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(B) 10 out of 91
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Page number refers to the Fringe programme



Babble. (Page 21).

Drams full glassfull glassfull glass..
Venue Roman Eagle Lodge (Venue 21).
Address 2 Johnston Terrace.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.

Written and performed by Paul Marshall, Babble is a combination of storytelling, stand-up comedy and performance poetry. These diverse elements are fitted together largely successfully and delivered with energy and passion by a likeable performer.

Marshall was recently voted Short Fuse Poetry Idol 2005, and it is the poetry element of this show that is the most enjoyable, from a piece about a promising relationship ruined by hi-fi addiction to a beautiful, not so traditional love poem. The thread of fable which weaves its way through the performance, taking in the Tower of Babel and ruminations on the nature of ideas, is an unusual touch and adds extra depth and a sense of mythic legend to the more directly observational comedy element. Unfortunately, it is this stand-up component which drags the show as a whole down to the level of barely average. It is hard to believe that there are comedians existing outside of Blackpool who are still relying on the "guess what happened to me on my way to the venue" routine, or on tired material such as the trials of putting together flat-pack Ikea furniture. Have you noticed how annoying it is calling automated customer help lines? Paul has. Additionally, the audience's eyes inevitably glaze over when subjected to crowbarred-in political references to the war on terror, which are patronising and unimaginative in the extreme.

If you have fifty minutes spare after lunch Babble is worth seeing for the sparkling poetry and fascinating glimpses into legend performed by a charismatic storyteller, just be prepared to sit through several minutes of comedy dross to extract the gems this show has to offer.
© Ruth Clowes 8 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 21 August at 13:00
Company - Paul Marshall.

   

Barry Cryer and Ronnie Golden – Little Richard III. (Page 21).

Drams full glass.
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot. (Venue 14).
Address 13 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.

Barry Cryer, I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue and Countdown regular, owner of the dirtiest cackle in showbusiness and gag writer to just about anyone ever, has returned once more to the Fringe with his perennial sidekick Ronnie Golden for another hour’s worth of geriatric rock and roll mayhem, and a good thing too. The absurdly tenuous title of the show is Little Richard the III, but although the pair are joined on stage throughout by a painting depicting the aforementioned Mr Penniman in Plantagenet regalia, this moniker is in reality little more than a rusty hook on which to hang a number of disparate comic songs and some of Cryer’s gloriously motheaten gags.

These one liners, often consisting of self mocking observations about the aging process (“I’m so old I don’t bother buying green bananas any more” says Barry at one point) are note perfect in delivery after a stand up career spanning five decades, and are arguably the show’s greatest strength. But Cryer is by no means the only star here. Golden’s songs are frequently hilarious, and when they do get round to telling the story of Richard III he excels, showing an acute ear for rock and roll pastiche. The doo wop version of the “Now is the winter of our discontent” speech was a particular highlight, and more than made up for some earlier rather dodgy songs about mobile phones and gays. Barking, but lots of fun.
©Guy Woodward 16 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 18.45.
Company – Men in Beige in association with Gerald Welsby.
Website – You’re ‘aving a larf….

   

Battered Wives And Chips. (Page 21).
Drams full glass.
Venue
Underbelly. (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.

They’re quick, this lot. Very quick. The six bright eyed young guns of the Durham Revue flit around the stage like swallows in springtime. Some sketches last only a few seconds, and if you aren’t taken with one you can be guaranteed that there’ll be another along in a few moments. The show fizzes with relentless energy, and when the lights go down even the audience feels exhausted. The material ranges from the topical to the timeless, and incorporates a good deal of imaginative physical and visual comedy.

Subjects receiving the Durham Revue treatment include the Fathers For Justice campaigners, the Killers, the London Olympics bid, the Greek Gods, German gameshows and the perils of flyering on the Royal Mile. The sketch about the Dutch mountain rescue team did make my ribs hurt more than the rest, though. Of the performers, Chris Duff shines like a new dime in terms of delivery and sheer dryness of wit, although physically speaking Nic Woodhams is by far the most gifted of the ensemble. Ed Gamble’s colossal stage presence cannot fail to dominate his scenes.

Pete Riley’s characters range from the sinister to the pathetic, and his world weary guitar playing that opens and closes the show helps to give Battered Wives and Chips a sense of coherence that its fragmentary nature might otherwise obscure. Some sketches do seem a little in thrall to the all but inescapable spectres of Brent and Partridge, and there were some references to the disabled that cut too close to the bone, but these are minor criticisms of a show that seems likely to prove a springboard for several successful careers.
©Guy Woodward 4 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 15.10. except 17 August.
Company- The Durham Revue.
Company Website www.durhamrevue.com.

   

The Bicycle Men (Page 23).

Drams full glass.
Venue Underbelly (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Neil Ingram.

This show is great fun, though if you are French you should be warned that it does contain some rather stereotypical Frenchmen. It's a micro-scale stage musical, with a meandering plot, lots of funny songs and a happy ending (of sorts). An American cyclist, Steve Dave Lewman is cycling in France when his bicycle breaks and he has to find someone to repair it. The locals are sort-of helpful, but he has to stay the night in a strange town. He is given directions to various shops, and invited to see the puppet show (it's a dirty puppet show, only for adults). But events become confusing as he looks for a bed for the night, and he encounters a Dutch cyclist with strange way of getting to sleep and the mysterious Homme du Bicyclette.

