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 Festival 2006
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Musicals & Opera

(R) 7 out of 74
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Reginald D Hunter - Pride and Prejudice and Niggas. Page 65.
Drams .
Venue UdderBELLY.
Address Bristo Square.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

The E4 Udderbelly is an unfeasibly large inflatable venue. A comedy Zeppelin. Or as Reginald D Hunter succinctly describes it, “we’re inside some weird upside down f***ing purple cow…” One can’t help feeling it’s a precarious structure. Could it survive a puncture? What horrible fate would befall the audience, should this blow-up bovine suddenly deflate?

Paranoia aside, the venues eccentricities tidily mirror the performer’s persona tonight. Hard-hitting, potentially combustible material always his trademark, one has the suspicion Hunter’s ego would normally withstand the most serious attempt at puncture. In the presence of his defiantly truthful, combatitive, uber-confidence, one has also come to expect no punches pulled. But this evening Hunter appears to have lost his mojo, (or his cigarette)*. His passion seems strangely stage-managed, his moments of reflection and seeming contemplation uncomfortably tightly scripted.

After 9 years residence in the UK, Hunter is more or less an honorary Englishman. But his appeal still rests heavily on specific cultural perspective (that of the outspoken black, heterosexual American male thriving and surviving in an alien environment.) His candid and comic deconstruction of gender differences and race issues remain on target, but interestingly the audience is most relaxed, and laughs loudest at the easy, stereotypic gags (Shaft, spliffs.) They clearly have their comfort zone, just as Hunter has his desire to push boundaries.

Although the structure of the show is watertight – the Pride and the Prejudice of the title comprehensively covered, the big call-back present, the third-act threads expertly tied – there is something lacklustre about the whole affair, as if Hunter is merely going through the motions. Within the constraints of the show, he paces like a caged lion, at points restless, at points tame, only occasionally his ferocity surfacing with its usual integrity.

Perhaps this is a transitional year for Hunter. Underneath the bravado, as he jests about sexual taboos, his relationship with his father and difficulties dealing with the women in his life, one senses bruising and uncertainty. Perhaps 2006 should be a period of process rather than delivery, of questioning rather than consolidation for this comic.

Hunter is unique. Let’s hope he is back in 2007 with his usual roar.
*Scotland's Parliament which not only bans smoking in public places it also bans it on stage and film sets. You can not use any other substance you might ignite and smoke instead. It's a health thing but some entertainment people think the ban should not apply to stage or film sets..
© Leanna Rance - 7 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28th August at 20.15 every day, excepting 14th, 21st.
Company - Mick Perrin Productions.


Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolfe III: What Would Charlie Sheen Do? (Page 65).
Drams .
Venue The Stand Comedy Club II (Venue 5).
Address 16 North St Andrew Street.
Reviewer Nathan Witts.

Dressed in white linen trousers, a loose fitting long sleaved t-shirt and aviators with long shaggy hair and a full on bushy beard Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolfe III looks like he has been transported to the Stand II stage directly from an acid fuelled sixties adventure at Woodstock. His appearance provides the perfect backdrop for the character he plays on stage, an incredibly crude and enormously controversial mid western preacher.

Getting to the point this show is good and worth seeing. The Reverends aim is to shock his audience and he exploits most of the taboo subjects one can conceive of to achieve this goal, sexuality, race, incest and murder included. He goes right to the edge with most of his material and on occasions some might think he crosses the line. Thus those easily offended should probably give this show a miss. Some of the set is rather formulaic and occasionally it dips but the man behind Reverend Obadiah Steppenwolfe III is clearly intelligent, possesses a sharp tongue and produces just under an hour of quality entertainment.

Moreover Obadiah Steppenwolfe enjoys communicating with his audience so if you fancy a smooth ride get to the venue early and get a seat on the back row. If like James a gay nurse who passes his days parting the arse cheeks of incapacitated old men sit alone on the front row and buckle up for the ride.
©Nathan Witts 7th August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27th August at 2:45 every day apart from 14th August.
Company - The Stand Comedy Club.
Company Website - www.thestand.co.uk.


Rhod Gilbert - Knocking on Heaven's Door. (Page 65).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

Rhod Gilbert has a divine gift for putting people at ease. He is a naturally charming, witty and exuberant comic – his warm informality and lilting Welsh accent routinely winning over the most recalcitrant of audiences. And he is certainly on form this evening.

