30 August 2010

I'm All Out At 47, Now Only 338 Days Until Edinburgh Fringe 2011

47 shows, 3 misses, 2 no entries and 1 walk out (in the first category) and I'm done. Lots ofn reviews to be written up for use by Googlers over the rest of the year (as these shows are either World Premieres or European Premiere).  I met and spoke to Sa mmy J, Celia Pacquola, Alan Cumming, Phill Jupitus and post-win, Russell Kane who were all lovely.  Also saw Clive Anderson and Jo Brand plus numerous other performers.  This is the first, and last year, I have seen every nominee.  Sadly some of them are just not to my taste nor of award quality.  But the sad news is of course that it's all over for another 48 weeks and 1 day...

28 August 2010

Police Seeking Witnesses As Man Is Bound, Gagged & Mugged In Central Edinburgh

A violent crime happened in the middle of the day today as a young tourist from New Zealand was shockingly gagged and mugged in broad daylight.  The young man, nothing more than a boy called , is at the end of his three week stay in Edinburgh and is missing a statue and valuable title that is rightfully his.  It is believed that the crime was organised by Nica Burns who is well known in Edinburgh circles and it is understood that an inoccent third party, Londoner Roisin Conaty, is currently in possesion of the 'stolen' property, although it is being stressed she doesn't deserve any blame.  People are being advised to keep their eyes open to try to see The Boy With Tape On His Face and spread the word about his un-just loss.

Edinburgh Comedy Award Is Now Foster's Consistent Performer Award

So the winner's have been announced.  Once again we are in a position wheren the Best Comedy Show award does not go to the best comedy show, but rather the Most Consistent Performer, much liken when Rhod Gilbert lost out to David O'Doherty.  Russell Kane has won despite both Greg Davies's and Bo Burnham's shows being significantly better than his, in fact the non-nominated Kevin Eldon possibly had a better show too (although Russel's was better than Sarah Millican, don't know about Josie's yet).  Interesting fact about Russel Kane's show this year: I had to give away my ticket because of his big finale, although I did get to re-book.

Best Newcomer is Roisin Conaty and I'm seeingn her in a few hours (not personally though, just in her show!). She will have to be awe-inspiring to have justifiably beaten The Boy With Tape On His Face. Bo Burnham gets the Panel Prize and should have really been runner up in the main award, if there was such a position.  Another year of lowest common demoninator decisions for the shortlist and most consencious building show for the awards.

25 August 2010

The Official Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award Nominees Are...

I said it at the outset of this new sponsorship, I don't give a XXXX who sponsors this award just as long as someone good (with a great show) wins it!  So who is in the frame?  Here are the official nominees for the Best Comedy Show (the main award, née If.com Eddie, née Perrier) are:
* Greg Davies (called it!)
* Bo Burnham (called it!)
* Russell Kane (good show but not better than last year's)
* Sarah Millican (good show but hardly award winning)
* Josie Long (haven't heard anything, wasn't taken by her style a couple of years ago)
My pick would have to be either Greg or Bo, both had five star shows.  If I'm forced to choose, they'll go home grown and award it to Greg.

To complete the set, the nominees for the Best Newcomer are:
* The Boy With Tape On His Face (called it!)
* Asher Treleaven
* Imran Yusuf
* Gareth Richards
* Late Night Gimp Fight
* Roisin Conaty
Not knowing or hearing much about the others, The Boy With Tape On His Face has to be the hot favourite.  So glad I'm seeing him tonight!  Roll on Sunday 12am...

Pre-empting the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award Shortlist

Yep, it's that time of the festival again when debates happen and reason goes out of the window.  Apparently the second panel meeting, aka short-listing meeting, is already taking place so here are my five candidates based on what I've seen and heard whispers about in 2010.  Idiots of Ants should get a second consecutive nomination for another excellent sketch show.  Character sketch performer Adam Riches deserves a nomination (as he did last year but never got it) for another flawless hour of riotous mayhem.  Bo Burnham was incredibly with is debut show Words, Words, Words and the 20 year old (his birthday was last Sunday) could have a decent shout of being the youngest ever winner, unless he is "relegated" to the Best Newcomer category.  Greg Davies is sort-of making his debut in Edinburgh although he might be ineligible due to having worked on TV shows (although he wasn't the named star, it was the crazy gang he was in, We Are Klang).  Finally I would expect The Boy With Tape On His Face to be close to a nomination, although until tonight that is all based on other people's opinions.  Previous stalwarts of the Newcomer and Main Award nominations Andrew Lawrence and Jon Richardson didn't have as flawless a show as previous years.  Paul Sinha could be an outside shot but again that will have to wait until this weekend.  All shall be revealed shortly...!

