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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(A) 8 out of 74
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Page number refers to the Fringe programme

Adam Hills - Characterful. (Page 16).

 Drams  None needed. 
 Venue  Assembly at George St. (Venue 3).
 Address Assembly Rooms, 54 George St.
 Reviewer Anna Kay .

I have spent the last few months living in Australia where Adam Hills is regarded as a bit of a sell-out and not funny anymore.  I’m not sure what to expect, then, when I head down to see his last show of this year’s Fringe.  I am glad to say I was very pleasantly surprised.  Without the stylistic constraints imposed on him by the production companies he works for down under, Hills can be political (though not annoyingly so), controversial and ultimately more true to himself.  Which is always, always funnier.

I think that most comedy shows need at least one drink to get in the mood but give Hills no drams because he has that extra special something.  He draws the audience in and, despite its diversity, makes everyone feel part of it.  I leave the show inspired and feeling better about my life and the world around me.
©Anna Kay 28 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Run ended.
Company – Adam Hills.
Company Website - www.adamhills.com.


Adrenaline. (Page 16).
Drams full glass full glass full glass full glass .
Venue Roman Eagle Lodge. (Venue 21).
Address 2 Johnston Terrace.
Reviewer Ariadne Cass.

Kate Smurthwaite tells us all about extreme sports and which ones she's done. She lists them one by one but stops just short of telling us any interesting stories. In between her gentle jokes, she has a tendency to look down. To stay energized throughout she swigs from a can of Red Bull. I wish I had one.

The pace of the show is measured and slow, as we wade through the various ways in which she gets her adrenaline fix. After that, she performs a few characters - stereotypes including an Australian bushie and a high performance mum, which fail to do much more than prove how annoying adrenaline junkies can be. As if that wasn't already apparent.

It's rather like finding oneself trapped in a pub with a fanatical hobbyist, fixed in place by the fevered gaze of the true enthusiast. It could make for interesting conversation, but it's unrewarding and one-sided.
©Ariadne Cass 20 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 27 at 21:55 every day.
Company - Kate Smurthwaite.


Adrian Poynton - The new Rock ‘n’ Roll (Page 16).
Drams .
Venue Gilded Baloon (Venue 14).
Address 13 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Rebecca Smith

To be relentlessly heckled by an audience member is bound to happen to a comedian somewhere along their stand-up career... but how many comedians can attest to their heckler offering them herbal tea mid-performance?

Adrian Poynton's show is an hour's worth of pondering on the concept that comedy is the supposed new Rock ‘n’ Roll. By his own admission, he is so not rock ‘n’ roll, but the embodiment of the complete opposite with his proud declaration "I'm a bit rubbish". He proceeds to prove this by reminiscing on the multiple moments of rubbish he's experienced in his 27 years.

To be quite frank, his performance is rather rubbish to begin with. He seems to be suffering from one of the bad days he talks about - stumbling right from the start in his attempts at audience banter. We’re a tough crowd, letting the jokes fall flat and offering only the meekest of laughs. The aforementioned heckler is a loud Irish lady in the front row - boldly butting in with her opinion whenever it suits. Their exchange is lengthy - he jokes about the need to leave and start the show over, she quips about relocating to the back row. Adrian looks unsure on how to handle her, so abandons all effort to instead focus on prepared anecdotes of puzzled observations in US Christian shops, Disneyland police and the best jobs in the world.

He then veers into stories on feeble attempts at rock 'n roll behaviour and the mood visibly shifts. He hits his comedic stride with endearing accounts of tv smashing, light- weight beer tolerance and uni roommate antics, and how in every instance his inner bad boy is squashed by an overriding sense of guilt and decency. Instead of dwelling on defeat, he turns this into uplifting, life-embracing, cherish your failings motivational-type speak. Adrian Poynton has accomplished the remarkable - a comedy show with occasional rubbish jokes that leaves you cheerfully united in the fact we're all a bit rubbish some of the time.
©Rebecca Smith 20 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August at 19:00.
Company - Ask Entertainment.


Aeneas Faversham. (Page 16).
Drams .
Venue Underbelly . (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Thelma Good.

These four gentleman performers may be young but their material draws heavily on over a century ago when life was slower and sometimes more brutish. Like the Victorian penny dreadfuls* the company is named after, the sketches are based on melodrama, strange railway encounters, sinister curates and several medical gentlemen with interests in strange diseases and corpses. Ah yes the characters are odd, weird and at time macabre.

