Jess Robinson, Tez Ilyas and Rachel Jackson all took to the stage for Fringe week – the largest arts festival in the world.
Jess Robinson – Unravelled – Underbelly Purple Cow 19.00
This is her first show after her success on Britain’s Got Talent and it is a real tour-de-force. Her fourth Edinburgh sees her in the big Purple Cow in George Square Garden and it can be an unforgiving large space which hoovers up power and energy, but Jess gets over this by sheer force of personality, powerful vocals and a show absolutely packed with content.
Her vocal impressions are uncannily accurate, her ability to drop from one to another to another is little short of incredible. Yet to deliver them successfully, she has created several clever devices to allow her to deploy her mighty talent, the funniest of which is her ‘man lever’ which she pulls to drop from a female impression, to a male impression. Ingenious, funny and delivered with limitless energy (despite being under the weather) you could only admire her commitment to her art form.
Backed with a tight four-piece band that join in the fun, the finale, which involved skipping from one randomly selected singer to another, after delivering just a couple of lines, was stunningly masterful, not least because she must have done over 20 different people. And it has to be said, her Cheryl Cole particularly excellent.
This is feel-good light entertainment and a densely pack hour of fun the like of which will surely garner a wide mainstream audience for many years to come. You just know when you’re in the presence of a star and Jess Robinson is exactly that.
Tez Ilyas – Teztify – Pleasance Courtyard – Beside 20.30
With two well-received Edinburgh shows under his belt, Tez returns this year with another excellent performance that veers between the funny and the serious. Likeable and with an innately funny delivery, he has a clever knack of subverting the comedy and turning it into serious polemic, almost before you realise he’s done it.
It starts out as broad humour, but soon takes a harder, focused twist. Not every comedy show has to be funny for every second of every minute of the hour, in order to be successful and when you’re dealing with topics such as Islamophobia, racism and the location of 60 billion chickens, you need to have a command of light and shade, be able to control the vibe of the room and allow space for the material to breathe in.
These are all Tez’s major assets. Highly distinctive, he is confident without being in any way overbearing or arrogant. He is relaxed but always focused, and as with previous shows, he ends by making a forceful and emotional point, this time by a skilful use of a call-back twist. only to release the heaviosity with a final joke.
This isn’t a show of one big belly laugh after another, and you might argue it needs a few more jokes, but it is both funny and thoughtful throughout, and as such Teztify is another show that all Tezbians will love
Rachel Jackson – Bunny Boiler – Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker 2 – 22.30
In some ways this is a classic Fringe show, in that it blurs the lines between being a stand-up and a one-woman comic drama. While clearly rooted in her own life experiences, because she’s an excellent actor, Rachel also brings the ability to inhabit a heightened version of herself. So while you do feel you are seeing the ‘real’ woman, you are also aware that it is an intense, concentrated, condensed portrayal, which surrenders some factual detail in order to get greater access to the truth.
As she takes us through a litany of failed relationships in a very human and passionate way, she has a stunning ability to access her own inner anger. One especially explosive tirade of intense rage at a neglectful lover was very thrilling: a sort of heavy metal comedy. You don’t get to see someone properly losing it very often in life and this felt very authentic and from the heart.
Indeed her level of energy and wholehearted commitment to the show is amazing. It must be incredibly draining to drag that amount of blood and snot out of your soul every night, especially in a roasting hot Pleasance bunker. There are occasional moments when the pacing of the show is perhaps a bit too fast, possibly as a result of getting caught up in the adrenalised excitement of the audience’s loud, laughing response. That is understandable.
But what this hour captures so well, apart from her love life’s amusingly gory details, is the temporary insanity that love, or what you think might be love, brings to your life and how destabilizing it can be in every way. Though in some ways extreme, it is a show which will resonate with everyone.
Its core humanity deserves to attract a large audience and to make a star out of the remarkable Rachel Jackson.