Edinburgh Fringe 28th-30th August 2015

It’s taken a while to get around to this, so I am going to report on the three bonus days at the fringe in one blog entry.

Friday 28th August

I left Liverpool early in the morning along with Carole and Mary Ann, (a friend of Carole’s visiting from the USA). We stopped in Penrith for breakfast then travelled on to Edinburgh where I was dropped off at my hostel on the Cowgate while they went off to Carole’s sisters for the weekend for Mum in Law’s 80th Birthday celebrations. Her birthday wasn’t until the Monday, but after I had booked all my tickets and accommodation a big secret party was arranged for the Saturday, which unfortunately I was going to miss.

The Friday started with another trip to the Hive for Joz Norris – Hey Guys. An enjoyable fun filled hour, but I felt it needed a bigger and more energetic crowd to really work. At times I found it a little awkward and myself and a young lady the other side of the room kept looking at each other raising quizzical eyebrows, as to what was going on.

Down to the Mash House next for Keith Carter and his Sunny Side Show. Again a small audience, but Keith involved everyone and a couple of real characters in the crowd made this a really lovely hour.

Back to the Hive for Tanya Lee Davis. This was a week long run to capitalise on her recent appearance on the John Bishop show. We remember her from our first ever Edinburgh and a late show that also included our first encounter with the legend that is Phil Nichol. Tanya is always entertaining, but again the lack of numbers made it hard work.

Next, around the corner to the City Café for the wonderful Lou Sanders: Excuse Me, You’re Sitting on My Penis Again. We have shared some wonderful moments with the zany Lou and this was her best show to date. An absolute livewire, and the packed crowd and ton of other comics attending said it all. Definitely the highlight of the day so far.

Over to the Pleasance for Jonny Pelham: Before and After. This was highly recommended by a comic friend I trust, and I had a great time. Thoroughly charming and having spoken to him a couple of times, a nice chap, and one for the future.

Staying in the same room for Emma Sidi: Character Breakdown. Another newcomer doing a number of characters. Clearly talented, but this felt like an acting showcase rather than a comedy show. Enjoyable but not quite the zing of our favourite character comedian, Catriona Knox, who was sadly missed this year. Maybe some audience interaction would have made this really stand out?

To Underbelly next for Garrett Millerick: A Selection of Things I’ve Said to Taxi Drivers. Not a show about taxis in any way as several people have expected, (I sat next to a taxi driver in this one who thoroughly enjoyed it despite the lack of cabs!).We have seen Garrett as many times as anyone and his ranty style always leaves us in stitches. No different here. Will always be top of our watch list. Big crowd, big future in our book.

Around the corner to Gilded Balloon for a compilation show Best of So You Think You’re Funny? MC Ray Bradshaw who did the best job and who introduced James Farmer, Christopher McArthur-Boyd and Aidan Strangeman. To be totally honest, no one really stood out here and it was a somewhat disappointing show overall.

Finally, to the Pleasance for the ever reliable Late Show. Tonight Dave Thompson introduced. Danny Bhoy, Will Durst, Tanya Lee Davis (again), Scott Bennett and Nick Cody. Two names I hadn’t seen live before and a great late night show, surprisingly unmarred by drunks. In fact I didn’t really see a show this year marred by drunks.

Overall a decent day but far from a great one. Lou Sanders and Garrett Millerick stood a long way above the rest, but Sunny Side Show and Johnny Pelham would also have been highly recommended if the fringe had not already finished.

Saturday 29th August

I got a good eight hours sleep and a lovely breakfast and wander before heading into Finnegan’s Wake for the first of four visits on this day.

First up, Groan Up. A musical comedian with a story about growing up and taking responsibilities. Steve Bennett, a young Irishman (not he of Chortle fame) served up a gentle show with some lovely songs and which was guaranteed to make everyone smile. One of my favourite new finds of the festival. And the perfect start to a day.

Around the corner to Opium next for the lovely and slightly zany Caroline Mabey: Chaos Is a Friend of Mine. A brilliantly funny take on new motherhood. The only shame was that there were only a handful of us there. For a tiny crowd though, I feel we gave a lot of love back for what was a fantastic performance.

Back to Finnegan’s Wake for Laugh Train Home. A compilation show I had chosen specifically to be able to say hi to the lovely Robyn Perkins who I rate a lot. She has come along in spades since we last saw her as has Sarah Iles who was also part of the permanent bill. Twayna Mayne guested and felt a little flat and lost a lot of the energy that had been built up in the room before Ria Lina brought out her ukulele and blew the roof off of the building. Brilliant.

Next  to the Liquid Room for Two Stupids. Caroline Mabey and Michael Legge doing stupidness with masterful aplomb. Loved every minute of this show, which was probably different every day.

Back to Finnegan’s Wake for two shows. Martha McBrier: Pigeon Puncher and our friend Matt Price: The Boy With Cake on His Face. Fortunately Matt knew I was coming and could get me in to Martha’s show as there were throngs of people queueing who were turned away as with the whole run. Both shows were masterful examples of the storytelling genre, Martha re-establishing herself after a long break and Matt once again proving he is one of the best. It is still criminal that he is not one of the best known names in comedy.

Up to Assembly Hall for Adam Hills: Clown Heart. A long time Edinburgh stalwart and now one of the most popular people in comedy following The Last Leg. Like his previous tour show this is another guaranteed to make you feel good. And his crowd interactions are second to none. I cannot wait to see this again out on tour soon with Carole.

