Squirrel writers’ 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Round up

So that was the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival. Once again the weather was changeable, with reports that it was the wettest summer in Scotland for 80 years. We arrived in the rain, but the frequent showers were never enough to dampen our enthusiasm. There were four Squirrels in Edinburgh this year and all of us have written below about shows we’ve loved, or not loved, or not had the chance to write about previously.

Hannah GadsbyThe Big news to come out of this special anniversary festival is that Australia’s own multi award winning (The Barry, The Helpmann, Adelaide Best Comedy) comedy champion Hannah Gadsby has won the Best Comedy Show Award at Edinburgh. It was a joint win with John Robins and my impression is that their shows are a sort of yin and yang, with John’s show The Darkness of Robins being an anguished cry of help from the depths of a breakup with his more famous girlfriend Sara Pascoe (who was doing her own take on the breakup in an equally well reviewed but not nominated Fringe show Lads, Lads, Lads) and Hannah’s being a powerful, rallying rant of revelation against the apocalypse, Nanette. Previous Australian winners of Best Comedy at Edinburgh Fringe are Los Trios Ringbarkus, Lano & Woodley, Brendon Burns and Sam Simmons.

Other nominees for the 2017 Edinburgh Best Comedy Award were Ahir Shah, Elf Lyons, Jordan Brookes, Mae Martin, Mat Ewins, Sophie Wilan and Spencer Jones.

Best Newcomer Winner at Edinburgh Fringe was Natalie Palamides for Laid. The Nominees for Best Newcomer were; Chris Washington, Darren Harriott, Ed Night, Kwame Asante, Lauren Pattison, Lucy Pearman and Rob Kemp.

Rob Kemp did win Comedians’ Choice Award for Best Performer and Mat Ewins Presents Adventureman 7: The Return of Adventureman won best Comedians’ Choice Award Best Show.

Hannah will bring Nanette for its premiere season at the Sydney Opera House from  September 27 – October 8, before a string of encore performances at the Arts Centre Melbourne from Nov 18 culminating in Hamer Hall on Dec 1. I shouldn’t have to urge you to see it, if you’ve missed out on it so far.

Squirrel writers’ Edinburgh Fringe Round up

Colin Flaherty

My highlights at Fringe happen to be ones that I have reviewed, in particular Big Howard Little Howard

Big Howard, Little Howard (Howard Read) – Man and Boy

Andrew O’Neill’s Black Magick Fun Hour

Simon Munnery – Renegade Plumber

I also enjoyed Stuart Goldsmith – Like I Mean It, a hilarious hour that follows on from his previous show Compared to What where he continues to explore life with his new wife and son. He presents plenty of brilliant observations and plays around with the bird with clipped wings husband angle perfectly.

One off event WiFi Wars was a hoot, even though many of the games refused to play correctly on my underpowered tablet (I was only expecting to word process and web surf on it after all!). This late night, tech heavy show had punters competing individually as well as in teams. We laughed, we cheered and we got our geek on!

I had high hopes for Boris & Sergey’s One Man Extravaganza, an ambitious show featuring complicated puppetry, a crazy blurb and some wacky characters but I found it overlong and not enough laughs to hold my attention. Apart from the wonderful voicing of the characters, the expressionless puppets failed to connect with me.

Lisa Clark

I loved all the shows I reviewed with Jayde Adams (Is Jayded) being the exciting new discovery of the Fringe for me. The following are shows I loved but did not get a Squirrel write up.

Craig Ferguson ShowCraig Ferguson – The Craig Ferguson Show. All the Squirrels saw Craig’s recording of his live radio show and we all enjoyed it. Starting at 11.30pm to go live for drive time in the USA as well as Canada and Mexico, it went for 2 hours and consisted of two very entertaining in-depth chats with performers who were old friends of Craig. In our case an old close friend impressionist/comedian Jan Ravens and Scottish writer Iain Rankin.

Chris Coltrane – Make Love & Smash Fascism – a rather lovely, warm and approachable political comedian who taught me about the evils of Neo Liberalism which is extreme capitalism & pro privatisation of everything which basically seems to be the road to anarchy.