12 August 2010

Tom Wrigglesworth - Nightmare Dream Wedding

Following up his much praised show last year, Tom returns to Edinburgh with another journey into his life over the last year and specifically about how his dream wedding went all wrong.  Despite his bizarre appearance (yes, he looks like Sideshow Bob but sounds nowhere near as menacing as Kelsey Grammer), Tom comes across as a hugely friendly and likeable guy with a great knack for telling one very long story with a range of humorous sub-sets whilst never boring an audience.  Without revealing any real details about the story, we are introduced to several interesting characters in a handful of interesting locations and now with the added benefit of video footage!  Was is it as perfect as last year's show that earned him a nominated for Chortle's Best Show award?  Not quite, but it is very strong perfectly paced with one very memorable gag he was forced into telling (to someone who found out he was a comedian).  8 out of 10 (4 stars) and Tom was quickly established himself as a sure-thing in the world of Edinburgh.

10 August 2010

Andrew Lawrence - Too Ugly For TV

Andrew Lawrence is a unique talent and a firm favourite of mine, ever since I first saw his award-nominated Best Newcomer Act and appreciated his abilities but decided that his style wasn't really to my taste.  Erm, hang on?  The following year he was nominated as Best Show which surprised me so for his third year I returned to give me another shot in the venue at the Pleasance Courtyard that needs to be renamed the Oven (actually it's Upstairs, but it is above a kitchen!).  I immediately regretted not seeing him the previous year as I was blown away by the hugely positive enhancements he made to his act (dropped the keyboard, had a hair cut).  Last year he topped that show with a perfect portrayal of "soul-crushing" despair and bitterness to the world which includes some of my favourite bits of all time.   Finally as we reach 2010 Andrew seems a lot more positive and happier which personally pleases me but takes the edge off his superbly dark material.  No doubt this is making him a lot more palatable to TV and mainstream audiences and given his great talent it's a very good thing for him.  I am delighted he is starting to get the true recognition he deserves outside of the core of the industry and I'm certain there are a lot of people seeing him for the first time will be surprised as to how dark he can get, even in this lightened version.  The only thing he lacked was a killer bit that he shone with the last two years, so as it stands 8 out of 10 or 4 stars.  PS:  Please don't forget us when you are huge Andrew, keep coming back to Edinburgh!

Dan Antopolski - Turn of the Century

Last year in his second year back at the Fringe, Dan built a great show that deserved won him 5 stars and was the inaugural winner of the "Best Joke of the Fringe" from that well known sponsor of the Edinburgh Festival, TV channel Dave (?).  The joke is of course the infamous "Hedgehogs.  Why can't they just share the hedge?" and this year Dan provides many more such one liners including a follow-up to that very gag.  Rather than regurgitate my previous praise for this talented comic, I'd suggest reading the reviews of his 2008 and 2009 shows, and then finding out that this year he was a bit more restrained and at a slower pace, much as he was in 2008.  There are some slower bits without as many laughs per minute but the overall gigglequant is still very high.  There are four stunning jokes he lands equally spaced throughout his set that will stay with me for a long long time, much like I hope Dan does in terms of Edinburgh.  8 out of 10, aka 4 stars, although with a really sharp crowd and a bit too much coffee it could feel like 9.

9 August 2010

Ivan Brackenbury - Hospital Radio Remix

Tom Binns burst on the Edinburgh scene as Ivan Brackenbury three years ago with a nomination for the then If.com Eddy Award and the following year put in a great show with a Christmas theme.  Last year he moved to the larger cabaret bar and seemed to coast, although he clearly tried to put more effort in his show with more elaborate props but it back-fired.  This year he returns with his original show, less his moustache which helped him appear "special" and has 'remixed' it to include the best gags from the subsequent two years (NB:  there was only one gag from last year he used!).  Aside from four good stand-alone gags and three 'quiz show' segments (which really killed the mood), Ivan re-works the one gag of setting up a scene verbally and then delivering the punchline through recognisable song lyrics.  This actually works really well and delivered properly it can be a riot.  in truth he is a pale version of the character who won our hearts two/three years ago, and if you haven't already caught Ivan then you'll probably chuckle throughout this show.  He performed almost transfixed behind his keyboard / laptop and frequently mis-judged the audience's reaction and tempo.   As he plugged his other show in the festival (Ian D. Montfort) he mentioned that this might be the last time he does Ivan.  Hopefully it is as without true commitment to the character and the passion he previously had, I don't really want Ivan to die and long painful death just to rake in money.  7 out of 10, aka 3 stars, but probably worth an 8 out of 10 if you've never seen him, but he is a shadow of what he once was.

