Quick and Fast Reviews From The Edinburgh Festival
Another Fringe festival has passed us by. The natives of Edinburgh will breathe a sigh of relief as comedians, dancers, and other whackos leave the Royal Mile in a wasteland of flyers. From the 19th to the 22nd of August I, along with my brother and mum, was with the throngs of other tourists trying to figure out who looks worth spending an hour with. In only a few days, we crammed in a cavalcade of wonderful and diverse acts from violin quartets to drag queens and here I hope to speed through all of them in much the same way as the Fast Fringe tried to sell acts in three-minute sets. Without further ado, here is everything I saw in my four days of Fringe:
Patrick Monaghan – #goals
In a last-minute decision, we took a chance on the relaxed and assured Patrick Monaghan on our first evening in Edinburgh. In a comfortable and confident hour, Monaghan laid out his theory of ‘marrying up’, ruminated on ludicrous paint colour names, and lamented his mother’s attempts at being fake Italian. It was immense fun watching a consummate professional throughout, he knowingly and affectionately ribbed both upper and working-class folk, pointing out their distinctions without offending either. He displayed an immense talent in his crowd work and provided great gags and soft chuckles deserving of a Sunday afternoon slot. 3.75/5
Andrea Hubert – Holes Of Joy
Despite stating at the start of the hour that she is ‘not 2pm comedy’, Andrea Hubert came through with a blisteringly funny and honest show. Without wasting a minute, she dove right into brutal topics whilst never trying to be edgy or insulting. Holes of Joy had Hubert ruminating on isolation and the nature of joy and still finds time to discuss her favourite rom-com, The Silence Of The Lambs. What stood out to me was that none of the jokes ever felt like jokes, even though the audience was in stitches throughout. Andrea’s hour zipped by although she intelligently presented everything she had been going through with self-consciousness and even-handedness deserving of someone trying to explain awful things from their life. Even though she appeared seemingly at odds with her time slot and easily scandalised families in the crowd, Hubert took all of us to a dark, personal space with only minor anxieties along the way and an openness and risk that deserves mountains of accolades. 4/5.
Ken Cheng – Best Dad Ever
As soon as Ken Cheng stepped onto the stage, the theatre relaxed into the attentively crafted show. Despite winning Dave Joke Of The Fringe 2017, Cheng’s show felt drawn to deeper topics, exploring his relationship with his parents and his childhood through revelatory and sweet material that never missed a beat (his reading of his book series ‘Teddies and Lambs’ that he wrote as an infant has me absolutely dying laughing). Ken almost had a teacherly aspect given the Bedlam Theatre and his use of a slide show but let this air be punctuated with silliness and self-effacement that meant no one was uncomfortable with the shift into straight-up storytelling. His clearly apparent braininess was never loftily held over us and instead only sharpened his comedic focus. With only one stuffed toy and a projector to help, Cheng weaved a vulnerable and sometimes shocking tale that reached a touching a heartfelt climax in an hour that flowed by with zero dead weight that made for a precisely calculated show in keeping with his love of maths. 4/5.
Bowjangles – Excalibow
If you think the tile of this show is a bit dorky, just wait until you hear about the rest of the show. The Bowjangles put on easily one of the most perfectly executed pieces of silliness that I saw in my four days at the Fringe. From the moment the quartet entered and acted out a magic battle with their instruments, in turn bewitching each other to play and dance in efforts to steal the brightly glowing ‘Excalibow,’ you’re strapped in for a raucous and ridiculous romp. Chock full of corny jokes that you can’t help but smile at, the four continued to dance, act, and sing through the next hour that astounded and delighted audiences in equal measure. The remarkable manipulation of their instruments from large Viking vessels to a Gandalf like spirit guide had all our mouths agape. The four zipped along, never thrown off their rhythm (even when one of their strings unfortunately broke midway through). An incredible endeavour carried out with awe-inspiring showmanship and heart, making it the perfect show for all theatre kids and band geeks. 4.5/5.