Dave Johns – I, Fillum Star. Dave Johns has been a jobbing comedian all his life and just as he was planning his retirement (he was going to give kids donkey rides at the seaside), he got a part in a film. On the 1st day director Ken Loach said, oh by the way the film is named after your character because you are the lead. I, Daniel Blake won a swag of awards taking Dave to Cannes and the BAFTAs and giving him a cracking tale to tell, and being a great comedian means Dave knows how to tell it for maximum laughs. This was a joy to experience with the message that it’s never too late.

Yianni Agisilaou – Pockets of Equality. As the title suggests, it’s about sexual politics and pockets. More importantly it was a very personal heartwarming show about love and family and one of the best shows I’ve ever seen Yianni do.

Disappointing shows were; Boris & Sergey’s One Man Extravaganza, a puppet show where three puppeteers per puppet failed to give the faceless repulsive puppets any personality, or make an interesting show. Then there was The Great Comedy Cooking Challenge which in no way described the show at all. The two guys had not planned their Festival show at all leaving the audience more bemused than amused and the main one telling the story of how he fell in love with cooking kept saying “I think that might’ve gotten a better laugh”. Nup.

Back to other highlights for me which were the inimitable and indefatigable Doug Anthony Allstars – Near Death Experience, Wifi Wars live online gaming which was a completely different kind of Festival show and finally, Simon Munnery doing a gorgeously crafted show about fixing things, bookended by two great songs. I was lucky to see Simon when Renegade Plumber had been bedded in and found it to be the tightest show I’ve seen of his in years, it was a beautiful blend of the personal and political, with the title perfectly describing the show.

Phoebe O’Brien

Fringe Shows that were highlights not formally reviewed

2 Become 1

The Swipe Right Theatre Company have created a fun and fabulous night that will capture your heart with its upbeat mix of 90’s music. It will also hit you right in the funny bone with A grade performances from a heavenly cast.

The cast of four stunning vocalists sing the hits; from Destiny’s Child to Des’ree to the Spice Girls and so many more! The 90’s bangers are intertwined within a story of friendship and heartbreak, as one of character’s, Jess breaks up with her boyfriend. After the news, her best gal pals do the only thing that would obviously ‘help’ Jess from a breakdown due to the breakup…speed dating.
At its core ‘2 Become 1’ is heartfelt and funny. You can even have a little boogie and sing-a-long of your own while you’re there. Now tell me, what more could you want? Could you really, really want?

David Quirk – Cowboy MouthDavid Quirk Cowboy mouth

After missing David Quirk during the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, there was no better option than to catch his show ‘Cowboy Mouth’ at the Fringe. Quirk is the king when it comes to long form narrative story-telling, his tales from his childhood and the awkward meeting with his neighbour were tops.

Amongst the anecdotes, the show was knitted together with audio clips of the recollections of dreams people have had about him.
ps. Quirk performed on a bus and had an excellent jacket. Very cool.

Britney – John
A hidden treasure amongst the thousands of incredible Fringe shows was the sketch duo behind John. Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson are two 20 something year old mates from the UK, who make up ‘Britney’.

In their show ‘John’, the pair reminisce about the time they were just out of high school, exploring America and working on a documentary about president of Congress; John Hancock. For the documentary, they filmed interviews around America with other men with the same name. Their trip abroad became the centre for the show, with critique of the footage and their interviewing technique strong points of the show. Their ability to create stand-alone vignettes and natural storytelling was a highlight, revealing the effort both Clive and Robertson put into their follow up to their previous show ‘Britney’…which is also now the name of their duo, not confusing at all. I strongly believe we will be hearing big things from these two talented performers.

Alice Marshall – Blood
In her show solo show Blood, Alice Marshall captivates her audience with wonderfully executed character sketch comedy. Marshall has great comedic timing, while delivering a punchy hour of pure joy. I can’t wait to see more of her work further down the track.

Ron Bingham

My Squirrel fest started with a couple of excellent Aussie acts which turned out to be highlights Laura Davis (Cake in the Rain) and the Doug Anthony All Stars (Near Death Experience).

