By Ron Bingham
Arthur Smith is telling the story of Syd, his father, who was a policeman after the second world war, where he had served at El Alamein and spent some time in Colditz Castle prisoner-of-war camp. He tells the story in anecdotes from his life, reworked old music-hall songs (accompanied by Kirsty on the piano who also assists on some of the stories), and notes from a book of old memories that Arthur persuaded his father to write before be died.
The show begins with images of old adverts from magazines of the 40s and a music hall medley that the entire audience joined in with. Arthur starts the show by gives us some stories of his childhood and a potted history of his parents’ early experiences before he was born and growing up with the greatest dad in the world.
Sadly, we only got to see two thirds of this beautifully poignant eulogy, before the fire alarm sounded and the entire Pleasance Courtyard complex was evacuated. The last section was a juxtaposition of Arthur’s father going into battle and being captured at El Alamein, while at the same age, Arthur was teaching French in Paris, joining in the protests of the time and having some jolly hijinks. What we saw of the show to that point was excellent and I can thoroughly recommend it.
SYD is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 17
By Ron Bingham
Andrew Maxwell is performing his twenty fifth year at the Fringe. For those who don’t know, Andrew is from Ireland, his wife is a Muslim and they have chosen to live in a Brexit voting area of Kent. One of his other jobs is as a voice over man, most notably for the reality TV show Ex On The Beach, which he describes as a downmarket version of Love Island.
Andrew has very strong views on Brexit and the people who voted for it. And, just to save time, I and pretty much everyone in the venue agreed with those views. Actually, I’m not sure that the Edinburgh Fringe is somewhere that a Brexit voter would even consider visiting, what with all that tolerance, multiculturalism and friendly bonhommie on display.
Andrew talks about the Brexit vote and his numerous discussions around the country (he recently did a long series of gigs in small (Brexit-voting) market towns about the subject), and he demonstrates the main arguments for Brexit that have been put forth by its supporters. They are as detailed and cogent as you would expect from people who think Boris Johnson is their saviour.
Apart from Brexit, Andrew talks about his family and the jolly problems they have going through airport security, his 18 year old son’s attempts at rebellion, and his first experience of the pebbly beaches of south east England. All of this was delivered in a very scratchy voice, as he appears to have broken his vocal cords by day five. I recommend booking to see this as soon as possible, especially if you are not a fan of Brexit. Very funny hour of comedy and you will definitely learn something from his chat.
All Talk is on at Underbelly, George Square until August 25
By Ron Bingham
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon of Fringe, Stephen K Amos hosts a talk show featuring a variety folk from the worlds of theatre, comedy and music. These shows will be available later as podcasts on audible, so we had the airconditioners turned off as they interfered with the recording.
Today’s first guest was Australian comedian Nath Valvo, and we had thirty minutes of chat about his career, some anecdotes about his first trip to the Edinburgh Festival and an explanation of the word Bogan, although I can’t remember why Stephen wanted to know this. Very friendly and engaging.
Next up was German New Yorker Lucie Pohl, who had a running joke with Stephen that she was going to have his baby, although it turned out she planned to raise him in an octopuses garden, with which he wasn’t best pleased. On paper this description makes very little sense but it did in the context of the interview.
Guest number three was Indian comic Vir Das, who talked about the disappointment of his parents at his choice of career despite his success, working in Bollywood, and the joys of Edinburgh.
The musical artist of the afternoon was comedian Katie Pritchard who sang a little tune about the Roman Empire.
Stephen was a relaxed and entertaining host, although he was upset at the audience when we failed to meet his expectations for the recording. He really wanted a boistrous crowd but we were a little too genteel this afternoon.
Each day features different guests which are announced on Stephen’s facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/stephenkamos/). It’s well worth popping in for a fun hour (and a bit) of chat.
Stephen K Amos Talk Show is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 24
By Ron Bingham
This was a last minute show pick (I got the ticket as the show was starting), so I knew nothing about the show apart from the title. It was certainly a gamble that paid off.
I entered the room to find the audience playing a computer game on the big screen at the front of the room. As each person failed, the controller was passed to the next person in the row making it a communal effort. We almost got to the end and Tom (who created the game) told us we had done the best so far. The game itself will be available to download from Tom’s website after the Fringe has ended (so no sneaky practicing before seeing the show). A devilishly tricky game.
Tom, self proclaimed Performing Nerd, emerged wearing the proper nerd uniform of white long sleeve shirt under a brown sleeveless cardigan with a big 70s tie and a pair of glasses. He gave us an amusingly wonderful hour of pointless yet compelling finger exercises, impressive memory feats and a LOT of Rubik’s Cube based material. One hundred cubes feature in his impressive finale – an amazing feat of improvisation, dexterity and creativity that had everyone’s jaw on the floor.
The primarily youthful and trendy audience really enjoyed this show, as did I. Nerds seem to be popular again and Tom is certainly doing his bit. Highly recommended, even if it’s only so you can try and survive Tom’s game.
Nerd World Problems is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 26
By Ron Bingham
This show is filthy. If you’re at all offended by frank conversations about sex or upset by swearing, then you had better steer clear. It is definitely NOT for children.
Right, now that’s out of the way, this is one of the funniest shows I have seen in a long time. London takes us through the past decade of her life: learning some specialist skills in the car parks of Brighton as a teenager, being sacked from her presenter role on TV sex line BabeStation, turning 30 and questioning why she is still single. We hear about her family, why she has so many names and learn some new words and phrases (I loved her reference to Brian Blessed – it’s too filthy to explain here but I’m sure Brian would take it as a huge compliment). I even learnt one or two fascinating new facts about the human body.
Anyone seeing her on TV or listening to her radio will only be getting a watered down version of this dynamic, confident and audacious lady. You must see her live to get the full impact of this force of nature. If we had more room in the tiny venue, there would certainly have been a standing ovation.
To Catch A D*ck is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 25
By Ron Bingham
Demi Lardener is a unique voice in the comedy world and more importantly she is genuinely gut-bustingly hilarious. The opening of the show was one of the funniest things I have seen in a long while, and the closing was nearly as whacky.
Unlike previous shows from Demi, we are not confronted with a stage full of props, which are then used throughout her show. This year, Demi has decided to go a little high tech, using a PC and projector, plus some audio, combined with stories from her youth such as a visit to Kangaroo Island, fascinating tidbits and snatches of craziness. There are also some very disturbing drawings by Demi.
My favourite thing about Demi’s shows are the total unpredictability, and the shattering of any boundary with the audience. If you’re of a nervous disposition or don’t like audience participation, you may want to give this one a miss. There is also a bit of swearing, but it is a late night show after all. Demi will get up close and personal, as she crawls into your minds and bends them out of shape. Highly recommended.
Ditch Witch 800 is on at Gilded Balloon Teviot until August 26