Vikki Stone – Definitely

By Ron Bingham

Another new performer for me, Vikki Stone is a comedian who plays the piano and sings songs but she does so much more than that. The show starts with the greatest ever motherf*cker opening song, with smoke machines, dance routines, costume changes and impressive stage props. Never have camel toes looked so elegant (on the camel, I mean).

The rest of the evenings entertainment consists of Vikki travelling on a Simon Cowell inspired journey towards fame, via the medium of songs about sexy scientist Brian Cox, iconic sports presenter Clare Balding, the trials and eating habits of her dog Bert and the messy subject of dog poo in plastic bags. The finale was a finely piece of cinema, with dancing dogs (which is the point where Vikki almost lost it, due to the unexpected dancing skills of the dog for the evening), choirs, fireworks, projected schmaltz and so much more.

This is an excellent and finely honed hour of entertainment that had the (almost) full house in stitches for the whole show. The props are suitably over the top and the songs are well written and quite rude in places (I wonder how Brian and Clare would feel if they happened to show up one night? That would be worth seeing). If you love risque entertainment from a lady who isn’t afraid to go just that little bit too far in search of a laugh, or dogs, or ridiculously overproduced showtunes (a la Simon Cowell’s entire ouvre), then see this show, but get your tickets now.

Vikki Stone performs Definitely at Underbelly Bristow Square at 7.20pm

For bookings and info:

Hunt & Darton – Cafe

By Ron Bingham

This is both a performance art space and a real cafe, with proper cooked food and drinks available. I was first drawn in when I happened to walk past the cafe and noticed the hosts wearing flowers of broccoli on their heads. Even in Edinburgh, that’s a hard sight not to want to comment upon. After a chat with one of the ladies, I promised to return the next day (when I had some free time), and…

Saturday afternoon, after a brisk trip up Arthur’s Seat, I entered into the cafe at about 1.30pm. I was immediately greeted by hosts Jenny & Holly, given a name tag and pointed to a table, where I was introduced to the other patrons. Just after I arrived a raffle was held, where the free tickets could win someone the pick of a table of tinned food and other delicacies. There were games, records being played as the background music, toys, jigsaws, daily themes, bingo, fascinating things to see on the walls and around the room, celebrity waiting staff (from other shows, some of which return in the evening to play in the room) and the highlight of our day, a sugar sandwich making competition, where the best sandwich concept wins a prize. My table came second, with our gingivitis ruined tooth, which sadly collapsed during the movement test. The fifteen or so different judging categories allowed time for some of the tables to become very competitive and critical of any negative scores.

All up, I spent well over two hours here just joining in the fun and meeting lovely people. Some people are in love with the cafe so much that they end up spending their whole day there (it runs from 10am to 5pm every day of the fest, except Monday) and it’s free to visit. If you’re looking for a stress free time in the company of delightful people (all ages, from little kids to big ones), then this is the perfect place to just come and hang out for a rest. You never know, if you’re lucky someone might just buy a trifle for the whole cafe (£10 – I went halves with someone). This cafe was running during last year’s festival as well, but I missed it. Holly and Jenny also have their (not free) show in the evenings in the same venue, but I was sadly unable to make that. Still, that’s top of my list for next year.

The Hunt and Dart Cafe is open for all from 10am – 5pm at 17-21 St Mary’s St near The Pleasance

It’s free to enter and you don’t have to book.

For more info:

Cambridge Footlights : Canada

By Ron Bingham

This year’s Cambridge Footlights team is a quartet of fresh faced youngsters (well, except for the one with a beard). The quartet – Matty, Matilda, Rosa and Emma – are all energetic and confident as they jump into an hour of fast paced and inventive sketches that are often as witty as they are original.

One sketch, the machine that shows how you are going to die, was returned to a number of times with some unusual ways to go. The sequence with the piece of string showed some excellent solo acting skills and the dance number had a hilariously childish payoff (I assume they were doing the sexy dancing from the actual video clip from the song that was playing, but I’m too old to know what the song actually was). I also enjoyed the sketches where they included an audience member as a passive cast prop, although the one where an audience member can win cash was fraught with danger. The reason the show is called Canada is due to two sketches in which Canada features in a roundabout way, and I suppose it was as good a choice of name as anything. Unless they just really like Canada.

I went into this show with few expectations, and was impressed with the teams energy and originality. They are all disgracefully young and attractive (well, alright, except for Matty, unless you like someone that looks like a young Rory McGrath) and way too talented to end up doing proper jobs after university. I was surprised that there was no singing in the show, as I thought that was a hallmark of uni reviews. There was enough entertainment in the hour for everyone. There is no swearing or anything that will offend anyone too much, and the sold out audience of the show I saw ranged in age from eight to eighty (who I was sitting next to, the disgraceful old ladies!).

