the show, and Jim appeared to be hammered on stage (unless he's always like that).

Some people are funnier when they're drunk and that seems to apply to Jim Jeffries. In fact, he should write down what he had to drink before last night's show and drink EXACTLY that before every show he does. If you've got a winning formula then why deviate from it?

Jim covers all the subjects you would expect a comedian known as "The most offensive comedian at the Fringe" to cover. Religion gets a few big mentions, so do fat people, gays, optimists, Americans and pretty much everyone else really.

But he manages to get away with it. His clever approach to any controversial topic "Isn't it funny that it's OK to laugh at dwarves in films, but if you did this instead...." means that he's making the point that it's not OK to discriminate against them, but still manages to get the laugh out of the situation.

I reckon the most difficult thing for comedians to do is take on these subjects but still keep the audience on side. I think that's Jim's best attribute. He does it effortlessly and I think that's why he's become so popular at the Fringe and has managed to get himself such a decent venue.

There's nothing earth shattering or groundbreaking in the show. It's just an hour of blokey offensive go-and-see-it-with-all-your-mates-and-have-a-few-beers comedy, which is really what most people are after.

Some shows just make you smile and laugh gently. This is proper "gasp and then laugh until your belly aches" humour.

Definately the safest bet on the Fringe.

Jim Jeffries is on at the E4 Udderbelly (that's the big purple upside-down cow in Bristo Square) at 9pm nightly.


Ginger and Black **

I have mentioned in my last review that the key to success is to be enthusiastic and to have fun.

Deadpan comedy can work, but it's much more difficult to pull off, especially when you're doing comedy songs.

Unfirtunately, the performers lack of smiling throughout the show was mirrored by me for most of the time.

The songs were really slow, Mr Black didn't sing, he just spoke (with an annoying lisp). Ginger at least could hold a note when she chose to sing, which wasn't very often.

Some of the songs could have been funny if they'd been at a faster pace but they were all the same and with no variety, it was just a constant drone.

The whole show seemed lazy to me.

Ginger and Black are on at the Pleasance Dome at 19.30


Tommy and the Weeks - Powershow *****

My faith in sketch shows has now been fully restored.

These guys are great.

The bloke who gave me the free ticket (score!) said that they were in the same mould as the Mighty Boosh or Flight of the Conchords. I agree.

I really can't say too much about this show, because if I describe what went on, then: 1. It will spoil the show for you and 2. It won't sound funny written down.

A man falls in love with a calculator. See. Not funny. But Tommy and The Weeks make it funny. Now that's talent!

Good shows are all bout enthusiasm. These guys are really enthusiastic with bundles of energy and unlike most sketch shows, there are no moments when you sit back and think "these guys must feel so stupid doing that". I get the feeling they are actually that mental all the time.

Great value at £8.50/£9.50

Tommy and the Weeks - Powershow is on in the Pleasance Attic at 17.45


Pluck: The Titanic Show ****

To become critically acclaimed at the Fringe, you either have to be funnier than everyone else, or you have to be doing something different. You have to be unique.

After seeing Pluck, I really admire them, because they are talented musicians in their own right and could easily settle for a a slot in an arty farty venue and sit and play Vivaldi for an hour and make money. But they are much more ambitious and above all they seem like they want to have fun.

The result of their sense of mischief and adventure is an excellent show which I think will go on to do very well.

The show is a musical about the Titanic, told through the eyes of the musicians who were on board. It's very touching but also very funny and I really like the fact that it will bring a small dose of cultured classical music to people who wouldn't normally listen to it.

The show has missed out on 5 stars for me because I think they could have taken some of the jokes further. There was only one or two small references to the film and they had a couple of perfect opportunities to poke fun out of it but chose not to. (I was waiting for a hand to appear on the projector screen like it did in the car in the movie - it would have been hilarious but it didn't happen unfortunately).

But be assured that this is an excellent show. The comic acting is brilliant. The music is fantastic, and it's a very well thought out play.

Pluck is on in the Pleasance One at 16.40


Rich Hall: Fifty Cent Words ***

On the way in I experienced my first wee bit of Fringe ticket chaos.

I headed along to Assembly to see what I could see and realised as soon as I sat down with my drink, that Rich Hall was starting in 15 minutes.

