Monday, 15 August 2011

More People to See

So, I've seem a few more acts, mainly at Shaggers (which I won't be reviewing because I have already done so twice and also because it's my mate who runs it) and I've also remembered a few more people that I didn't mention in my list.

Ashley Frieze closed Shaggers last night and he really is getting better and better every time I see him. He was joined on stage by Kate Lucas who more than held her own with some cracking smutty songs. But my favourite act of the night was Christophe Davidson who managed to keep the drunken late night crowd thoroughly entertained with stories about drunken sex and near misses!

Bob Slayer was not the best I've ever seen him as his crowd was a little sparse (and he needs a crown for his show to really work) but have seen him do much better so I can still confidently recommend him (perhaps make sure you go on the weekend).

I've heard great things about Hitler The Musical and also about Casual Violence: Choose Death although I've not had the chance to see them yet.

Another young Scottish act worth seeing is Sarah May-Philo who is doing a compilation show with Julia Sutherland.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Amateur Transplants: Adam Kay's Smutty Songs 2 1/2*

Whilst I am a whore for free tickets and a big fan of the Free Festival, I'm also not against splashing out for a decent show to see a top comic if I think it will be worth it.

It was with this in mind, and with my girlfriend and I finally agreeing on a show we'd both liked to see that I booked tickets for Adam Kay.

If you don't recognise the name there is still a good chance you will have heard one of his songs, with The London Underground song having had well over 6 millions hits on youtube. It was this song that brought him to my attention and I also looked at a few of his other tunes, which were all funny and close enough to the bone to satisfy my sense of humour.

When you get into a particular comedy niche you are going to be compared to other comics doing the same sort of thing as you and one of the top comedians in the UK at the moment, Tim Minchin also sings funny songs at the piano and has lots of his songs on youtube.

There are however quite a few key differences, between Tim Minchin and Adam Kay, firstly Tim Minchin writes his own music whereas Adam Kay borrows popular tunes. That doesn't necessarily make you a bad comedian.

The key thing I didn't like about Adam Kay's style, was that many of his songs were not full songs, there were just a verse here a chorus there and while one or two were very funny and didn't need elaborated on, many of them could have been taken much further. Instead he simply stopped after the first laugh and moved on somewhere else.

The next talking point which can't go unmentioned is his capacity for drinking wine. After quaffing 1/2 a glass and a full bottle of white wine in the first 40 minutes, he managed to get half way through a bottle of red before he dropped his glass, smashing it on the stage and then simply moving on to the the next song because he didn't have anything else to say.

This was after he'd made his 4th or 5th reference to his parents not loving him, (because he's gay/not a practising doctor any more) which was funny the first time when he was sober but got more and more awkward as he got more and more drunk and it really did make the audience feel uncomfortable.

As far as I can tell from other reviews, the drinking thing is something he does during every show and whilst I think it's admirable that he can still play piano in the state he's in it really doesn't add to the performance and you end up feeling sorry for him by the end of the show.

Whilst he still has enough good material to fill an hour long show (and you can't criticise him for finishing off with the song that made him famous and effectively filled the room for him) , it seems that his old material is mainly full songs and his new stuff is mainly shorter and less complete stuff. When you add this to the fact that he can't even stay sober long enough to hold a glass until the end of the show, and then add in the fact that he has next to no straight stand up material between songs, you do end up walking away feeling a little disappointed.

He has the advantage of his crowd being friendly and forgiving because having seen his stuff on line they have an idea of what is coming and are prepared to wait for it. Sadly it doesn't come.

It was nice to hear the London Underground song live and there were plenty of laughs in the show, but I can't get over the fact that he's been performing live for six years and has been doing it professionally for a while now, yet his strongest material is the stuff he wrote whilst still a full time doctor or in the very early stages of his professional career, since then he gives the impression that he's been getting pissed, disappointing his parents and living off the fact that his one big hit can draw enough of a crowd to presumably give him a decent living. He promises so much more and still has the capacity to deliver, but seemingly not the will.