The three other shows that made me laugh out loud the most were:

Lucy Pearman – Maid of Cabbage Look What Youu Made Me Do

Demi Lardner – Look What You Made Me Do

Mark Steel – Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be Alright.

Lucy and Demi for their props and general air of controlled chaos, and Mark for his political insights and honesty about his recent marital troubles. I also enjoyed Muriel -(Bad Master) for their use of multimedia and fun sketches and The Canon -(A Literary Sketch Show) for their literary humour

I saw some fabulous new talent (two were deservedly nominated for best newcomer – Lauren Pattison and Lucy Pearman) and caught up with some excellent established acts. Saw some early shows and some late ones, drank a little too much of the free alcohol early on, nearly got blown off the top of Arthurs Seat after seeing a show up there called This Arthur’s Seat Belongs to Lionel Richie, and missed a lot of acts (ones I regret most not managing to fit into my schedule include Sarah Kendall, Ingrid Oliver and Hannah Gadsby). Importantly I only saw two shows which didn’t achieve the high standard I expect. Met a lot of lovely people, as always, and have already pre-booked for next year.

The Bear Pack – Carlo Ritchie and Steen Raskopoulos

By Phoebe  O’Brien Bear Pack

The Bear Pack are Sydney comedians Carlo Ritchie and Steen Raskopoulos, plus Ange Lavoipierre on the cello. Lavoipierre’s soundtrack becomes the backdrop to the improvised tale spun by improv masterminds Ritchie and Raskopoulos.

The Bear Pack create brilliant sketch performances, that captivate, while remaining completely improvised every night throughout their unique hour long ‘yarn’ style.
They only ask for a location and a word from the audience at the beginning of the show and then the riffing can begin.

Although, Ritchie and Raskopoulos are both strong solo performers in their own right, with Raskopoulos also performing his solo sketch show The Coolest Kid in Competitive Chess during the Fringe and Ritchie making his solo debut at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival with his show Cooking For No One earlier this year. The pair have undeniable chemistry while performing together. They almost appear to have a superpower that gets them into each other’s minds to know where their next move is, to help them stay on a similar wavelength and keep the show on track. However, it is the looser moments where they try to stitch each other up with an impromptu song or an accent belonging to any of the diverse sea of characters within any particular yarn, where you’re reminded that this is actually all off-the-cuff, which you can quickly forget while watching such an otherwise seamless performance.

Ritchie and Raskopoulos always seem to manage to tie the yarn neatly together by the end, showcasing their own natural talent and from years of working together since forming as the duo in 2012. However, if you’re still feeling unsettled, don’t stress. They’ve got you covered with a question and answer at the end to sort out any niggling queries you may have about any part of the epic storyline. So, what have you got to lose?

My tip to you is grab a ticket to The Bear Pack when they turn up again. You never know where it will lead you…well apart from improvised bliss.

Rhys Nicholson: I’m Fine

By Phoebe O’Brien Rhys I'm Fine pic

Rhys Nicholson is sharp-tongued and in full force with his new show I’m Fine.

Nicholson hits you like a sugar rush. He is delectable and sweetly enticing, yet in moments can have you crashing. Nicholson’s dizzying mix of glamour within a stark reality is tied together neatly in one of his own best bow ties.

Performing at the Underbelly Med Quad Nicholson is not afraid to test the audience early on and go that extra bit darker for the laughs, often teasing ‘it’s going to get darker’. And it does.

Threaded throughout the show is his mother’s saying ‘you either commit to something or you run away’ which Nicholson provides charming retellings of examples of each. He forms these chaotic yet somehow bright versions of his earlier years, where the common idea that ‘it’s not funny now, but it will be later’ rings true for many of the yarns he spins.

A highlight to Nicholson, is his incredible ability to build upon the joke he has already set up in a sort of rapid fire round. It’s almost as if he has a self timer on where he must get out the most quips before time runs out. Clearly a credit to his natural quick wit and tight writing technique.