Excellent I thought! I had previously tried to buy tickets for his other show (the one where he plays his comic charachter "Otis Lee Crenshaw") but that was sold out.

So I headed along to the box office thinking that 15 minutes was plenty of time.

It wasn't.

To be fair to the management, they were out there in numbers keeping everyone informed, but employing 16 year old's who have never worked with a till before is not going do do anything positive to the speed of the transactions.

About a minute before the show was due to start, they saw sense and let everyone who was going to see Rich Hall go to the front of teh queue, but I still ended up being late.

Anyway, on to the show....

Rich Hall is a very charming and captivating entertainer. In this show he was sharing some of the stories he had written, one long one about his childhood, one about a trip to Aberdeen and one about his teenaged daughter's uncanny ability to get into trouble.

One of the stories was a bit long, but other than that it was an entertaining hour.

I do sometimes feel a little bit cheated when I turn up from a show and someone is just reading from a bit of paper. I didn't really research the show, so I guess I could have found out beforehand that he was just reading stories and made a more informed decision about whether or not to pay £12, but I didn't so I can't complain if that's what the show is advertised as.

If you're a big fan of Rich Hall this is a must see, but if you're not, you'll won't be hard pushed to get better value for your £12 elsewhere.

Rich Hall is on at Assembly at 13.05 daily.

His other show (which I reckon will be better) is on at the Pleasance at 21.20


Friday, 1 August 2008

Tim Minchin - Ready For This? *****

Tim Minchin is freakin' awesome!

I kind of knew he would be.

He was recommended to me back in June when the Fringe guide first came out and a friend passed on a youtube link to one of his songs.

I immediatley fell in love with his songs and watched everything that was on the net and lapped it up. I also went straight to the fringe website and bought a ticket for his show, so I went in with high expectations and I wasn't disappointed at all.

Going in, I was kind of worried that I might have spoilt it for myself. Having watched stuff that was only uploaded a could of months ago from performances in Australia, I could easliy have paid money to watch songs that I'd already seen over and over again on youtube.

Luckily for me, Tim has a whole bunch of new material and it is just as great as all the old stuff I've seen on the net.

He started with a typically self indulgent Rock 'N' Roll intro followed by a bit of stand up before he eventually sat down at the piano and did his stuff.

Every song was superb. I particularly liked the one about his wife... and the five minute stand up routine which followed - explaining that his wife doesn't mind him writing funny songs about her because her sense of humour is even more twisted.... I've said too much already, but it's hilarious! He also alludes to a certain journalist who gave him a one star review during his first year at the fringe. The song is called "Forgiveness".

If you want to know more, you'll have to buy a ticket. (Or look him up on youtube - I recommed "Inflatable You" as a good starting point).

I really hope he sells out his shows and gets an award this year. He deserves to be massive.

If you don't mind blasphemy - Tim Minchin is on at the Pleasance Grand at 21.45 daily.

A resounding: 5/5

Nina Conti - Evolution *****

I first saw Nina Conti when she appeared with Monkey (that's her sidekick) on some new comedy talent show on BBC 3 when BBC 3 had only just started and nobody watched it (apart from me).

Needless to say she won the talent show and I encountered her again at Late and Live whe she was one of the four acts on display (at that time she hadn't really changed the act that much from what was on TV).

So having not seen her for 3/4 years I was looking forward to seeing some new material from by far the funniest ventriloquist I've seen to date.

Watching the show, I think Nina was very aware of the fact that she needed to get some new stuff out there and "Evolution" was a very ambitious attempt to do a full hour of material that hadn't been done before.

There were costume changes, a projector screen, and a duet between her and the monkey, as well as a bit of hypnosis and even an appearance form her famous Dad.

Some shows - particularly stand up acts, don't really need previews, because all they are doing standing and talking to a microphone. But when you have so much going on, the previews will highlight areas of the show that still need to be perfected and/or rewritten slightly and Nina certainly noticed quite a few, (and monkey wasn't shy about pointing them out to her).

But as I've mentioned in previous reviews, it's not how often you make mistakes, it's how you deal with them that makes or breaks the show and Nina Conti is the master of recovery.

