By Bryony Stocker
We might be mid Olympics but August in Edinburgh still abounds with comedy, theatre, dance, and just about everything else in the world’s largest arts festival. My festival started with a middle aged matron sidling up to me in a queue to share her thoughts on what she has seen so far so. With a festival this big you need a guide:
Feel Good Fun Adam Hills: Mess Around 17:40 and 23:59 Assembly Hall Rainy Room
Those first fifteen minutes of a comedy show when the stand-up chats to his audience can be the funniest part of the night and Adam Hills has decided to make that his whole show. This wouldn’t work for the more aggressive comics, but Hills is a nice guy and his audience knows it. They feel comfortable getting up when they “need a pish,” confessing to being a cougar on the prowl for a younger man, imitating their wife’s childbirth pains or getting together to play a trick on latecomers. The success of the night depends on the audience, but as back up the Australian has a few stories of his own all told with warm hearted delight.
Geordie boy band wannabie (if the hair is anything to go by) Chris Ramsey has the same rapport with his audience and nice-guy charm in his show Lucky at the Pleasance. Rob Beckett’s Summer Holiday also at the Pleasance but the South East London Lad is yet to hit his stride.
Controversial Comedy Jim Jeffries: Fully Functional
If you want to be pushed to the edge Jim Jeffries is Australia’s answer to Frankie Boyle only with hint less self loathing. At the press launch he admitted “I’m not for everyone,” but he still managed to turn around an audience that were largely baby boomers. For the older comedy fan Denise Scott hits the mark, but I would leave her and them to it.
Political Satire Marcus Brigstocke: The Brig Society 21:10 and 22:30 Assembly Hall Rainy Room
Brigstocke is a posh boy who objects to other posh boys running the country and his main target is the Big Society. Unfortunately Brigstocke shows his own ignorance of the Scottish political situation. Our water has not been privatised and the Tories haven’t got their paws on our NHS. I suppose the show is an out of touch case in point!
Educating Rita 17:40 George Square Theatre
This play is beginning to look as dated as its forerunner in the social mobility stakes My Fair Lady. A working class mature woman going back to university to seek something better is no longer a novelty as more and more people do it. One to one tutorials for undergraduates, academics in books lined studies with job security despite alcoholism, poor teaching and a complete lack of recent publications makes this a nostalgia fest.
A university degree is no longer the passport to opportunity it was in 1980 when the play was first staged. There are, however, some lines that still resonate. “Change your dress or yourself,” Rita, played by Clair Sweeney declares, and the critique of consumerism as the new opiate of the masses is still on the money.
Matthew Kelly is appealingly vulnerable as disappointed lecturer Frank and Sweeney can easily play brash but the comedic timing just hasn’t clicked yet. If you’re planning on going along wait until the end of the run when this two hander will have got into its stride.
Flashmob 18:00 Assembly Hall Main Hall
Flashmob are the best of a pretty disappointing bunch of dance and musical acts at this year’s fringe with their multi-discipline routines. High Kick haven’t scored big with a football inspired show and Knee Deep are gymnastic but lack emotional power. Time For Fun made patriotic images out of their hands whilst Flower of Scotland played but I think an hour of that would get pretty old. Mother Africa were painful to watch with a male contortionist doing impossible things with his spectacularly bendy body.