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

Sex Ed: The Musical

By Ron Bingham

This is, as the name infers, a musical that teaches one about sex from start to finish, in (many of) its permutations and quirks. The cast consist of four teacherish ladies, one (eternally) pregnant pianist and a couple of teenage demonstration models. So that makes a cast of six ladies to one man. Can you tell whose perspective gets the most airtime in the show?

We learn about the changes that occur in the bodies of our demonstration models (do not worry, there is no nudity in the show – there is a lot of profanity and a few scenes of a weird nature though). We see the young couple get together and work through a relationship, break up and get back together again, while the teachers explore their own desires and sexuality. There are songs about diseases, variant sexuality and positions as well, but I won’t mention Condom-man and the shower of condoms.

The mainly young audience enjoyed this show loudly (talk about girl power) and at times I felt like I was trapped in a Hens Night. It was an entertaining show with some good harmonic singing and dancing but I think it could lose a song or two in the middle of the show as, at 75 minutes, I thought it was a bit too long. The cast also have (£3) CDs and badges after the show.

All I can say is sex education has certainly moved on from when I was a kid, watching those Christian movies showing the sperm transmitted through a kiss which, even at eight, seemed implausible. Knowledge is a good thing and this show will teach you a few things about relationships if nothing else, although it did look like the main message was do whatever she tells you. There’s singing, dancing and filthy words. Bring your (teenage) friends along and their reaction will tell you how much they REALLY know.

Sex Ed: The Musical is on at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall

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.

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.

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

My Stepson Stole My Sonic Screwdriver by Toby Hadoke

By Colin Flaherty

‘My Stepson Stole My Sonic Screwdriver’ is Toby Hadoke’s loose sequel to his previous show ‘Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf’. A warm, heartfelt exploration of father-son relationships (that covers not only the titular stepson but other offspring, his wives and an absent father) he wraps it in the framework of Doctor Who to make this story highly personal and attract an audience who perhaps wouldn’t normally go to see a show about abandonment issues

This is yet another show about Doctor Who fandom that also appeals to a wide audience by justifying the devotion and explaining the impact on the fan’s relationship with others. In doing so, Toby presents plentiful Who facts and opinions to delight/ignite the fans (his demonstrations of uber-devotion puts many others to shame) while progressing the story without getting sidetracked too much from the main story. He even throws in plenty of political and pop-culture references to prove that he isn’t a complete basement dweller.

On stage Toby comes across as eccentric enough to be individualistic but not so weird as to be a pitiful loner. He is wonderfully animated as he presents his views of the Who Universe, bouncing around the stage like an excited puppy, that it’s impossible not to get caught up in his enthusiasm. Even when not geeking out he tells his tale with genuine passion that sells the material perfectly. He makes use of enough gentle self-deprecation to portray himself as flawed without being a sad sack.

The staging of this show includes some visual elements via a video screen that go beyond merely illustrating points to the uninitiated by creating an amusing autobiographical photo album. The addition of some amusing captions provided some wonderful jokes on the peripheral that linked in to the main thread. Also on the AV front is a special audio treat by a revered figure in the Who Universe that will delight.

This is a brilliant hour in the company of a great storyteller that will delight all. It is sure to encourage you to go home and give your dad a big hug.

Toby Hadoke is on at the Gilded Balloon Teviot.