Show details:

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The List

So, a week or so into the Fringe, I'm posting a list of shows that I think you should see. Some I have seen and reviewed, some I have seen in previous years, some I have seen people involved in the show but not seen the whole show....

Big Names:

Reg Hunter is always worth a look. As are Richard Herring and Stewart Lee.

Becoming Big Names:

Adam Riches (see my review) has a growing reputation. His two sidekicks are also part of other shows "Late Night Gimp Fight" and "Idiots of Ants"respectively, shows I would very much like to see.

Doug Segal is now sold out so you probably won't get to see him but if you can go then do. A similar act who is almost as good is Chris Cox. He's doing a full run I believe.

I've seen Jessica Ransom twice as part of a double act and supporting Adam Riches and she was excellent.

I saw Cabaret Whore in 2009 and 2010, brilliant both times.

I'm off to see Adam Kay of Amateur Transplants on Saturday. (Check out the London Underground Song on youtube if you haven't heard of him).

Smaller names destined for bigger things:

Diane Spencer is getting some great reviews. Some great filthy sex stories and included in her show by the sounds of things! I've seen her at Shaggers and she stole she show.

Marcel Lucont is another Shaggers regular. He's doing a chat show this year which is definitely worth a look.

Max and Ivan were my first 5* show this year and are sure to be an even bigger success next year.

Now two shows with some great young up and coming Scottish comedians, most of whom I've seen at local comedy competitions. "Gangsters of Laugh" features Rik Caranza, Gareth Waugh and Paulie Cronin all of whom did well. One of my favourite up and coming Scottish lads is Richard Gadd who stars with James Kirk and Matt Winning in "Gadd Kirk and Winning: Well This is Awkward".

Compilation Shows:

My favourite show at the Fringe bar none is Shaggers. 4-6 comedians late at night talking about sex, with my buddy Nik Coppin as compere, who is also very good in his solo show "Award Winning Comedian".

Also I mentioned this in my last post, but Laughing Horse Free Festival run three "Pick of the Fringe" Shows at Espionage every day. Aside from the shape of the room, there is no difference between that and show and any of the compilation 3 comics and a compere type shows that you have to pay for.

That should keep you busy for a day or two at least!

Bratchy: Beer and Loathing and Lost Wages ***

When your show is free then getting the crowd in can be only half the battle, entertaining them in non-prefect conditions can be a whole different matter. Often at the Free Festival you'll see a show every bit as good as a paid show. The Free Festival "Pick of the Fringe" shows are every bit as good as "Best of Scottish/Irish Comedy" or The Big Value Comedy show.

The downside however is that some of the rooms can be too uncomfortable, too hot, music can seep in from other venues and sometimes people wander in to shows not knowing what to expect and end up seeing something that is not to their taste.

Bratchy didn't have al the above challenges but it was a very bright room, not designed for comedy and there was a fair bit of music seeping in. I've never seen anyone do a 4-5 star review in these conditions so he has to be highly commended for putting on a 3* show under the circumstances.

Although somewhat disjointed in places, Bratchy is a very capable stand up. His style (delivery and material) is perhaps more suited to late night compering so it could ave been a challenge for him to hold the room but he managed fine (even when he went off at tangents that lead to not that strong material).

In the final part of the show the comedy went hardcore with the addition of a second comedian (disguised as a ventriloquists dummy) who managed to get away with some seriously offensive stuff because he was dressed as a dummy.

This is not a show to see if you are easily offended, but for a free show it is certainly ticks a lot of the boxes and I reckon that you'll be far more likely than not to pop a few pounds in the bucket at the end of the show!

Show details:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Doug Segal - I know What You're Thinking *****

I have two things to say about Doug Segal.

Number one is that he has an incredible show. Number two, he is the perfect example of how good marketing can bring you success at the Fringe.

