Hot Mess

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The Mumble love to see the baton of inspiration being passed along to the next generation. Last year, best friends Max Levine and Anna Piper gorged on the Edinburgh Fringe, & this year they’ve returned with their spanking new debut. The Mumble went to check out them out…


INTERVIEW

Hello Max, so where are you both from and where ya at, geographically speaking?
MAX: I’m Nottingham born and bred. Home of Robin Hood, lace and the world’s oldest pub… although to be fair I think every city in England claims to have the world’s oldest pub and other places probably have ones that smell less like sick. Anna’s from Birmingham which becomes very audible as soon as she experiences any heightened emotion.

You both met at Soho Young Company, what is it?
MAX: It’s a programme you apply for and then if you get in Soho Theatre get you to do all these great workshops with total legends like Richard Gadd and other intimidatingly good people. Anna and I met doing some stand up workshops and we soon found out we were both hating performing on our own to rooms of three old white guys so teamed up. It’s been hot platonic love ever since.

You are bringing a show to this year’s Fringe, can you tell us about it?
MAX: Can I? I CAN! At the time of printing Anna and I are best friends and have been for a couple of years. I’m fully obsessed with her lifestyle choices e.g. she has seven cats. We spend so much time together that we started to film ourselves hanging out. And from that footage we came up with ideas for sketches. Did I mention she has SEVEN CATS? Seven. It’s too many cats.

How did you get the idea behind the show?
ANNA: We got the idea at last year’s Fringe when we were up as punters cramming in 8 shows a day. We loved the weird and wonderful sketches we saw but found ourselves wondering where the ideas came from. In our show we give you that peek behind the curtain – or in Max’s case a blanket suspended from some crocodile clips on a pole in his bedroom, he calls it a ‘life hack’ and it looks awful.

Which part of your show is your favourite?
ANNA: There’s a bit in the show when I have a breakdown on stage, and ugly cry. Its always fun to do, and often very cathartic. I don’t really get to see the audience until the very end, sometimes they’re laughing and others look a bit worried for me. But either way I’m fine guys…honestly.

What was it like performing in the London Eye?
MAX: It was great fun. It lends itself to so many jokes – “If you feel uncomfortable please feel free to leave at any time”, “If we run over they’ve said it’s not a problem but we will have to do another full rotation”. The big bosses at the eye asked us to do an hour of Ferris Wheel based material…I think we managed five. The rest was Teresa May impressions, puns about London Landmarks, and selfies. Needless to say, it was a hoot.

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There’s a sketch in the show about Max’s Spanish teacher outing him, is that true?
ANNA: Surprisingly yes, I think his mum only told him a year or so ago and he when he relayed it to me I was like “I know this sounds like quite a traumatic revelation about your burgeoning sexuality in your teenage years…but can we make it a sketch”. We may have exaggerated the tale slightly for dramatic effect but like any good real crime drama, it’s based on a true story.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show in the street…
ANNA: Two best friends filmed themselves for a year. From that footage they give you their funniest sketch ideas, and a peek at their intense friendship. A show by Bezzie mates for Bezzie mates.

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REVIEW

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The word on the street was that there were some hip new sketch artists in town, so off I trotted to the Caves to check out if the rumors were true. Happily they were, for Hot Mess possess a show into which has pour’d the pandora’s box of their mutually inspired imaginations, uncorked into performance for us all. I love the fact that Max & Anna – the best mates behind Bezzies –  were up at the comedy boarding school that is the Fringe last year, ‘cramming in 8 shows a day.‘ Twelve months later they are back, with a first year dissertation lets say, so what have they got?

For a start they do offer unique material, a cool wee archipelago of fertile greenery in the vasty seas of sketch comedy. They open on a nightclub floor, dancing to their own voiceover thoughts, introducing immediately that they are multi-media millennials & are happy to utilise technology. This schema is soon expanded upon; we live in an instagramic age, where everything  is recorded, & thus a portion of this year’s show contains footage – whether staged or not – of them actually brainstorming the show.

The sketches varied in quality & impact – from cutting-edge observational hilarity to asinine incest stuff – but the performance was always completely pleasurable to watch. Max & Anna share this windy, interchangeable energy, & watching best friends at work on a performance level is always a particularly fine watch. There is also an undercurrent of didacticism going on, for their sketches are designed to raise topics of thought, & then make fun of them, like the role of toxic masculinity in society for example.

This is an extremely promising start from Hot Mess; the energy is bubbling up nicely, the ideas are swirling about the pan; & with a little more cooking their mess should be overflowing the pan & penetrating every nook & cranny of the Comedy sphere.

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Bezzie Mates

Just the Tonic at The Caves

Aug 17-26 (20:05)

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Steve Bennett: A Jaded Opinion?

chortle.jpgSteve Bennett is a well respected man about the comedy circuit, yes, but I am getting the feeling he is rapidly becoming the Arsene Wenger of comedy reviewing. On three occasions this Fringe I have been completely blown away by the youthful talent & bountiful originality of certain artists, whose shows’ names I shall leave out of this wee pontification. Five star shows the lot of them. Yet, a couple of days after my own visitations, Mr Bennett trundled in to see the same shows & is only giving them 3s. Is he observing the same shows that I am? Is he seeing the same hunger of performers in their prime, the same tenacity of talent, the same boundary-breaking of burgeoning genius? Clearly yes, for he does describe each show’s sheen accurately enough – but the substance & magic, definitely not.