She makes everything look effortless and has plenty of arse jokes to fall back on if things aren't going her way. The monkey can swing the audience with a moment of cuteness or a moment of utter filth. Either way she always has them eating out of her hand.

Most of her stuff did work and the stuff that didn't, you could see how it could be funny... and she didn't dwell on them log enough for the show to go off track.

She's reasonably priced at £9.50/£10.50, but I would wait a week or two before going to see her, because I think the show will "evolve" over the three weeks and get better.

She is clearly a top class comedian and a very safe bet for the fringe. (A good show to go to if you're going on a date as well).

Nina and Monk are at the Pleasance Two at 8.25pm daily


Day 2 in Review

I've still to post two reviews from today.

I saw Nini Conti and Tim Minchin, both of whom were absoltuely awesome and will be getting five stars each in due course.

Today got better as it went on, proving that the best shows have the best time slots because they are the best shows....

I started with the worst show I had ever seen at the fringe (and I've probably seen well over 100 shows so that's quite an achievement) and finished with what was probably the best I have ever seen with Tim Minchin. Go and see him. You will not be disappointed.

I might take a wander down to the Assembly Rooms tomorrow to see what they have to offer, but if it's not that good I'll head back to my usual haunt at the Pleasance.

The first four shows I saw were all free, but I decided to stop being a cheapskate and buy tickets when I realised that the last two shows I wanted to see were only minutes apart, leaving no time to sit around eating ice cream on the scrounge!

AAA Stand Up ****

I don't really have a lot to say about this show.

It was a very typical run of the mill, three-comedians-for-the-price-of-one-show.

The good news is they have got three very competent comedians! The bad news is, it's in the Cellar at the Pleasance which is really hot and stuffy and not a pleasant or comfortable place to sit.

I was last in due to me receiving a phone call as the show was being called and as my punishment I was forced to sit in the front row. On my own.

Thankfully I managed to get away without getting a complete roasting, (I don't know if that was because they were scared of me - one said I resembled a bouncer - or if I'm just so good looking I dont attract the attention of comedians. I like to think it's the latter, but I could be wrong).

AAA Stand Up will give you exactly what it says on the tin. Three very good quality comedians. Nothing special, but still plenty of laughs and nothing to complain about.

It would maybe beneft from being on a bit later as it would suit bigger more drunken groups, but I guess there isn't much they can do about that now.

It's a small venue so I'm sure they'll be more than capable of filling it most evenings.

AAA Stand Up is on at 7.15pm In the Pleasance Cellar


The Six Wives Of Timothy Leary ***

Being an amateur reviewer, I sometimes feel unqualified to give a fair review of the show, particularly in situations where I know little about the subject matter on which the show is based. I often think it would be a good idea for the audience to be given little info sheets - especially when the show is based on something that happened 30-40 years ago and much of the audience will be too young to remember.

All I know about Timothy Leary is that The Who referred to him in the lyrics of one of their songs. Other than that, I hadn't heard of him and unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to google him before the start of the show.

Throughout the show, there were a series of monologues from each of his six wives, along with a bit of them mixing together as they met and had drinks when he died. It told the story of his life with each of his partners as he progressed and became more experimental with illegal substances.

I'm not a big fan of monologues, especially when the person is talking and answering questions from an imaginary person... I sometimes find it tiring and unneccesary.

Having said that, they 6 actors were all very beleivable and performed well (especially considering the number of morons who were allowed in late and chose to thump their way up the stairs instead of sitting at the seats at the front near the door and in particular the two who chose to leave half way through right in the middle of one of the said monologues instead of waiting for a break - of which there were plenty. I have a feeling that the actors will be demanding that latecomers be told to go f*** themselves in future and quite right too! There. That's that off my chest).

So yeah, If you haven't heard of Timothy Leary. Make sure you google him before the show. If you have, I think you'll enjoy the show. I can't say anything bad about the six actresses (who were all lovely). I guess the show just wasn't really relevant to me.

The Six Wives Of Timothy Leary is on at The Pleasance Dome at 5pm


Thursday, 31 July 2008

Girl and Dean ****

I saw a snippet of this show yesterday and they were OK so I thought (when I was given a free ticket) that I'd give the full show a try.

I'm glad I did. The two girl are very likeable and they have enough good jokes to keep things flowing nicely for the full hour.

