As any regular reader will be all too aware, my previous outings as a critic of the arts have been desultory efforts at best. Should my witterings ever be exposed to the critical gaze of some form of meta-critic (one who criticises the critics) I’d be lucky to garner a single star.
Despite these inauspicious portents, I feel I should provide some sort of feedback from my gig-going in Edinburgh. So far, I have been to twelve comedy gigs and two chamber music concerts – however, there seems little point in reviewing the latter as they were one-off events and, frankly, you’ve missed them. (In case you enjoy regret, I should tell you that you’ve missed out on a treat – and I’m not just referring to the interval ice cream or the generous legroom provided when sitting in the main stalls).
The comedy, by contrast, is repeated nightly for another week (and some may be touring to a town or city near you), so a few readers may be in a position to act on any recommendations I care to make – though please be aware that I offer no warranty, express or implied. I tend to select the story-telling style of comedian, enjoying a range of styles and approaches within this genre. Over the years, I have found that whilst one-liners are great over a five minute slot, they tend to be rather wearing for a whole hour. Sketch comedy, which was a mainstay of my radio listening for many years, is known for its hit-and-miss nature which is much harder to handle when the performers are there in the room with you (rather than hiding behind the anonymity of Marconi’s invention). We can only hope that with this concentrated dose of professional comedy, some of the skills will rub off on me leading to a modest rise in the quality of my own musings (though, I wouldn’t hold your breath – unless you enjoy that kind of thing).
So, without further ado (I’m running low on ado – and it’s a bit of a hike to the shops to get some more) here are my top recommendations (in no particular order):
James Sherwood: funny and intelligent as ever. Do not be put off by the name of the venue – they do re-use pretty much any space in Edinburgh as a venue, but the Wee Room is not a re-purposed urinal.
Tom Rosenthal: much shorter than anticipated (I think television adds about 6 inches to your height), but anyone who provides a tutorial on basic logic as part of his set gets my vote.
Alun Cochrane: more observational than my other picks. Includes some great life tips.
Stuart Goldsmith: as beautifully constructed as last year’s set. He (like me) is an Uncle Stuart and did make me feel that I may be neglecting my avuncular duties (though, he does have some rather useful uncling – yes, I can create new verbs – skills that I lack).
Matt Crosby: a little obsessed by Nando’s, but has usefully tagged some more of my typical behaviours as nerd-like (so I may have to keep an eye on these in future if I wish to maintain the, non-existent, illusion that I am one of the cool dudes).
Lloyd Langford: the least story or strongly thematically based, just very funny – and the only venue (so far) to boast a chandelier.
The Comedy Zone: you get three new(ish) acts for your money (and a potty-mouthed CBBC presenter as compère). The two acts with historic links to Asia were particularly good and the third act was quite strange, but not without a certain charm.
I’d also give honorable mentions to Jon Richardson, Elis James, Rich Hall, Gareth Richards and Pete Firman – all of whom will handsomely reward the purchaser of a ticket to their shows.
I will also heartily recommend Bonsai to satisfy the victualling needs of any Fringe-goers. It is perfectly sited near the Pleasance, and as Japanese food is quick to prepare and consume you can grab a quick bite between shows. It is also quite a healthy option for Scotland – though I am knocking back quite a lot of vegetable and banana tempura, so am still getting my fair share of deep-fried goodness. I have been known to visit five times in a single day in years gone by – but this year, I tried to leave rather longer meal-breaks between shows (in an abortive attempt to produce a slightly less frantic festival experience).