Birthday Girls – Late-night Comedy Party

By Ron Bingham

One of my favourite comedy acts is back in Edinburgh for a strictly limited run of four shows. The Birthday Girls, Beattie Edmondson, Rose Johnson and Camille Ucan, have been playing Edinburgh for a decade now (starting in sketch troupe Lady Garden). This year they have returned with Late-night Comedy Party which is a selection of their favourite sketches, a couple of new ones, some guest comedians as well dancing, drinking and molesting the late night audience.

I was very happy that they performed one of my favourite sketches, which involved the continued use of the word Kofte, something which still makes me giggle when I visit my local Turkish supermarket. There was also a very funny, and creepy, sketch involving a babysitter for Jamie Oliver.

I can’t recall the names of all the numerous guests on the night I was there but some of the guests who stood out on the night I attended were sketch duo Lazy Susan, Lou Sanders and Suzie Ruffell. The audience were pumped, a little drunk (helped by a number of free shots from our hosts) and very vocal in their appreciation of the comedy on offer.

This really was like going to a wild wonderful party. A loud, raucous and filthy ninety minutes of comedy from some talented women out to share a great time with their many friends.

Late-night Comedy Party was on at Pleasance Courtyard

Lucy Porter – Pass It On

By Ron Bingham

This is Lucy Porter’s twelfth show at the Edinburgh Fringe, and Pass It On focuses on ageing, especially menopause and the steady inevitable approach of death for all of us. Lucy explains in her introduction that this is not really a show for the younger people but is perfectly suited for a middle-class middle-aged audience demographic. I can’t help but take this a little personally but I really enjoyed Pass It On.

Lucy is very comfortably dressed in a top, sparkly cardigan and relaxed jeans – this is all intentional of course – and there is a lot of explanation, particularly about the jeans. On the stage are some knick knacks which are also explained as the show progresses. We hear about Lucy’s kids and other parents at their school, the recent death(s) of her parents and her work. We are treated in great detail to the symptoms and effects of menopause in a middle aged woman with latent anger issues. Middle age sucks, but despite the scary sounding subject matter, Lucy makes it all bloody hilarious.

Lucy is a very skilled story telling comedian. Her style is a bit like she’s invited us all over for coffee and cake and we’re hearing all the latest gossip from her. Lucy’s very relaxed and flowing style, brimming with confidence, and some very funny stories, made the hour fly by. Always a must-see performer, and this show is selling out fast.

Pass It On is on at Pleasance Courtyard until August 26

The Pretend Men – Police Cops in Space

By Ron Bingham

The Pretend Men – Zachary Hunt, Nathan Parkinson and Tom Turner – have been playing these characters in Police Cops (which is on earlier in the evening in the same venue) for a few years now, but in this show they have added a new dimension, by taking their story out of the atmosphere to new and exciting worlds.

The story line involves one Sammy Johnson, the son of Jimmy Johnson, the greatest Police Cop in space, who was killed by an evil robot. Sammy is the last space cop but he’s ended up as a space bum and now the robot is coming after him because he is the only thing standing in the way of ultimate robot domination. Can Sammy get to Earth with his slightly warped pilot and a demented service droid, get the training from the Police Cop sensei, and defeat the evil robot? Only the narrator knows.

The energy this trio expend in Police Cops in Space is just mind blowing and the props are brilliantly imaginative. There is a lot of physical comedy, some role swapping, a couple of scenes with very tiny costumes, a bit of dancing and an action packed finale.

The Saturday night audience were raucous and only too ready to laugh and even gave the show a standing ovation at the finish. I haven’t seen the original Police Cops so I don’t know if there is much crossover and there were some in-jokes/references that went over my head, but this show was a masterpiece of top notch action comedy that I would heartily recommend.

Police Cops in Space is on at Assembly George Square Studios until August 26

Demi Lardner – I Love Skeleton

By Ron Bingham

Come into the warped and crazy world that is the inside of Demi Lardner’s mind. The music is loud (very loud), the props are unusual (to downright weird) and the star of the show has some boundary issues (expect audience interaction at any time).