The sketches are well rehearsed enough that they work well, without being too rigid and stifling the girls natural ability to look relaxed on stage.

They hinted that they were after a slot on Radio 4. I reckon their sketches would work better on TV. A polished up version of what I saw, with real actors instead of puppets and more props in a TV studio would be no worse than what's on BBC 3 at the moment.

I've been put off sketch shows after seeing a few terrible ones last year and a not so good one yesterday. But Girl and Dean have gone some way to restoring my faith in them.

3.30 in the Pleasance Cellar if you fancy something funny and chirpy.


On The Island Of Aars **

A farcical musical play about a woman who lives alone on an island off the West of Scotland with only two crazy Evangelical ministers for company, until a Dutch health and safety inspector comes along to stir things up.

The show sounded promising and was funny in parts, but too high a percentage of the jokes didn't work.

The ending does make you smile and there is a great enthusiasm from the cast who revel in being silly. The girl who played "Morag" had an excellent voice, but the too many of the jokes were just childish in an unfunny way.

2.10pm at the Pleasance Above if you fancy a bit of silliness.


All Dressed Up To Go Dreaming *

If you were stereotyping the Edinburgh Fringe, or writing a comedy about a Fringe show, you would probably come up with a one man show in a basement, with four people watching, as a self indulgent weirdo dressed in a top hat and tails waffed a bunch of self indulgent nonsense for half an hour that nobody really got.

All Dressed Up To Go Dreaming was exactly that. To a tee. Out of the four people in the audience, three of them were in some way involved in the show. The other was me.

The charachter is a drunken socialite who goes on about how much he hates opera and quotes James Joyce to a dummy in an armchair. At the end he pulls the dummies hands and feet off.

I sat there for 25 minutes wondering if I was just a common man and really sophisticated intelligent people would get this show.... But I doubt it. It was just utter tosh.

I saw six other shows today so I won't waste any more time reviewing it.

If you have a someone that you really hate. Buy them a ticket.

It's on twice a day at 12pm and 1pm at C soco

The Best Place to Stay

It's not just about the shows! I also aim to give newcomers lots of general information about my city and welcome questions at any time.....

If you are looking for accommodation then you could do a lot worse than the Garfield Guest House.

I don't have much use for hotels and guest houses in Edinburgh, given that I have a flat here but I can recommend the Garfield Guest House. It's run by my good friend Martin and they even have their own blog where previous guests have left comments about the excellent service!

Main Site:

Although I haven't stayed the night, I have sampled breakfast on a number of occasions and the sausages are to die for! They also have great views of the castle and there are plenty of buses that will get you to the town centre in 5 minutes.

Call Martin on 552 2369 if you are looking to stay somwhere nice during the Fringe or beyond.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Day One in Review

I saw four shows today (two freebies). It could have been a lot more if I didn't have a dental appointment right in the middle of the day.

I was planning on going to see "On The Island Of Aars" but my first show ran over a bit and I didn't have time to get back to the Pleasance for it starting. I'll try and catch that tomorrow.

I've also pre-booked a ticket for Tim Minchin which I'm very much looking forward to. I'm just hoping that I haven't spoilt the show by watching all his songs on youtube and that he'll have enough new material to keep me happy.

Other general observations:

I had a walk down the Royal Mile and had a look into C venue, walked past the Udderbelly and also spent a bit of time in the Guilded Balloon.

My general impression is that the Pleasance is undoubtedly the best place to be during the first couple of days of the previews.

They are fully up and running whereas the other venues are still putting together flat pack picnic tables from B&Q and looking like they haven't officially started. The other venues don't seem to have many people giving out comps, but at the Pleasance they practically shower you with them. They've got the best choice of food/drink - which are no more of a rip off than at any of the other venues.

On the Royal Mile I saw people flyering from trampoleens and two guys dressed as a bus giving out flyers. Good effort!!!

Roll on tomorrow!

Marcus Birdman: Sympathy for the Devil ****

With a show title that alludes to the Rolling Stones and with a flyer that told me that Marcus Birdman was a commited atheist who was brought up by a vicar, this show looked very promising.... I am a massive Stones fan and a rampant atheist/humanist/secularist who can be very easily amused by blasphemy so this seemed to tick all the boxes.