I first encountered Doug when he started following me on Twitter not long after I'd joined, when I only had around 20 followers and hadn't said much. Presumably lured by my official looking username, he read my blog, saw what I was about and messaged me inviting me to come along and see the show. I was by no means the only one. @FringeGuru, @EdinburghSpotlight, @PublicReviews and many others had also been charmed into reviewing his show (or manipulated by the power of his mind depending on which way you look at it) and the reviews were all resoundingly positive.

I got the chance to meet him in person at the Free Festival Launch Party and I was pleased to find out that he was as nice in person as he appeared on Twitter. We chatted about his marketing strategy and he told me that once he had prepared a good show, he knew his work was still less than half done as he still had to get a crowd in to watch it, and he saw his job as show promoter every bit as much as a performer.

As someone who works in marketing who has watched so many better than average comedians get nowhere because they were to hungover to flyer or because they don't even have a facebook page, I can't tell you how refreshing this attitude is to see. Any aspiring comics or theatre acts need to look back at his Twitter timeline over the last three months, read his masterclass in self promotion and follow his lead.

Anyway, enough of my appreciation of him as a marketing guru and on to the show.....

Doug describes himself as a mentalist "like Derren Brown" but funnier. When you compare yourself to someone as successful as that you need to have the skills to match and thankfully Doug's show doesn't disappoint. I have read Derren Brown's book as well as others by the likes of James Randi, so I have a fair idea of how acts like Doug's work (I regularly annoy my girlfriend by beating Penn and Teller to the punch when they dissect the performance of another contestant on "Fool Us").

I tried doing the same at Doug's show, but by trick number four I was really struggling and although I got back on track mid-show, the last 4-5 tricks , leading up to the grand finale had me not even knowing where to start.

From the beginning he is charming and friendly, his show requires audience participation which (unlike Adam Riches) is done very sensitively without embarrassment and with the volunteers constantly at ease with their role.

His tricks all worked perfectly and he finished with a standing ovation (albeit prompted) and the buzz continued all the was down the stairs as people were leaving, desperate to discuss how he could have possibly pulled it all off.

He is now on course to sell out every show (many had to be turned away on the night I was there - and that was a Monday) so book your ticket while you still can.

Bigger and better things now await! He'll be doing a full run next year and the 5 star reviews keep rolling in.

I'm delighted to add mine to the list!

Show information:

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Bring me the Head of Adam Riches *****

I've seen Adam Riches before. If you've read my previous blog about him you'll know what's coming.

Thankfully I knew what was coming and I chose a seat right at the back in the corner. I don't mind being dragged on stage, in truth I'm a bit of a show off (as the audience at the Free Festival Launch Party found out), but on my own, during the day, sober is a bit much and last time I twice ended up like this poor chap, taking part in Adam's show (and no, I didn't lick his face) so I figured it was someone else's turn!

To carry off a sketch show, especially when you're doing most of the work yourself you have to be full of energy and Adam Riches is... well imagine Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, in a pro plus eating contest!

From the first moment to the last he gets the audience on side by being charming and at the same time off-the-wall funny! I've mentioned before that I'm easy to please and I often judge comedy shows by giving you a rough idea of their laughs per minute. With Adam Riches you have to judge him in laughs per second.

Again, I don't want to give too much away about this show itself, but you will not be disappointed.

He's moved up from the cellar to the attic and although his show is suited to a cosy room, I do think it's time for him to move on to bigger things and I hope to see him at a bigger venue next year.

With their being so much competition, including from sketch shows Max and Ivan and Colin Hoult who are equally funny, talented and enjoyable to watch, the odds are against Adam Riches winning a big award this year, but I will say that if he does win, I won't be surprised.

Show information:

Cul-de-sac **

Billed as a brilliant spin of the Stepford Wives, Cul-de-sac is an exploration of what happens when neighbours get too close. The new arrival in one of the houses is greeted by his neighbour who tells him what's what and welcomes him into the cul-de-sac. As the play evolves, you find out more about the characters in the play and also the peripheral characters who are not represented with actors but form part of the story line.

Whilst the acting of the play was generally good and there were some funny moments, it was also a little weird and I have to confess I didn't really get it. I'm not ashamed to say that because I don't think many other people in the audience got it either, judging by the puzzled looks and the general shrugging of shoulders that started as soon as the actors left the stage.

