Loose Brie: Solve Everything

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Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom
Aug 12, 14-26 (19.30)

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Set in the basement of a plush bar The Newsroom was a slightly rough looking night club venue. I thought it would be a fitting venue for the expected degrading content of the show. And indeed around a quarter of the way in, several members of the audience stood up and left in disgust at the dire material. The perpetrators of this comic affront were Martin and Phil, known as Loose Brie, who have shared a flat for many years and came up with the idea of writing a show based on solving all of the world’s problems. In an hour. In tackling many issues very relevant to today’s media driven world, the dynamic between the two seemed only to highlight the contrast they created between themselves and caring responsible adults. The more sensitive the issue, the more distasteful their reactions – no blood, guts or gore, but plenty of nasty physical insinuations.

Mixed in with unspeakable content (of which more later) was some quirky witty banter between the two that was perhaps a product of the real time they spend together in their poky flat. They used improvisation that delighted them – they had a big thing with delight – which actually shone through but didn’t stop more walkouts in disgust. Did we know we would be walking the plank by coming to this event? It was a show filled with distaste and laughter, if you can manage it, in the face of two guys parrying with each other about faults and discrepancies, really about them living together.

It’s a highly physical sketch show, but all the context for the disgusting/distressing physical stuff we do is in what we say. It’s a much darker show without the words
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The title ‘Loose Brie Solve Everything’ afforded some good jokes, as they listed lots of things that need solving, from public embarrassment to which they gave the quick solution of acting weird all the time. They mushed around concepts, finding negatives about each other and then finding it difficult to have anything positive to say. Although it seemed to be about the world, really it seemed to be about them. No sooner had the general remarks and issues momentarily won our attention, than we were shocked back into the howling torrents of abuse as they set an imaginary fire under yet another idea.

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Our thoughts dallied, wondering if we were safe or not just for being there. But we perked up, or slouched in our seats just to see what would happen next, and next it came. Martin used his Freddy Mercury lookalike joke to reel us in, and you know as performance goes he wasn’t too bad at it choosing to growl and speak loudly not to sing poetically. The same strain of intelligence that ran through all of it did bring with it a certain continuity like you’d find in a less disturbing version of theatre, it hits highs and lows, but their reality was to offend the sensibilities and discover who was willing to endure it any further.

The level of uncertainty seemed to be very much on purpose, for although they apologised each time for going too far, they then struck the chord of the kind of comedy where nothing and no one was safe. At least they got me thinking about my own mortality I questioned myself as to how I truly felt about the show I was seeing it was succeeding in doing that for me. This pair weren’t rock stars far away from the actualities of everyday life, these were two guys going through life more than willing to provoke the world (in a small night club in a plush part of Edinburgh’s West end)

For their amazing finale they took their trousers down, bare for all to see! I couldn’t believe it but as a member of the audience, when no one else reacted neither did I, it was socially bad but drew out some laughter as they pretended to speak out of their backsides. If this lot appeals to your darker sensibilities go and watch everything you have ever held dear be blasted away.

Daniel Donnelly

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Dirty White Boys: Manners

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Just the Tonic @ The Caves
August 2-26 (22.10)

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The Dirty White Boys are back at the Fringe. They are white, yeah, they’re a bit naughty at times, but as for boys, nah, these guys are real working men in a realm which needs good solid performers. I love the physical quality of their act; they come across individually as a young Christopher Biggins & the bullying intensity of an early Ade Edmondson. As a double act they are the 21st century’s Two Ronnies; the sketch where they are speaking in unison is particularly sublime. The rest of their sketches do vary in quality – like a box of Quality Street – a couple were, well, sketchy, but when they really let rip it is comedy adamantine.

We exhaust one idea of comic potential and move onto the next one. No stone left unturned. And they’re really beautifully bizarre ideas this year
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Happy to indulge in international stereotypes & other such comedic archetypes, yet chucking original ideas into the mix, their show is a lovely blend of manic & amusing moments. Examples include a Crystal Maze clip, Judith & Valerie’s Avon sex-toy chat, Maud & Milo’s Motel & Mortuary & the opening Russian spy thriller which is a stormblast of guffawing perfection. The best, however, was the Pub Quiz section where the quizmaster focused all his efforts on the break-down of his marriage. Watching the Dirty White Boys makes one proud to be part of the Great British sketch tradition, which the lads are handling with confidence, deference & talent.

Damo

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Claire Ford: Unboxed

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The Caves
Aug 12th-26th (14:00)

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If there’s one thing you can’t flaw Ms Ford on it’s her honesty. Largely. Her show is based around the mostly true story of her life up to this point and she doesn’t spare any of the grisly details. The unboxed of the title refers to her father who was CEO of a box making company. I wouldn’t want to reveal anything more about the story in case I spoil the numerous surprises – suffice to say that her life is a lot more interesting than a few cardboard boxes. The big hearted Ms Ford tells her story with a delightful whimsy and energy while not shying away from darker territories and the pathos that goes with any show this revealing. I have rarely seen a comic being this candid about their personal life and it was certainly refreshing.  It is also apparent that she has a reasonable amount of experience in the field and I regret not seeing her previous show Kagool which, if this show was anything to go by, I’m sure would have been a treat for the senses. And treat for the senses it was. The stage set comprised solely of an unpromising stack of cardboard boxes. But they were soon brought to life with imaginative projections and ingenious sound design.