I was given another freebie (Praise the Lord!!!) so I headed over to the Pleasance Dome - (the performance rooms are named after playing cards, this one being in what's know as the "10Dome").

Marcus was a very cheerful comedian. He tells some funny stories, gives us a critical examination of the bible and shares his philosophical outlook on life and wraps up the show reasonably well.

I thought he hit the nail on the head with all his observations - but in my case he was preaching to the converted. He was very competent and worth the money, but I didn't hear anything inspiring or original enough to really impress me.

If like me you have seeked out a lot of atheist comedians in the past, and watched/listened to the likes of Marcus Bridgestock or Pat Condell (other comedians with atheist/secular agendas that can be easily found on youtube and come highly recommended) then you won't find too much new within Marcus Birdman's show.

If you haven't before, and the topic of god being made up is something that may interest you, I would definately go and see it.

I tend to be rather generous when giving out stars - I've gone for four but it was probably more like three and a half, mainly because his ideas and jokes weren't all that new to me....

But he's a very competent comedian. You should definately go and see him.

Marcus Birdman: Sympathy for the Devil is on at 8.20pm at the Pleasance Dome.


Chris Cox: Control Freak ***

This show was introduced to me by a bloke with flyers who said "Have you heard of Chris Cox. He does all the stuff that Derren Brown does, but without being a W****r". (Chris Cox also alluded to Derren Brown in the show - so I don't apologise for my many references and comparisons with Mr Brown contained within this review).

This opening pitch caught my attention, but also put me off at the same time. I quite like Derren Brown. I read his book and found it very informative and enjoyable.

Never the less a free ticket was forthcoming, (which was rather refreshing because I ended up paying for the first two shows that I saw), so I went along to see what it would be like.

The show wasn't bad. Most of the tricks worked, some nearly worked and one was completely given away by one of the volunteers. Not that anyone actually volunteered - he must use at least 15 audience members over the show (including me twice for small bits although I didn't have to get on stage thankfully). But overall he did rather well and his finale was quite impressive.

There were however two major downsides to the show for me.

Firstly, as someone who has watched all of Derren Brown's shows, I don't think he offered anything new. He's just doing the same tricks about three years later.

Secondly, as I mentioned previously, I have read Derren Brown's book so I pretty much know how he did every trick. There was nothing on show that I couldn't have explained to you.

He apparently sold out last year and I can see why as he is reasonably good at what he does. I've also never seen Derren Brown live; without the benefit of TV editing, so it could be argued that the above two criticisms are not entirely fair as it's not a level playing field.

If I'd never seen Derren Brown I would have been very impressed. Unfortunately I have, and so has most of the population of the UK, which is a very big problem for Chris Cox to get around. He either needs to do something new or do it better than him which is a very hard task indeed.

This show is on daily in the Pleasance Above at 6.20pm


Lucy and Des Show Off **

I paid for this one thinking that £6 was great value for two comedians of the quality of Lucy Porter and Des Clarke.

The show was a mixture of them dicking around on stage, a few sketches and a couple of guests slots for other sketch shows to promote their own show.

The two comedians worked very well at the beginning, it was a very informal and the banter between them and the audience, and between the two of them, was pretty funny and relaxing.

Them they started doing sketches, which were at best pretty average. Sometimes when sketches are under-rehearsed it makes them even funnier, but that didn't happen in this case. They just looked under rehearsed.

The two guests; a double act called "Girl and Dean" and a group of four called "Tea and Coffee" were both competent but they were only given a slot of around five minutes so they didn't really get the chance to build up any momentum. I don't think it would be fair to judge them on such a short slot and I've certainly nothing bad to say about them.

I suppose this is just Des and Lucy's "let's try it and see what happens" show. Their side project if you will. They've both got individual shows, which will be brilliant if their respective reputations are anything to go by. But I get the feeling that they have really put their heart and soul into their main shows, which are their bread and butter and concentrated less on this one.

The show has all the ingredients to be absolutely cracking and may well go on to get better as it develops over the next three weeks, but more work is required to get it right.

So unfortunately, on day one it didn't exactly set the heather on fire. I hope they get things sorted out early and hit form when the real reviewers start going along because they are both very likeable comedians.

