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 Festival 2006
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(S) 6 out of 74
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Page number refers to the Fringe programme

Shappi Khorsandi - Asylum Speaker. (Page 68).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33).
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

A thoroughly engaging performer, Shappi Khorsandi bounces onto the stage and audiences get that reassuring sense 'this is going to be fun'. Despite some fairly grim subject matter, for most of an hour fun is exactly what Khorsandi delivers. An asylum seeker when that term may not have been fashionable but rarely generated the kind of red-top rage it produces today, Khorsandi comes from a talented Iranian family forced into exile following the rise to power of the Ayatollah Khomeni. Between jokes and stories about her family's foibles and stories featuring her own take on life, Khorsandi takes her audience on a whistle-stop tour of Iranian recent history, from the take-over of the country by Britain in WWII to its present rule by ayatollahs. This is neither pompous nor patronising and serves to contextualise her own and her family's experiences.

Khorsandi's father, Hadi Khorsandi, was and is a respected journalist, who continues to publish a satirical magazine for the exiled Iranian community and for circulation in Iran where it is unsurprisingly banned. (Rather like Northern Ireland's 'Fortnight' magazine, but with more jokes and in rather more danger). For which contribution to the world's free press, Khorsandi pere was put under threat of assassination. Shappi's re-telling of how the family went into hiding under Scotland Yard protection, of how the attempt was bungled and subsequently swept under British and Persian carpets is but one aspect of a diverse show delivered in masterful style and with a sure comedic sense.

Khorsandi has performed in Singapore, Dubai, Holland and the United States, as well as working extensively for the B.B.C. She retains a strong sense of being proudly Iranian, but is also definitely and defiantly British in some of her attitudes. Comedians such as Khorsandi are desperately needed in the desperate times we seem to have stumbled into, and although she certainly deserves very best wishes on her forthcoming marriage, it's also to be hoped that domesticity won't entirely rob the comedy scene of one of its brightest talents.
©Bill Dunlop 9 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 28 at 7.00p.m. every day, not Tuesday 15.
Company - Goldman King and CKP.


Shazia Mirza - Fun!. (Page 68).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Dome (Venue 23).
Address 1 Bristo Square.
Reviewer Bill Dunlop.

Shazia Mirza had to cut two words from her blurb in The Fringe programme, she tells us. The title was to have been 'Fun in Paradise'. It's awful the way the words of Prophets can get taken too literally - consider the unfortunate case of Jesus and the Gadarene swine. During the Battle of Badr the Prophet Mohammed promised some rather fleshly Heavenly delights to those who died for the faith. Seventy two virgins per martyr - which is deemed to sway many a suicide bomber if you believe the rumblings of the red-top press. Shazia Mirza takes this tidbit as her starting point, weaving a pleasant hour's worth of mostly innocent fun from familiar topics (shopping) to the less familiar (being presented to the Queen).

Those of us with lengthy memories perhaps ought not to ungallantly remind people of Mirza's early appearances on 'Blouse and Skirt', Channel 4's effort at showcasing BME comedians a number of years ago. Since then Mirza has appeared widely, performing in Switzerland, Canada, Belgium, France and Sweden, and most recently touring with Northern Stage in '1001 Nights Now', a re-working of the Arabian Nights for contemporary audiences. Mirza is, as she admits herself, every 'Guardian' writers dream, the successful, well-adjusted ethnic minority female.

Every now and then, however, Mirza lets the guard drop and the drawbridge down and a hint of quiet frustration and annoyance at her sometimes tokenised status creeps through. You can't keep a good Brummie down for long, though, andShazia Mirza is someone you certainly wouldn't want to. Her bouncy cheerfulness ought to disarm the dourest of critics from whatever corner they come, and her ability to apparently take even death threats in her stride speaks well not only for her but also for the generation of Muslims of which she is part. It's saddening and disturbing that a minority of individuals feel violence or the threat of violence is an acceptable response to the world's present difficulties. It's heartening that most people realise the seriousness of the situation and recognise such behaviour as totally unacceptable. Let's hope that one day this includes most of the world's governments. Meanwhile, despite threats and disrespectful abuse, Shazia Mirza continues to shine a beacon of comedic talent into some of the dark places.
©Bill Dunlop 9 August August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 28 at 21.30 every day.
Company - Vivienne Smith Management.


Songs My Granny Frowned At. (Page 70).
Drams .
Venue C Venue. (Venue 34).
Address Chambers Street.
Reviewer Chris Mounsey.

Since it was a small audience, I sat in the second row and really wished that I hadn't. This isn't anything to do with the show but because almost the whole of the rest of the first two rows appeared to be taken up by 18 year olds on drugs who shrieked with laughrter at almost every word - no, seriously, every single word. It was tortuous and I came as near to killing an - admittedly pretty - girl as I ever have before. Still, let us leave the living hell that was the audience and attempt to concentrate on the show itself (something that, sadly, I found very difficult to do).

Chris and Mark are two middle-aged men who perform comedy songs, reminiscent of Flander and Swann or Tom Lehrer. They are not, in general, quite as good as these heroes of mine, but occasionally they do scale those dizzy heights - the first song, for instance, about a goldfish who wants to walk in the woods (and then ends up being disembowelled by a badger) was absolute genius (and it's always nice to see a eukalele onstage). However, it is the links between the songs that let the show down slightly, feeling - as they do - somewhat rough and under-rehearsed. This is not necessarily a bad thing in itself - there is always a space for spontoneity in comedy - but Chris Larner does not have quite a quick enough wit to save them. However, it really doesn't matter too much because our hosts are genial and the songs are full of sweet, whimsical humour; which is why it always hits your comedy nerve when they end in the death of yet another small mammal.