Daniel Drench – Drenched
If Bowjangles perfectly demonstrated the wonder of performance, Drenched with Daniel Drench showed its personal depths and foibles simultaneously. Mr Drench starts and sustains his show with cries of ‘Come with me’ to lead us down to Cornwall for a tale of death and mermaids. The folk tale earmarks of the show fused beautifully with its modern setting as each one’s respective aesthetics and sensibilities only added to the other. As well as his magnetic narrator role showing the wonders of oral tradition, Drench also showed his acting range, creating intense, intimate, and nuanced emotions without needing to say a word. These two seemingly disparate types of performances never jarred each other and worked in the play by staying in their separate realms. Combined with expert lighting and sound design (a scene where Drench has only the light of a candle on stage is particularly compelling and dreamlike), Drenched made for a profound show whilst making sure the audience stayed aware of the pretentiousness of the whole affair. 3.9/5
Stiff and Kitsch – Adele Is Younger Than Us
Starting with an all too relatable premise, these two singer/songwriters cheekily dig at themselves as they explore being single and being in a relationship and how it still doesn’t make them happy. Stiff and Kitsch kept up a witty repartee in between their hilarious songs, all of which addressed heartbreak, disenfranchisement, and the world of dating with as much depth as any Adele song without losing its sarcastic tone. I won’t lie to you, I did tear up at parts. The girls displayed amazing chemistry that was cemented in the stories they told and it made the show feel hopeful without sugar coating anything. The presence of Adele was sustained throughout with a thoroughly enjoyable voice over lending her a god-like facet that worked to prove the girls’ point and exaggerate their worries ad nauseum, inviting the audience to empathise and laugh along with them. Adele Is Younger Than Us presented bitterness with a smile that was relatable and a joy to watch. 4/5.
Arnab Chanda – Stories From Arnab
To see this show, I had to split up with my brother, a decision that turned out to be completely worthwhile. After a break from stand-up, Arnab Chanda returns with a free show devoted absolutely to honesty. This made for an incredible hour of stand up and stories, self-consciously and thoughtfully delivered. Chanda’s commitment to truth led to heart breaking and heavy stories about his alopecia, trips to South America, and his parents told with humility and a wry smile. Chanda taking control of the sound and visual cues himself stripped the show of any grandiose self-delusions that allowed us to focus on his quietly confident performance. Combined with the already cosy yet minimalist room, it made the show feel almost like someones bedroom that further heightened the intimacy of the set in a lovely fashion. Arnab had no qualms about easing us into dark waters creating the sense of someone trying to believe that even when life is rough, you can take anything it has to throw at you. An interesting and inadvertently heart-warming show. 5/5.
Gingzilla: Glamonster vs The World
In the first few minutes of her show, Gingzilla screamed at us and licked a guy across his face and into his hair. From there she launched into an incredible multimedia show that grossed us out and had us rollicking in our seats. The narrative thread of trying to follow the 1950’s impossible standards for women diverging into the fully realised Gingzilla being let loose on the city. Everyone was on the edge of their seats as to where she’d lunge next which included song, dance, and devouring a whole Magnum off the stick and throwing it up on her enormous beard. She showed an enormous emotional range in her performances, able to get the crowd wild for her version of Monster before bringing true sorrow in her Lana Del Rey covers. She was sultry, aggressive, and self-effacing all at once, engaging with the assumed nature of her persona and subverting it without missing a beat. 4/5.
Micky Overman – Role Model
The final show we managed to see started off a little dicey when the crowd was a little smaller than expected but this didn’t stop Micky Overman. She took it all in stride with her funny, lighthearted, and self-aware material, remaining sincere while intelligently picking herself apart. Overman pondered her past relationships and the decisions she made, sifting through to figure out what she can pass onto the teenager she nannies for. The hour felt loose and relaxed, but she never lost control, even the parts where it felt a mistake had been made was perfectly placed and kept us on our toes. Micky’s earnestness made her voice feel so genuinely interested in making us laugh that you couldn’t help that you wanted to hear everything she was thinking, even when that was her thoughts on spurious things like Alanis Morissette’s Ironic or the real hero of The Sound Of Music. Role Model was just pure fun with relatable human angst and bite making it an absolute treat to end my four days at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 4.5/5.