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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(C) 5 out of 74
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Rating Guide
None = Unmissable

= Unwatchable
Page number refers to the Fringe programme

Cancer, Let's Talk Bollocks. (Page 26).
Drams .
Venue Arcade Bar. (Venue 42).
Address 48 Cockburn St.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

'It's benign'. A sense of release, of utter relief, of all the nasty, scary fantasies and scenarios of the future disappear with the huge sigh escaping into the ether. 'We could remove it if it really embarrasses you, but frankly you'd be better off leaving it alone.' Not everyone's as lucky. One in sixteen males contracts testicular cancer. Mac Star was one who did, and Cancer, Let's Talk Bollocks is one result of his survival. Star is an engaging, upfront performer who tells his tale as it is and was with passionate conviction that stops just short of messianic fervour.

Because you really can't be too careful and remarkably few men are. Unless you've had the salutary experience of being a guest of the NHS for more than an appendectomy, the majority of men simply don't 'do' men's health. As an aside, it's interesting to note that the magazines supposedly devoted to men's health seem to devote most of their space to seduction techniques. 'Very interesting, but stupid.' as they might have commented on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In many moons ago. Mac Star looks as if he was born long after that duo had passed their view-by date, but his experience of cancer and its aftermath has matured his sense of the ridiculous into a fine comedy performance. A little rough in preview when seen, this show deserves a wider audience, and not only of those at whom it is aimed. The Arcade Bar is an 'intimate' venue, possibly too intimate for Cancer, Let's Talk Bollocks to achieve its full potential, although a number of its regular customers might well benefit from its message.

Nevertheless, this is a show which deserves to be seen, if only to demonstrate how pitching up with a prosthetic testicle is not the end of the world as you may have known it, and that there is life after post-operative depression. It's to be hoped, also that a show honed by exposure at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe can continue and develop and reach the audiences it deserves and who may find that there's more to this self-examination malarkey than they thought.
©Bill Dunlop 7 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 18.00 every day, not 14th August.
Company – Mac Star.


Charlie Pickering - Auto. (Page 26).
Drams .
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14).
Address 13 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

Charlie Pickering is a great exponent of gentle, reflective, rather clever humour. A Perrier Best Newcomer nominee in 2005, this year's Auto, sees him tapping away at his laptop, as he labours over his autobiography, and contemplates the vagaries of fame (Geri Halliwell has written two autobiographies - Gandhi one). Reading extracts from BB King's autobiography provides a nice counterpoint to the narrative. There are amusing glimpses into his life and childhood - the death of his pet poodle, the influence of some of his more memorable (and sinister) teachers - are recounted entertainingly.

The show is balanced, well structured, and painstakingly thought through, though perhaps aims higher than it can reach at points. There is palpable awkwardness in places, and at times we go too long without real moments of laughter. Ultimately the content is not quite engaging enough to hold the attention over this timescale.

Pickering had a rough ride tonight - doors banging behind closed drapes "it's the resident ghost", audience members thumping through the auditorium half way through the show to go to the toilet "that sounds like an elephant wearing snowshoes…", and a mobile phone suddenly emitting the most annoying ringtone, "PLEASE make it stop" Pickering finally yells, losing his cool. But overall he copes admirably with the disruptions.

As a writer and performer, I forsee Pickering going from strength to strength over the coming decade. He has all the right raw ingredients. One to watch.
© Leanna Rance - 18 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to 28 August at 21.15 every day, excepting 15.
Company - Ask Entertainment.


Count Arthur Strong - The Musical. (Page 28).
Drams .
Venue Assembly Rooms - George Street (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

Steve Delaney’s much-loved and worryingly convincing comic character, the doddery, bad-tempered Count Arthur Strong, returns to Edinburgh in 2006, with a musical. Recounting his life in song is unsurprisingly an undertaking fraught with hazard for our temperamental hero, and this year he unwisely drags an unwitting protégé, into the fray. Delaney is a consummately talented character comedian. With every year that passes, Count Arthur feels less an intricate, beautifully-drawn invention, and more a living, breathing alter ego. Quite a frightening prospect, all things considered. Lock up your drinks cabinet.

