10 August 2011

Happy Birthday Mr Tickle

Happy Birthday to the Mr Men!  As the Metro has informed me (via Neil), it's the 40th birthday of the Mr Men today and (no shock, no horror) ... Mr Tickle is the most popular book (and first)!  Anyone with half a brain loves Mr Tickle, and to prove that his book is sitting on my bookcase right now!

9 August 2011

Colin Hoult - Inferno

Colin Hoult: Inferno - Still as dark as ever, Colin Hoult has this year moved from focussing on more macabre characters to ‘heroes’, mostly human ones but all inevitably flawed and retaining his signature strangeness.

We walk in meeting Eddie Cartesian and learn of his exclusive love of just one song, meet Thwor and his mighty hammer, understand Glin Caution is frustrated with his ‘pervert’ neighbour Preston Pearce, get introduced to Little J Parker from Nottingham's Crime Fighting Union and several more strange folk. There is a peculiar symmetry as the show almost rewinds through the characters towards a confounding sing-and-dance-along with the audience.

Hoult's work is funny and entertaining, yet manages to be more theatre than comedy at times. If you are looking for conventional humour, then you need to know punchlines don't live in the world Hoult inhabits. There are moments sprinkled throughout the show where you wonder where the humour is going to coming from, only to find an empty void of despair There are also perplexing prop choices including a huge tree taking up a large amount of centre stage, which seems to serve the minimal purpose of a microphone stand, yet maintains a constant visual dominance.

Hoult employs a noticeable motif of muted music coming from another building, reinforcing the idea of his characters living off-stage from the rest of the world. Music plays a key role in many scenes; within the space of a couple of minutes we have gone from chilled-out electro music, to a whispered repetitive chant and to a club anthem without the transitions feeling out of place. The most memorable moments include an adorable dog playing fetch the banana with the several audience members and a visit for buttered tea with a senile old man ‘Billy’ - including a scene-stealing performance by Dan Snelgrove as he battles against the restrictions of Pleasance Two.

Hoult has an impressive range of discrete characters and performs them all extremely well, perfectly complimented by Snelgrove and Zoe Gardner, making Inferno a well crafted and delightfully delivered hybrid of comedy, theatre and darkness.

Handsome, Intelligent Man Reviews Shows For Chortle.co.uk (Seeks Girl!)

Wow!  There I was reading the latest reviews from the Edinburgh Fringe on Chortle.co.uk when I noticed two reviews that had a certain charm to them.  There was a brilliance in the writing that spoke to me and a very familiar feeling that I knew what the reviewer was experiencing.  I scrolled down to see who this fresh new talent is and it reads "Review by Phill Gillespie".  WTF!?!  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention?  I'M the new reviewer for Chortle!!!  After all these years of paying my dues in the Fringe I now get press-passes and my words are shaping (or breaking) the careers of hopeful comics!

The first two reviews are already reprised here (as I wrote them!), first Neil Delamere and then Holly Walsh.  I've back-dated the reviews to when I finished watching the shows (as I normally do here) and so far there are another seven lined up for review. All reviews should appear with this clever Google search. I'm so very happy, and I owe all the thanks in the world to the Vary wonderful person who made this happen...

ERRATA:  It seems part of the above text has caused offence and needs correcting.  People who know me understand both the non-serious "I love myself" persona that comes out in vaguely entertaining ways, but more than that they know of the respect and admiration I hold for stand-up comedians.  For almost a decade I have spent so much time and money seeing as much as I can at the greatest comedy festival in Edinburgh.  I've written an unusually un-elaborated line about "After all these years..." which tries, in a tongue-in-cheek way and using the analogy of a comedian making a break through, to express that what I am about to start writing could have serious consequences on people's careers.  This is was not meant in a glib, gloating or disrespectful way - far from it.  I was trying to concisely convey the slight nervousness and trepidation about the unintended affects that could happen from a miscommunication in a review.  Ironically this sentence itself was miscommunicated and caused offence.  This was never my intent and rest assured my admiration and respect for anyone who gets up on a stage to give to my favourite art-from (that is criminally undervalued in general) is as high now as it has ever been.  Apologies to anyone who felt it had a different meaning.