When I was 5 my Dad took me to his huge warehouse in the Fens in East Anglia. It was full to the ceiling with cardboard boxes and he said to me ‘one day all of those will be yours’.
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However, what really made this show stand out was the unexpected twist towards the end of the second act. I don’t want to give too much away but a shift in tone was created quite suddenly and to great dramatic effect. The M Night Shyamalan of comedy if you will. Certainly a brave move and one that, in less skilled hands, could have been disastrous. But all credit to Ms Ford she unshirkingly (is that a word?) stared into the void and the void stared right back. Only at us, the audience who, rather than recoiling, leaned in and pricked up our senses in anticipation of what would follow. Don’t be fooled by the cardboard boxes and apparent infatuation with Philip Schofield this comedian is anything but dull. If you can handle the truth, and maybe a little bit of R Kelly, this shows for you.

Victor Pope

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Lovehard: Tales From The Elsewhere

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 Pravda at Espionage

Aug 2-26 (20.45)


Lovehard are a comedy double act with some form at the fringe having garnered rave reviews for their festival show last year – but would this year’s effort match those giddy heights? The audience is immediately thrown into the action as two scientists struggle with the repercussions of an experiment gone wrong. They have inadvertently opened a portal to a deadly dimension of killer sound-waves, stored on a cassette tape which must now at all costs be destroyed. The cassette of course ends up going missing, and finds itself in the hands of our unsuspecting heroes, three geeky high school kids.

What follows is a brilliant parody of sci-fi, teen and horror B-movie tropes which manages to find room to spoof everything from Stranger Things to Back to the Future. The plot itself, if played straight, would be a supremely enjoyable episode of The Twilight Zone. Lovehard are clearly not only gifted comic actors but also scholars of the material with a real love of the genre sending up the cliches of teen movies such as proms, yard sales and bullying jocks to winning effect. They also find time to make allusions to Shakespeare and Greek Myth, but those of you wary of something highbrow which requires a degree in comparative literature to enjoy need not fear as this show is as gloriously silly as it is smart. The jokes come thick and fast throughout the show, involving plenty of fun with the stilted dialogue and anachronistic teen slang found in the source material (what at first feels a rather laboured joke about 60’s pop has a wonderful pay off later in the show which is well worth the wait ) as well as some brilliant use of breaking the fourth wall and addressing the audience directly.

LoveHard Edinburgh poster 2018The pair are as gifted physically as they are verbally and there are some delightful moments of physical comedy which make good use of the pair’s gift for mime. I was particularly taken by a slow motion fight involving various characters. In fact much humour is derived from the fact that the cast of the little town in which the show is set is played by only two actors. This involves a fair amount of silly voices, exaggerated postures and a hectic pace which ably demonstrates the skills of the pair and their gift for self-mockery.

There is not much to comment on in the way of props, costume or set to the piece but what there is within the show is a very inventive use of sound. Unsurprising in a show in which the main threat is a killer sound-wave the use of audio is big aspect of the work and this handled with real subtlety and skill. The spooky electronic background music parodies only too well sci-fi TV themes such as Stranger Things and The X Files and the ominous reverb, angry static and distorted voices bring a real richness to the show creating a sense of atmospheric dread which the duo at times joyfully puncture. Along with the rest of the audience – howling with laughter throughout – I thoroughly enjoyed Tales From Elsewhere, a comedy spoof with real heart, intelligence and most of all laughter. I will certainly be interested to see what the energetic and imaginative Lovehard will unleash upon us next.

Ian Pepper

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Sasha Ellen: No Man’s Land

Just The Tonic @ The Caves
Aug 2-12 (14:10)

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As her twenties have trundled by, Sasha Ellen, a self-confess’d product of teen pregnancy & the English Literature pyramid scheme – has found out that she has undoubted ability to make people laugh, a rare gift which she is sharing with us at the Fringe. Her show is in two halves, the first a more conventional stand-up routine which introduces us to her personality, her history, her horny cousin, etc., & there is meat & magic in her act. She is like a cool glass of prosseco under a blonde summer’s day, whose air bubbles of comedy float to the surface & pop with a crisp, refreshing quality. There really was never a dull in second in this section, which possesses the wonderful line ‘you don’t know your family til you’ve seen every one of your uncles in knee-high leather boots.’

