Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – Chopped Liver and Unions, Alex Something is Missing Again, Lie Low, Robin Grainger: An Audient with Robin Grainger, and Eddy MacKenzie and Liam Farrelly: Little and Large.

Chopped Liver and Unions, The Space on the Mile.

Chopped Liver and UnionsBlue Fire Theatre Company tell the story of Sara Wesker, an early twentieth century union activist, and more of a “bloody difficult woman” than Theresa May could ever aspire to be. She takes us through her experiences leading strikes in the clothing and fabric workshops of the East End, demanding equal rights and equal pay for women doing the same work as men. Her nephew Arnold Wesker was the famous playwright and Sarah Kahn in his play Chicken Soup with Barley is based on his aunt. J J Leppink’s play is beautifully written and structured, and features a fine performance from Lottie Walker as Sarah. Stirring stuff, and thoroughly entertainingly presented. It makes you want to find out more about what Sara Wesker achieved – and also to re-read The Wesker Trilogy to see a fictionalised version. Electrically exciting – and it keeps alive a story that should never be forgotten.

Alex Something Is Missing Again! PBH’s Free Fringe @ Pilgrim.

Alex KouvatasA mixture of magic and therapy from Alex Kouvatas, which includes a few very good tricks, and some clever sleight of hand. The title of the show makes, in my humble opinion, no sense at all! It’s presented in a very gentle, quiet style, and, whilst the show never really soared, there was plenty to be wowed by. The T-shirt trick is the best!


Lie Low, Traverse Theatre.

Lie LowA woman stands alone, bewildered, in her room. Then the wardrobe door opens and a man with a duck’s mask joins her for a Strictly Come Dancing style performance of 42nd Street. We laugh – because it’s a superb moment of theatrical surrealism. But I think it’s safe to say we’re in somebody’s fantasy world at this stage. The trouble is, Ciara Elizabeth Smyth’s play deliberately makes it impossible to tell where the fantasy stops and the reality begins – if, indeed, either of them ever do. Faye tells her doctor she cannot sleep. She says she was attacked a year earlier and sexually assaulted, and he advises her to try exposure therapy. Then her brother Naoise arrives, out of the blue, and she asks him if he will jump out of the wardrobe at her, dressed as a duck. Despite his protestations, he does this three times. But he has his own agenda – he has been accused of sexual misconduct at work and wants his sister to write a character reference for him. All of this – or none of this – or some of this – might be true. I found this ambiguity very tiresome. In my view it never really achieves anything more than a few cheap laughs over someone blackmailing another person to show them their genitals. I absolutely hated this play – but the 70 minutes is redeemed by two superlative performances from Charlotte McCurry and Thomas Finnegan.

Robin Grainger: An Audient with Robin Grainger, The Stand Comedy Club 2.

Robin GraingerI’d never seen Robin Grainger before – but what a find! The title comes from his Edinburgh Fringe gig last year when one person showed up to his first night – Michael from Leicester, radio producer, gluten-intolerant, left-handed. The show refers to that formative experience of last year, but also takes in some brilliant, original material concerning his general awkwardness, his experiences at the gym, and the ins and outs of having to scatter the ashes of his late father. Robin Grainger has a very winning, honest style about him, and delivers his cracking gags with a mixture of sure-fired confidence and disarming charm. You can’t fake this level of likability. A magic hour of comedy.

Eddy MacKenzie and Liam Farrelly: Little and Large, The Stand Comedy Club 2.

MacKenzie and FarrellyYou’ve heard of a game of two halves? If ever this applied to a comedy gig, this was the one. The show opened with Eddy MacKenzie, an enthusiastic, jocular, guffawing presence with a guitar, who promised some Beatles parodies (he did one) and then promised some other comedy songs (he did one, but it wasn’t funny). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comedian come on stage so completely devoid of material – it was genuinely painful. Then halfway through we switched to Liam Farrelly, a Paisley lad with bags of attitude and brilliant stories, from taking his daughter to baby ballet to acquiring four guinea pigs – and I don’t think I’ve laughed so loudly at a routine as I did to that one for a very long time! A naturally gifted comedian who needs a full hour on his own. * for Eddy MacKenzie and ***** for Liam Farrelly equals:


The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 26th August 2023

Another big day in Edinburgh ahead!

Here’s the schedule for 26th August:

13.10 – Chopped Liver and Unions, The Space on the Mile.

Chopped Liver and Unions“The East End of London has burned with the fires of rebellion for centuries. From the Matchgirls in 1888 to the Made in Dagenham workers at Ford’s in 1968, its women have fought for change. In 1928, Sara Wesker led a 12-week strike with the workers literally singing for their suppers on the picket line. In 1936 she fought at the battle of Cable Street. But did this formidable woman’s passion for the cause destroy the passion for the love of her life?”

I’ve always been a Union man at heart, so this story sounds very interesting to me – looking forward to it.

14.20 – Alex Something Is Missing Again! PBH’s Free Fringe @ Pilgrim.

Alex Kouvatas“Join Alex, the astounding magician on his quest for magic and the existential meaning, again. Be prepared for mind-blowing tricks, laugh-out-loud moments, and an existential crisis or two. You’ll leave his awe-inspiring show feeling entertained, bedazzled and maybe enlightened. Don’t miss out on the chance to see why ‘Kouvatas stands out as a master’ (WorldMagicReview.com).

