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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(D) 7 out of 74
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Page number refers to the Fringe programme

David Benson - Why Pay More?. (Page 29).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Vivien Devlin.

Actor, singer and comic entertainer, David Benson, has been performing at the Fringe for a staggering 24 years. The first few shows were as a schoolboy, college student and in community theatre, working his way up the professional ladder. In 1996 he stunned audiences and critics with his brilliantly perceptive portrayal of Kenneth Williams in Think no Evil of Us which won a Fringe First and catapulted him into showbiz stardom - he has never looked back. To the cynics who say the Edinburgh Fringe rarely finds new talent, Benson's Festival fame and success tells a very different story.

Previous shows have involved humourous monologues on various themes - Princess Diana, ghosts, conspiracy theories - involving an elaborate set, costumes, music and lighting. In this new show there's just an empty stage, a high stool and a microphone. That's confidence for you. The theme this year is David Benson himself, reminiscing the good times and the bad at the Fringe - the experience as an actor putting on a show. He describes the boys' school production of a Biblical rock opera which received a dismal 2 star review, putting him off critics for life, then there's an experimental play using real life homeless people, with affectionate impersonations of some Grassmarket characters clutching their cans of Carlsberg. Through stories, sketches and a few delightful songs, we follow Benson's "dramatic" journey around the Fringe.

There are few performers with whom I would gladly spend an hour hearing about their life and work. But with David Benson, there is not an ounce of vanity. He is not simply an actor, but a philosopher, involving the audience, questioning our perspective and views of the world, politics and society today. And what's more he sings like a young Frank Sinatra. This is pure Fringe theatre at its best - genuinely unique and inspiring entertainment, which reveals as much about Benson as it does about ourselves.
Note - Think No Evil of Us - My life with Kenneth Williams is also being performed at the Pleasance.
©Vivien Devlin, 8 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August at 2pm every day, not 16 etc.
Company - Festival Highlights.
Company Website - www.davidbenson.info .


David Letterman's Showcase. (Page 29).
Drams full glassfull glassfull glass.
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot.(Venue 14).
Address 13 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

Tonight eight comedians get five minutes each, to impress American talent exec Eddie Brill, and ultimately (if they're lucky) win the chance to fly to New York to appear on the David Letterman Show.

It's clear the contenders have already been well-vetted, and only included on the bill if they fulfill certain levels of competency. The field contains many well-known faces, with more than a sprinkling of previous award winners (Hackney New Act, Laughing Horse, Funny Women, BBC New Comedy). The determinedly PC line-up, also represents a broad cross-section of gender, sexuality, nationality and cultural background.

Drawing the short straw, the event kicks off with geeky, bespectacled Joe Wilkinson, whose mumbling, low-energy style doesn't exactly set the room on fire. He delves into charity shop etiquette and phobias, and then someone's phone goes off. We all feel sorry for him, aware that this is his one shot, and his performance is being taped. He does however cope admirably.

Next up is Canadian Glenn Wool - Wilkinson's polar opposite in terms of style and delivery. Part satirist, part clown, Wool is a veritable comedy dynamo, with surreal, biting and wonderfully funny material. It's well-tilled soil, as he races through observations on religion and sexuality - but he delivers with enough intelligence and gusto to ensure his fare is both unique and memorable.

Sarah Millican is demure, unassuming, slow-paced, yet assured. Her material is predominately about her recent divorce - but her caustic observations are wonderfully funny in a low-key, take-a-beat-to-savour way.

Gay San Franciscan Scott Capurro, moves from wicked tales of family kerfuffles concerning his sexuality to the perils of gay nightclubs in Paisley. Cheeky and irreverent - he knowingly pushes the envelope. At one point he asides "this will never get on TV..." and that may be true. But we all think he's great anyway.

Well-known Muslim comic Shazia Mirza treads the same ground she has for a good number of years - with relative observations concerning her culture and religion, examining how this juxtaposes against the complexities of multi-cultural 21sts century Britain. Her delivery is dour and the material is hit-and-miss however.

Australian Daniel Clark is high-energy and enthusiastic. A very physical comedian, he leaps about the stage, parodying the trials and tribulations of girls preparing for a night out, and the pitfalls of Australian drinking culture.

Fellow Australian Geraldine Quinn looks bizarrely like a female Tim Minchin, and relates an extended anecdote about kicking dolphins in the genitals. She then plays the guitar and sings. The voice is lovely - the comedy less convincing.

Lee Bannard, following in the footsteps of comic Matt Kirshen, uncannily resembles a 12 year-old boy - with baggy clothes, floppy fringe and slouchy attitude. His material takes a while to warm up, but there's some good writing and very funny observations underpinning his short set.

