Dr Brown wins Fosters Comedy Award

After winning the Barry at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Dr Brown (Phil Burgers) has once again taken top prize. He has taken out the award for his show “Befrdfgth”, outshining James Acaster,
Josie Long, Tony Law & Claudia O’Doherty.

The Best Newcomer went to Daniel Simonsen,
the Spirit of the Fringe was given to the Boy With Tape On His Face (Sam Wills)

Mace and Burton: Rom Com Con

By Ron Bingham

The premise of this show is that Lizzie and Juliette were together about eighteen months ago, with one having been dumped and the other long term single, watching a marathon session of romantic comedies. One of them then persuaded the other to do a road test of the ‘getting together’ (hitching up, falling in love, whatever) scenario’s of the best films in the genre to prove whether the movies were based in reality in any way. I will confess right now that I have only seen one of the hundred movies on the list (Love Actually, in the cinema with a female friend many years ago) so I had to take their word for the plots and lines used.

They had a couple of rules for this experiment, with the most important one being that they would be honest. They went through a few films and eliminated some on the basis of danger, location, employment etc, showed a couple of the attempts and how disastrous they were (or not), had a few that were still waiting on results (one of the potential romances was going to be in the audience the next day for their penultimate performance) and there was a long sequence involving them using actors to see if they could fall in love with a ‘worst enemy’ type.

I would use examples of specific films and the situations if I had any recollection of which films were involved with what but I don’t want to appear a total fool. Just accept that Liz and Juliette were experts on the subject of the romantic comedy genre and, if there was a Mastermind for this, they would be Grand Champions. I won’t give details of the finale but the conclusions they make from their experiment in love, that being confident, honest and open seems to be a good thing, shouldn’t really surprise anyone. The journey to finding that conclusion out was the important thing, and some of the taped segments will have you shedding a tear over the emotions expressed.

Rom Com Con is on at The Cannons’ Gait

Suggs: My Life Story in Words and Music

By Lisa Clark

There’s nothing new in ex pop star icons performing nostalgic, autobiographical cabaret, but it does feel weird that a pop star from my generation is doing it. It was hard not to feel a bit old sitting in the middle-aged crowd and a bit apprehensive about what to expect. The show is in the comedy section of the Fringe guide, which seems promising, though in a music venue. (Unlike David Hasselhoff who is listed in the music section yet at a comedy venue.)

I needn’t have been so anxious as Suggs, frontman of early 80s ska band Madness, is a charismatic showman with impressive storytelling skills. Not so surprising when you think about the word picture stories he created singing songs like Baggy Trousers, Our House and House of Fun (hmm why ever was this not chosen as a song sung on the roof of Buckingham Palace???). Suggs used songs from Madness and others that influenced him to help illustrate his tale, which were used sparingly and effectively. It is also delightful to hear that Suggs still has a tuneful singing voice.

Suggs takes us on a colourful journey evoking detailed images of places he grew up, in Soho and Camden in London describing shops and streetscapes and the people he sees and meets there including gangs, friends and neighbourhood characters. For some in the audience it was a reminder of their own youth in these places for the rest of us it was a fascinating tour of a world we know only from music clips and movies. Framed by a sort of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ search for information about his Jazz singing father who abandoned the family when Suggs was three. We also learn how he was abandoned by his mum to live in country Wales with his cousins for a few years, then came back to London and joined a band that would later become Madness. His time with Madness is covered in detailed, but pop fame seems such a brief, bright spark in a long and colourful life.

Madness has reformed and it’s a pity the show doesn’t cover their recent triumphant performances at the Olympics and on the roof of Buckingham Palace for Her Maj, but this is a tightly scripted performance and maybe they’ll be kept for a sequel. It’s also impressive that Suggs seems to maintain a fairly stable home life with his wife of thirty years and two daughters who are starting to perform music. I do feel however that there is something missing, considering his own father’s problems, when he ignores his own darker side with alcohol etc, after incidents that have made the papers. Still maybe they were aberrations and this is a comedy, despite some dark issues, it’s kept pretty light and is very funny throughout. In fact the mood and style of the show perfectly mirrors the mood and style of songs sung by Madness and his true life stories certainly bring the lyrics to life. This is a must see for fans of Madness, but you could safely take someone who has never heard of band and they would still have a brilliant time in the company of the charming and eloquent survivor that is Suggs.

Suggs is on at Queens Hall

Simon Munnery – Fylm Makker

By Colin Flaherty

Simon Munnery is always pushing the boundaries of stand up and this performance is no exception. Broadcast via video link from the middle of the room, he performs sketches, monologues, puppetry and songs to camera using all sorts of video trickery to create a unique and hilarious show.

Keeping the audience’s attention fixed on a screen rather than the performer is a slightly odd, disembodied experience but it works brilliantly; the strange relationship between audience and performer sitting well with Simon’s often surreal material. A re enactment of his wife’s swim around the island, a musical tribute to the creator of the Zeppelin and a Mexican stand off are amongst the silly scenarios played out for us.