There were constant references to the scary people who live outside the cul-de-sac, the hoodies and "the Muslims" who were a threat to the residents, and whilst it's quite obvious that the intention was to paint the residents as paranoid Daily Mail reading types, bigoted characters tend to be shown up at the end of the play and this didn't really happen.

All in all, the failure of this play to shine is down to the poorly written script, which did not give the actors the scope to really show off the comic prowess they claim to have on the flyer.

Show information:

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Free Festival Launch & Chortle Fast Fringe

As well as the four shows I have already review from day one, I also went along to Chortle's Fast Fringe and then the Free Festival Launch Party. All in all I saw over 20 acts do 4-6 minutes each, and I can't remember all the names so I'll just post the highlights!

Tim Fitzhigham and Tiff Stevenson were the two most memorable stand up acts. Tiff has presumably used up all her TV friendly stuff on Show Me The Funny and only has abortion gags left, but they worked well! Tim did what some of the other comedians should have done and squeezed as much as possible into 4 minutes and made me interested in his show.

A little tip to some of the other stand up's: If you've only got 4 minutes, don't walk on stage and say"Fucking hell, 4 minutes, it's not a lot is it, I'm trying to think what I can do in only 4 minutes". It doesn't make you look like a super duper comedian with lots of in depth material, who needs time to express himself, it makes you look like an unprepared amateur, sets up your slot to fail and virtually ensures that no-one will buy a ticket to see your full hour which is the whole point of you being there in the first place. More than one of them did it, I can't remember all of their names so I'm going to be kind and not mention any of them, but seriously, what a bunch of absolute wallopers.

Out with the stand up's there was a great performance by a chap who managed to spin five hula hoops simultaneously. Unfortunately I can't remember his name. Please comment if you know who I am talking about and I'll edit the post to give him credit.

After Chortle it was off to the Free Festival Launch at the Counting house where I met up with a few friends and met lots of great new people.

Stand out acts were Compere Mike Belgrave, Doug Segal and Bob Slayer.

Mike is a cheeky happy performer who looks a little like a tramp. I'd really like to see him doing a 20 minute set as he was only really introducing acts.

Doug Segal is a mind control expert, similar to Derren Brown but much more light hearted. I was also lucky enough to meet him off stage and he's a terrific bloke. I'll definitely get down to see his show. He only has a short run (until 13th I think).

Bob Slayer is just a grade a fucking nutcase! He dragged me on stage and forced me to perform We Will Rock You, complete with a Freddie Mercury moustache, then went crowd surfing.... Thankfully I was drunk enough by that point and I'm not shy sober anyway! He doesn't do jokes, he just downs pints on stage and goes crazy, doing whatever takes his fancy, which is incredibly entertaining.

I'll be going to see lots more Free Festival shows during the remainder of the Fringe.

The Free Festival launch Night was a one off. Details of Chortle's Fast Fringe are here:

2401 Objects 3 1/2*

This show is a play about the world's most renowned amnesiac Henry Molaison who was operated on in 1953 by a doctor who was trying to cure him of severe epilepsy, but ended up wiping away the last two years of his memory and leaving him unable to form new memories.

The dialogue switches back and forward, showing the after effects of the surgery and his life at home before the surgery (stuck at home and having to rely on his parents) and the reasons for them reaching the decision to allow Henry to have the operation.

The subject matter was very interesting and the production was slick. I think the play would still have worked just as well without the large projector screen that they used, I think the actors would have been good enough to help you picture the scene without it being there in front of you, but I don't think it did too much harm either.

I can't go as far as to say the show was dazzling but it was intensely interesting and I admire the company for taking on the subject matter. They have certainly done their research too, taking the time to talk to the actual neurologists who studied Henry in real life which certainly paid off in the final production.

Show details:

Max and Ivan are Holmes and Watson *****

Now this is how comedy should be done!