The remainder of the cast Joe Liss, Mark Nutterand John Rubano play a bizarre range of parts between them, and their songs, accompanied by Mark Nutter, propel the action forward, sometimes at breakneck speed. You will never forget the talent show Steve is somehow persuaded to take part in, when he reveals some strange sides of his past. The Bicycle Men was a great hit in New York last year, and promises to do just as well here.
©Neil Ingram 16 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 19:20.
Company Skullduggery and Marshall Cordell.
Company Website www.skullduggery.co.uk

   

Big Word Performance Poetry. (Page 23).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue Edinburgh Comedy Room, The Tron (Venue 9).
Address Hunter Square, Royal Mile.
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.

For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon of performance poetry its mention probably conjures up images of middle-aged housewives in flowery frocks exchanging equally flowery verse at chintzy living room gatherings. Be prepared to shed these misconceptions as you encounter the hyperactive cascade of verse that is Big Word Performance Poetry.

Rob Gee, Ash Dickinson and Jenny Lindsay take turns to vent their poetic spleen on such diverse subjects as call centres, the end of the world and journeying through a loved one's cardiovascular system. Gee delivers his bitter-sweet comedic poetry with an expert sense of timing and rhythm, while Dickinson tackles more outlandish subject matter such as a bewildering piece in which he ponders the possibility of becoming his own stunt double. Lindsay meanwhile brings a very Scottish slant on things, with poems about encountering terrifying groups of teens on a notorious Glasgow street and a beautifully performed poem in the style of Robert Burns.

Performance poetry is not to everyone's taste, the constant rap-like torrent of words can be overwhelming and it takes a great deal of concentration to keep up with the unrelenting lyrical deluge. However, given its increasingly high profile you should really experience some of this cutting-edge performance technique at this year's Festival, and Big Word is an ideal introduction. In a daring move, the audience is encouraged to leave a contribution at the end of the show as opposed to paying for a ticket beforehand, providing a risk-free opportunity to enjoy a rapidly developing performance genre.
© Ruth Clowes 10 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 29 August at 16:30
Company - Big Word Performance Poetry.
   

Bill Hicks – Slight Return. (Page 23).

Drams  full glassfull glass
Venue  Pleasance Courtyard. (Venue No 33)
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer   Anna Kay.

What would Bill Hicks say if he were alive now? This show, co-written by the performer, Chas Early, attempts to answer this.  My feeling was largely that everybody knows and the content of Early’s material (co-written and directed by Richard Hurst) was nothing that hasn’t been seen from another thousand comedians in comedy clubs all over the world.  Add to this ‘Hick’s’ scorn of those trying to emulate him, you do wonder quite what the point of this show was.  What it boils down to is money – the name has given Early and Hurst a sell-out show at Edinburgh.

Is this right?  Should it be done?  These questions do tend to come up in my mind from time to time, but you know what? -  It’s good.  It’s funny.  It is superbly and flawlessly acted by Early and nothing jars.  I’d like to watch out for these two and look forward to seeing them achieve things without riding on someone else’s success.

But someone please get this guy a better venue.  The heat in the Pleasance Upstairs is almost entirely unbearable. I felt very ill and this greatly hampered my concentration.  It is testament to Early’s talent that he kept up such an amazing performance.

Go and see this.  Just take a bottle of water and a fan, and sit near the door. (Not for the easily offended).
©Anna Kay 8 August 2004 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to August 28 (not 10, 17) at 15:45 every day.
Company Festival Highlights.
Company Website - www.slightreturn.info

   

The Book Club. (Page 23).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue Underbelly (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Lyndsey Turner.

If Robin Ince isn't careful, he may well become something of a comedy institution. Affable, engaging and confident, he has happened upon a format in The Book Club which works beautifully. In London, the night is a success - a four hour marathon of variety acts, stand up and music, punctuated by readings from some of the wrongest books ever to have been published.

In a 60 minute afternoon slot at The Underbelly, however, everything seems a little rushed. Ince has rounded up a gaggle of talented acts to perform in the new, downsized Book Club, but he simply has too many of them. I counted seven acts, each performing excerpts from their own Fringe shows, and five readings - a comic sprint to finish on time. There is something rather charming, however, about the sheer amount of sweat Ince manages to generate in 60 minutes. Dashing between the stage and the audience (and, at one point, another show in the same venue to introduce a friend's act), Ince is trying to keep a lot of balls in the air.

Like any compilation show, however, The Book Club is only as good as the acts it hosts. A different bill is promised every day, but the show I saw featured everything from Peter Buckley Hill singing a song about death, to an anecdote about lamb brains, via a singing tumour in the shape of Tom Jones. The result is a confusing blur. None of the comedians featured had the time to build any kind of rapport with the audience. Instead attending The Book Club felt a little like watching the audition scene from Bugsy Malone. Although it remains a great (and cost effective) way of seeing a range of talents, The Book Club left my head spinning.
©Lyndsey Turner 09 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Plays 15, 16, 22, 23 and 24 August at 16.40, not Mondays.
Company - Robin Ince.