Jamie Anderson, Humphrey Ker, David Reed and Tom Tuck are not averse to portraying the female of the species either, suggested by movement - throughout they wear formal late Victorian male attire. A pair of endearing children also feature. Like the ladies' and gents' underwear of those times there are layers of sketch development to get through till the final flesh underneath. Luckily most of the time their skilful playing prevents us 2006ers getting too restless and wanting rapid fire, frenetic comedy. They don't sadly give us little ripples of pleasure throughout each evolving scene, in some the timing needs adjusting, they do aim to amuse and often do.

It's not an easy task they've set themselves. They deliver not one-liners or even two liners but many liners, this nineteenth century pacing at times presents a challenge for the modern low attention span punter. But it's hard not be taken by their obvious belief in their lovingly created scripts. Though the production could benefit from a larger stage and in the case of super tall Ker a higher ceiling than they have in the Belly Dancer.

These four aren't only honing their skill in the old fashioned story telling ways, at the Pleasance Courtyard they are joined by some more young performers for an improv show Shamwagon. So it's your choice how to check them out - experience bizarre, stained velvet, old style sketches or see how they manage sharp, creating on the cusp of a joke improv.
*Penny Dreadfuls were cheap novels frequently based on melodramas or made into them. Shoddily produced they were popular reading in the Victorian era.
©Thelma Good 4 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August at 18:00 every day.
Company - The Penny Dreadfuls.
Company Website - www.pennydreadfuls.co.uk.

A.L. Kennedy: Feel The Love.. (Page 17).
Drams .
Venue The Stand Comedy Club (Stand 2) (Venue 5).
Address 5 York Place.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

Confession may or may not be good for the soul but it's certainly something stand-up comedians do in spades; so it's only fair this reviewer admits a particular bias in favour of A. L. Kennedy since discovering a shared regard for the original mind of the original Cyrano de Bergerac (note; not to be confused with the probosculy challenged character in the play which bears his name). Kennedy's regard manifests itself in her 1995 novel So I Am Glad , an exercise in 'the typing thing' as she cheerfully dismisses her day job when on the comedy club circuit.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival might seem an unusual place to begin honing stand-up skill, yet it was at one of that festival's many events in 1995 that A. L. Kennedy moved from author discussing their work to comedian. An increasing presence on the comedy circuit, Kennedy has explained her gigs as self-therapy, although the beneficiaries seem very much her audience and the therapy more a means of moving beyond those areas in which literature works best into more straightforwardly political comment. Even in these cheerless times, and as with all good comedy, however, cheerfulness has a habit of breaking through. In Feel The Love Kennedy moved seemingly effortlessly from yellow jump suits to kitten abuse to shopping, the skill of taking her audience where she was able to guess they were willing to go very apparent. Kennedy gives stand- up her own very personal blast of fresh air and hopefully freshens minds in the process.

On suspects that Kennedy would admit that one year on from her diversion into stand-up comedy she is still learning her craft, but it's undeniable her understanding of this most ephemeral of art forms continues to increase and inform her performance. The political edge remains, however, and a web-based review of Feel The Love would fail in part of its purpose if it didn't draw attention to - www.a-l-kennedy.co.uk Kennedy's site used to provide many useful links to areas of her political concern but does not currently appear to do so. It's still a useful site. Hyper-reality, as we once used to call it, is never a substitute for the real thing, however. Go see A. L. Kennedy and accept no shallow, a-political substitutes.
©Bill Dunlop 5 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 27 at 15.00 every day, not August 14, 21.
Company – The Stand Comedy Club.
Performer and Author's Website - www.a-l-kennedy.co.uk.


Simon Amstell.(Page 19).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Dome.
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Many young comics come to the Fringe with dreams of TV fame, hoping to use Edinburgh as the latest stepping stone on their path towards a slot alongside Jimmy Carr on some second-rate quiz show. TV is, for some, the ultimate goal - stand-up is the poor relation. Not so for Simon Amstell. After a brief flirtation with comedy, he jumped at the chance to become the geeky, irreverent face of Channel Four's Popworld. However, after several years on the box, Amstell has now set out to prove himself as a stand-up once again. He comes to Edinburgh on a wave of hype - Russell Brand aside, no-one has enjoyed more media exposure in recent weeks. If last night's show is anything to go by, it seems that all that attention might just be a little premature.