This show is on Daily at 5pm in the Pleasance Above.


The Patriot Act ****

My first show of 2008....

The play is about a liberal playwriter who has caught the attention of the administration by writing plays condemning government foreign policy.

The government charge him under the patriot act but offer him a way out and send a representative to convince him: write a pro government play about the war on terror.

I thouroughly enjoyed it.

It was a very well balanced play, with a few funny moments, flashbacks and a lot of engaging and gripping drama. The relationships between the charachters were all very poigniant.

There were a couple of stutters as the actors got to grips with performing the show for real for the first time at the Fringe, but that's why I only paid a fiver (preview price) and I'm sure that as they relax into the roles there won't be any problems.

Well worth going to see.

The show is on at the Guilded Balloon (that's the Teviot for all you locals) at 12.45pm daily.

More Free Shows....

I was going to wait until after the previews before mentioning this, but seeing as some acts have already started advertising in my comments section (good initiative guys) I'll do it now.

Laughing Horse are a comedy company commited to putting on free Fringe shows throughout the whole month.

They take over venues every year and put a show on every hour, free of charge. Here are this year's venues:

The Argyle
Counting House
Edinburgh City FC
Jekyll & Hyde
Meadow Bar
Pear Tree

They leave a bucket at the door so you can put money in as you leave - that goes to the comedians. The venue makes money through serving drinks. It's seems to be a successful formula that's growing year on year - no surprise when the average Fringe ticket is approaching the £10 mark...

For a list of shows check out:

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Attention Seekers.....

They've even managed to fool the Fringe Office:

(This story relates to my earlier advice for performers to "get noticed by the press" using any means neccesary)..... Scroll down to my third blog.......

Things to do in Edinburgh when you're dead on your feet!

Whether you're organising a show or just here to soak up the atmosphere, you're going to be pretty tired during the Fringe. But if you've got the stamina, Edinburgh has so much more to offer. Here are my top 10 things to do:

1. Spit on the Heart of Midlothian.

The Heart of Midlothian marks the spot that used to be the entrance to the Old Tollbooth prison. which was demolished over a century ago. The locals at the time used to spit at the entrance to the prison to show their distain for the local authorities. The tradition has continued desite the building no longer being there - perhaps because the council are still pretty unpopular. Make sure you get a photo to show all your friends!

2. Climb Arthur's Seat.

It's not that difficult, and it has great views across the whole city.

3. Visit the Castle.

To my eternal shame, something that I've never done myself in 19 years of living here. I'll do it one day.

4. Go to the Zoo.

I love the zoo. They've got a great new chimp enclosure and the Rainbow Lorikeets (sp?) will come and land on your hand if you purchase a pot of nectar to feed them.

5. Have a pint of IPA in the Oxford Bar.

The "local" of Edinburgh's best known fictional crime-buster Inspector Rebus.

6. Have a dram!

Thee's a great whisy shop on the Royal Mile, just opposite the Heart of Midlothian. Take home a single malt to impress your Father in Law

7. Take in a football match.

Edinburgh has two teams, Hearts and Hibs. I follow Hearts, the bigger of the two teams so I would strongly encourage you to see them over Hibs. Both grounds have a good atmosphere, especially once the competetive stuff starts after the 9th August. A ticket will cost you around £25.

8. Climb the Scott Monument

Great views of the Castle and North to the Forth. Last time I did it, it only cost a few pounds to go up.

9. Visit Fettes College.

Tomy Blair's old school and one of the most important pieces of architecture in the whole of Scoland. They are running a Jazz festival form 22nd-24th August. Last year they lit up the whole building with floodlights. The perfect time to go and see the building. The music's pretty good too if Jazz is your bag!

10. (For the boys) Play football on the Meadows.

If the weather is nice, there will be loads of games going on, and peope will be happy to let you join in. Not for the faint hearted.

10. (For the girls) Visit Harvey Nicks.

Just off St. Andrew's Square towards the East end of the new town. Lots of designer stores are sprining up next to it as well. Make sure you're got plenty of money on your credit card!

Monday, 28 July 2008

Flyers Flyers Flyers.....

This one goes out to all the stars of the shows....