   

The Boy Who Cried Whale. (Page 23).

Drams full glassfull glass.
Venue Underbelly (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate (entrances on Cowgate and Victoria Street).
Reviewer Ruth Clowes.

Los Albatross is a Dublin-based theatre company, made up of five writers and comedians, who have created a perfect showcase for their myriad talents and bag- loads of enthusiasm in this fun, fast-paced sketch show. Having performed at the Festival for the last two years, as half of the comedy group H-BAM, they are a company with plenty of experience of what makes a successful Fringe show, and it shows in this entertaining, polished performance.

This is a bright and speedy show, with sketches drawing on a diverse range of subjects, so it is impressive that Los Albatross have also managed to thread in a complicated narrative involving a murder investigation, the Vatican and a man called Steve Hitler. This tongue-in-cheek story, running along parallel lines to the Da Vinci Code, but funnier and with a better ear for dialogue, is successful in creating an extra dimension and added interest within the tired sketch show format.

The sketches themselves are largely successful, with something for everyone, from everyday irritations such as annoying flatmates, to poking fun at political figures, and encompassing song, dance and well-observed characterisation. Some sketches could have been cut down, in particular a piece about the G8 leaders at Gleneagles feels dragged out, and doesn't contain enough funny material to justify its length. The pace is never able to drag for long though, this exuberant young company has enough energy and talent to hold the audience's attention through to the funny, gently melancholy finale.
© Ruth Clowes 17 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 (not 18) August at 17:30
Company - Los Albatross.
Company Website - www.losalbatross.com.

   

Brendon Burns: All My Love, All My Rage. (Page 23).

Drams full glass.
Venue Pleasance Dome (Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Brendon Burns, Edinburgh's most feared comic, strides on to the stage and immediately throws a wry smile towards an elderly couple in the front row. 'You guys certainly ain't my demographic', he chuckles menacingly. And how right he is – unless that is, there's a large proportion of retirees out there with a penchant for foul language, magic mushrooms, and dark, sordid stories of sexual depravity. It's dangerous ground, and if anyone else tried it there'd be public uproar. The fact that Burns pulls it off, and with such success, is testament to his skills as a comedian.

Early on he promises to 'bare my soul', a pledge that's grimly fulfilled with stories of pain and betrayal, all told with disarming honesty. Burns furiously spits the tale of his ex-fiancee who ran off with a DJ, a profession that takes quite a bashing during his merciless routine. His conclusion that dance music is 'good music filtered through a f***wit' goes down particularly well. As time ticks by, the stories gradually become increasingly perverted; I hardly dare mention the woman without a kidney, and the appallingly inappropriate tale of his young son's bathroom antics - a joke that sounds barely legal, I know.

It's shocking, savage stuff, but he tells it with such sincerity that any offence caused is easily forgiven. The emotion occasionally spills over, and at times you almost want to hug the guy – although knowing Burns, that'd be asking for trouble. Sometimes, at the expense of regular laughter, it feels like he's not putting on a show at all. Instead, it's a motivational speech, a counselling session, even an anger management course. Most of all, though, it's raw, brutal, searingly funny comedy. Just don't sit on the front row, for your own safety. You have been warned.
©Edmund Gould 24 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 29 August at 20:30 (1hr), every day.
Company – Brendon Burns.

   

British Guide to French Pop. (Page 24).
Drams full glass.
Venue C electric, Clerk Street. (Venue 50).
Address Clerk Street.
Reviewer Guy Woodward.

Who was the original composer of Frank Sinatra’s My Way? Which icon of French pop sang a duet with his fourteen year old daughter entitled Melon Incest? And most scandalously, which Gallic rock star died after his mains powered vibrator fell into his bath? The answers to all of these questions, and much more besides, can be found in Toby Mitchell’s archly comic new production, a wry blend of stand up and musical, which also manages to be genuinely informative about the history of a much maligned genre.

Mitchell is our driver for a whistlestop charabanc tour through the history of French pop, from Piaf and Trenet, through Gainsbourg and Brillant, and closing with the recent successes of Air and Celine Dion. He certainly doesn’t shrink from lampooning the more ridiculous and inane figures of the French pop scene, but also manages to communicate a genuine love of the eccentricities of the music and its characters. So infectious was his enthusiasm, in fact, that this reviewer went straight home to investigate some of the artists further on the Web.

Mitchell is both supported and undermined on his journey by the gorgeous Madamemoiselle Delacroix, who provides sporadic musical accompaniment and constantly threatens to reveal sordid episodes in Mitchell’s past as assistant at a French lycee. Her epic dance routine to Gainsbourg’s notorious Je T’Aime – Moi Non Plus is chaotically and seductively brilliant. The show deserves to go far, although those who fear audience participation might be advised to proceed with caution.
©Guy Woodward 4 August 2005 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 13 August at 21.25.
Company - Mitchell.
Company Website www.tobymitchell.com.


(B) 10 out of 91
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