Amongst chat about dicks, Nicholson brings light to mental health in honest anecdotal stories of his own anxiety. Showcasing his seamless effort to perform contrasting material.

I’m Fine is like a high speed train almost on the verge of derailing but quickly stays on track in this clever and energetic hour.

You will definitely want to commit to Rhys Nicholson.


Britney in John

By Ron Bingham
Britney In

Britney is a duo consisting of Charly Clive and Ellen Robertson and, just to make things a little more confusing, they are performing a show called John. This caused more than a little confusion at the box office.

The show is about a journey our two intrepid comedians made six years ago when, freshly out of high school, they decided to travel round the USA meeting as many people named John Hancock for a film looking at the average US man. The most famous John Hancock was the first signatory of the US declaration of independence back in 1776 (the reason the chose this name, of course). It’s also the name of a nationwide US insurance company, which caused  no end of trouble when Googling to find suitable interview subjects.

Charly and Ellen give us a commentary and critique of various scenes from their film, as well as acting out a number of sketches based of situations they encountered on their journey. They have an excellent on-stage rapport and there are a lot of laugh out loud moments both on the stage and on the screen. There is a touching final moment which rounds off the show to a satisfying conclusion. Highly recommended. Definitely a couple of comedians to watch out for, as they have heaps of potential. A little swearing and some saucy prison acting, but it should be fine for most people.

John is on at Bedlam Theatre until August 28


Kai Humphries : Punch-Drunk

By Ron Bingham
Kai Humphries

This is a beautifully heart-warming and uplifting homage from Kai to his family and friends, and the influences they have had on his life. He introduces us, via a projector / display screen, to both his grandfathers and his big brother, telling both good and bad tales about them.

Kai tells us about his experience setting up a comedy club in his town of Blyth (just next to Newcastle) and what can possibly happen when you use the first image on google for your club’s logo.  The biggest part of the show, and the one that will probably have most audience members shedding a little tear, is a perfect demonstration of what can happen when a community comes together to help a sick child.

Kai is an excellent storyteller who is not afraid to reveal embarrassing secrets about his past. There are some very funny video moments during the show (I especially loved the one at the very end of the show). The show is selling out, deservedly so, and is a must-see for anyone who would love to see an hour of personal and positive comic tales. Do yourself a favour and see this wonderful show.

Punch-Drunk is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 28


Rose Matafeo: Sassy Best Friend

By Phoebe O’BrienSassy Best Friend

New Zealand comedian Rose Matafeo is inspired by rom-coms. Although, she may feel she embodies the ‘sassy best friend’ character who frequently crops up in those soppy classics as the name of the show suggests, evidently she makes for a strong lead showcased in her follow up to her debut show ‘Finally Dead’.

Rose has a gift. From the get-go she’s so energetic and engaging it’s impressive. Exuding charm and confidence her quick witted, natural storytelling instantly grabs the crowd with seemingly exceptional ease for an hour of pure joy. Her comedy is teamed with theatrics, physicality and musical elements which are clearly a nod to her high school musical days.

As the seats surround her quickly fill, she casually chats to the earlier seated guests.
She’s relaxed and comfortable in her self-made buzzing bubble and luckily we’re all invited in.

Rose will have you eating out the palm of her hand as what’s on offer is a delicious take on stand up, sketch and improv that is relatable and powerful. You’ll be leaning in just that little bit closer to catch everything she says, even the loose throw away comments will get a laugh. Including the laugh of recognition to the mention of Dolly Magazine and the never ending list of unnecessary personality quizzes these magazines could churn out for young women to use to decipher their own behaviour like ‘Which Spice Girl Are You?’

Her continuously upbeat presence contrasts to some of the heavier themes that are sprinkled throughout the show, however her delivery remains strong and clever while discussing issues relating to the mental impact the pill can have on women and she underpins the reality of the lack of diversity and white washing in Hollywood cinema with an adjustment to the Rhianna song ‘Work’, to ‘white’.

Sassy Best Friend is punchy and delightful, while elegantly wrapped in an 80’s rom-com/teen flick. A must see.

Sassy Best Friend is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 27