Once is opinion, twice is taste, but thrice… that doesnae even make the Europa League. Perhaps it is time, like Mr Wenger, for Bennett to retire from front-line duties & leave the reviewing to a fresh generation. Throughout the 21st century comedy, like football, has evolved & it seems like Mr Bennett is stuck firmly in the stand-up of the past, when comedians of today are soaring on the winds of the future. Chortle is a great addition to the comedy world, & if Mr Bennett focuses his energies solely on the admin side, the site will be of further assistance to the Fringe & beyond for many years to come.

Damo

Roman Fraden: Back In The Closet

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Gilded Balloon Teviot – Balcony
Aug 16-27 (23:30)

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The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is home to thousands of no-holds-barred acts that consistently push the boundary of what we might consider to be performance. From musicals about Brexit to a flight crash simulator show there’s no end to the weird and wacky at this year’s Fringe. Then there’s Roman Fraden’s show ‘Roman Fraden: Back in the Closet’ which seems to redefine the whole genre of comedy: bizarre isn’t a strong enough word for this one-man show filled with drugs, figure skating, Nutella, Tonya Harding, sequins and penises.

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Former figure skater Roman Harding has always been an overachiever, with a childhood filled with figure skating training, dieting and missing out on normal teenage life shaping the man we engage with in his one-hour show. His set is a mixture of stand-up comedy, figure skating re-enactment, songs on the piano, dancing to psychedelic music and a fully functioning phallic puppet. This variation takes some time to adjust to: but the way that Fraden throws himself into every personal anecdote just about saves the show’s jagged structure. This is perhaps where the show occasionally falls down: there’s no clear narrative voice or extended look into any area of Fraden’s life – the spontaneity of the piece is fun but also perhaps limiting. As a result we have a clear idea of who Fraden is now but not a strong idea of how he got there, meaning we enjoy a very entertaining hour of performance that does not necessarily offer much.

Having said this, it is undeniable that Fraden is a magnetic performer, delivering his set as if he were spontaneously talking to a group of friends: anything from stating that the English word ‘gay’ in Russia will merely order you more sauce to casually telling us that Tonia Harding taught him how to hotwire a car is done with casual humour and effortless delivery. This is the show’s greatest strength: it’s engaging and funny but earnest and at times moving, with the show ending on a positive note that leaves us as an audience feeling as if we’ve spent an hour amongst a group of friends. Jokes made at the audience’s expense are sharp and clever but never cruel – a difficult balance to strike that Fraden achieves effortlessly, using them to bring the audience together as we laugh at ourselves. Though disconnected, Fraden’s show is a madly fun and occasionally moving look into an unusual life delivered with warmth and humour.

Lucy Davidson

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Charlie Partridge: I Can Make You Feel Good. By Comparison.

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Just the Tonic at The Caves
Aug 16-26 (16:50)

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The show began with an excitable character with an indeterminet Euro-sleaze accent welcoming us and directing us into the venue which was lit up with flashing coloured lights and loud disco music. He tried to get us up and dancing with him – I call it ‘vaughing not vouging’ he said – before demonstrating to us his beatboxing skills. He mixed himself live accompanying himself on a cod-German ditty about breasts. Just as I was getting used to – and warming to – this rather ridiculous fellow who was reminiscent of one of Sacher Baron Cohen’s wilder creations he disappeared before our eyes. It was a shocking moment which took me a few minutes to recover from. It turned out that this whole charade was the ‘real’ Charlie Partridge’s comment on the nature of artifice and the efforts we go to present a fraudulent more exciting, more charismatic version of ourselves.

What followed was a stand up routine based around the familiar tropes of crappy jobs and difficult relationships. We learned about Partridge’s work as a voice over artist, snack ambassador and bingo caller and his dissatisfactions with both his career and love life. Partridge presents himself as a self-depreciating melancholy fool forever chasing an unrequited love to ridiculous extremes. In other hands this could have made for tiresome company but there was a warmth and pathos to the material that made me connect with it despite the hipster jet-setting lifestyle it portrayed. In fact as he later commented he had lulled us into feeling pity for him despite his privileged position. Some of the points Partridge makes about self-delusion and denial were interesting but neither the self-analysis nor the comedy went quite far enough. Indeed in more adept comedic hands there would have been great mileage in a dissatisfying trip to a San Franciscan orgy but the laughs were thin on the ground. The situation wasn’t helped by a a mass walk out during this section by a school teacher and their class which only added to the bizarre nature of the enterprise.