Count Arthur Strong – The Musical, is underpinned by Delaney’s trademark razor-sharp writing, complex, painfully-funny observational pieces and total commitment to character. It’s both physical and cerebral comedy. The mannerisms, the temper outbursts, the constipated silences, the malapropisms – all utterly charming and convincing. It’s worth rushing out and purchasing a ticket for this show, simply to hear Count Arthur grapple blindly for words “piccalilli….Piccadilly…peccadillo…pickled willy” he shouts in desperation. And his ‘Ode to Doncaster’ complete with mechanical angel wings, is a priceless spectacle.

This is an utterly worthwhile, incomparably enjoyable hour. Count Arthur is without doubt, a national treasure.
© Leanna Rance - 8 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 18.30 every day, excepting 14 & 21.
Company - Komedia Entertainment.


Cowards.(Page 28).
Drams full glass.
Venue Pleasance Courtyard. (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

The modern sketch show seems to have entered something of a cul-de-sac in recent times. The tiresome catchphrases and oft-repeated punchlines popularised by the likes of The Fast Show and Little Britain are becoming ever more predictable, and one feels the genre needs a shot in the arm. While Cowards have some way to go before they can be said to have delivered that much needed adrenaline, this show marks the realisation of their huge potential and must surely confirm their status as serious players in their field.

The four-man team, comprising Tim Key, Stefan Golaszewski, Tom Basden and Lloyd Thomas, bring a distinctly British sense of civility to their performance. Clearly they value the overall mood of a sketch above the simple one-line pay-off, and their unusual approach makes for some wonderfully peculiar scenarios. The sketches are short - none more than four minutes or so - but rarely fail to surprise a gently captivated audience. One of the show's great joys comes in the sudden realisation of just what the events on stage represent. A polite, urbane chat among friends is soon revealed to be the pre-race chinwag of a group of racehorses, while an amusingly mournful sketch portrays the rotting members of a fruit bowl, bonding over their shared hatred of vegetables.

Bawdy puns, silly voices and easy laughs are shirked in favour of bizarre exchanges and comically awkward confrontations, all tinged with a splash of the surreal. A skit involving a posse of cats and their nine lives is handled with real skill, while the comic highlight arrives in the form of an extraordinary reworking of Winnie the Pooh as a sexually repressed hooligan. It sounds ludicrous, and to an extent it is. Still, their refusal to adhere to comic expectations gives the Cowards a charisma all of their own. It is seldom less than hilarious, and earns its laughs not through cheap manipulation but through real invention. Maybe there's life in the sketch show yet.
©Edmund Gould 20 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August every day at 16:30.
Company - Cowards.


Cufflinks and Jolly Ranchers for Dummies. (Not in Fringe programme).
Drams .
Venue Underbelly. (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate (entrances on Cowgate and Victoria St).
Reviewer Anna Kay.

This show is billed as back breaking comedy. I found it more neck breaking, as the performer refuses to stop pacing the stage. The only break to this is a two minute seated section of the show, which I find as obscure as I do refreshing.

'Ranney' has a passable ten minute act, which means this hour long show is endlessly repetitive. He also appears to have made no attempt to adjust his show for the Edinburgh audience. Whilst not exclusively Scottish, his spectators aren't American either, and I get the impression that some of his material would be much funnier within his own culture. Largely, though, the material is just old. A plea to stand up comedians everywhere: No-one likes George W Bush. We get it. Move on.

'Ranney' is a strong singer, which is a genuine credit for a performer in a late night show this far into the Fringe. Unfortunately, I came to see comedy.
©Anna Kay 12 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 27. at 22:30.
Company - Ranney.
Company Website - www.itsranney.com .

(C) 5 out of 74
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