8 August 2010

Richard Herring - Christ On A Bike 2

Richard Herring is a masterful comedian that has reliably performed good sets over the last several years.  This year he returns to a much larger venue, the Ballroom in the Assembly Rooms, to deliver a show revolving around Jesus and whether he believes he was the son of God or not.  Starting from a staunchly atheist viewpoint Richard's skill is apparent as he crafts a delightful show without being preachy and at the same time evolves his own viewpoint without it feeling forced just for comic effect.  His material ranges from intelligently picking apart the inconsistencies in the gospels as well as blending in performance art and story-telling humour.  It's good to know that performers at this level still care about their craft and will work tirelessly to create memorable pieces of work they can be proud of year after year.  8 out of 10 aka 4 stars.

Sarah Millican - Chatterbox

After a mere 18 months Sarah went from Best Newcomer in Edinburgh to winning Chortle's Best Headliner award and what's more, her 2010 Edinburgh show Chatterbox was sold out a couple of weeks before the festival started!  This progression is arguably faster than John Bishop's rise to fame, although he is playing the largest venue in Edinburgh (the re-opened McEwan Hall were I sat many degree exams) and Sarah is filling The Stand.  I guess there are quite a few similarities in their styles, the gentle amiable warmth that makes you feel like you could be their friend.  This year's show doesn't have an over-riding theme but instead is a collection of "I like..." statements leading to brief bits cumulating into a very pleasant hour.  As with last year's show she made me chuckle throughout her show but does lack that killer, whole-belly laugh.  A reliable high end performer that you should be able to bank on.  8 out of 10 or 4 stars.

Adam Riches - Rides!

Last year Chortle garnished Adam Riches show with 5 stars and the quote "Quite simply the best sketch show I have ever seen".  What's more surprising is that statement wasn't from founder Steve Bennett, yet he let that get published under his valued name.  What did I think of his show last year?  Brilliant.  Quite simply the best character sketch show I have ever seen.  So we move on from Alpha Males to his 2010 offering, Rides!  The show starts right were we left of with Pierce Brosnan (rather than Daniel Day Lewis) and we are off for a wild ride of mayhem, silliness, extravagance, and riotous laughing.  Take the pure enjoyment of We Are Klang, mix it with the bold stage presence of Brian Blessed and whip it all up with a butch male cheerleader and you have a truly great show.  As always there is a lot of audience 'interaction' and Adam has the ability to suck you into feeling overly-confident where he re-asserts his dominance of the stage without fully breaking character.  The writing, pacing and imagination of his performance is faultless.  Surely this year he can't be ignored at the top awards again?  9 out of 10 and my first 5 stars meaning I'm going to pester people to go and see it!  If Adam doesn't return to Edinburgh next year a little part of me will die inside - he's that good.

7 August 2010

Sarah Pascoe - Vs Her Ego

Apparently this is Sarah's first Edinburgh show however her posters are raving out her almost being the next big thing.  Can she do what Sarah Millican did and go from newcomer to headliner in 18 months?  On the basis of this show she has a fair degree of talent although her stage presence is a little bit strange.  Dressed almost as a sixth form schoolgirl she frequently tugs at her shirt or flicks her leg to the side like a much younger child reciting lines or just telling you her bold opinion.  She is not brash or arrogant and that is to the benefit of her material which is sometimes 'overly confident' but still with some good ideas.   Her punchlines often have a quite second or two after as people appreciate the material but without the cover of loud laughter it results in gaps in her delivery which in turn seems to slow the act a bit.  One joke in particular about a health scare will remain a favourite of mine for many years to come.  Alongside her good comic mind she tries a few drama scenes with some under-performed lines and intentionally unsatisfying punchlines which did bring wry smiles to my face, but sadly not laughter.  Sarah clear has talent and when she hones her delivery / character I think she could have a very good show, especially with some more of her intelligently-silly gags.  A lot of promise but still an enjoyable hour so 7 out of 10 aka 3 stars.  I will be interested to see her again in the future...

Colin Hoult - Enemy Of The World

Colin Hoult earned a few very positive reviews last year for his show Carnival Of Monsters and on the back of that I have a ticket for his new show.  I admit I know very little about him, other than he does "character sketch" shows, which is the more apt description than just sketch.  Colin finally makes his way out on stage after an atmospheric opening my his 'assistants' and we are taken on a dark (well, red) journey through some very interesting characters and bizarre scenes.  The humour comes from the characters rather than any specific jokes and his performances are very accomplished, with an almost Chris Barrie air to his movements (and indeed physical appearance).  Most people compare his work to League of Gentlemen and it's just a shame I'm not a fan of their style.  That said Colin is entertaining, probably more so for fans of this style, but still a well crafted and well performed show.  A very respectable 7 out of 10 or 3 stars.  With more captivating story-lines or a unique hook he seems to have the potential to pull off a great show (and maybe he did last year!).

