Sam and Tim Present: Behind the Fringe

Edinburgh Fringe
PBH’s Free Fringe @ Opium – Upstairs
26th – 27th Aug, 2021

For this in person 2021 Fringe show called ‘Sam & Tim Present: Behind the Fringe’ we arrived at the Opium bar in Cow gate. The venue is used to having music gigs evident in its layout that looked like so many others but was a great space to feast on some comedy. Sam & Time arose on stage as colleagues in arms suddenly springing to life with their well travelling voices and into the first of their quick fire jokes.

All to do with what they called their show was in their delivery of the behind the fringe variety coming up with suggestions and hints at how to enjoy the fringe. As a comedy duo they informed us that as performers this was to be their first fringe but they had been visiting for 10 years where they saw their first Burlesque show.

They held some mock interviews pulling on stage two leather stools to perch on and to make their jokes. With one doing the asking of sensible questions the other; blowing them apart. Meeting in this way had a melody of comedic characters dressed to fill the space. There was no chance of gainful employment at that time.

The room had filled up a little as the jokes swung by and we were really caught up by the level of humour. The two danced well together balancing off of each other having very complimentary voices one large and more abrupt, the other more coy and bluesy creating the dynamics needed and nailed by their fast moving well pronounced dialogue, offering a gusto performance of their new status as comedians.

They had us twice with the interview skit. It doubled up into another interview that had the same answers of dancing, singing, pink fluffy scarf bearing and more importantly genuinely performing, with the same frustrated interviewer who didn’t have a square answer to any of it. There was a pleasure to it of youth and passion with jokes a wet as if they had just been baptised and without a sign of needing to offend or become distasteful, in fact the opposite was true

After we laughed hard and true at this collage of humorous insights it came to an abrupt end, I was just getting used to them. But we were left with a good feeling that our attendance had been rewarded with great quality and subtle and well earned place of worthwhile comedy. And with the feeling that we wouldn’t mind going back to one of their gigs knowing it will be a good time.

Daniel Donnelly

Tom Mayhew: From Rags to Slightly Newer Rags

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Online Zoom

23rd – 30th Aug, 2021

I turned up a little late for this Comedy called Tom Mayhew: From Rags to Slightly Newer Rags that was another online production. He read from his material and always went back to it if he had become sidetracked by the zoom audience with our mike’s switched on. Not just a guy on a screen, but a capable comedian with a bright future.

I am not suggesting that lightly because from what he told us he had climbed out of the world of benefits (or at least had started the journey) coming about when radio work came calling. The 3 or 4 audience was something he just worked with. Evidently understanding his crowd as an established comic should.

The general autobiographical idea behind the show was a good stroke for his work where he could dive in and out of his material and remain relevant to us his audience. Creating this bond was an important way to make a good comedy progress, so he maintained it from beginning to end. The one hour aspect he used to drive home a funnier perspective almost squashing his performance and condensing the experience.

As this young man talked he delivered discursive concepts of social awareness and social injustice. His important work as a comic he claimed (quite rightly) was at the forefront of his life. He sympathised with actors and artists then brought out very absurd thoughts that literally triggered my good humour.

All of his material had a real sense of the injustices prevalent in our world today making him a kind of rebel comic ready to make the sacrifice for his beliefs. And his beliefs seemed to be very righteous and outspoken because of the severity of his subjects.

We loudly would agree with him even if he had only sprinkled in a circumstance or situation we could relate to. Using funny examples (in the most comic way) to underline his points of view. He compared us (humans) to pigeons with the notion that they have more rights than us.

Perhaps using the pigeon proposition specifically to stir our distaste because in our world pigeons seem very lowly and even despicable. It was a celebration of irony, intricately woven by a very confident writer. Sharpening his tools to seem like taking care of us lovingly then sitting back, arms folded proud of the chaos he’s just let loose.