Overall, this is a really enjoyable hour and, if you are at a loose end at that time in the evening, then I would recommend dropping in. Let us hope that you don't also end up being part of an audience the greater part of which you would happily naipalm - or even quietly stab - fifteen minutes into the show.
©Chris Mounsey 23 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com.
Runs to August 28 at 22.45 every day.
Company - Chris Larner and Mark Stevens.
Company Website - http://www.quuup.com


Doug Stanhope. (Page 71).

Drams None needed (but not for the easily offended).
George Sq Theatre (Venue 37).
George Square.
Ritchie Smith.

I went to see Doug Stanhope because of Kate Capstick (comedy uber-reviewer at a rival organ), who gives a long soliloquy about the astounding comic powers of Doug, culminating with " - and I want to have his babies!"

No male comedian has ever had this effect on me, and when he came shambling out, bottle of Corona in hand, sweaty and staring, I decided I'd leave it to Kate to have Doug's babies. And he started slowly, voice rasping, occasionally lost for words, admitting "it's not all going to come out perfectly". It didn't. But, by God, it built.

Imagine him as he prowls the stage, mad-eyed, charismatic, uninhibited, cruelly honest. The Festival after closing time is "ugly and murderous, 'Dawn of the Dead' meets the Fall of Saigon". He gives wise advice: "Steal from your employer - have your hangover on the company's time." And it gets stronger and funnier. There is a genuinely aggressive quality to this man attacking "dogsh*t religion", pointing out (correctly) that agnostics don't go shelling atheists. It gets more and more unhinged, more and more funny - with rare psychological insight into his marriage and women ("you can't have a relationship on the shared problems of alcoholism") - more and more surreal: "wet t-shirt night at the Holocaust Museum". He's thinking the unthinkable and saying it too. I'm laughing my outrage and my wonder. This isn't him at his best, as he reminds us, but this is off-the-wall, five star stuff. Then, at the end of the set, he comments about child abuse - and a man in the audience says our Doug knows nothing! Doug explains his case, which is logical and almost reasonable. The response? "I'm not impressed." - Which Doug uses as his curtain line.

Is Doug Stanhope as good as Kate says? Yes. But see him very soon, because he describes his own intake of drink and drugs as staggering. "Jesus died for your sins," he reminds us. "I'm doing it for your mere entertainment." Well, he isn't Jesus. But at his peak only a literal miracle could produce better, more challenging comedy.  
©Ritchie Smith, 13 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com .
Runs to August 27 (not 21) at 22:40 every day.
Company Doug Stanhope.


Stephen K Amos - All of Me. (Page 72).
Drams .
Venue Pleasance Courtyard.
Address 60 The Pleasance.
Reviewer Leanna Rance.

Stephen K Amos is a loveable comedian. He exudes warmth and good humour. He is also mischievous sharp and honest. It’s this well-honed, three-dimensional comedy persona, which has for many a year ensured Amos’s place as one of the Fringe’s most-appreciated performers.

This year with All of Me, Amos lays himself bare (well, at least he does in the poster.) He wants to put his life in perspective – his childhood (his early years as the only black child in an otherwise all-white boys’ school), his sexuality (upon discovering he was gay on a visit to New York he jokes “I was mortified - I thought gays were a white man's disease”), and his emotional journey (leaving his career in law, coming to terms with his twin sister’s cancer, and the murder of a gay friend last year).

The subject matter may be somber in part – but his comedic spin on it is always wry and entertaining.

Amos begins the show in character, as a Nigerian dignitary cum stand-up sporting traditional robes. He engages the audience in African dialect and uses an on-stage translator to much comedic effect. Billing himself as ‘West Africa’s only alternative comedian - on a cultural exchange with Bernard Manning’, he delivers his own highly amusing, bespoke versions, of a series of clichéd gags ‘ I wouldn’t say my wife was fat but….’

After a lightning-quick costume change, we’re back to the jeans and trainers Amos, that we all know and love. Amos relies heavily on audience interaction, and it has to be said, he can at times falter when encountering a non-participatory crowd. But tonight there is a lone German in the audience “thank you comedy God” says Amos. And better still, a young, posh politics student from Surrey, fortuitously positioned in the front row - a sitting target. But the teasing is good-natured.

2006 is a year of consolidation for Amos. “I’m finally happy and extremely comfortable with who I am” he expounds. And this enjoyable retrospective certainly reinforces this fact.
© Leanna Rance - 16 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to 28 August at 21.20 every day, excepting 8, 15.
Company - Stephen K Amos.


Synphonia. (Page 73).
 Venue  Underbelly. (Venue 61).
 Address  56 Cowgate (entrances on Cowgate and Victoria St).
 Reviewer  Anna Kay.

At last, a Fringe show with some good old-fashioned clowning!  Elements of the more slapstick style blend brilliantly with the art of clowning in this Italian export.  It is refreshing to see an overseas company with a performance that is genuinely international.

The show is billed as comedy, but could so easily be listed as physical or children’ s theatre, without really belonging in any pigeonhole.   It has no real target audience, as it is genuinely enjoyable by everyone.  From ironing-board pianos to some good old clichéd tomato throwing, the Synphonia performers are ever inspire our sympathy and esteem.

I’m not waiting for the end of the piece at all, but when it was announced I find myself irritated that it in fact goes on for a further 5 or 10 minutes.  This ruins my enjoyment of an otherwise very funny couple of sketches.

With its international and age-spanning audience, I would say that Synphonia has the most wide-ranging appeal of any Fringe show I have seen – not just this year, but ever.
©Anna Kay 26 August 2006 - Published on EdinburghGuide.com
Runs to August 27 at 12:15 every day.
Company – Erbamil and Ambaradan.
Company Website - www.synphonia.eu

(S) 6 out of 74
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