Over to the Pleasance, just in time, for another favourite of ours Felicity Ward: What if There’s No Toilet? Tackling mental health and IBS, this was a hilarious and thought provoking show. I am really surprised this did not get nominated for the awards. Another lovely, funny lady we will always have at the top of our list of must sees.

To the Gilded Balloon for something completely different: Dave Callan: A Little Less Conversation 2. One middle aged man, three backing dancers and a run through the Z to A of dances. Throw in a sign language interpreter and you still won’t come close to imagining what an amazing zany hour this was. I think if Carole had been with me, she would have enjoyed this most. We shall see next time as he will be the first I book. Not stand up but the funniest thing of the Fringe.

Finally back to the Pleasance for the final Late Show of the year. And what a stellar one it was. Lloyd Griffith did  great job as MC introducing Alistair Barrie for top notch political humour, which went down a storm despite the late hour, Mark Simmons brought the one liners and the laughs, Phil Nichol brought his guitar and did what he is best at, and finally a special treat in Jason Byrne rounding the show off.

All in al, this was my best ever single day at the Fringe, a treat from start to finish, loads of variety and reinforcing what it is I love about comedy.

Sunday 30th August

Final day for me at this years Fringe. A lovely breakfast at the Standing Order and then a walk down to see Carole and Mary Ann who had just arrived in Edinburgh after the big party the night before. They had a different agenda, a guided tour of Edinburgh, including the Castle, then a meet up with out fellow rescue chicken friends, then a show or two in the evening, before Carole and I would finally go to something together.

My first show was at the Stand Fern Brady: People are Idiots. Very abrasive and scornful in places. I had been expecting to see her nominated for best newcomer and thought this was good enough to have gotten a nomination.

Next to a packed out Voodoo Rooms for Malcolm Hardee winning Lawrence Owen: Cinemusical. While a great show highlighting musical talent par excellance, I could not see why this was the best show John Fleming had seen in 30 years. For me it was not a patch on Max and Ivan or the Sleeping trees for multifaceted sketch characterisation. But that would not stop me queueing to see what he does next!

Over to the Mash House next for silent comedy genius with the Kagools. A beautiful hour with a ton of audience interaction and laughs galore. So glad I saw it, fun for all the family. Amazing.

Next, my fourth year in a row seeing one of our absolute favourite comics, an absolute genius Milo McCabe: Genesisocide. What the fuck did I see here? Masses of characters, time travel, paradoxes, insane characters. The product of a very brilliant mind. For comic originality this was the one for me.

Back to the Mash House for Holly Burn: Kirsty K. Another superb character comedian who I was seeing do a full show for the first time. Well worth the long wait to see her.

To the Pleasance Courtyard for Sean McLoughlin: Whatever it Takes. We had seen Sean in May at Machynlleth and we were not at all sure about him, it was a weird show where he seemed to have been distracted by an incident in the town earlier on. I had met him a few times this Edinburgh wandering around and found him a lovely guy, and wanted to se his true colours. Absolutely loved this show, self-deprecating but with such beautiful punchlines, it was like poetry to me in places. Cannot wait to see him again.

A change to my schedule for the rest of the night. Carole was at the Stand with Mary Ann enjoying Martin Mor, while I stayed at the Pleasance for Brett Goldstein: Burning Man. Brett is always good to watch. Some of this material I had heard when I saw him in London earlier in the year, but it was another thoroughly enjoyable hour.

I then walked over to the Assembly Rooms on George Street for Phil Nichol’s Cray Cray Cabaret, which started while Carole was next door having a wonderful time seeing a show I had seen earlier in the Fringe, The Man. We were finally getting closer together. While she was watching her show I saw the first part of this show which featured Piff The Magic Dragon who went down a storm. Then in the interval I caught Carole exiting the show and we went back into the room for  the rest of the evening together. She was delighted to see Larry Dean perform and could see how much further he had progressed since we last saw him together, ( I thought he was the best I’d ever seen him – so confident! Carole)  I had already reported back how good his debut solo show was having seen it earlier in the Fringe. having been twice, Cray Cray was the most enjoyable of all the late night shows I have seen. I hope it appears again next year. (If we can afford the trip!)

We then walked over to say hi to our good friend Bob Slayer on the Blunderbus and had a relaxed drink before Carole went off to bed and I went to Late and Live for the last hour. I was glad I did as I was treated to John Hastings, Tessa Waters, Carl Donnelly and Johnny Awsum, who finished the night with a bang and left a smile on everyone’s faces.

That’s was it. 108 shows in 10 days, and still loads more I would have liked to have seen.

I saw most of the nominees for best show (Sarah Kendall in preview just before). Only omission was Nish Kumar, who we love, but we already had tickets for his upcoming tour in Exeter that we bought months ago. Sarah and Sam Simmons were my two standouts and I had no problems with the result at all. I thought it was a really good list, but always would like to see someone not so high up on the comedy radar get a look in. (Only surprise being Seymour Mace, who I loved and was a genuine shock).

Was delighted to see Sofie win best newcomer, as was our chicken named after her, though a bit sad for Larry Dean. He has the personality though that is going to see him be a huge star (agreed – Carole). There isn’t a more likeable performer around.

And so to 2016 if I survive the post Fringe depression that will set in shortly,

Dave.

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