By Ron Bingham
This is Arthur Smith’s nostalgia show, in which he looks back at his triumphs and tragedies at the Edinburgh Fringe. It doesn’t quite span the full 75 years of the Fringe, due to the tragic circumstance of Arthur not being born until the 1950s.
Unsurprisingly he has some fantastic stories from the shows he has done throughout the years, as well as a couple of bits that didn’t make it into the originals (deleted scenes?) For our pleasure he includes a little Hamlet, some Leonard Cohen and a few poems. I especially enjoyed hearing his tale of being arrested in one of his late night tours of the Royal Mile back in 2002, as it filled in a few details Simon Munnery missed when referring to the same event in his 2022 show.
My 75 Years at the Edinburgh Fringe is an excellent show in self but especially wonderful for the long term punters as it will either remind them of great comedy events they had seen, or learn about things they missed from back when the Fringe was more chaotic and unhinged. There is a little swearing and the possibility of nudity. Arthur is an Edinburgh Fringe icon and must-see artiste with the room absolutely jammed with excited fans. I recommend becoming one of them.
My 75 Years at the Edinburgh Fringe is on at Pleasance Courtyard
By Ron Bingham
Simon’s show this year is a look back at some the momentous events from his past, most notably two trials (one a parking fine and one a minor affray), which spun out into long drawn-out stressful affairs in which the innocent party (ie Simon) lost a lot of money and time proving his innocence with no restitution. The affray story happened about 20 years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe during one of Arthur Smith’s Royal Mile tours which adds some local colour and interest for Festival goers.
The two main stories in Trials and Tribulations are interspersed with some jokes, poems, recitations of song lyrics, spicy stories of youthful indiscretions in Edinburgh (including one involving Steve Coogan, Patrick Marber, Stewart Lee and Richard Herring from many years ago) and an extended parody of an Archers radio script, where you don’t have to know The Archers (famously long running radio drama) to be laughing along.
Simon is a legendarily exceptional comedic storyteller and the hour just whizzed by. He is one of the Kings of Alternative Comedy in the UK and is still going strong. The beloved Stand is an intimate venue and as usual, absolutely packed with appreciative and adoring punters. I highly recommend you buy a ticket ASAP to avoid disappointment. The show I attended also had Simon selling some excellent merch -mostly from previous years, including a book, Alan Parker tea towel (only 20 of these so be quick), postcard and DVD.
Trials and Tribulations is on at The Stand
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
Arthur Smith is a fabulous deadpan comedian who, you may recall from TV appearances on QI and as the MC in the Backwards episode of Red Dwarf. He performed Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume One) quite a while ago (I first heard it on BBC Radio in about 2007 but according to Arthur’s website it was first performed in 2000). The first show is well worth hunting down if you like Leonard Cohen or comedy.
This show features Arthur telling some tales about Mr Cohen, talking about himself with a few stories about his mum, reading some poetry and singing some of Len’s songs with the help of his fabulous backing group (Kirsty Newton on keyboards and backing vocals, Carrie Marx on BV and various extra instruments and Allie Something on BV). Arthur is a master of self deprecating humour and the only person who really cops a serve during the show is one Leonary Nimoy, but that is a fair if you’ve ever read any of his poetry.
The entire show is a journey, with all of the little stories and songs helping develop the narrative of the tale and the point at which the surprise occurs is excellently timed (I can’t say what the surprise is but the entire audience were in fits of laughter). The room was full to bursting (on a Tuesday) and it will sell out. I advise fighting for a ticket as this is one of the shows that must not be missed. Sure, it’ll probably get recorded for the BBC but believe me when I say that will not come close to capturing the hilarity of the live show.
Oh yes, Arthur sings Leonard Cohen’s songs every bit as well as Leonard does (you can interpret that as you like).
PS Make Arthur a bit happier by buying his autobiography, My Name Is Daphne Fairfax. It’s excellent.
Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen (Volume Too) is having a short run and finishes on August 18th.
It’s playing at The Pleasance Courtyard at 2.30pm
Book via the website https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/arthur-smith