While I Love Skeleton is obviously very carefully structured, Demi has the skill to hide this and give off a sense of unpredictability and is at times just plain mystifying for the audience. It is also hilariously laugh out loud funny which goes some way to explaining the number of awards Demi has been given and why everyone is flocking to see this.

I would try to describe some of the sketches, but I fear they will make no sense written down. Demi’s charisma, delivery and physical punctuation is a big part of the act. Expect rude words, very close contact with the comic and a sore stomach from all the belly laughs.

I Love Skeleton is on at Assembly George Square Studios until August 26

Thor and Loki

By Ron Bingham 

Something a bit different at Fringe, a new musical comedy based loosely on Norse mythology. Thor and Loki  tells the tale of the clashing Gods in a joyful, silly and pacifist-friendly kind of way.

Asgard is being attacked by giants but Thor (played by Harry Blake one of the show’s creators) isn’t really into all that fighting, being a tortured teenage soul. Meanwhile Thiassi (Laurie Jamieson) the leader of the giants, has a terrible secret about young Loki (played by Alice Keedwell the other co-creator of the show). There are battles and romance and treachery and tap dancing trolls. After a number of battles, where heaps of those unimportant humans are killed, the giants hit on a plan to wall off Asgard (queue satirical song about building a wall) and trap the gods until they agree to surrender the golden apple tree which is the source of their power and immortality. The only person who can break the deadlock is Loki, but will she agree after both sides previously spurned her help and accused her of treachery?

Not unlike the hit musical Once, all of the cast members of this show are multi-talented instrumentalists, who play the backing music for their fellow performer’s songs. There are even a couple of ‘cor anglais’ jokes (a small, wooden oboe-like horn, played by Thor), which I especially loved. This gave the show a brilliant atmosphere and it was the performers who really made this show zing. The acting, singing and playing are all excellent and the show is cleverly written, with lots of laughs and a surprise ending.

The full house were loud, boisterous and enthusiastic in their appreciation of the razzle dazzling, toe tapping musical.

Just a warning that the entrance to the Assembly Roxy is up three flights of stairs (the exit is only one flight down), so people with mobility issues may want to check with staff before booking.

Thor and Loki is on at Assembly Roxy Upstairs until August 26

Anna Nicholson – Woman of the Year

By Ron Bingham 

An idea for a reality show in a Fringe show that takes a character sketch show to a more interesting level.  Anna Nicholson is staging an entertaining competition to find the Woman of the Year where she  introduces and plays the four finalists in the competition and the audience get to pick the winner.

The characters are all memorable with distinctive regional accents which Anna pulls off brilliantly. Denise, the professional bra-fitter; Bianca, the Geordie Instagram star and Vlogger; Reverend Ruth, the pushily friendly vicar; and Shirley, the overly excitable geriatric from Yorkshire. Each is given two chances to influence the audience, to get their vote, and Anna also plays with a member of the audience as herself.

Also on stage, is piano player Bobby Goulder backing Anna admirably, as her various persona’s belt out their signature songs. Anna’s various costume changes were swift and theatrically interesting and there was hardly a pause in the flow of the show.

Anna is a charming comic performer who played all the characters superbly, the jokes were funny and well timed, the songs were well executed and the whole show was lively and family friendly. The audience joined in with the fun at the appropriate moments and a winner was chosen.

Woman of the Year is in Just the Spare Room at The Caves, which is very much the same size and shape of a railway carriage at peak hour, the only difference being nobody is standing up and there is no ventilation. Very hot and stifling, even for an Edinburgh Fringe venue. It was an enjoyable show that managed to help make you forget the discomfort, but I heartily recommend bringing a fan and some water.

Anna Nicholson performs Woman of the Year at Just the Tonic at The Caves til August 26.