Two Faced Bitchin’

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PQA Venues @ Riddles Court
August 21-22 (19:00)

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The first thing that struck me about this show was the sheer level of energy. Our two performers were utterly fearless and, after a slightly wayward Fringe weekend on my own part, rather more than a little intimidating. Initially, the tsunami of said performance energy made it hard to warm to ‘Cassandra Hunt’ & ‘Cynthia Murphy,’ but I  eventually started to relax into things, albeit with the ever-present fear they were going to rope me into one of their skits.

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Two Faced Bitchin’ is essentially a sketch show with several different double acts all played out by the same two performers; with the common thread of a home shopping channel they kept returning to. My personal favorite was the Victorian Revivalist pair consisting of a man in a period dress and a woman in some kind of lace burka and a mouth-guard that made most of her speech incomprehensible. They were certainly very skilled and confident performers, with my main reservations coming from the material which at times seemed a little bit on-the-nose and excessively silly. However, it was when this silliness exploded into the downright surreal, slightly embarrassing and somewhat disturbing that I felt the show was at it’s best, & it was in these moments that the few personal belly laughs I did churn up came gushing forth. Not to say that the rest of the audience didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves. Everybody seemed to be having a whale of a time and it was in the aforementioned more peculiar moments that I seemed to be the only one laughing. Maybe the fault was not with the performers but with my own warped sense of humor.

I guess that’s just the kind of guy I am & what I’m saying is, if you’re going to do silly go all-out and make no attempt to water it down with any kind of logic or narrative thread. But then, judging by the audience reaction, that is not the prevailing opinion. In conclusion, my advice is to go and see this show, & you will probably love it, & it’s also nice to see someone punting a little bit of vinyl for a change.

Victor Pope

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Eat Sleep Shit Shag

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City Cafe
Aug 21-23 (13:45)

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


Not only does Abbie Murphy’s solo show have the best title on the Fringe, but it is rapidly gaining the best rep. I mean, the City Cafe’s Las Vegas Room might not be the biggest venue at the Fringe, but the effect of seeing the audience queue snaking into every crevice of the City Cafe basement based on word of mouth is exciting. So in we went, & folk were forced to sit on the floor & lap around the walls, leaving about six square feet of space for Abbie & her massive Aztec showgirl head-dress to strut her stuff. It was so intimate, it felt like we were Slavic peasants sat down around a single oil-lantern for light & warmth & that Abbie was that very candle.

So, the show itself. Abbie is a cheeky Essex girl, whose 32 years sit her sweetly on the cusp between youth & middle-age, which is reflected in the universality of her comedy. We were all laughing, but quite strangely at different times, picked off by her punchline sniper rifle. As Abbie frollicked almost machine-like through her down-to-earth & snappy delivery, it felt like we were one of her girlfriends who she’d met down Ilford to do some shopping one afternoon; & we’d decided to hit a bar for a beer, a giggle & a catch-up.

The central section of her show deals with her time as a showgirl on a cruise liner, a gentle & natural anecdotal ride which surpasses most story-themed comedy shows that come to the Fringe. As for the rest, it was varied in subject, but always funny, even the Jesus material near the end, the seventh time I’d witnessed a comedian touch such material so far in 2018… but Murphy’s was definitely the best.

The only problem for me as a spectator was the venue. In this instance Abbie is a five-star comedian in a two-star venue – cramped & stuffy – & for this reason a lot of the laughter was held back by the audience. Watching Abbie in a large auditorium with decent air conditioning would have been a much superior experience, so lets hope it does happen because Abbie definitely has the talent to pull off a much larger gig.

Damo

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Pernilla Holland: Pop Ditz

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Just The Tonic at the Grassmarket Centre
August 21-26 (22.00)

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For those who like their comedy with hyacinths & biscuits – i.e. sweet & crunchy – Pop Ditz is the only choice. Directed by burgeoningly brilliant Lucy Bairstow (Theatre with Legs) & performed with chainless precision by Pernilla Holland, let us take a look at 21st century urbanity through the eyes of a young Norwegian lady, far from her one-reindeer village; the caged bird set free in ‘the land of Eng’ to observe, & then report her vulgar findings with a tremolo of energetic delivery.