Mixing between 1mulitiple cameras he could create all sorts of visual transitions and interesting effects that provided something a million times more interesting than a bloke standing on stage. Simon kept some stand up tropes in his monologues (perhaps a microphone is a safety blanket) as well as adding the odd visual item for emphasis that echoed his “League Against Tedium” days. He enacted scenes using creatively crude paper puppets as characters. It was a little clunky at times but that added to the charm.

This is not a one man venture as musical accompaniment is provided by Mick Moriarty on guitar. As well as the wonderful musical backing to Simon’s singing/rapping he provided a soundscape and score to the sketches that fitted perfectly. He was able to convey moods to fit with the action in a seamless manner.

As a break for himself, Simon screened a short film he had made called “Rubbish Night”. Although he prefaced it with a warning that it may not be particularly amusing, the crowd found plenty of things in it to chuckle at.

My highlight of the Fringe thus far, Simon once again embraces the spirit of the Fringe and gives us something far removed from your basic stand up show. Bravo Mr Munnery, Bravo!

Simon Munnery – Fylm Makker is on at The Stand

Mace and Burton – Heartbreak Hotel

By Ron Bingham

Have you had a bad breakup, still nursing a broken heart, feel you’ve been plumb done wrong, been dumped and you’re still down in them? Well, book yourself a room at the Heartbreak Hotel where Lizzie (Mace) and Juliette (Burton) will attend to your every emotional need and send you back out into the world a whole person.

Mace and Burton (as their name tags prominently displayed on their chests remind us) have experienced heartbreak in many forms down the years and they are here to help us avoid the pitfalls. There are guests who tell us about their breakups and how they overcame the pain. The show started with introductions and a quick warm-up before the first guest, Anil Desai, came on and told us a tale of his first love and the wardrobe he smashed when she cheated on him, as well as how he to took her out one more time (a few months later) to properly close his heart to her (saying a proper goodbye and closing the feelings box, not burying her in a peat bog you sickos). He then ruined the good feelings we had by telling us about the girls who want him to have sex while he’s doing an impression of Christian Slater or Jim Carrey! We next played the break-up line game where we were presented with a series of break-up lines and had to choose which of out hosts these were delivered to (the audience beat the guest 9-5).

The second guests for the evening were James and Amy, who are in a show called Dysfunctional. From the stories they told (he picks up girls on the Night Bus and she gets over break-ups with alcohol, cock and anger), their show could be a top demented night out. Amy’s heartbreak story was a little strange as she had fallen in love with a sky-diver who later moved to Australia and died in a plane crash.Surely a sky-diver should be best suited to getting out of the plane?

After this we had a sing-a-long to a break-up song, some healing advice and a plea to be more tolerant to those we love. There is also a special break-up book which has advice from all of the guests that have been on the show (including Daniel Kitson, Shappi Khorsandi, Phil Jupitus, Susan Calman, The Boy With Tape on his face and many other festival favourites). The advice book is being auctioned off after the show’s run finishes with the proceeds going to the charity Mind, with the reasons explained in the show.

This was a delightful show, with the two hosts bringing a warm and welcoming atmosphere into the small room, the stories of pain and heartache told by the hosts and their guests have the audience feeling like a group therapy session (in a good way). I would certainly be booking a room after my next heartbreak. It’s part of the free fringe and is one of the loveliest shows out there. they have another show called Rom Com con (13.15 at Canons’ Gait), which I might have to catch as well.

Heartbreak Hotel is on at Buff’s Club.

St Andrews Presents – Blind Mirth Improv Comedy

By Ron Bingham

An improv troupe from St Andrews (the first, apparently), consisting of three ladies and four gentlemen performing a series of skits, sketches, games and vignettes based on audience suggestions. As each night is different I can only report on the show I watched, and I found it was generally of a good quality with only a few (inevitable) flat spots.

The show started with a few warm-up routines with one liners from each performer, then a few quick sketches. The main part of the show was a series of sketches linked to music played at random from audience MP3 players (I did not offer mine as the challenge would have been a bit much, what with my classical, jazz, comedy, Aussie rock, Japanese pop, French chanson and weird witchy music may have broken them). The suggestions from the audience were good but, after three weeks of nightly shows, many had already been done, so the troupe has come to the point where the suggestions are becoming more obscure by the day.

The best sequence for me was the search for Pigeon Island, where the evil German/Russian mastermind was turning women into cats, which he then turned into pigeons, which he made the women eat (?), which if I remember correctly, started with classes in organic farming where the seeds arrived individually by pigeon (see, it all makes sense). there was also something about parsnip soup made with cats, whose ghosts haunted the seance which was held in a room under the restaurant kitchen.

In conclusion, it was a fun show, the cast did a very good job of keeping the show flowing and the audience entertained, they’re all young and attractive and as long as the audience does their part and gives a lot of original imaginative suggestions, it’s an excellent way to spend an hour.

St Andrews Presents – Blind Mirth Improv Comedy is on at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall