The Temps

By Colin Flaherty

In this comic play written by Sarah Bennetto we are thrust into the unforgiving and uncaring world that is a temp office worker. Sarah plays the put upon receptionist who attempts to get through the work day with the least amount of scars.

This world is populated by oddball people with weird eccentricities who are brilliantly portrayed by the cast. We have the terse Department Manager (played by Celia Paquola), the barely functioning CEO (Tom Webb), the lecherous pants man (Robin Clyfan), the more important than he seems Janitor (James Dowdeswell) and the scheming fellow temp (Alex Edelman). These hyper-real characters are ones that those who have ever worked in an office will recognise.

Often the audience is cleverly included in the office environment to expand the world beyond the stage which is quite fun. There is also a fair bit of de-construction with some witty, knowing winks to the audience that emphasised the light-heartedness of the piece. At times it seems as though the performers are trying their darnedest to improvise bits in attempts to throw their fellow cast members (and regularly succeeding). The decision to highlight the deviation rather than plough onwards gives the show a fun, loose feel and highlights their enthusiasm for the material, although an audience looking for a tightly scripted play may find this annoying.

The staging is quite simple with basic office furniture and characters frequently entering and leaving from either side of the stage. The high volume of foot traffic gives the plot a sense of speed in spite of the static scenes of dialogue. Although the transition between scenes isn’t always clear, the action takes place over a number of days so it gets a little disorientating at times.

It’s a show that dips its toes into the cringe comedy of other office based productions but doesn’t get too dark as it tells an interesting and amusing tale. Get a hold of all of your workmates and spend an hour in this disfunctional workplace.

The Temps is on at the Pleasance Courtyard.
http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/temps

Waiting for Stanley – Leela Bunce

By Ron Bingham

The venue for this show is called the Assembly Roxy, but it would be known to veterans as the Roxy DeMarco, and is located midway between the Pleasance complex and George Square. I’d recommend getting there early as it’s a bit visually restricted in the upper level.

This is a solo show about a woman coping during the blitz while her husband is off at the war. The star of the show, Leela Bunce, is a tall slim lady who describes herself at one point as having lustrous brown hair, a soft jawline and slender fingers. the show starts with Leela on stage welcoming the audience in, with a silent commentary about some of the people going up the stairs (who are thus facing away from her). Much of the show is mimed, using props and Big Band music, and imaginative sound and lighting effects. Leela uses a lot of costumes during the show to tell the story of the women who coped with the effects of war with confidence and style. I’m still not sure whether having a red nose for the whole show was helping to dispel the tension or just to keep the audience focused.

Though it was not a comedy as such, there were a number of slapstick moments when mail was being delivered, and we were told in no uncertain terms of the appropriate level of applause the routine required. Other moments were painfully sad, as when the train came in without a loved one or a child was separated from his mum, but others were skilfully amusing (Winston Churchill in bread dough). The tense moment were possibly a bit scary for some as we sheltered in the Underground while bombs fell overhead (lots of explosions). The only moment I thought a bit inapt was the song using random French words (it’s been overdone and is a little racist, isn’t it?).

But for one false moment, you do get an hour of assured and confident acting, mime, slapstick and puppetry (and a sing-a-long) to tell tales of heroism and courage during war. The room was almost full, so book now, get there early and don’t turn your back on the stage when you arrive.

Waiting for Stanley is playing at Assembly Roxy

http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/theatre/waiting-for-stanley

The History Girls present A Summary of Things so far…

By Ron Bingham

This show is in a tiny little room at the Assembly Halls, which can get very hot so I was amused to learn that the show sponsor is Ideal Heating. Maybe they should think about an air-conditioning manufacturer for next year’s sponsor? The three girls, Sophie, Megan and Vanessa-Faye, purport to be portraying important ladies throughout history. They are actually just mucking about and being very silly with important ladies throughout history. I recognised parodies of My Sweet 16th/Made in chelsea/pimp My ride (or whatever it’s called), Jeremy Kyle (Jerry Springer lite) and some other ‘modern TV shows’ that I don’t watch. The characters being trashed include Elizabeth, Mary and Mary, the Bronte sisters, Boudicca and her daughters, Napoleon and Josephine (and Nelson) and either Virginia Woolf or Nicole Kidman (they had passable Aussie accents).

There are songs, dances, some art (I particularly liked the dick & head pictures, a rude Latin motto, a very rude animated sequence using a Terry Gilliam set of Romantic artworks and a very ‘interesting’ version of a Kate Bush song. At one point near the end of the show there may have been a missing cup, which led to some water spitting. I do hope it was ad lib, otherwise I’ve been fooled! There is also a place where I was expecting someone to lose an eye as the pencils started flying. Health & Safety obviously haven’t been anywhere near the show. the costume changes were quick and at no time was the stage entirely bare (although one of the girls did get close to that state). While I was bemused as some of the references the rest of the audience, who obviously turn the TV on occasionally, were having a ball with some still talking about their favourite sketches ages after we’d left.

As long as you’re not really looking for a historical re-enactment with pretty frocks, but you could do with an hour of silliness and verve, this is a top pick, Bring a fan.

The History Girls present A Summary of Things so far… is on at The Assembly Hall

http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/history-girls-present-a-summary-of-things-so-far

Milo McCabe – Kenny Moon this is your Life

By Lisa Clark

The Kenny Moon of the title is a character played by Milo McCabe’s actual father Mike McCabe and the story played out is something pretty close to Mikes life as a stand up comedian in the 80s and early 90s on the sea side circuit and television. Milo, who plays all the characters in his father’s life, makes sure you know that he is the actual star of the show. Apparently he was nominated for an Amused Moose Award last year for a show that was described as a ‘showcase for his … outrageous diamond cut characters’, and he has a burgeoning acting career.

There was little to suggest that there was much more to Milo’s motivations here, it was another showcase of character after character and they were played with gusto and a keen eye for detail but were all pretty unpleasant. Unfortunately there was also a horrible creeping sense in this show of a son using the relationship with his father and his father’s bitter, sad story to further his own career and of a father hoping to get back in the game after 20 years, while trying to get revenge on those he blames for a career that never went as far as he’d hoped. The third person on stage, Chris Henry, as the ‘This is Your Life’ host and the only warm and genuine presence on it, is completely superfluous, standing to the side watching, with little to say or do in a thankless role that could be played by a cardboard cutout.

The show begins with Mike, as Kenny Moon performing some of his old gags. It was hard to tell if we were supposed to laugh at how old fashioned and unfunny they were, or even if they were Mike’s real gags or if this was the ‘character’ Kenny Moon’s terrible gags and that maybe later we’d get to Mike’s actual classic stand up. As things unfold and old videos of Mike’s TV performances are played throughout you realise with horror that these were real jokes and we are supposed to laugh and admire him for them. Indeed there were a handful of elderly people in the audience who were obviously fans of that style (and possibly of Mike himself) and laughed warmly at them.

The videos and posters are presented like evidence in a case that was lost years ago yet there is no sense of redemption or admission that maybe stealing other people’s gags and using them on television might suggest a lack of talent, lapse in scruples or even perhaps just a lack in confidence in your own ability. There’s also not only the inability to admit that there’s no use snarking against ‘Alternative Comedians’ as his Mother-in-Law style was stale long before the early 90’s when his career died, but that maybe he just wasn’t good enough to write fresh gags to appeal to modern, savvy audiences.

Mike spends a the bulk of the show sitting with a bit of a lost look on his face while the videos are shown and the son showcases his talents as the ‘characters’ in his father’s/ Kenny Moon’s This is Your Life story. The worst smacking of racism, esp the Traveller brother displaying all the ugly cliche’s suspected of Gypsies and the Asian Ladyboy ex wife which Milo later admits he made up and added to the story because he wanted to have a go at a part in drag (& obviously some cheap racist/homophobic laughs). But after Kenny laments not being able to do his old racist material, you can see where the son gets his comedy instincts.

Eventually the denouement of the show is reached and a surprisingly creative twist gives hope that there is almost a chance for this story to get interesting and perhaps win some of the audience over but this is destroyed by the last part of the show with a poorly judged, self indulgent ending that wiped away any chance of sympathy with them. Milo came out of character to tell the audience that the tale is true and based on an appalling injustice for a brilliantly, talented, misunderstood and persecuted comedian who’s career was ruined by cruel outsiders and tries to milk it for schmaltz. I feel like I’ve watched some weird take on ‘Inception’ – a delusion within a delusion of delusion.

Milo McCabe is playing at The Gilded Balloon Teviot

http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/milo-mccabe-kenny-moon-this-is-your-life

Greg Proops

By Ron Bingham

He’s back and, unlike normal people, not mellowed with age. At this, his 20th (or 25th) year at the Fringe, he is playing in one of the big tents in the Assembly Gardens, quite appropriately called the Elegance, a room with wood panelling, mirrors and stained glass windows to let in the evening sun and bathe us all in a beatific glow, which is quickly dispelled when Greg comes on stage.

He starts with the Olympics and how the opening ceremony could have been improved, and then goes on to entertainingly insult almost every group/race/class/creed/religion he can in the hour. He also had to contend with noise from a nearby Irish band which became a drumming group, so Proops the comedy veteran adeptly worked them into the routine as he was going. He swears and berates the audience if they don’t get his jokes or laugh loud or quickly enough for his liking. It isn’t a show for the faint hearted or those who prefer their comedy slow and obvious. The routine about Ex-Mrs Macca which moved into an abuse session about the Scots, the Irish, the English, modern music, sport, Nascars and finally US politics, where he left us rather abruptly.

It involves very strong language, a bit of knowledge of American culture and politics would be handy (I didn’t understand why he eulogised US bacon, which is apparently ambrisoa). Greg pointed out his shows are getting earlier every year he comes to Scottishland from Californiania (as he calls them) and he predicts he’ll be doing a lunchtime show on the Royal Mile next year (with a weasel up his bum). Not likely.

Fans will love it all of course. See him if you love comedy that comes fast and multi-layered. I think they should rename the room the Curmudgeon for his shows, though.

Greg Proops is playing at The Assembly George Square in The Elegance.

http://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/greg-proops

Eddie Pepitone’s Bloodbath

By Lisa Clark

There’s been a bit of buzz about town about Eddie Pepitone being a “Comedian’s Comedian” and there were certainly a few up the back the night I saw him. Eddie’s not sure how to take this as comedians can be a weird lot, often taking joy in another comedian’s self destruction. I think the reason that he stands out is that his act actually has a style and structure that goes back to the comedy of the great lounge style American comedians such as Bob Hope, Don
Rickles, but pairs this with the modern style self mocking and deprecation of Larry David, then throws in some surreal stories about made up characters and versions of himself that are silly and scary and arse-achingly funny.

There is an overall sense of Jeckle and Hyde about Eddie’s performance of taking us to dark places and shouting obscene, angry thoughts but then he always turns it around to show us the daggy, silly man behind the cloak, giggling at his own nerve. It’s a deconstructional side that hints at some of Daniel Kitson’s work and is just as endearing although there are times when I feel a bit disappointed that Eddie keeps pulling back as if afraid the audience won’t go all the way with him into the darkness.

The reason Eddie’s style is connecting with a modern audience is that it all comes from a real place. He’s not a political comedian, though he’s angry at society and he’s not an observational comedian, though there are a lot of things that happen that he can’t stand, the stories are all about himself, his feelings and experiences. His comedy comes from random ideas from his daily life and he works on them, often in front of an audience to build them out into a solid routine. Older style comedians often had gag writers create the jokes for them, Eddie’s act clearly comes from his heart and soul and luckily they’re both highly amusing.

Eddie Pepitone’s Boodbath is playing at Just the Tonic at The Caves