When I'm not taking time off to swan about Edinburgh taking advantage of desperate Fringe performers, I work in sales and marketing (and also have a marketing degree), so it's quite interesting for me to observe the various tactics used by performers in order to attract as much attention to their shows as possible. (I say performers because with the exception of Jimmy Carr no-one can afford to employ PR companies to hand our flyers so you'll generally find it's the actors, writers and producers who are handing out flyers and harassing people on the Royal Mile).

So here are my tips to help make your show a success:

1. Take advantage of new technology. What do you mean your Fringe show doesn't have a facebook page? Please try and keep up. Bebo, Myspace.... they're all free. If you haven't done it already, you're already miles behind. Keep reading.....

2. Don't just hand out flyers. You have to engage with people.

If you wait until I have almost walked past you then you thrust a flyer right out in front of me, blocking my path, you'll get my "F*** Off I live here" stare, and I won't be coming to your show.

If you hold your flyer out just a little bit and give me a look that says "I hope you don't mind but I want to give you this flyer, but I really don't want to impose on you, I dooooo hope you'll come over to me and take one..." If you do that I'll avoid eye contact and keep walking. I don't want to be the one doing the approaching.

If you make eye contact early, smile, compliment me on my choice of T-Shirt and say. "We're doing this show, it's brilliant and I'm in it, so you'll want to come. Are you free at 3 o'clock?" You might just get me to stop and take a flyer (especially if you're a hot chick - I'll admit it - I'm a pushover if you're a confident hot little drama queen).

Say hello and aim to make a friend with every approach you make.

3. Be different. here are some of the things I've seen that have made people stand out on the Royal Mile:

People standing on pillars/on each others shoulders/lying on the ground/pretending to be dead whilst giving out flyers.

A double act where one guys gives out flyers and the other one tries to stop him shouting "Don't take one of them, their poisonous, I saw them last year, they were s***, don't trust him madam he's after your handbag" and grabbing him and wrestling him to the ground.

People wearing nothing but flyers (don't give out too many as you are liable to get arrested).

People giving out sweets with flyers - "Want a cola bottle? Well you can have one as soon as you take a flyer for our show at the C venue starting at 3.40 in theatre number two. I'm it it, it's great!"

One group sang "We're handing out flyers, we're handing out flyers" occasionally changing the lyrics to mention the venue, time and that the show was unsuitable for children, before going back to the chorus ad nauseum. Annoying but effective - like a daytime TV ad for cheaper car insurance!

You're actors. Improvise. The bolder the better.

4. Get noticed by the press.

One double act almost had to cancel their act when they were involved in a serious car accident on the way to Edinburgh, but they managed to get the show on and it was a complete sell out because the papers picked up on it.

I'm not suggesting you drive your car off the Forth Road Bridge, but you get my point.

I remember reading about a show in an inflatable swimming pool last year that was almost cancelled because the swimming pool got a puncture. Again, an unfortunate but ultimately happy co-incidence that helped them boost sales once they got it fixed because the press liked the story and ran with it (and before you ask, no, I didn't see the show so I can;t give any more details).

The above examples were genuine as far as I know, but things can be engineered. There's nothing wrong with a wee hoax to get your name in the paper - as long as you don't pretend the director is dying of cancer you should get away with it, and you might even get double exposure when the hoax is revealed. The wittier the better. As long as your confident the people being fooled see the funny side.

Also, try and pose for photographs when you;re out and about. If you can get your picture in The Scotsman, it'll help raise awareness of you and your show.

5. Hard work.

I've never put on a theatre show. Other than looking after the props for our school performance of Bugsy Malone 15 years ago, I have had no involvement at all. I realise it must be tiring, and you're probably sitting cross legged with excitement just thinking about the night life in Edinburgh during the Festival... but how hard you work will determine your success.

There will a direct correlation between your ticket sales and the amount of time you spend on the street promoting your show (unless you get really lucky and you get a five start review in The Scotsman in week one). If you are hungover and can't be bothered, then your show will not be a success and you are going to be no nearer to achieving your goals (i.e. getting a decent gig on Channel 4) than you were at the start of the summer. You'd have been as well spending your August working at Butlins.

