John Nicholson casts his eye over six more comedy acts performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Matt Abbott – Two Little Ducks – Underbelly – Belly Laugh
Performing poetry to a small audience is, I would imagine, a thankless task, but Matt did a great job regardless, throwing himself into every verse with rhythmic passion and occasional rhyme. His work is well-constructed into three threads which come together cleverly to express the reasons why people voted Leave in the referendum.
This is unashamedly left-wing political work and none the worse for that. As he depicts alienation from different perspectives and what the consequences of being ignored and marginalised are for society, he weaves a magical spell with his words, pulling back veil after veil of revelation to make his central message.
Although only in his 20s, this is mature stuff from an exciting young Wakefield voice, the size of his audience being in inverse proportion to his quality and worth.
Erich McElroy – Tops Trump – Espionage – Pravda
Though American, Erich has lived here for 17 years and so has a nice overview of politics on both sides of the Atlantic. The displaced alien is always a good starting point for comedy and his best material is actually not about Trump and US politics but about the cultural differences and schisms between where he now lives and that which he left behind. There’s nothing like a foreigner to be able to shine a light on our way of life and make us see things from an alternative perspective.
The Trump material was less successful simply because of the nature of the subject matter. No matter how much you want to satirise or mock him, we’ve already been there and done it in our front rooms. So much so that I have yet to hear anything at the Fringe about Trump which I’ve not said myself half a dozen times. It is hard to be original about him, let alone funny. In fact, just relating the Trump misdemeanours, while absurd in themselves, isn’t funny, it is just depressing. I think he can dump all of that material.
This could be a really funny show if it shifted its perspective away from the US and to the UK because the Trump stuff is really diluting the best, funny material. He’s certainly got the chops and the attitude to do it though.
Seven Crazy Bitches – Assembly Hall – Baillie Room
Created by Holly Morgan and based loosely around Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man, there is the core of a good bit of feminist agitprop in the show. The way women are marginalised is a really major, multi-layered issue and well worth exploring. However, it didn’t really do enough under-the-surface digging to be incisive or cutting. I felt Holly was actually holding the more radical political elements back a little in favour of more goofing. Not sure that was the right choice. I suppose I’m saying I’d like it to be much harder-hitting. All of the songs, done in the style of different performers, are fantastically delivered and she does a very good Stevie Nicks. But if the songs are there to illuminate the show’s theme, they don’t really, despite being very enjoyable in their own right.
There are some lovely moments here and it is always entertaining but while you get politics, songs and humour, there isn’t quite enough of any of them to really deliver an even, high-quality hour. But with a bit of restructuring and rewriting, it certainly could be.
That being said, the cheap wigs are excellent!
Samantha Baines – 1 Woman, a High-Flyer and a Flat Bottom – Pleasance Courtyard – Bunker One
A highly enjoyable hour celebrating unheralded yet brilliant women in history. Sam is an enthusiastic, articulate and passionate performer who brings the three women to life in a humorous as well as informative way.
One of those gigs where you are entertained while being educated, this is exactly the sort of thing which would translate well into a Radio 4 show.
After a successful sold-out stint at the Fringe last year, she’s now got quite a following and she’s playing to a packed and incredibly hot Bunker. The only weak spot is the ‘poetry’ she ends each part of the show with, which is just way too clunky. And she says ‘guys’ too often when addressing the audience. That apart, it’s a great show.
Colin Hoult/Anna Mann in How We Stop the Fascists – Pleasance Courtyard – Upstairs
Oh, this is excellent. Really funny, very entertaining and with a cleverly disguised message to it too. Colin Hoult is a transformative performer, able to fully inhabit the characters he portrays for huge comic effect. His creation of Anna Mann comes from the joyful British drag tradition. Her combination of luvvyness and foul-mouth is endlessly entertaining.
As he creates several obnoxious characters, at one point dropping into a perfect Nottingham accent for a laddish grotesque, he cleverly creates people we love to hate and illustrates that’s how we let the Fascists in. As Anna says: ‘You’ll realise how clever this is, later.’
My seat at the top and side of the room allowed me to see the whole audience, and they all loved it. There was real happiness and joy on faces as Anna’s staging went wrong, with spotlights in the wrong place and music not coming in in the right place.
This is warm, life-affirming and above all else, very funny. One that everyone will love.
Leo Kearse – I Can Make You Tory – Free Sisters – 19.30
A self-styled political comedian who isn’t really very political and not even very Tory, really. This is actually a show which rails against an over-officious, wet-liberal, middle-class PC culture. Fair enough. It’s been a theme this year and one well worth discussing, especially in relation to how alienated it makes some people feel.
Yes, he’s critical of Corbyn et al, but it’s all been said before and felt a bit tired.
Of course, there is no attempt to make us Tory and the reasons offered so to be are watery and weak, as though he doesn’t even believe in them himself. But that’s OK because the real drive of the show is cultural and not party-political, despite the title.
He seemed awkward on his anti-Brexit stuff (which had some of his best jokes), as he voted Remain when so many Tories voted Leave. And at times he appeared to get The Fear, especially when delivering some of the harsher, more vulgar material, which was surprising to see as it wasn’t very harsh nor, by the standards of the Fringe, especially vulgar.
As a Scot, his funniest material was about Scotland and his native folk and growing up with hippie parents. In fact, that was so much better than his political stuff that I found myself wishing he’d stick with it throughout.
As ever, when you sell yourself as a right-winger, there are those in the audience who want some traditional, proper old-school Bernard Manning-esque gags. If anyone wants to do that, there’s a horrible audience hungry for it, and for the harder and more extreme end of it too.
He disappointed those people, but they were certainly present and maybe that’s why Leo got The Fear. Scratch the surface and you can bring the poison very quickly. Dance with the Devil and the Devil will take you away. I don’t think he wants that. He’s a good comedian who looked ill at ease with his subject matter far too often.
This is a free show which pulls a large audience, so I’m sure there’s an appetite for what this show advertises, I’m just not sure he delivers on that prospectus.