Alex Farrow: Philosophy A-Level

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Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire
Aug 20-25 (12:15)

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Alex ‘Underscore’ Farrow was a philosophy teacher, is now a stand-up comedian. But like many extremely intelligent people caught in the education system, he hasn’t quite managed to break free of school & schooling – its the chief source of his material. ‘Philosophy A-Level‘ replicates something of the classroom experience, one of those informal ones with your cool teacher, where laughter is the lavish key to learning, using humor to enhance the otherwise strict methodologies of education. His show is only sometimes about Philosophy – which seems quite the magic word, as he’s frequently been getting full houses. It is rather like the phrase in Byron’s Don Juan, in which ‘A lady of a`certain age’, can be transmorphed into ‘People of a certain brains…’

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There is an element in the public sphere which takes a more cerebral attitude to life, but also enjoy their comedy. I found myself sitting among a swelling portion of them, all of whom were in relative raptures to hear such a sagacious comedian. As a neutral reviewer, I have to say Farrow’s show will not be appreciated by everyone, its not universal at all, rather like a bouquet music festival in the Home Counties. I mean, hearing the phrase ‘metaphysical transubstantiation’ & extracts from the supersexy Bible poem, ‘The Song of Songs’ is not your average Fringegoer’s fare. Fortunately, Alex openly splays his subject matter across the title, forming a natural deterrant for those wishing they had read more in life while everyone else in the room is in hysterics.

If you are not laughing, you will be learning, let’s go! Alex Farrow

In the Cabaret Voltaire, in the Long Room room from 12.15 PM, those hysterics verge upon borderline adoration. To spend fifty minutes with the playful Farrow & his numerous gifts is to experience an unpretentious leader, a charismatic comedian that will stick like gold in the brain for a long time to come, on more than one level. The disclaimer being you really do need to know what he’s going on about first. If you don’t, you’ll be watching the clock for the bell to ring for recess.

Damian Beeson Bullen

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Myra Dubois: Dead Funny

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Underbelly, Bristo Square
Aug 6-11, 13-25 (15:55)


Divine got to The Underbelly just in time, having picked up my tickets for this fabulous Femme Fatale – I was breaking out into quite a sweat as I didn’t want to miss this one. The alternative title of Ms Dubois performance, Morbid Drag Queen had been rattling around my head all morning. As subject matters go, presenting her own funeral as a show is quite something. The essence of Myra’s Dead Funny is based on her attending previous funerals, which had left this Yorkshire Drag Auntie feeling there was something lacking in the send-offs she had experienced. I must say this did not rank highly on the Divine appeal factor, and I was half-expecting this to be an ill-attended performance. I was to be mistaken, as the queue to the Buttercup stretched far and long. Myra Dubois is something of a celebrity in her native Yorkshire and her reputation had ensured a packed house.

A parody of the Death card from the ancient Tarot, Ms Dubois came across as everyone’s favourite suicidal Auntie. Caring soothsayer and hexing dark witch all rolled into one. With bundles of audience participation – a genuine therapy session for all concerned – she invited us to witness her demise at the end of the performance. Genuinely funny, with a twist in the tale that I refuse to reveal as a spoiler. Myra possesses, dark humor most definitely, but her audience were in hysterics and her takes on modern classic songs such as Why? by Annie Lennox, offered a full chorus sing-a-long. This was a brilliant performance, if not a little disturbing, & not one for the recently bereaved.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

five-stars

James Barr: Thirst Trap

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Underbelly, White Belly
  August 5-11, 13-25 (17:20)

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Within the first 5 minutes of James Barr’s show I find myself wondering how he’s managed to stay single for this long. Despite wearing a man-sized avocado outfit, he nimbly Two-Steps with audience members in breezy, off-the-cuff chit chat as he introduces the show. He has been single for too long, and has decided to come to the Edinburgh Fringe to Tinder style ‘Right Swipe’ members of the audience he thinks are cute and invite them for an on stage speed date. The accompanying lightly tragic explanation for doing so in an avocado outfit is both funny and personally engaging, and this buys him all the goodwill he requires to launch into the first of the interactive date sessions.

The first audience member plucked from obscurity to take a shot at the top prize of becoming Barr’s Beau, is Jake. To the obvious delight of both James, and the audience, it transpires that Jake is a horse trainer. It’s at this point that James’ talents really shine. Rather than launching into a stream of cheap, obvious, gags he allows the audience to laugh itself out, then coyly inquires from under dipped beam, batting, eyelashes “So what does that involve?”
“Well, you just ride them till they’re tired out.” Comes the reply, and the audience go wild again. This effortless charm kept me deeply engaged throughout the whole performance.