6. Use your initiative.

The edfringe website is neutral (unless you pay to advertise) but it also lets people post reviews about shows they have seen. If you have a friend who has seen your show, get them to rate it, or write a review. Let's face it, everyone else is going to be doing it.

A few years ago a friend of mine was running a show. I gave it a stunning review after night one (which was empty) and by night three it had almost sold out because it was the top rated show in the "Dance and Physical Theatre" section on the website. It one five start rating (mine) and a cracking written review, compared with all the other shows' no ratings and no reviews....

7. Bribery

The Scotsman published a list of things that they had been sent by performers to try and entice them to come and review their show. The list included cake, alcohol, novelty toys, etc etc.... I wouldn't recommend cash bribes.

So, good luck promoting your show. I hope it's a success.

See you on the Royal Mile!!!

The Early Bird......

Year on year I have become more enthusiastic about the Fringe.

I went from stopping to see a few jugglers in the street on my way to work.... to seeing the odd comedy show... to taking a week off work to go and see shows.... to writing a blog about it......

One thing I noticed as I became more keen, was that the earlier you started the more shows you could see for your money.

I don't want to perpetuate the stereotype of the tight Scotsman, but.....come to the previews. It's as cheap as the budgie!!!

It only costs a fiver for most shows Wed - Sat, and that's only if you're not lucky enough to get given free tickets by a stressed out producers who don't want to open with three people in the audience (including their parents who have flown all the way to Edinburgh for their big debut).

You'll get some shaky performances and you'll see at least one absolutely terrible show, but that's the risk you run when coming to the festival. You're not a true fringe goer until you've sat through a show, too embarassed to leave because you don't want to half the audience numbers by making a premature exit.

In order to maximise my chances of getting in for nothing, I've found that sitting in the Pleasance Courtyard eating ice cream, reading the Guardian (with a free fringe guide) and drinking a cold beer tends to do the trick.

It isn't that busy (especially during the day) and there will be lots of eager performers, looking for audience members to see the show and spread the word about it to all their friends. That's why, if they don''t sell many tickets in advance, they print off a big pile of freebies and hand them out to boost numbers.

It's mostly just other performers that are about, so if you adopt a similar position to me you'll stick out like a sore thumb because you'll be relaxed and not stressing out, and the flyer vultures will circle you and try to sell you tickets to the show.

Some shows may have already taken your fancy and some you may not have heard of, but your reaction should always be the same. Find out as much as you can about the show, ask if the person giving you the flyer is involved in it, if not have they seen it? Then, thank them for their time, take a flyer, show a bit of interest and tell them that if you're free when the show is due to start, you might buy a ticket.

If they have free tickets to give away, they'll come back to you. If not you could always buy a ticket, see it another day or just give it a miss entirely. In any case, there'll be another one along in a minute.

If you are patient, it works (you're guaranteed to be approached every 5 minutes, but the offer of a free ticket might only come along every half hour or so). I have done this for the past 3-4 years and on average I'll see up to 6-7 shows a day and pay for maybe 2 a day (that works out at around £10 not including beer and ice cream).

Then after the previews finish, find yourself a partner and take advantage of the 2 for 1 deals on Sunday and Monday, and fingers crossed you'll still have plenty of cash for the rest of the Fringe!


Welcome to Edinburgh and welcome to my blog.

At the time of writing, the Fringe is just over a day away. (That is to say, the show previews start on Wednesday 30th). Fringe usually gets going in stages, with previews and 2 for 1's etc before they have the audacity to charge full price for tickets, but for the purposes of your average Fringe-goer like me Wednesday is the day when the talking stops and showtime starts.

Over the next day or two, I'll start by posting a basic guide to the Fringe. This should cover all your FAQ's, tips on how to pick shows and get value for money (especially if you are a local or if you are coming to Edinburgh early). There will also be some advice for people who are putting on shows - how to attract the average punter like me, and I'll give you some general information about Edinburgh, the things to do and places to visit if you want to take a break from watch comedians or students prancing around performing hip hop versions of Shakespeare.

Then once the festival starts, I'll post information about the shows I've seen. Reviews if you like.

I always take a week or two off work to see shows so you'll find my posts may become less frequent as the weeks go on but I hope the info contained in them will remain relevant until at least the end of the Fringe, if not until next year and beyond.