7 August 2011

Holly Walsh - The Hollycopter

Holly Walsh: The Hollycopter - Who would have thought that jumping off Worthing Pier in a fake helicopter could go so wrong, yet end up so right?

Holly Walsh makes her Edinburgh debut almost a year to day of the fateful incident which shattered her arm and dislocated her shoulder while taking part in the annual ‘birdman’ event, in which various contraptions are employed in an attempt to fly off the pier. In Walsh's case, she was dressed as a damsel in distress being rescued by Rambo and escaping from a Nazi.

Everyone was cheering for failure and the inevitable drop into the ocean, yet when Walsh sandwiched her arm between the water and the frame of the helicopter, those cheers turned to shock.

Walsh then takes us through her journey of four days in hospital and then six weeks of recovery, at times unable to move and fend for herself. Thanks to her brother, she makes it through the toughest parts and to raise her spirits he shares with her the coverage from the national press. The unintentional media coverage and public comments provide some delightful moments of hilarity before we learn of the positives that have come out of the accident. Here we have the beauty of Walsh's message - simultaneously wishing that this never happened, but glad that it did.

Walsh's previous TV experience shines through as less than a week into her debut run she is confident and composed, expertly timing her set filled with photos, videos and PowerPoint gags. Her astute observational skills, including of the subtleties of the English language, provide a second wave of gags to support her story. Walsh has a bubbly and infectious persona that is complimented by abilities as a writer and performer. She has crafted a well-honed piece with a plenty of laughs, a satisfying story and even a joyous conclusion.

From this strong debut it's clear that while Holly Walsh may not be able to fly, she will go a long way.

ADDITIONAL:  I wouldn't be surprised to see Holly's name on the Best Newcomer List in a fortnight...!

6 August 2011

Neil Delamere - Divilment

Neil Delamere: Divilment - Divilment, as the internet told me, is an Irish term for general mischievousness or shenanigans, and Neil Delamere sets his show loosely around this arguing that in the end, all we have left to enjoy is having cheeky fun.

Delamere manages to capture the essence of his Irishness without feeling cliched or that he was re-treading over exhausted subjects – even on the topic of Ryanair he had something different to say, while the show also covered laziness, practical jokes, cheeky drunks and getting himself out of trouble. His gags aren't revolutionary but they still often invoke belly laughs thanks to his adept storytelling skills.

These sets were interspersed with strong audience interaction, tonight exclusively British and Irish  – but as Neil points out, we are all friends now after the Queen's visit to Ireland, which subtly leads to a smart gag about the black balloons released in protest.

An endearing and friendly performer, Delamere 's charm helps him get away with some seemingly rude – or if you will, cheeky – interactions with the audience but his manner never comes across as offensive. His reasserting a question four times in increasingly exasperated and profanity-laden ways just generated giggles from the audience rather than hostility. A personal favourite was a brief slip into auto-pilot and asking a 16-year-old ‘And what do you do?’ before proceeding to ridicule himself for such a bad question.

It's a combination of his likeable nature, engaging storytelling and relaxing accent that could easily have him described as an Irish John Bishop. You find yourself quite taken by him, exemplified by a woman helpfully heckling other reasons why four people left at a peculiar point near the end, so as to prevent Neil getting bothered by it. So in the end maybe all we do have left is divilment, and Neil Delamere is certainly a personification of that.

5 August 2011

The Pajama Men - In The Middle Of No One

I have only ever given four spontaneous standing ovations in my life.  50% of those standing ovations are owned by The Pajama Men.  Do I have to write any more or are you already scrambling for a ticket before their whole run sells out?  Fine, last year The Pajama Men won the top award at Melbourne with their show Last Stand To Reason, the very same show which was the best show in Edinburgh 2009 but was somehow not only overlooked for top award (instead they gave it to Tim Key?) but they didn't even make the shortlist!  Mind-blowingly bad decision...  Thankfully that show is imminently out on DVD but don't take that risk with "In The Middle Of No One" - borrow, beg or steal to get your hands on a ticket.