6 August 2010

Sammy J - Skinny Man, Modern World

Sammy J is one of the leading stars of a new wave of Australia-based Australian comics (as opposed to the likes of Brendon Burns and Tim Minchin who are now based in London) who are getting wide-spread acclaim.  Others include his often partner-in-crime Heath McIvor (a wonderfully thoughtful and generous gentleman!), the previously covered Celia Pacquola, Lawrence Leung.  Could this be the result of many years of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival searching out the best home grown talent and helping foster a great environment over there?  Possibly, but they also grew up with some great talents on their TV including one of my all-time favourites Shaun Micallef.
But this review is just about Sammy J and I have to start it by summarising a conversation I was very lucky enough to have with the show's star the next night.  The whole content of this show is true.  You will find it hard to believe but I have it from the source that everything (well, with one obvious exception) is real.  With this in mind Sammy takes us along on a musical and stand-up journey from his teenage years, to his future death, back to falling in love, being a performer in Adelaide and previous years in Edinburgh.  Breaking out from two years of character driven story telling Sammy performs with a confidence and smoothness that acknowledges his physical limitations ("Sammy ain't a fighter") whilst looking very sharp in his trendy suit.  The hour flies by as Sammy effortlessly delivers his well-paced disparate sets.  Thoroughly enjoyable, light-hearted relief from a real talent doing his third different style of show in as many years.  8 out of 10, aka 4 stars and a certain re-booking for next year (which rumours have it means Ricketts Lane comes to the UK!).

Celia Pacquola - Flying Solos

Last year Celia's debut Edinburgh show went down very well with me and many other reviews / critics / people-with-an-inflated-opinion-of-their-own-importance.  She is a very friendly Ozzie, quite positive and a good communicator.  So in the same outfit as last year she greets her sold-out audience for her new show in the same venue.  This year Celia focuses on doing things on your own, encompassing intentional feats and embarrassing moments.  Her warmth really sets the audience at ease even as she tries to get them to cheer if they've made similar mortifying mistakes.  Normally this type of audience interaction dies quite painfully and you see a drop in the performers tone or effort but not so with Celia.  Her unending positivity rides over the awkwardness and brings the audience with her along a journey of trying to achieve something impossible on her own, namely playing the piano solo from "I'm So Excited".
Along the way we have insights back into Celia's shameful childhood and the relationship she has with her mother.  It's not all personal discover as there are some very good jokes and concepts in there, especially a cleaning joke that seemed to not get the credit or time it deserved (but that might be a cultural thing).  Her merging between video, props and music is very smooth and seamless, just like her lights & clicking trick from last year.  The show builds to a climax for Celia to genuinely stand up on her own two feet, even beyond the scope of the stage, and achieve something that seemed totally impossible at the beginning of the show.  The audience really loved it and left elated and feeling so positive, in fact I defy anyone to leave the show not feeling uplifted (cue inevitable comparisons with Adam Hills and quite rightly so).  A thoroughly enjoyable hour from such a likeable person, 8 out of 10, aka 4 stars and I will be back to see Celia again next year!

Sophie Black - A Sketch Show

So the re-arranged first show this year is a woman (just like last year).  Let's hope she does better than the damp start to last year...  Sophie Black comes out to 3/4 full room (50-ish capacity) with a bizarre permed wig on in character as a street sketch artist.  Yes, opening a sketch show with a sketch about sketching is mildly interesting on paper, but that's the only thing that's actually vaguely amusing throughout the long hour in the Attic.
She performs her characters with relative proficiency and wraps up the last 15 mins with callbacks and closure to earlier stories but by this point the audience just didn't seem to care.  It took 10 mins for me to start looking at my watch and wondering why I had gone to see another humourless show like Nick Mohammed, whilst someone left after the second scene (about 20 minutes in, which is about the same time I stayed for Nick Mohammed's show two years ago).  Was there anything of any note in her show?  Sadly not.  If you are interested in seeing someone do an average job of pretending to be characters that are slightly exaggerated and follow stories peppered with silly statements in lieu of jokes, then I'm sure you can pick from many others in the same category as Sophie.  6 out of 10, aka 2 stars, which is sadly the same disappointing start to this year's Fringe as last year!

And So The 64th Edinburgh Fringe 2010 Starts!

Yes I'm a little bit late to the game this year but that was a once in a lifetime situation.  I've had to give away 10 tickets for the opening few days which is just insane, so let's crack on quickly.  Who will I meet this year, who will I discover as a new favourite and who will fall off the list?  Don't forget the fully explanation of my ranking system out of 10 and the simplified version of 5 stars.  See you in town...

5 August 2010