Let's hope one of these peachy-keen hopefuls makes the grade, and eventually gets to perform for Letterman. It may not change their lives - but it'll no doubt look good on the showreel.
©Leanna Rance - 15 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs 14, 15 August only at 20.00.
Company - Gilded Balloon Productions.


Demetri Martin - Dr. Earnest Parrot Presents. (Page 29).
Drams full glass.
Venue UdderBELLY. (Venue 300).
Address Bristo Square
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

Demetri Martin returns to Edinburgh for a truncated visit, having unexpectedly cut short his already brief run, by six dates.

A capacity crowd is queuing amiably around the outskirts of the Udderbelly this evening, but as we approach 30 minutes beyond the show's start time with no announcements from staff or signs of being ushered inside the venue, speculation grows as to whether the event will take place at all. Finally, no explanation provided, we're herded in. (Yes, the cow analogy finally comes in handy.)

Martin has been the darling of the festival for several years now. A previous Perrier winner, his geek-chic demeanor and sensitive delivery - coupled with a clinical, mathematical approach to his art - have won him many converts. Tonight in Dr. Earnest Parrot Presents Martin plays patient to an imaginary and eminent doctor, as he seeks a cure for a rare mental condition, PHEALs - a malaise which purportedly prevents individuals from fully engaging in life - dooming them to spectate rather than participate. "When the heart breaks - so does the mind", explains Martin, and this concept underpins the rest of the hour.

The show's complicated plot is better experienced first-hand than via narrative exposition - suffice to say it involves a journey into self - familiar territory for Martin.
We examine five defining moments in Martin's life beginning with his first love, and first heartbreak at the tender age of 13. Martin's strength lies in presenting complicated ideas in simple, accessible ways. There is a childlike, playful quality in the way he approaches his comedy - and tonight he uses rudimentary drawings, shadow play, and as in previous years, keyboard, acoustic guitar and harmonica as backdrop to his wistful, abstract musings.

The sharp one-liners are still there. "To us, bird watching is harmless. To them it's just creepy..." and "Couldn't they have made dyslexia easier to spell...?" His love of palindromes is still in evidence, as is his trademark nerdiness. He lays bare his peculiarities and peccadilloes unselfconsciously - it's an odd, vicarious experience - rather like voyeuristically examining somebody's DNA under a microscope.

But one does sense the push and pull tonight. There is a strange inertia within the material - a formulaic, circular quality to the fare he brings to the table. And perhaps a sea change within the man himself. He seems restless and preoccupied. At the end of the hour he ambles off stage, thankyouverymuchladiesandgentlemengoodbye" he mumbles hastily without a backward glance. He appears, well, bored. And perhaps he is.

As fascinating as Martin is, there now seems little movement or progression in his work. Perhaps the seeds of truth lie within the show itself. Is he creatively and emotionally stuck, self-absorbed, needing to discern a sense of direction and regain his momentum? Martin remains a Festival highlight, but one now also wishes him new, affirming life experiences and fresh pastures, so he can return to us invigorated.
©Leanna Rance - 13 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to 28 August at 21.35 every day from 13 August - excepting 14, 21.
Company - Hannah Chambers Management.


Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus VS Malcolm And Mirriam. (Page 30).
Drams full glass.
Venue Cafe Royal Fringe Theatre. (Venue 47).
Address 17 West Register ST.
Reviewer Ariadne Cass.

Malcolm and Mirriam are the most macabre and freakish couple. Malcolm has spectacles and angina. Mirriam, contrary to what most people think, does not have an adams' apple, but a huge adrenaline gland and lives in a constant state of panic. They are the most romantic couple I have ever seen. This is perfect despairing, black humour. By the end of the first section, the whole audience believes in the redemption and beauty of love.

All of this is destroyed in approximately 45 seconds when the pair re - enter as Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus and deliver a blazing, terrible song about their mother and her profession. They rhyme it with 'floor.' Lyrically it's not very clever but it jolts us right out of our romantic swoon. There's a slight pause when it ends, and then two parents and a young girl stand up from their seats and leave.

In their defence, it's not a kid's show and is not advertised as such. That family should never have been sold tickets to see it. The duo blush bright red. Their embarrassment is touching. Then we all have a good cynical cackle and the show, cheapened, continues.

Perhaps the time has come for them to move on from their old Euro-pop material. The latter half of their show is very funny, but it's been done to death. Malcolm and Mirriam, however, is a work of mature genius.
©Ariadne Cass 19 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to 27 August at 17:10 every day.
Company - Die Clatterschenkenfietermaus.
Company Website - www.dieclatter.co.uk .