We enjoyed his organisation keeping things in a delightful formation and in his wiliness to be a comic. He passionately wanted to sustain his beliefs in being one, with material good enough to take on tour and who knows what next. My enthusiasm for him is evident and that doesn’t happen without something having transposed.

This performance was more than fresh, without even trying, youthfully engaging, like an honour waiting to happen with a bright energy and very good wit. He did the work; he made the show which was really quite exciting. His vibrations were felt by all being great vibrations of complete laughing, inhaling comedy. We will see you next time somewhere.

Daniel Donnelly

According To Everyone Else (WIP)

Lorraine Hoodless

Edinburgh Free Fringe Festival

Online Zoom

25th – 28th Aug, 2021

When approaching a zoom meeting for this Augusts Edinburgh Fringe the nerves get going with a feeling of anything could happen. I tuned into this show called ‘According to everyone else’ by the hilarious Lorraine Hoodless was one such show. As more and more faces appeared for the stand up solo performance her tiny stage space had blue fairy lights decorating the scene. She with enthusiasm gave us a countdown and asked for cameras and mike’s to be on so as to feed on our laughter and responses.

She came on owning the mike in a beautiful sequined like dress to offer her comedic vibe. She used all sorts of themes to joke about with punch lines of abrupt comedy. She allowed comments from her audience that came across as heckling; something I have not heard in a while, so was refreshing to take part in.

Everything from addiction to dating, self reflecting; telling us of her relationship with alcohol, saying she was no princess. She seemed a lovely girl until using crass and uncomfortable ideas where you either laugh or become offended. All of which is in the name of a stand up set up that always prove to be very popular.

On the shared Zoom screen we could gauge faces and reactions. A couple also in Edinburgh took in the show in a hot tub. This tickled Lorrain greatly as she spent some time joking about it. The sight of these two was a pleasant one and gave a unique experience for me and everyone else. She used one liners, punch lines and these were often very subtle but once grasped were very funny evoking bouts of laughter from everyone.

She took us into space as well and into fashion and podcast jokes. It was a pleasure just being there listening to her talk in stories about things that she flipped into being laughter filled suggestions. In her bag of treats she revealed her love of dolls. But put a skit on it as she showed us various hairdos she gave them.

Her confidence was obvious and her wit was ever expanding. She had the idea of making drinking alcohol an Olympic event (who else would have thought of that?), and compared a cat to a piano. These polar opposites were a big source for comedy that though very light hearted was not afraid to push the envelope of taste and discrepancy.

Lorraine was very easy to take in even as a small figure on a laptop screen. Her dress and lights sparkled in beauty; her smiles were just as rewarding to us as they were to her. Viewing this show wound up a resounding success, some of her audience she knew but for me it was an introduction to her kooky, comedic celebration and charmingly fast and honest jokes about whatever she felt like. This is what live comedy is about, she held her ground and gave as good as she got.

But she came across very happy about her show and how it is being viewed in this year’s online side of things. Very happy to denounce things that should not be, and spread awareness for things that should. Sending a message comes from any genre, perhaps hit further home when it’s done with a good sense of humour.

Daniel Donnelly

Absolutely Themeless

Laughing Horse Free Fringe Festival

Online Zoom

27th – 28th Aug, 2021

Grab your friends and loved ones for this stand up hour called the untimely ‘Absolutely Theme less’ introduced by Colin Etches, Rachel Morton and Jaleelah Galbraith as precisely that; theme less. I was online again for this one that had me in tears from the get go. These three met online during the lock down and had never met in person. This was a blessed meeting of comedic entrepreneurs who felt it had turned into a very special relationship.

In a punk rock shaky camera atmosphere a long haired Colin sent his rhapsody at us of humour that reached the very bone. His performance was self revelatory about really gut wrenchingly sad stories about his life ever since he could remember. This introduction was very clever as he could create his own scope of jokes having total control.

His long lists of sufferance had taken his humour on strange and mysterious journeys into his vivid enactment of comedy. With sensory distortions that made him unable to cope with lights and loud noises. A favourite of his was to devour the Bible, dissecting it into a kind of repetitious story telling that has happened over time. So he set the scene for an open field for his new found compatriots to take on.

Well warmed up and in the mood for laughter we were joined by the second performance of the evening the show stealing Rachel came to pass.

Now this girl was funny. She had an air of hilarity in her very expression with eyes that looked so funny as to hurt us with laughter (side split). Did anyone enjoy lock down? She stirringly asked with a touch of secret hilarity, using her methods of ask then receive as in telling us what she went through during it. As with so many chats right now the world compares its achievement during this long period only to state her non productive time of it.

In only 20 min each act was filled to the brim with subject of concern that was also very well paced as to lose none of its potency for their small but tight audience. With the height of wit in her expressions and eye movements (she often laughed with us) she procured a performance of a comedic life time (to be repeated until the end of time).

This three point show was very much a work of all of them together, which set them apart. The comradery of this show came at a time that enhanced the work into something special and worthy of a following. And for the third and final exhibition of humour came Jaleelah.

She started her screen show with a powerful joke about not being able to find her cervix. From which she cleverly sculpted all that followed. What did follow was a high octane cavalcade of personal humour and jokes, made all the more real in a one to one interaction bringing closeness and offering the opportunity for laughter.

As with the others she covered a great many things from random thoughts to sanitary towels to platonic friendship. Jaleelah was charmingly without graces when she mentioned online dating and preferences for jewellery. All said with a great smile and a cutting wit that took care of everything from the most serious to the most strange and insightful things.

The evening was the stories and past times of each actor (stand up) woven together well and came across as a tightly bonded group of acts. All were well established comedians making their 2020 introductions something of a phenomenon. They portrayed their jokes with the gusto of nothing but jokes, with no difficulty and no flaws; just an easy interaction between friends who find things incredibly funny. A group to make you laugh, sympathise and even be aware of. Lets laugh about these things and then laugh some more

Daniel Donnelly

The Five Percent Fringe

So its back, the Edinburgh Fringe, tho’ not as we know it, Jim! Wandering the streets of heartland Edinburgh in August is usually met with an avalanche of humanity, colour, flyers & foodstuffs. Not this Covid-hit year, tho’, when its all a bit like going to a nightclub before 10 PM when it was free entry, a few ghostly figures scattered about the tables & no-one dancing to the DJ whose just been given a half hour on the decks before starting his glass-collecting shift.

For me, who has run the Mumble since 2013, when during the Fringes has risen my senses of appreciation & creative faculties to such a pitch, I could bang out 4 or 5 pretty snazzy reviews a day – for this Fringe I thought I’d just pop mi ‘ead in for a few hours & see some funny stuff at random.

M’lady & our dog on Arran

My Fringe began in Arran with a visit from m’lady to the bookshop I’m opening there – a base to create some musical theatre on Robert The Bruce. With m’lady taking a turn for the fluey worse, I drove us all the way to East Lothian, & on the next day bobbl’d into town on the bus in bright all-day sunshine to see my first comedy show in nearly 2 years – Deathbed Confessions of a Hypochondriac by award-winning sketch comedy troupe, UCL’s MDs Revue.

The queue at the Surgeon’s Hall for Deathbed Confessions

I found the experience more philosophical than funny. University sketch comedy is a staple of the Fringe & watching the team go through their topical satires on the vaccination wars & the decline of the NHS, roll’d out via a stream of entertaining characters was, well, unoriginal. There were no orgasms of hilarity, only a feeling of titterflies assembling in the belly. But that’s not the point of university sketch comedy in general, its meant to meet minds & mould possible future icons of comedy. I’m not sure if I saw any Hugh Lawries or Dawn Frenches, but none were unlikeable, & no sketch bomb’d, & it was a fun way to start my day wandering the Thalian temples.

The second outing began with a drift down to the Cowgate where hardly any puntersouls did wander. I was taken by a big sexy poster of Ollie Horn, whose excellent Japanese stuff I’d reviewed a couple of years ago – a funny guy & nice to see him full size. I’m sure his posters are going to continue to get bigger over the coming years, he’s quite a talent.

As I was passing Opium nightclub I was flyered by a tall American-sounding gentleman & I said, ‘sure bruv, I’ll see ya show.’ Running about like a mad ‘ead during the Fringes, off to review performers who’d paid for their review, I never get a chance to see random stuff on the spot. That’s why people buy a Mumble reviewer, its the only way to cut them a swathe through the teeming seas of prospective shows.

“Would you be friends with yourself if you weren’t you?”

Gary Bird

This year no money’s changing hands so I felt freed up to be flyered, & I’m glad I did so. Gary Bird was the guy’s name, who soon transformed me into a patient & himself into this Groucho Marxean, cigar-puffing maniacal doctor for a lovely monologue of word-perfect delivery – every slightest nuance of accent was issued into the room without flaw. His stuff was funny too, comblended together under the title of Psychoanalyzing the Audience, it sees Dr. Hoppenbopper, from the Geneva Institute for the Technically Insane become almost an intimate friend so full of insight-scented warmth is Bird’s creation.

Copluating gastropods

After pottering about town a bit, dining with the pigeons of Nicholson Square, & watching the operatic mating of a couple of slugs, I came to the second half of my day oot! Gary Bird had given me the Free Fringe booklet, so I had some choices on where I went now.

After seeing sketch comedy & a phantasy monologue, I opted for straight stand-up & a biocom, the latter being a comedian humourising real-life events. The stand-up was Alistair Barrie, whose show Unfurloughed was played out to a full house at Whistle Binkies.

It was my first stand-up comedy for nearly two years & I found him proper funny for a bit – he was smashing it & the room – a sizzling set of lockdown anecdotes & Tory bashing all of us could connect to in some way… but then the novelty was soon wearing off. I mean, the world has changed during the ‘Great Reset,’ it really has. I want more from my comedians, now, I’ve decided. The cliche-quiches of Sketch Comedy & Stand-Up are reliques of the past & from on I’ll only see them if I’m paid to do so, a sentiment triply confirm’d by the excellent Kate Smurthwaite, whose brilliant show ‘The Last Mayor of Fihalhohi’ I honoured with its own review. For this I’d had to queue up outside Banshee Labyrinthe for my token, given out an hour before her show started – this was 6.20. I then dash’d up the road to watch Barrie at 6.25, then snook out before the end of his show to see Smurthwaite at 7.20, a mad Hamster like dash to end my Five Percent Fringe.

Kate Smurthwaite outside the Banshee Labyrinthe

So, a big shout out to all those who made it & made it happen this year. I’m glad I’ve done my bit & I must admit the next day I was ready to go again. But then I’m like, nah, that’ll do for this year, m’lady needs her lemsips, & settl’d content knowing the Comedy Gods have stay’d alive thro’ the lockdowns – some just surviving & some thriving majestic.

Damian Beeson Bullen


The Real Gary Bird

Dear Mumble

Thank so much for your generous review of my son’s performance in “Psychoanalyzing the Audience”.  Just one correction, however: His name is Gabriel — the performer.  I am his father Gary — the author.  I admit to having had second thoughts about pointing out the error, as I took some pride at having my name in the limelight, however, briefly.  Alas, though I felt no compunction at receiving praise I did not deserve — I have, admittedly received such little praise throughout my life that I will take it in any form — I could not do so at the expense of my son.  (Although the money we spent raising him and the sacrifices we went through, I really DO deserve the praise!)