It's not that he's not funny. After all, as he explains, he's a gay Jew - a perfect recipe for hilarity. It's just that off-camera, his trademark style - nervous, awkward, hesitant - doesn't exactly fill a live audience with much confidence. For large portions of the show, Amstell's hang-ups about his own performance actually detract from the jokes themselves. He's fidgety and neurotic, constantly over-analysing and dissecting segments of his routine that fall a little flat. 'It doesn't matter', he cries, 'because tonight's my first night without a reviewer'. Or so he thought.

It's a shame, as some of his routine makes for pretty daring comedy. The show is loosely structured around the ethical dilemmas of modern life - choosing between Fair Trade or Organic bananas, riffing on the idea of a wheelchair Barbie, the homeless (to donate or not to donate), and so on. He should be commended for trying to put his audience outside their comfort zone, and there are some original moments. I doubt you'll find many comics trying to re-imagine Eva Braun's first date with Hitler at this year's festival. Still, Amstell needs to match his manner to his material - and when he does, he'll probably be well worth a look. It seems odd to say it, but maybe starting to believe his own hype wouldn't be such a bad idea after all.
©Edmund Gould 11 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 22:40 (except 15 August).
Company - Simon Amstell.


Amy Lamé's Mama Cass Family Singers. (Page 19).
Drams .
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot. (Venue 14).
Address 13 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Adam Baker.

Amy Lamé's new one woman show Mama Cass Family Singers is built on a strange concept to say the least. She blends stand-up about her home and upbringing with intimate video portraits of her family on a projector screen on the stage. And perhaps even more ambitiously, she blends fact and fiction as she weaves a tall tale involving kidnap, child celebrity, Rubenesque singer Mama Cass and mountains upon mountains of food. In fact, Lamé's show is in part a paean to food, and it is fascinating to watch as she charts the depth and richness of her family life primarily through the medium of things you can fry.

Lamé's presence on stage is charismatic and polished, and the role of playful raconteur suits her well; the atmosphere of the show is more like an informal chat than a stand up performance. This is reinforced by her remarkable candour about her life, not least her relationship with food, but most importantly about her apparently troubled family. "Let's get those skeletons out of the closet, dust them off!" she exclaims at the show's opening, and she certainly doesn't shirk from what seems to be a kind of catharsis for her. What you get is families in all their wonder and all their dysfunction, with Lamé compellingly wringing all of the tragedy and all of the comedy out of her material. A far deeper and more rewarding performance than the kitsch packaging would lead you to believe.
©Adam Baker 10 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 17:30 every day, except 14.
Company - Soho Theatre in association with Gilded Balloon Productions.


Andrew Maxwell: Round Twilight.(Page 19).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Andrew Maxwell is one of those ageless comics who look a great deal younger than their years. A wide-eyed, boyish air of enthusiasm has long been one of his selling points, and it's a shock to hear that the youthful scamp has reached the stately age of thirty-three. Maxwell's new show Round Twilight still offers plenty of his affable charm and wit. It's just that it's conveyed in a leisurely, languid style that, while still managing to raise a smile, seems to lack a certain spark. The stifling heat of the Pleasance Cabaret Bar certainly isn't conducive to high-speed comedy, and while Maxwell's self-confessedly 'mellow' set is as slick as ever, it breaks little new ground.

The Irishman is so laid back he's almost horizontal, and the jokes don't exactly come thick and fast. Rather, he draws his audience in with lengthy, gently intriguing tales of being taken 'hostage' by a car-load of gay Arabs in Qatar, or of being mugged by dope dealers in Cape Town. The punch-lines, when they eventually come, arrive with wonderful comic timing and a wry shrug of the shoulders that can't help but endear him to an enthralled crowd. Maxwell is not, however, a political satirist, and his material on the Middle East, the IRA and, inevitably, the Bush administration all seems a little laboured.

He really shines when he delves into his audience for inspiration, finding a real rapport that he sadly chooses not to exploit as much as he might. His trick of imploring the crowd to hum their approval creates a running gag, and builds a rare bond with his spectators. Few comedians can inspire genuine affection like Maxwell. Yet, as charming as his show is, it all feels a little tame. Maybe he's become too comfortable. That said, as a comic storyteller, he still takes some beating.
©Edmund Gould 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August every day except 15 August, at 20:10.
Company - Andrew Maxwell.

(A) 8 out of 74
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