More could have been made of Partridge’s box of musical tricks but this was only intermittently dropped in to the show at certain points. These demonstrations of his skills behind the mic creating gibberish songs of faux Asian trance or in one memorable skit the effects of a DMT trip were amusing and worth exploring more. Despite this though overall I was left rather bemused by the confessional nature of the material. The first part had rather thrown my ability to trust him and this in a sense never quite recovered. This of course wouldn’t have mattered if I was caught up in the laughter but although I found him an interesting and engaging performer I simply didn’t find it funny enough. I felt the act worked best when playing up the silliness. Partridge clearly has a gift for puns and wordplay which I felt he didn’t really utilise enough. More could have also been made of his skills as a musician/beatboxer too and by the end I was rather hoping for a return from the faux-German character and his silly songs. In his brash, larger than life way he felt more compelling than the sweetly deluded loser he portrayed in the main act. A strange slightly disjointed show; part confession, part song and dance routine and part character comedy it succeeded in not really satisfying any of those aspects whilst remaining an intriguing oddity all the same.

Ian Pepper

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Sisters: On Demand

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Pleasance Courtyard
August 15th-26th (20.15)

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Sisters are doing it for themselves, or is it brothers transcending a range of limitations beyond their control? Mark and Christy are the co-founders of SISTERS: On Demand. Two young, bearded, cocky lads with confidence leaking out of them like an out-of-control toothpaste tube, gracefully glide onto the stage. From the very outset the laughs were rampant, drawn from the audience like a fish struggling for air, you’re hooked. Simply put, Sisters: On Demand is an app you can use to hire, these likely lads for functions which will guarantee more excitement than any Netflix film can offer.

Subject matter is important to any show and this one does in way disappoint. Grasping at life’s funny and difficult situations, we are catapulted from one sketch to another, ysing not much more than a white sheet, a baseball cap and a remote controller as props. I found myself being treated to some of the finest raw sketch acting on offer at this year’s Fringe. Diving deep into the sketches, we are made aware of how funny life can be; arguing parents using kids as ammunition, marriage proposals at an airport check in, sexual robots, a virtual reality Hitler game and not forgetting the local classic Sunshine on Leith, all of which add to this roller-coaster of a show.

A day without laughter is a day wasted, & the well conceived & professionally planned-out Sisters: On Demand is a barrel of laughs and a breath of fresh air. Mark and Christy have pulled together a delicious slice of sketch comedy – dark, bad, funny, direct, confusing, light-hearted, impressive and thought-provoking in the most questionable of ways – the laughter that rose riotously at the beginning remained with us all until the very end.

Raymondo Speedie

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Barry Loves You

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Just the Tonic @ The Tron
Aug 3-12, 14-26 (21.00)

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The Edinburgh fringe is phenomenal, just to see the craziness, of what all all these people are doing with their lives. It’s always so inspiring. It felt like running away to the circus for a week.
Read the full interview

Experiencing Barry Ferns the comedian work a room reminds me of Peter Oundjian conducting a symphonic orchestra. There is control & there is beauty. As an artist, Barry is not rude, nor is he shocking us for laughs – he doesnae need to be confrontational – he’s just happy to share with us all the one truth he knows, & we soon come to know, he gets comedy & he’s shit-hot at it too. He is what I would call a multi-generationalist, sweeping grandly over his topics from the millennials’ take on things & events, to the age-group of his sadly deceased grandfather – a man who turns up in this year’s show, fondly enough, via voice-overs recorded a decade ago.

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Barry takes us on a personal journey, from playing with his birth-name Barry, to his hilarious experiences as a comedian in Sweden, & so much, so much, more. But that leads us to  the one flawback to his show – it feels too long. For Fringe audiences used to football-halves of comedy, Barry took us well beyond the sixtieth minute, drifting out of his well-sustained excellence & into feet-shuffling territory. At the start of ‘Barry Loves You’ it certainly felt as if I was watching a five-star show, & if Barry were to trim about fifteen minutes from his composition, then the malleable clay of his comedy will set into something we can define as a true objet d’art.

Damo

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Will Mars: Candid Cafe

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Bar 50
Aug 6-26 (15:30)

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How is it possible that from such an unassuming, almost melancholic delivery, volcanoes of comedy burst from our psyches to join everyone else’s in the audience, like the tectonic creation of a new world. That world belongs to Will Mars, a dedicated comedian with a surreptitious story to tell. In fact it is very much the story of being a stand-up, warts ‘n’ all, & deglosses some of the glory we lesser mortals assume when staring at the life-size technicolour images of the pantheon which surround us in the Edinburgh streets. According to Will Mars – and I do believe him – comedians are mortals too, who can bleed, & can also feel…

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I do not want to give away the plot of his show, because every nuance of his tale must be appreciated without forewarning to fully appreciate the telling. A lovely Northern lad, he didn’t even need a microphone as he waltzed thro’ his rites of passage; from the gallon-a-girl gigolo of his early twenties, to the late 30s ‘worst version’ of Mr Mars, where he’s refreshingly unafraid to admit men also possess the tick-tick-ticking biological clock. It is impossible not to feel some kind of empathy for Will Mars, & he makes you laugh as you do so. As a storyteller he is a joy to experience; like a quirky terrier yapping jokes at our feet, when every now & again he’d sink his teeth into our calves with a hefty bite.

Damo

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