My wife and I have not seen the play yet, but are flying to Edinburgh tomorrow from Geneva to see it this weekend.  Cheers and thanks again 

Gary Bird (the author)

Kate Smurthwaite: The Last Mayor of Fihalhohi

Edinburgh Fringe

Banshee Labyrinth

Aug 18-29 (19.20)

New times Added

After eight straight years of reviewing Fringe comedy, it was a weird feeling to wander Edinburgh last August, with the subterranean ghost city having moved upstairs. This year’s not much better – I call it the ‘Five Percent Fringe,’ & having relocated elsewhere in Scotland on a trip that needs ferries & loads of driving, I’m like I’m just gonna have one day in Edinburgh this year. So, after spending my solitary stint at the Fringe paddling in the soft pools of not-so-funny, what an absolute Big Top delight it was to end my day in the company of Kate Smurthwaite at the Banshee Labyrinth’s salubrious Cinema Room. The Spirit of the Fringe has survived after all – that of innovation, orchestration &, most of all, celebration.

In the case of the self-trumpeting international tourist/temptress, Kate Smurthwaite, we are given a detailed & vigourful account of her narrow escape from an English lockdown in January, & subsequent months-long domicile in a 3 star resort on a tiny Maldives island. To keep Alive one must Survive & Thrive, & she spent several months living the show a full house was eager to witness. Into the monologue come all the characters – good & bad – she met along the way, erupting into a lifesize convocation in part from Kate’s vivid storytelling, & in another because they are all real people. At the start of the show Smurthwaite set out her stall by saying every step of her account happened as she describes – & of course with truth being stranger than fiction, we will be more entertain’d in the hearing.

But why did I enjoy the show so much? For a start I connected with her – I escaped lockdown myself, spending months in 2020 in Greece & Malta. On top of that Kate’s zest for living is very likeable, a daring wee buddha for people who think & act not quite like her, but along the same lines. She’s a trailblazer, a guru, something like that. So much so, she gave a fascinating insight into the comedic vocation, explaining how she has to politelty shrug off the many, many people who identify with her subjects at the end of each performance. That’s because she connects so well – but at the same time thrills us all. The combo is what won me; cute & sound; entertaining & inspiring – Kate Smurthwaite’s a profoundly inspiring performer.

It turns out I’m not the only admirer. Word is getting out there’s something genuine in town – a Hollywood blockbuster set on an exotic island which is enticing a travel-starv’d Scottish populace to take a looksee, as if Byron’s Childe Harolde was rampaging effortlessly across Napoleonic Europe. New show times have been added due to demand, so it will also be on at 15:20 from the 18th-29th and at 20:40 from the 20th-29th (not 21st). Yes, she will be doing three shows a day, & I genuinely would go & see her all three times, so nuanced & smart & just so plain cool is her story: the ultimate warm & cozy holiday slide show – with laughs!

Damian Beeson Bullen

Photography: Niham Mohammad

Nathan Cassidy: Bumblebee

Edinburgh Fringe

Free Sisters

Various Dates / Times

Over the last 18 months, time, for many of us, has taken on curious new properties. At points, existence has felt as if it possessed the surreal properties of a Looney Tunes cartoon, days and weeks speeding past us in a Roadrunner-esque blur. Whilst pop-cultural events, and ‘historic moments’ in our – and society’s – lives, sit frozen in an ever present stasis at the front of our minds, a carbonite Casket in which Bobba Fett has accidentally placed Joe Exotic, instead of Han Solo.

It’s to Nathan Cassidy’s immense credit that he has managed to distil precisely this experience into an hour of well crafted Observational Comedy, and some tantalisingly brief glimpses of a Physical Comedy masterclass, which had the post lockdown, multi demographic, full house of a crowd engaged, laughing, and emoting throughout it’s entire length.

Framed around Mr Cassidys recent brush with an amateurish burglar; driven by Covid related unemployment into an ill-fated life of crime, he links together the moments which whizzed past his eyes whilst giving chase down the street, soundtracked by ‘Flight of The Bumblebee.’ Comic, and semi-tragic, memories from childhood are blended with a Charlie Brooker style take down of the villains of politics, economics, and Social Media, from the last 12 months. Billionaire Astronauts, over-efficient home schoolers, social media spite competitions, “Cuntservatives”.