The scripted material was somewhat more hit and miss. During the middle section James finally explains to us that a ‘Thirst Trap’ is “A sexy guy who looks for attention by posting semi naked pictures of themselves doing banal things”, and this provides some classic ‘caption competition’ style jokes. I’ll leave to your own imagination what it was that the guy who’d drawn the Eiffel Tower on his abs claimed he was trying to raise awareness of. A skit about finding the voice on a Mindfulness App uncontrollably arousing is less well received, like a slightly shoddily put together Cassetteboy remix of ‘Tony Robbins’ reading soft porn. It does have a cute, if tacky, visceral finish though.

Even though some of the scripted sections felt like fillers, there are a number of fine one-liners throughout, and it’s the time spent with James in the company of his dates, and his excellent audience work, which makes this show a perfect late afternoon palate cleanser of charm and whimsy.

Ewan Law

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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.
Read the full interview

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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Susie Steed: Money Walks – The Unofficial Story of Capitalism

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Heroes @ Bob’s BlundaBus
Aug 25-27 (15:00)

‘What a wonderful way to spend my last afternoon at the Fringe,‘ thought I as Ms. Susie Steed was leading myself & a few other fans of either her, or her subject, through the streets of Edinburgh, in the rare unwindy sunshine that occasionally strikes the city. Her subject is finance, & the history of money, for Susie is an economist & the imperial & financial city that is the Scottish capital seems the perfect place to conduct her ‘Money Walks’ comedy lectures.

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IMG_20170824_151554981.jpgAs we are led place to pretty place, we become steeped in the iconography of money, especially that of Britannia, who has been transmorphed over the ages from coin to coin & onto the notes of our island, whose helmet Susie dons as she leads us about the place, her umbrella being waved about as if she were some holiday rep in Benidorm. Most of what she says is interesting, rather than funny, but she is a the master of digress & can burst the semi-seriousness in a Thalian flash. Alas, she is a little too soft-spoken to compete with the street-sounds of the Scottish capital, but apparently Susie will be returning next year with the same or a similar project, & will have her tweaks ready to turn.

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IMG_20170824_160709061.jpgDespite the audible quietness, Susie’s message, intelligence, storytelling & humour simply boom out into the aether; spending an hour in her company is a charming alternative to doing just about anything else during the Fringe. ‘We’re not here to talk about the dog,’ she tells us as we enter Greyfriars Kirk, – one of the quieter spots on the tour – ‘we’re here to talk about insurance,’ & by the end of the walk, I noticed just about everyone involved was waiting politely to speak to Susie, so cleverly – & wittily – had she piqued us all.

Reviewer : Damo

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Being HUEman Being

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Just The Tonic @ Caves
25th August

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Leaving the wonderful land of Oz for the competitive streets of Edinburgh’s Fringe, Luke Nowell brought his hilarious show, Being Hueman Being, for all our pleasure. With so much comedy at the Fringe this year, laughs have to be earned, and this show certainly does just that. Bouncing onto the stage like a 70s Space Hopper, dressed in an all-in-one grey & tight latex suit (with red shorts), the audience erupted. Being HUEman is a clever & funny take on what it means to be Human, and the many avenues we travel along to find perfection. Taking things back to the basics and using slap-stick comedy, Luke injects body and facial miming to elaborate his many characters, & with simple stage accessories he creates a world full of fun and humorous sketches. Through movement and gesture the show slides along with ease, delivering side splitting-moments of genius. Pulling the crowd into his imaginary world of art and using them like bate in a trap, he pounces like a Elephant in musk, knocking down everything in his way to get to the sacred place of love.

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Turning one member of the audience into a living sperm, they then proceed to chase an egg in a race to be the fertilizer king, a very human thing! Pouring from his suitcase were sketches about dating, boob size, men’s muscles, a woman’s need to look good and not forgetting the perfection of art. As Luke conducts us like an orchestra maestro, his character comedy acting is a breath of fresh air. Touching on our everyday hang-ups he gives you food for thought & a a feelgood experience which throws up hysterical moments using only bananas, balls, dolls and moustaches. Think of old school comedy capers, add in great acting with a twist of human nature, and you have Being HUEman’s cocktail of chuckles, gimmicks, tear-jerkers and howling laughter. Luke has devised a great comedy sketch show that is rare these days, and allows us to sit back have fun and to take stock of our lives. Who we are and what we become are strong messages throughout this excellent and brilliant show in every way.

Reviewed by Raymondo

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