As is widely acknowledged, comedy is tragedy plus time. Last year enough time has finally passed for me to tell the stupidly long story at a party and realise that it was a weird, unique and hilarious thing to have happened.
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Part two is a different affair completely, in which Sasha tells us the story of the time she & her boyfriend brought the small Channel Island of Herm to a halt. It is a fun story, yes, its just that Sasha hasn’t quite got the storytellers ‘performers’ art off to a tee yet, with all its secret nuances of decoration & embellishments. There are some great moments in the tale, still, I loved the fact she’d actually researched Hermean happenings & discovered that in World War 2 a German soldier had caused unrest among the nuns, & afternoon tea had been cancelled. As a complete show, however, Sasha Ellen is a treat. Its nice for her to invite us all within her flourishing sense of humour & its the perfect put-your-feet-up, laugh & listen show after lunch

Damo

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Courtroom Play: A Courtroom Play


Pleasance Dome 
Until August 27th (not 13th) (12:25)


“Courtroom Play” … did exactly what it said on the tin. The economically sized stage – one must become accustomed to the small size of Fringe venues in Edinburgh city centre – was tidily set up to immediately point the way in to what lay ahead, with the words “Preston & Gates” projected on to a screen at the back and black drapes at either side of the stage acting like columns. The overall feel was like a Lawyer’s office in an older city centre building. I found the screen itself most attractive with its geometric shapes and cerulean blue light that glowed out over the audience.

The first character to grace the stage was lawyer Alex Stone, who stood alone and told us she was a hot-shot lawyer fighting in the name of justice. In fact we learn that she has come back to her home town, a place called Thatchford, from the big city firm where she works in order to do that very thing. And thus the scene is set for the story to unfold before our eyes. The action moves along at an easy pace, with plenty of scene changes, enlightening conversations, quickfire dialogue and wisecracks, performed with gusto by the all-star cast of Fringe comedians. We find ourselves effectively drawn ever further in to the drama, as we follow the scene changes and focus on each character in turn as the story develops.

The most striking, indeed the brashest, character in all this was inevitably the Judge, with his large wig and audience prompts. But it was more than the props – this character had a commanding presence as he presided over his court, set high above the stage, and the audience both respected him and collapsed in laughter at his gruff jokes. In the court scene, in contrast to the main characters’ dark formal dress, the stage and the judge’s high desk was all lit up in colour, giving the scene a feeling almost of a Spiegel tent, which gave the show a very appealing appearance.

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When the three witnesses – all portrayed by the same actress – took to the stage, the set stood still and dark but for the spotlight that lit up the space. The dialogue was concise, and delivered with a kind, quiet respect for these justice seekers. It showed enemies (defence and prosecution) who are friends outside of their court battles overseen by the courtroom judge. There was cross referencing that was well thought out between lawyers in the courtroom scene. We heard each revelation with interest as we followed the twists and turns of the case (a murder). In some ways these scenes were almost like reading a book in a calm and considered way.

In the end, once the case is concluded and the story comes to an end, we are left feeling that the lawyers have done well and justice has been done – a most satisfying conclusion. The actors take their bow and we enthusiastically thank them with applause, cheering, and a few standing in ovation. If you like light hearted drama with plenty of plot then this show is the one for you – go along and be engrossed!


Review: Daniel Donnelly

Photography:  Kate Wright-Sanders

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Great British Mysteries: 1599?

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Pleasance Courtyard

Aug 1-27 (16:45)

Material: five-stars   Delivery: four-stars.png  Laughs: four-stars.png 


Something is rotten in Ye Olde London Towne. And its not just the stench of night-soil! New girl Olive Bacon has come up from the country and she has a fine nose for a mystery – and for when her prize pig is in season – which is pretty much constantly! Teaming up with hapless landlocked seaman Teddy Tyrell, the duo go a-witch-hunting through a wildly historically (and geographically) inaccurate Tudor England. All manner of confusion ensues.

It’s Horrible Histories mashed-up with the cast of Made in Chelsea on a Scooby-Doo Mystery. Olive and Teddy meet a queer assortment of characters, including the Stinking Bishop and the retired Witch-Finder General, who has given up cremating young women and now finds release from her crippling PTSD through home-baking!

The tone of GBM tries to marry wordy, quite intricate, humour with the utterly stupid and occasionally base. People seemed to invest in that combination which was very fortunate for us
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With faces made for comedy – check out the great mug shots on their advertising poster – the pair had me laughing from the start. The plot zips along, ably assisted by some nifty (if factually shifty) multimedia in the background. But the belly laughs come from the sparking playfulness between Olive and Teddy. This energetic pair had the audience roaring with laughter, Henry VIII stylee, as they hunted down and finally catch their quarry – and its not what they expected…..

This is the second instalment of the Great British Mysteries – their debut show sold out last year. Be sure to grab a ticket this year, sell your urchins if you have to. If you like your comedy fast and witty, silly and a little bit bawdy you’ll split your doublet and hose at Teddy and Olive. These guys deserve an award of some sort! Or I’ll eat my britches.

Mark MacKenzie

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