Thursday 10th August
After a traffic jam that turned a twenty-minute bus into forty, we missed the show we’d booked tickets for. However, the guy at the box office said that we could use our tickets for tomorrow’s show and, following a pint of cider and a very persuasive flyerer, we ended up at a nerd-fest upstairs instead:
Rik Carranza Presents: ST vs. SW
(13.10, Monkey Barrel Comedy)
At the end of the day, this show was just an hour of shameless fun, as we watched three geeks rant on a stage. However, Rik Carranza did an excellent job at giving that fun a structure and format that allows him to comfortably change the two guests debating either side every show. With the subjects and questions of debate as well; nothing in the show was too specific or alienating (ha!) for a more casual viewer such as myself. The guy defending Star Trek may have seemed to know as much about it as me, but that didn’t really matter and, even if it had been distracting, you’re never going to have it perfect when bringing in random comedians. The atmosphere was warm and the show was an unexpected bonus to our Fringe.
The Canon: A Literary Sketch Show
(14.40, Underbelly Cowgate)
Three years after I last saw this show, I returned to find that they had boldly refreshed their entire roster of material. It’s always hard to let go of a working formula but, whilst I did miss middle-aged Charlie being depressed under the burden of running the chocolate factory, I was glad to see what else this thematically unique sketch troupe could do. Probably the only show that can identify the holes in my university education, few authors, poets or indeed illustrators (unless ‘Where’s Wally?’ is the height of contemporary metafiction) are left unscathed by the quill that quipped this script together.
Yet, the material is equalled and sometimes excelled by the calibre of the performances in the show which, at one point, left myself and Alex wanting slide onto the floor and die pissing ourselves. Some shows are self-confessed hit-or-miss; this is more like laugh-or-learn, much like what you get from the more intellectual end of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
If you want a sketch show that diversifies a market so saturated by the straightforward revue, then let The Canon sort you out. Though, make sure you’ve read a book or two first. If you’re a literature student, this should be an absolute liberation!
Sleeping Trees at the Movies – Sci-fi?
(17.30, Pleasance Dome)
Our second time seeing the Trees this Fringe (if you have the time to watch the whole trilogy, do! They alternate everyday), ‘Sci-fi’ may well have upped it for me from ‘Mafia’ (read Part 2 of my Fringe blog for that!). When you’re a group who creates all the characters, story and imagery through voice, body and music, science-fiction must be the hardest genre to execute. But yeah, they did it. Whether it was someone doing a hand stand to form the front and handles of a bike-speeder or a perfectly synchronised robot army, it is easy to overlook what the quality of physical theatre that lies at the backbone of the Sleeping Trees’ work. It’s brings a whole other layer to their comedy and their storytelling, celebrating the fact that they’re in a theatre and not confined to what works on a screen.
Not missing the opportunity to pull in even more obscure jokes through the sci-fi premise, whilst once again working with a fully cohesive story that was easy for the audience to follow, the Trees continue to solidify the ‘narrative comedy’ genre as their domain. Glad we got to see them twice.
Siân and Zoë’s Sugar Coma Fever Nightmare
(18.45, Just the Tonic @The Community Project)
Another gem that proves it’s definitely worth seeing what you find on the flyers down the Royal Mile, this show provided the absurdity that ‘alternative comedy’ is really meant to be about; not just avoiding offensive words. After seeing so many classically-structured sketch shows, it was great to see a double-act completely break those conventions apart and just do their own thing. An organised stream of consciousness, the strange and unusual sketch conceits gave a really enticing blast of imagination and fearlessness. The audience was small, yet laughed with the decibels of double the people there, with myself and Alex certainly contributing to that.
There was also an unconventional level of audience participation in this sketch show, with provided a very engaging blend of sketch and character stand-up. A highlight would be a section where Siân and Zoë fished for dreams in the audience: his typical self, Alex revealed his dream about drowning in Tennent’s beer. Yet, I have little to criticise when I recall my response to thinking of a famous historical building; let’s just say, the building’s not there anymore. I think I need some kind of psychological analysis after that one. Though, to her (Siân’s) credit, she took the diabolical thing I said and managed to run with it.
Regardless, this show was one of my favourites on the Fringe this year and it deserves far more of an audience so please don’t miss them out if you’re going and somehow found yourself reading this!
True to its title, this show’s a mishmash of what’s on at the Fringe, each act getting a ten-minute set to provide a sample of their main show. I always love this event as it exposes you to performers you would’ve otherwise missed. Leading out with a strong compere, we got a strong variety of stand-ups, double acts and a musical comedy group to finish off. Great time, excellent show, no more to be said…
…and that has nothing to do with the double-act Next Best Things. I mean, I’m constructive in my opinions, not another male swayed by the slightest bit of female attention; you can’t just flirt with me in the middle of your act and, there you go, you’re hilarious. What am I saying? As soon as what was happening made itself clear, it took one turn to Alex next to me for him to burst into an absolute fit, as he genuinely laid himself across the next three seats, pissing himself. And I.. Well, I had a great time. I’m sorry, but if you ask “can I call you ‘Sexy James’?” I’m going to enjoy the act! Honestly though, they had some brilliantly surreal ideas and are another act who seamlessly fuse audience interaction into sketch comedy with hilarious effect. If anyone has the chance, their actual show is 16.45 at Pleasance Courtyard. If I wasn’t on the train back the next day by then, I certainly know I would’ve gone.
*may contain traces of bias and bad maths.
Friday 11th August
Lucy Pearman: Maid of Cabbage
(12.30, Monkey Barrel Comedy)
To end our time in Edinburgh, we got to see a true show of the Fringe; an absurdist solo character comedy. Despite solo character comedy being one of the most difficult things to pull off, Lucy Pearman made it look as easy as putting on another set of clothes. When the focus is on a singular character, every slight action or mannerism counts and Pearman had a strong command of this. That was what impressed me the most about this show: how well she immersed herself and held onto that character for the duration of the show. Some would assume that’s not as important in comedy as drama; it bloody-well is. You need to believe in the character before you can invest enough to laugh at it.
The audience interaction is also very prominent: I mean, just from the fact she gave the entire front row a cabbage, you should get a feel from the tone without me spoiling too much. I wasn’t left out either, though I think she may have regretted that. You see, she placed a tall black soldier’s hat on my head and, failing to turn my performer side off for a second, I decided to respond ‘in-character’. Looking back now, that was probably a bit unhelpful but it was a laugh all the same and she ran with it very well.
Through well-conceived and executed characterisation, Pearman managed to keep us under her hilarious, often endearing but even more often sinister trance for an entire hour. Usually, with character comedy, that can feel like an awful long time. With Lucy Pearman, we wanted it to be longer.
Thank you for ending our time at the Edinburgh Fringe 2017 with such an A-class show.
I’ll have my concluding thoughts up in the next few days or so, but that is now all seventeen shows we saw that I have reviewed. Going back through them all was a great way to reaffirm them in my memory, and sure they’ll be there for some time. I hope to learn from all the excellence I saw at this year’s Fringe and carry it over when we perform there next year. Let’s hope!