There was as broad a demographic in the room as you could imagine, and laughs from every corner, with knowingly chuckling students, guffawing pensioners, and even a 6 month old baby (who gave a small, but vociferous, attempt at heckling near the end of the show, which Cassidy managed with confidence and panache).

Like the show’s title, and the oft referenced Rimsky Korsakoff piece, Mr Cassidy buzzes around his subjects, little flashes and bursts of reminiscences from 80’s pop culture, political landscape, and his home above the wonderfully monikered ‘Lettuce and Letters’ (A greengrocers cum Post Office, as if you had to ask).

Throughout, it’s hard to define precisely what is and isn’t strictly true in the areas of his own life discussed. There is a feel of ‘post truth’ comedy to it, and Nathan seems to present an explanation for this ¾’s of the way through the show, with the revelation of an ill family member, or is there? This, as with a number of the short, neatly interlocking Lego style segments is slightly rushed. A few sections suffer from this lack of clarity, and more time, and care, spent at the beginning of the set in laying out ‘the premise’ of the show would aid this greatly.

I love Edinburgh, and having come for over 10 years on the trot now every street has a different memory, good, bad and wonderful, every nook and cranny sets off a different feeling inside me, it’s a magical place. 


To avoid some of the 80s references falling flat with younger sections of the audience, these were all neatly picked up, or ‘topped’, by adding in a topical lockdown reference to counterpoint. This tactic however was not required for his joke about televisions historic 9pm ‘watershed’. Such a perfectly crafted thing of beauty it was, that it overcame any potential crowd prudishness about it’s own X-rated punchline, and delivered a comically apt torrent of expectorated laughs from representatives of every age group in the room (6 month old baby aside). The presence of a child that young, hearing this kind of material deep in the bowels of the perma-beer soaked Three Sisters, seemed fittingly surreal in the context of our current reality.

The flashbacks to his childhood, or “stuff that flashes before your eyes”, could work better in first person. Cassidy excels when delivering as Cassidy, not so much when he segues into a narrator role. How he actually ‘feels’ about the memories he describes is slightly lost in the storytelling, when his obvious physical comedy prowess could serve him better. This is particularly evident in his delivery of some U2 themed punnery which doesn’t land as well as the set up deserved. Likewise, a section which could have neatly skewered the audiences hypocrisy in terms of individuals who they have considered to be ‘Heroes’ over the last 12 months, didn’t land as well as it might due to his use of the word Police, instead of Policemen/Women, asking the audience to compare apples to oranges and in doing so losing a moment of the joke’s momentum.

The physical comedy is very tight, and a talent for delivering observational comedy is best highlighted in moments such as poignantly, and very entertainingly, illustrating his step fathers character through the manner in which he grasped CD’s, or the tactically deployed cheeky facial asides and knowing looks to the audience as he mimes his minimalist heroic sprint after the escaping burglar. A performance of the recent Matt Hancock ‘smooch n’grope tape’ is nauseatingly spot on, and I can only imagine that there must have been some Pop Art therapeutic process at work in his performance of his step parents super hero themed sex games.

When the lights came up the audience lauded the performance with extended, warm applause recognising, it would seem, that here was someone who like them had lived and survived the travails, large and small, of these unprecedented recent times. If it felt somewhat as if Cassidy hadn’t quite figured out what it all meant yet, then that was possibly the greatest gift he gave the audience to take away with them as they emerged from the darkness of the venue into a surreally cold, quiet Cowgate in August, free of flyerers, performers, and sociable 3pm drunkards. For a stand up to create something which united the entire audience in laughter, oozed pathos, and in an almost tangible sense ‘connected’ the whole room, and for it to have been written in the isolation of a post-burgled house in London, is no mean feat and testament to a very exciting talent indeed.

Ewan Law