Tonight we are collectively Knocking on Heaven’s Door , having (for the purposes of this show) perished en masse in an budget airline crash. Gilbert has in fact scoured Edinburgh for flight crew uniforms, a participant in a recent show cannily pointing out, that if passengers were present and correct – where was the pilot? So tonight a hapless member of the audience is nominated as Captain, and presented with a nautical cap (the best Gilbert could come up with at short notice.) “For heaven’s sake don’t clap him”, urges Gilbert. “It’s due to his incompetence you’re all here”.

Interested parties are required to go through an involved application process in order to pass through the pearly gates, and Gilbert guides us through the questionnaire with much hilarity, the high-quality gags coming thick and fast. We get boxes ticked if we’ve been environmentally friendly, undertaken good deeds – and avoided the obvious vices of greed and lust. Various members of the audience are good-naturedly roped into the proceedings and the show is full of bonhomie and belly laughs.

This is a feel-good hour par excellence, and must rate as one of the most genuinely enjoyable shows on the Fringe. Gilbert is an effervescent raconteur, a dastardly clever writer and his fluid, seamless delivery and mischievous asides, have us in stitches. A gem of a show. You’re guaranteed to leave with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
© Leanna Rance - 19 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 24 August at 19.30 every day, excepting 14.
Company - Goldman King and CKP.


Richard Herring - Ménage a Un. (Page 66).
Drams .
Venue Underbelly. (Venue 61).
Address 56 Cowgate.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

This is Richard Herring’s 21st Edinburgh show, which marks him out as an elder statesman. And by his own admission, he has his own creative agenda these days when performing at the Fringe. To push and challenge himself, to experiment and take risks, to hone his material – allegedly free from any desire to impress TV executives or win awards (though he would be an unusual comedy beast indeed, if this were actually true.)

Perhaps this necessitates a fair critique be more fluid, to accommodate the shifting sands of the ongoing creative processes. Or perhaps it’s all a clever ploy on Herring’s part, to discourage reviewers from in-depth examination of his material.

The seal of quality where Herring’s writing is concerned is unquestionably intact. As one of the country’s wittiest, sharpest wordsmiths, he rarely, if ever, puts a foot wrong. Consistently he delivers the goods, and this year’s Ménage a Un in terms of the sharpness of the writing, is no exception. However the material is functioning within an unexpectedly formulaic and lacklustre framework.

2006 sees Herring transfer from Pleasance to Underbelly, and tonight he plays to an echoey, half-full room, with the added encumbrance of an irritatingly loud and sibilant mic. This renders his opening gambits less effective, as the audience struggles to adjust to the acoustics. Herring tends to be at his comedic best when perched jauntily upon his high horse, layering clever upon clever –and then some. Indulging in long metaphysical rants and following absurd flights of fancy. He uses ideas as building blocks with great finesse – transforming pommes de terre to apples of the sky. He weaves in and out of stories, deliberately labouring over some and trying the audience's patience to breaking point with undisguised glee, (the Hand Job Centre saga), and slicing through other routines with the precision of a surgeon.

But when all is said and done, 2006 does appear to have brought a sea change for Herring. If there is such a thing as male menopause, then Herring is undoubtedly in the throes of one. Billed as an exploration of loneliness, only-ness and Onanism, ‘Ménage a Un’ reveals itself as self-indulgent rather than reflective, the comedy underpinned by self-pity, when Herring’s forte is normally pitilessness. It doesn’t sit comfortably. Last year’s show brimmed with exuberance, this years offering seems brittle and limited by comparison. There’s a fine line between a funny, intelligent man publicly and relentlessly obsessing over teenage girls – and a sad old git doing the exactly same. A fact Herring might do well to remember.

Even though 2006 may not be a vintage year for this comic, a not-quite-at-his-peak Herring still remains head and shoulders above a lot of the competition. Go see this show. There’s still plenty here to enjoy.
© Leanna Rance - 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 27 August at 20.30 every day, excepting 15.
Company - Richard Herring.


Robin Ince Isn't Waving.(Page 66).
Drams .
Venue Assembly at George Street (Venue 3).
Address 54 George Street.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Robin Ince doesn't really look like a comedian. In fact, on first glance he looks more like he should be an accountant, or a solicitor - albeit a rather scruffy one. The only clue that he might belong to a rather more irreverent profession is the gaudy pink shirt, frills and all, that hangs loose and untucked about his person. His unkempt appearance might almost be a metaphor for his show - flamboyant, a bit messy, pretentious in part, Ince endearingly lets it all hang out. It's an utterly chaotic performance, but despite the complete absence of structure, he's just about intelligent enough and, more importantly, funny enough to pull it off.