Cambridge Footlights : Canada is on at Pleasance Dome at 5.20pm

For Bookings

Casual Violence presents: House of Nostril

By Ron Bingham 

This show should come with a warning to those of a nervous disposition to not sit in the front row of the very small, hot and intimate theatre, as the cast perform what I can only describe as shouty and confrontational acting.

The play starts with a very entertaining animated song about a house full of mad and evil characters. The projector screen is then used throughout the play with short animated sequences and some helpful scene setting captions. The five cast members played a number of roles in a story which appeared to go something like this: A young man anxiously awaits the return of his father, who has been away at war for twenty years, hoping for some affection. His father is an evil man who has come up with a plot to rid the world of his enemies by making voodoo dolls of them and destroying them. He wishes to see if the same evil blood flows through the veins of his son. His son, a weak and tender man, fails the test and is tempted by his father’s enemies to help them overthrow his father.

Now, that’s what I think the plot is meant to be, but there are also a lot of scenes involving cockney chimney sweeps and a goblin, and I won’t even mention the Mad nurse from Northern Ireland who is obsessed with cream. And then there are the people who come back from the dead as multiples of themselves…? The poison taster class?? I’m not really sure it was meant to make sense to normal rational sane people. but that doesn’t matter. The actors all went to the school of “if we shout it, it will show we are passionate about the parts we are playing and, after all, that’s the only emotion that needs to be conveyed from a stage”, so don’t expect to see any love scenes (apart from the rather passionate love scenes which appear in the show).

It’s a mad, loud and funny hour of sketches which will eventually coalesce into a finale that will leave you bemused but entertained.

In the interest of making a full disclosure, I happen to work with the director of this show, a fact I didn’t know until I was standing in the queue just prior to entry. The people you meet, eh?

House of Nostril is being performed at The Pleasance Courtyard at 3.45pm.

For Info and Bookings



Dirty Laundry by Rachel Hirons

By Ron Bingham 

This is a dark comic play featuring a mad old (she’s 38, apparently) woman who is running a launderette, and her teenage nephew who comes to keep her company. Busybody Esther (played by Hayley Jane Standing) is rather dim and credulous but, as we find out through the course of the show, also very cunning. Young Tristan (Matthew Floyd Jones) is a bit naive and has had a bit of bother with a previous girlfriend. Now, the girl across the road has gone missing, the police are camped out there and Esther is convinced Tristan has had something to do with her disappearance.

When the show started I was worried that it was going to be a soapie about life up north, but things gradually developed into a very icky tale of an old woman’s lust and a young man’s nightmare. Other characters come and go in the launderette, helping to develop the story (mostly played by the impressive third cast member Lizzie Daykin, who must have been a master of the quick change) leading to the show ending on a very dark note as we find out just how far some people are prepared to go.

So, without giving a brilliant plot twist away, this is a very well written, splendidly acted and wickedly funny play about the dangers of leaving single women alone too long with loud machines and access to Jeremy Kyle. The story will keep your interest until the end, but the downside is that you’ll probably never trust a launderette with your smalls again.

Dirty Laundry is playing at Underbelly Cowgate at 9.25pm

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Alfie Brown – The Revolting Youth

By Ron Bingham

I had heard some good reports about Alfie’s stand-up before the show. Sadly, the evening was a bit of a let down as Alfie harangued the audience throughout the show and there was no cohesion to his material.

I can understand the picking on latecomers, as they are fair game for any comic, but the point in the show where he tried to start a debate on the government’s benefit changes and then told us to shut up so he could get back to the show was where he lost me. He also kept blaming us for not laughing enough at his jokes and constantly lost the thread of his conversation He veered from ranty, ill formed political statements, to how our lives are wasted and we’re all going to die pointlessly, to whining about his recent marriage and how crap sex is, to jumping into the audience and trying to make us uncomfortable with the empty stage.

He did say at one point that he was criticised last year for being too clever and not funny enough. Well, he’s lost the clever part. I can only hope it was a bad night for him and that his humour is not found solely through picking on the very people who have paid to see him (yes, I know Jason Byrne and Brendon Burns have made careers out of audience abuse but that doesn’t always make it funny). I would be interested to see what the other reviewer in the room (who sat next to me with a notepad) writes about this show, as she gave up writing anything at about the twenty minute mark and just sat there with her arms folded).

The Revolting Youth is on at Underbelly, Cowgate at 9.10pm

For Bookings