DJ Danny - Music Therapy. (Page 30).
Drams full glass full glass full glass.
Venue Pleasance Courtyard. (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

It's always a slightly perturbing sight upon entering a show, to spy not one, but two G4 laptops on the on-stage technician/co-hosts desk. Comedy as multimedia experience has always stuck me as a bit of a copout. True it's had some high-profile exponents (Alex Horne/Tim Keys, Will Smith, Howard Read). But the sneaking suspicion remains, that in some cases the comedian in question is hiding behind the technology due to an inability to hold a room sans props.

DJ Danny has embraced Phat Culture with a vengeance, and tonight via the power of music therapy, is not only intending to heal the room - but to eradicate all global ills. A noble if somewhat unwieldy ambition. Teacher by day, offering pastoral care to challenged youngsters, by night Danny emerges as the spiritual doppelganger of Jimmy Saville, perhaps mixed with a pinch of a young Cliff Richards on amphetamines. DJ Danny is Sunny Delight on legs.

This is a high-energy fare audience, participation compulsory. Yes there is music, sampling, on-the-fly mixes and a slideshow. Yes the audience gets to contribute ideas, bang drums and play recorders (God help us.) But within this highly interactive script lie the potential seeds of its demise. Because DJ Danny relies 100% on the audience to do the hard graft. If on any given night an audience collectively decided they did not wish to be bullied into participating, DJ Danny simply wouldn't have a show.

Music Therapy is zesty and fun in part, but also a dangerously lazy format, resting precariously upon one rather single-note idea and a bunch of slides. Oh, and someone should tell him to drop that tired old James Blunt gag. It's been trotted round the circuit so many times, it deserves honorary retirement. This show thankfully works well in its late night slot. An inebriated, up-for-it audience will do it justice. But don't go along if you just want to sit back relax and be entertained. There's work to do.
©Leanna Rance - 19 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to 28 August at 23.00 every day, excepting 8, & 15.
Company - DJ Danny.


Karen Dunbar (Page 31).
Drams .
Venue Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14).
Address 13 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Morag Hannah.

From the moment Karen Dunbar bounds onto the stage and spends the first few moments of her set dancing around the stage like a small hyperactive child, you've decided that it probably doesn't even matter whether she's actually funny. Her energy and enthusiasm make you feel a little like you're watching a one-woman adult Singing Kettle, and the effect rises a giggle in your throat whatever your tastes.

The stage is filled with red lighting and smoke long before Dunbar appears, making one wonder if she's gotten a little big for her boots, but at her modest, down-to-earth countenance it is quickly dismissed as tongue-in-cheek.

There are some stand-up comedians you would never want to meet in the pub for fear they eviscerated you in public. There are some you'd like to go for a drink with, to chat to them, to get to know them. And then there are the ones who are so comfortable and friendly that, from the moment they arrive on stage, you already feel like you have a rapport. Karen Dunbar is one of the last. It's not as though she's that witty or clever - though she's no fool. It's not as though everyone likes puns, or mildly naughty confessions, or region-based humour. You just like Karen. She's sharp, expressive and effortlessly charming, and while her humour might not be challenging, her delivery is spot-on. The admission price is steep, but people will pay to through the nose to see someone who's just that fun. And why shouldn't they?
©Morag Hannah 13 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to 27. August at 18:30 every day.
Company - Gilded Balloon Productions.
Company Website - www.gildedballoon.co.uk .


Dutch Elm Conservatoire In Prison (Page 31).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard. (Venue 8).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Garry Platt.

I have never seen the Dutch Elm Conservatoire (DEC), but their reputation preceded them. In previous years DEC have achieved a reputation for contemporary comedy with a quirky twist. They have an ability to create and exploit bizarre plot lines and characters of a fantastic nature but also engaging charm. For me however, this show falls some what short of their legendary status. In this production the storylines weird, the characters strange and unreal - so far so good. Alas the show its self lacks sufficient sharpness or aplomb in delivery so the whole thing fails to coalesce into a fully working piece of high quality comedy

The show has its moments of brilliance, but for the most part the DEC .engine appears to be misfiring. Cues were missed, lines fluffed, timings off and the general confidence required for superlative comedic delivery was just missing. This all sounds fairly harsh, itís not meant to be. Itís reasonably funny show but it just hasnít reached the necessary escape velocity needed to fling this show into 5 star territory. I did see the show in the early stages of its run, so who knows, it may improve?
©Garry Platt 5 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28th August at 17:00 every day except 14.
Company Ė Dutch Elm Conservatoire.
Company Website - www.dutchelm.co.uk.

(D) 7 out of 74
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