Still reading?  Sigh.  There is very little that can be said about these two masters of their craft.  If you are privileged enough to see this show you'll witness a convoluted story about time-travel, space aliens, a woman giving birth, an old-time adventurer and so much more (including an old favourite from the last show who doesn't know what he is).  The direction and cutting of scenes to close-up is perfect, the special effects and props are perfect and the montage sequences are expertly judged.  Oh yeah, there is no film footage, no actual close-ups, no props and no special effects, but when you leave that venue you will have been blown away by a stunning film better than most of what comes out of Holywood and realise that it was just performed by two guys in their pyjamas with two chairs (plus a talented musician called Kevin).

I've already informed the Foster's Comedy Award judging panel (via Twitter) that they can save their effort and not bother watching any shows, if there is any justice in the world these guys will walk away with the top award, albeit two year late.  5 stars simply does not do it justice, that's why the audience gave a standing ovation!

Tim Key - Masterslut

Tim returns to Edinburgh two years after winning the top award (boo, everyone should be forced to return the following year with a new show!) and has upgraded his set to include a lot of visual trickery (well, a projector) and an actual bath.  Despite a huge technical problem for the opening 10 minutes, Tim finally gets on stage with his deck of cards containing his "poems" and a variety of props and a presentation / video.  Tim's set is very well crafted with some subtle call-backs and clearly knows what he is doing, however throughout the entire show there were only about 6 laugh out loud moments / gags.  Trying to do something different or add a bit of stage theatre is all very well, but it has to be consistently funny, rather than just having some people laugh because you said a strange word or a pointless poem.  Compare and contrast this the the flurry of energy, intelligence and wit that was in the very same room last year, Bo Burnham, and you can see why I felt aggreived for Bo that he didn't walk away with the top award the year after Tim Key having put on a show considerably better and funnier than a guy a decade older than him.  Three stars mainly due to his effort and construction but I would be surprised if I return to see him again.

3 August 2011

Imran Yusuf - Bring The Thunder

Following last year's show as part of the Free Fringe which was nominated for Best Newcomer (and I missed thanks to a printing error about the final date :-/ ), Imran has found a big 100 seat venue under the Pleasance.  A bright, lively and (mainstream) intense comic, Imran weaves a good set of stories that stem from his unusual background (Arabic name, Muslim religion, brought up in East London, born in East Africa, of Indian Ancestory).  Some of his gags are from safe material (immigrants) but he brings a different slant and seemingly fresh energy to it.  His bits on religion and his personal pilgrimage are little moments that separate him out without being too cliched or relying too heavily on his ethic minority status.  Imran is a very likeable "cheeky-chappie" that has a bright future ahead.  An audience takes to him quickly and his material is entertaining enough without offending anyone.  Three stars and expect to see more of him on watered down TV.

Diane Spencer - All Pervading Madness

Di opens my Fringe for 2011 in the Gilded Balloon (Teviot). She has a well constructed storyline as she tries to describe an epic journey trying to get home, which ends up being her own "ferret is out of the box" moment.  Her style reminds me of Celia Pacquola however I must admit that Celia comes across as more polished and resists the need to throw in some mild-shock moments for a cheap laugh.  There were one or two moments of smiling from some interesting concepts and I left with the feeling that maybe someone else could have performed the story in a bit more of an engaging way (and made it more of a compelling show).  It was a preview show (though she didn't seem to mess anything up) and it was the first show of the evening, and of this year's Fringe, so Di has the potential to tighten this up to 7/10 (3 stars) but as it stands it is just 6/10 (or 2 stars) as it wasn't particularly funny.

Welcome To Edinburgh Fringe 2011!

It's here!  Finally, the 11 months of waiting since the last one ended, the Festival is back!  This year we have some new (controversial) venues, Assembly has been forced out of the Assembly Hall on George Street due to renovations lasting 1.5 years and so they are taking up most of George Square (where the Spigeltent has been for several years, or if you prefer, the main square of Edinburgh University).  Pleasance has a new venue - Beneath, which is a few metres along from the Cabaret.  Finally I have a new gig writing reviews for another site, which be reprised here after a period of exclusivity, but I can't talk about that top secret new gig until next week...!  Four shows kick us off tonight!