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

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