The show itself consists of a fun-sustaining sequence of ubersketches, played out between witty, not-that-well-sung songs. It was all very revelatory & original, as if some secret comedy pond had been stumbled across by the ladies one night, from which they are hooking slightly mutated, but extremely delicious fish. Continuing with the water theme, experiencing Pernilla’s flow of near-gibberish is akin to having a water-feature attached to one’s psyche, from which our smiles bubble up constantly. Pernilla’s own smile, by the way, is the widest one I’ve seen on any performer at the Fringe that I can recall.

Imagine entering a thick-walled tavern beyond the Arctic Circle, where red-nosed, akvavit-addl’d Norwegians are making funnies around a hot fire, laughter looping through the smoke… that’s experiencing Pop Ditz. There’s some absoultely mental moments; using her shoe for a chat with an audience member just one of them, while the Scandinoir sequence made for uncanny comedy. ‘No words are better than silence,’ repeats Pernilla, ‘except the singing goat,’ & as my eyes grew wider & wider throughout my 50 minutes with this classic 21st century clown, I could only nod my head in complete & awestruck agreement.

Damo

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Daniel Muggleton: Mouth Breather

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Laughing Horse @ The Counting House
August 21-26 (16:00)

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Daniel Muggleton appears on stage like some Alexandrine statue, Callimachus perhaps, & beacause of the smart confidence to his delivery emits the same sagely energy. He is an Australian living in London, & this is his third Fringe in a row. Daniel has a really easy vibe, & at the commencement of his show, as he chatted with every party in the room, he reminded me of a recycling truck which visits the street house-by-house, emptying the blue & red plastic boxes of all that Fringe junk, & leaving our mental vestibules fresh for more comedy.

Mr Muggleton is no cavalry charger, but as his libertine mind gondaliers through his material, he does appear happiest taking the subtle piss out of anyone & anything, including himself. Along the way we are treated to a contemporizing tour of his personal zeitgeist; Brexit, Tube Travel, potentially imminent fatherhood, racism – all of which varied in quality, but was entertaining enough. I must admit the ‘vagina voodoo shit‘ of his finale-tale held a pre-eminent fascination.

It was towards the end when he began chatting to a fellow Aussie about the alternate colloquial understandings of the word ‘dogging’ that I had a wee epiphany. When Mr Muggleton interacts with the audience, the room lights up, you can feel the warmth, & its a genuinely great place to be. My instinct tells me that if Daniel can weave a show where his jokes bounce off the audience interactions, a rainbow may sunder the sky along which path should lie his comedy gold.

Damo

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The Establishment: Fool Britannia

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Heroes @ Boteco
Aug 18-20, 22-26 (17:30)

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You’ve got to love The Establishment, who dwell somewhere in the realms beyond bonkers, but are also as surefire as twin torpedoes streaking towards the hulls of all our seriousness. Yes, the Fringe & the Establishment are perfect bosom-buddies, for watching their supreme joviality makes you feel like you are finally at the festival properly. This is what its all about. This is comedy.

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The theme of this year is a timewarpin’ whirl through British history, sandwiched either side by a Clockwise-Cleesian headteacher who ‘loves’ his ‘fuc£in’ school.’ He is soon joined by a colleague, ‘Mr Foster,’ & together the two proceed to combine their talents for the rest of the show’s swimmingly fashioned imaginarium. Each scene from history floats easily upon the bantertastic sea of silliness supplied by The Establishment; Cavemen, Romans, Vikings, & so on – all the major motifs are given the treatment, & embellished with colourful costumes. Attention-grabbing from beginning to end, Fool Britannia is, as I hinted at before, the quintessence of what should be happening at the Fringe.

Damo

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Bryony Twydle: Flamingo

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Underbelly, Bristo Square
Aug 18-27 (20:30)

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As the charm-emanating Bryony Twydle steps onto her stage, one feels an instantaneous attraction as we morph into an acolyte at the temple of her muse. A completely full house saw her tripping the light fantastic with an assortment of characters, opening with the vivacious & laughter-grabbing QVC star Lisa Martinez Moore. From this point her characters varied in quality, but all the masks fit, & there were some very interesting threads of continuity rare in sketch shows. To all this I must add that her audience participation is on another level, she’s very good at it, as testified by the willingness of those summoned to the stage, even when her sex therapist character, Ulva, was holding a brutally honest session.

This is Bryony’s debut Edinburgh show, & as I watched the bonnie bundles of fun that constitute her work, I envisioned her as something of a bagpiper. Both go solo, both play a variety of tunes/sketches of about the same length, & both artforms are fiendishly difficult to master. Yet Bryony has, & with youth on her side I can only see her going from strength to strength.

Damo

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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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