Edinburgh Fringe review: five star comediens and Brexit jazz

PUBLISHED: 16:35 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 16:35 10 August 2017

An Edinburgh Fringe Festival act promotes himself on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

An Edinburgh Fringe Festival act promotes himself on The Royal Mile in Edinburgh.

PA Wire/PA Images

Paul Wang, Dane Baptiste, Imaginary Radio, Geoffrey Brown and Gareth Morinan all took to the stage at the largest arts festival in the world

Phil Wang - Kinabalu - Pleasance Courtyard - Beneath

***

Phil has started referring to himself “ The Wang” in the third person during his latest show, always a vaguely troubling thing which Johnny doesn’t like.

There are some very noticeable Jerry Seinfeld influences to some of his delivery. Understandable because Jerry does bestride this type of stand-up like a Colossus.

Given his child of the Empire, British-Malaysian heritage, he has a potentially interesting story to tell of cultural clashes and while there is some amusement, big laughs are thin on the ground.

However, audiences do really like him, which should be half the battle, but despite his original standpoint for this show, this is the sort of gig you see a lot of. It is some distance from being poor but just as far from being really good. He fills it with plenty of material, perhaps too much, because there feels little time to digest parts of the show. There are good observations but not enough funny ones. That being said it is a painless hour and you will see far worse comedians than Phil.

I’ve seen him four times and each time as he takes the stage, he looks like he’s a comedian, he sounds like a comedian, but his shows are basically nowhere near funny enough. Perhaps this will come with time as he’s still very young.

Something of a case of plenty of Wang but nowhere near enough dang or doodle.

THREE STARS

Dane Baptiste - G.O.D (Gold. Oil. Drugs) Pleasance Courtyard - Above

**

When Dane got his ‘Best Newcomer’ nomination in 2014, it was well-deserved. He was an original voice and very funny. But ever since, each show has been in the shadow of that excellent first outing. The night I saw him he delivered a one-paced gig during which the low hum of monotony competed with the dull murmur of discontent.

It is a very cool title for a show but his opening gambit was, in itself, an inadvertent admission of his own subject matter vagueness, saying the gold in the title didn’t just refer to the precious metal, but to money too. So maybe that’s Money. Oil. Drugs. M.O.D. In a way this was both literally and symbolically the problem with the show: it felt poorly thought out and too vague and broad-ranging. You could focus on any one of those for an hour. To do all three, was to do none of them justice.

His observations and philosophising about the hold oil, money and drugs have over us and why, all felt a little bit 6th Form politics. It lacked grit and started to sound quite shallow, because even his previously excellent technique seemed to desert him. The last 20-minutes was painfully lacking in light and shade, jokes were in absentia and the audience sat through it making only occasional short laugh noises. As I was sitting at the back I was able to see them literally shifting in their seats, uncomfortable at the ceaseless monologue. There wasn’t enough drama, tone or gear changes to it. So while it’s smoothly delivered, it slides off your ears like water on glass, never being absorbed.

Everyone does a bad show from time to time, it’s an inevitable part of the artform. I’ve seen some people give this show very high marks, so let’s hope this is just a blip and Dane soon returns to being an excellent, original voice in comedy once again.

TWO STARS

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Imaginary Radio - The Mash House

*****

The brainchild of American Drennon Davis, helped out by two co-performers, this is such a perfect Fringe show for anyone who craves something that is pushing the envelope with the aid of loop pedals, guitars and songs.

Drennon creates a sonic scan across the radio dial set into his army helmet (of course!), tuning in and out of various USA radio stations. It is a universe full of crazy songs, crazy people and crazy words. Perhaps a love of radio and an appreciation the American artform helps you get your groove on with the show, but it is a whole-hearted, throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks performance that anyone can enjoy. Highly original and delivered with joy and great technique. As anyone knows who’s used them, things can go badly wrong when you’re looping noises, but this performance was flawless.

Painting with the full sonic rainbow, this is one of those shows which is unlikely to have a common or wide appeal, but is somehow even better for that. Effortlessly cool buy being uber nerdy. This will hit you big or leave you cold. I certainly want to tune in for more.

FIVE STARS

Know Brexit - Geoffrey Brown - Surgeons Hall

****

Less a show and more a Powerpoint presentation about the facts and figures behind Brexit. This was a genial 45-minute performance by a kindly professor type, Geoffrey Brown. And it was both enlightening and entertaining. Interestingly, this isn’t polemic by any means and doesn’t seek to come down heavily on either side, but more presenting what we know we know, what we think we know, and what we know we don’t know.

One couldn’t help thinking that much of it would go over David Davies unenlightened, dull mush brain. The thing I took home from it was the sheer complexity of Brexit. Just how deep, wide and vast the Brexit ocean is and, once you understand that, it actually looks impossible to achieve. As a Remainer it actually gave me hope that there are so many obstacles in the way of Brexit happening that the more likely outcome is everyone will pretend it has happened when in fact, it hasn’t.

FOUR STARS

Gareth Morinan: Brexitocracy (Explained With Graphs) - Banshee Labyrinth - Cinema Room -

****

This is a Free Fringe show after which you throw money in a bucket and it is well worth some of your hard-earned. The title might sound like this is going to be academic but it really isn’t. Although Gareth is a data expert, he is also a wild-haired man who goes off at tangents in delivering a show at a high pace, in a pleasing free-form-jazz kind of style.

I like a graph and a spider diagram at the best of times, but I never thought I’d see someone create a show out of them. It feels quite educational even though a lot of the data is made up! Even so, it is funny and enlightening all at the same time. A pleasing element is that there is no real bias to it. It’s all too easy to get shouty about one side or the other, but smartly, Gareth avoided this, concentrating on getting the most humour possible out of the situation, rather than play on the politics.

Do you emerge knowing more about Brexit? No. Do you come out grinning and laughing? Most certainly. Already playing to packed rooms, get there early to make sure you get a seat.

FOUR STARS

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