Max and Ivan play Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson as well as many other characters in this hour long sketch style play.

The storyline is based around their final adventure, where they take a trip to Chicago to sort out Al Capone and all the criminals ruining the city.

The two actors have an unbelievable amount of energy and facial expressions that were made for comedy. They often played up to six characters between the two of them in certain scenes, but the ease they showed when switching between characters, using nothing other than acting skills, meant that you were never confused and could keep up.

The show is incredibly fast paced with a gags-per-minute count that is off the scale.

These guys are definitely destined for bigger things.

Show details:

Chat Masala with Hardeep Singh Kohli **

After my previous blog on the increase in the number of Chat Shows at this year's Fringe I took my first foray into that genre yesterday with Chat Masala

I was offered a free ticket to see this show and accepted because I heard Andrew Maxwell was a guest and he is always worth seeing.

The format is very similar to a typical daytime TV show. You do a bit of cooking and bring on the guests then let them try the food at the end of the show. I have to say my girlfriend is a fan of these types of shows, I tend to get distracted by facebook, twitter or anything else on my phone after about 5 minutes because I find them mind numbing. I only watch them if there is someone interesting on.

Andrew Maxwell turned up, despite being ill, so fair play to him! The chat between him and Hardeep focused for quite a long time on sectarianism in Scotland, which to be honest I hear far too much about being a football fan. When I'm at the Fringe I'm hoping to get away from all that boring nonsense, and more to the point, it's not funny.

They did point out a couple of times that it was a chat show and not a comedy show and they basically said that they didn't apologise for straying into serious matters - that's all well and good, but when you have a comedian talking to a comedian, you want to at least raise a chuckle.

The second guest was actor Art Malik who came along with his daughter Keira (who is producing his show) and later in the play his wife and other daughter came on stage too.

I'm not too familiar with his work, although it does sound like he's a very accomplished actor. His chat was interesting in places, but often it deviated to his family saying things like how nice a view they had of Arthur's Seat from their flat... Not exactly riveting.

Finally, the highlight for me was the last guest Joe Stilgoe, a comedy jazz pianist who did a medley of songs suggested by the audience. He was endearing, funny and a great musician.

The show will have different guests every day so you will get a wide variation and there will certainly be better shows than this one in the run. I have to be honest though and say that out of all the shows I saw yesterday, this was the one I would not have regretted missing, which is why it only gets two stars.

Show Details:

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Phillips and Will Are Now in a Relationship 3 1/2*

My Fringe 2011 started with an understated yet entertaining play, in which a boyfriend and girlfriend read out their Facebook wall to wall. The play is only half an hour long... About right for the type of play it was.

I have seen plays like this where the actors were actually reading. This was not the case here. The actors' performances were endearing and believable and well timed (and they knew their lines).

If you've got a couple of friends who play out their relationship on Facebook, you'll definitely find the play entertaining.

I can't help thinking though, that the two actors and the writers will wish they had challenged themselves a little more. The idea is a little simplistic, and the format means there are limits to how much the actors can show off their skills.

Personally I don't understand why you would want to come to Edinburgh to act in a chair from behind a laptop. Being able to call yourself "The Facebook Play" will certainly get the attention of punters, but I think the actors should have been allowed a bit more freedom.

The theatre group does have another show at the Fringe and Seeing this play certainly wouldn't put me off seeing the other one. (I'm not sure if the two actors in this play are in the other one too. I hope so. It look quite good).

Show details:

The other play:

It's Time

So, it's finally here and pleasingly it's a nice sunny day!

Today I'll be heading to The Pleasance to see what's on offer, before heading to the Free Festival Launch Night at the Counting House.

I'll try and post a review of every show I see, but this year I'll also be posting on Twitter straight after the show so make sure you follow me @FringeGuide.

Two quick links for you I head off...

Firstly here is a spreadsheet which lists every free show at the Fringe.

Secondly, I've mentioned them before, but the Theatre Ninjas website is now live with free tickets for shows, many of which would otherwise not be free.

Happy Fringing everyone!