Ince begins proceedings by warning us that he won't follow any specific 'narrative arc', although there's really no need as everyone guesses as much soon enough. Rather, Ince leads his audience on a haphazard tour of his various neuroses, which range from an inexplicable fear of Ronald McDonald to a private terror of inadvertently attracting gay men on public transport. Such stories are recounted with wry self-deprecation, and his phobias, as bizarre as some of them seem, are amusing largely because of their own absurdity. Ince's comic persona is that of the paranoid geek, but it quickly becomes apparent that it's no act. Of course, paranoia and uneasiness often go hand in hand with comedy - let's be honest - a lot of great comics wouldn't be half as funny if they were more comfortable in their own skin. Ince is cast in such a mould, and is clearly one clever guy - not many people can squeeze a laugh out of quoting Heidegger, that's for sure.

The trouble with references to Heidegger, however, or for that matter the philosophy of Schopenhauer or obscure films like 'Hiroshima Mon Amour', is that inevitably not everyone is going to get the joke. While much of Ince's demented rambling proves inspired, some of it just gets lost in the muddled labyrinth of his own imaginings. He's a self-confessed collector of junk and clutter, and his stage is littered with DVDs and books he admits he doesn't need. The same might be said of his show, which seems to lack some sort of quality control to sieve out the surplus gags. Still, his is a charming stage presence, and he's even got an accordionist sidekick, supplementing his routine with the occasional Van Halen riff. How many comedians can say that?
©Edmund Gould 17 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August every day at 21:30.
Company - Robin Ince.


Russell Howard: Wandering. (Page 67).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Edmund Gould.

Russell Howard, it seems, is always in a good mood. In a world brimming with cynics, he stands out from the crowd as a chap who’s genuinely amazed by just how great the world is. It’s an endearing quality, and makes a healthy change from the usual torrent of grumbling and bitterness that accompanies many an hour of stand-up. Howard’s charm lies in his honesty. There’s no trace of negativity in his set - rather, Howard has the aura of a sort of excitable man-child, bursting to tell his audience about his day. His mood is infectious, and while he doesn’t set out to change the world, he surely provides the finest hour of feel-good comedy on the Fringe.

Howard is still a relatively young man, and his style naturally caters for his own generation. Gags about the movie ‘ Teen Wolf’ and Kanye West will clearly mean little to anyone beyond their 30s, but Howard has enough charisma to overcome any age gap. He buzzes off his audience, and generates a sort of affectionate banter that guarantees his material a warm reception. The show’s title is suitably vague, as Howard follows no set routine but rather wanders wherever his mind takes him. His creative process sounds blissfully slapdash; ideas, he tells us, jump wildly inside his head, shouting ‘Pick me! Pick me!’

On the basis of this performance, he sure can pick ‘em. His observational comedy gets the most lively response, and the suggestion that all mothers look the same when swimming is greeted with riotous laughter. It’s simple stuff, but it shows that a comedian’s ability to find humour in everyday life is more important than cutting edge material - Peter Kay is testament to that. Howard is still young, but works the crowd like a seasoned veteran. He should probably work in counselling, as he even manages to wring the positives out of a traumatic break-up. His comedy is effortless and uplifting, and if he continues in this vein, bigger things surely lie ahead. Let‘s just hope he stays happy.
©Edmund Gould 17 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to 28 August every day at 20:35.
Company – Russell Howard.


Ryan Paulson in Pentecostal Winconsin. (Page 67).
Drams  .
Venue  Gilded Balloon Teviot . (Venue 14).
Address  13 Bristo Square .
Reviewer  Anna Kay .

The afternoon I went to see Ryan Paulson’s narrative of a Pentecostal childhood was a typical Fringe show.  There were three of us in the audience.  I mention this straight off because I feel it had a huge bearing on the quality of the particular performance.  Paulson’s show is quite scripted, with musical numbers and I believe with a larger audience, he could achieve at least a two dram show.  Having said that, the performer coped admirably with the situation and brought in the tone of the show as much as was possible within the constraints of the style.

Pentecostal religion is something I know as little about as Wisconsin and it’s always nice to hear a good story, especially when it involves other people’s excruciating embarrassment. This makes Paulson’s show captivating, if not always hilarious.  The ending stops short of bittersweet or hilarious and could be worked on to make it punchier – it’s always a shame when an enjoyable show just finishes, without sense of a finale.  what a shame he didn't get the injection of energy a bigger audience would provide to improve the experience.
©Anna Kay 24 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 16:30 every day.
Company – Gilded Balloon Productions.
Company Website - www.gildedballoon.co.uk .

(R) 7 out of 74
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