Not had that much magic at the Fringe so far this year, so I’ll be interested to see Mr Kouvatas for the first time.

16.15 – Lie Low, Traverse Theatre.

Lie Low“Faye’s afraid. She’s not sleeping, she doesn’t trust ducks and all she’s had to eat this week is a box of dry Rice Krispies. A doctor recommends a form of exposure therapy, so Faye enlists the help of her brother, Naoise. But Naoise has a devastating secret that’s about to explode. Lie Low is the award-winning, critically acclaimed dark, funny and surreal new play by Ciara Elizabeth Smyth described by critics as ‘a masterclass’ and ‘gripping entertainment’.”

Dark, funny and surreal? Does that include the duck references? Sounds good!

20.00 – Robin Grainger: An Audient with Robin Grainger, The Stand Comedy Club 2.

Robin Grainger“With only one ticket sold on opening night last Fringe, ‘it was every good thing it should be’ (Kate Copstick, Scotsman). Within a week the story was globally viral. Sell-out, Fringe 2022. Featured in over sixty news and media outlets worldwide, every major radio station and recommended by Kevin Bridges and Iain Stirling. With over two million views, Robin’s story was the third-most viewed on the BBC website. Hand-picked for multiple Kevin Bridges and Friends shows. Tour support for Larry Dean, Tom Stade, Carl Hutchinson, Paddy McDonnell and Gary Meikle. **** (One4Review.co.uk).”

Not seen Robin Grainger before but I was hooked when I realised how he had coined the word audient to describe an audience of one! Gotta admire that spirit, I’m looking forward to seeing him!

21.20 – Eddy MacKenzie and Liam Farrelly: Little and Large, The Stand Comedy Club 2.

MacKenzie and Farrelly“Meeting at the semi-finals of the BBC New Comedy Awards, they impressed the judges and now they’re heading to Edinburgh with a hilarious hour of stand-up. Eddy’s an energetic musical comic, appearing on TV within a year of starting stand-up, with his brilliantly written lyrics and non-stop charisma wowing audiences across the UK. Liam’s a stand-up fresh from his debut on Live at the Apollo. He’s been one to watch for a while now; an excellent storyteller with multiple TV appearances. Two comics come together to create an unmissable must-see show.

I don’t know these two esteemed gentlemen so it’s a case of total pot luck here, but we’ll give them a go!

Check back later to see how we enjoyed all these shows!

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 – Reviews – Joe Wells: King of the Autistics, 3rd Rock from the Pun: Darren Walsh, Married at First Sleight, Pina Bausch at the Playhouse with The Rite of Spring/common ground[s], and 99 Red Hot Kitties and a Cockatoo.

Joe Wells: King of the Autistics, PBH’s Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth.

Joe Wells Joe Wells’ new show is a comedic exploration of all things autistic, including how autistics are perceived and treated, and what are the qualities that make good parents of autistics. He also tells us how he accidentally upsets a wide range of people, including listeners to his podcast and Christians; probably also people who use e-scooters, but don’t press him on that. Earlier this year he came to the decision to step down as self-styled King of the Autistics – shame, I think he should rule on! Joe always comes at comedy from a good place and leads you down unlikely alleyways to subvert your expectations. A delight as always!


3rd Rock from the Pun: Darren Walsh, Laughing Horse @ Bar 50.

Darren WalshFor his new show, Darren Walsh has scoured the Internet for Artificial Intelligence – and all the media he uses – video, audio, etc, has been created by AI. That doesn’t include the jokes; fortunately for Darren, AI is rubbish at making you laugh. Darren is a superb exponent of the art of the pun and will make you cringe, gasp, groan, and laugh ecstatically at a series of inventive, outrageous, or downright corny puns assembled together to explain the development and history of the Universe as seen through AI eyes. Friendly, fast, and funny!


Married at First Sleight, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Married at first SleightHudson and Hudson, the married magicians, base their act on the fact that she’s quirky and cheeky and he’s a bit of a dickhead (her words). Their magic tricks are brilliant, and their mind-reading stunts are out of this world. There’s a sequence when the ghost of Cat’s late aunt comes to the stage to assist her with a couple of tricks; you come away realising that the power of suggestion is an amazing force and it is very spooky how these tricks worked so well. However, they seemed to find it difficult to establish a rapport with the audience and we never felt comfortable with, or really believed, their faux-argumentative stage personas. This may be why their jokes and humour that frame the tricks fell flat. And that’s a big shame, as you felt that the show as a whole became hard-going for them. Fortunately, the magic outweighs the laughs, but it does need to be snappier and crisper.




The Rite of Spring / common ground[s], Pina Bausch Foundation and Ecole des Sables, Edinburgh Playhouse.

Rite of SpringThe evening starts with Common Ground[s], a two-hander choreographed and danced by Germaine Acogny – co-founder of the Ecole des Sables in Senegal – and Malou Airaudo, who had worked closely with Pina Bausch. It’s a dignified, elegant and controlled piece of choreography and dance, reflecting the many moods shared between two people over a lifetime of dance. It manages to be both supportive and light-hearted; I won’t pretend to understand all the interactions it depicts because this is essentially a private piece that offers us little insights and flashes of recognition.

After the interval – a good twenty minutes or more where the backstage team transforms the stage from its opening bareness to the peaty plains of Africa – it’s time for Pina Bausch’s stunning Rite of Spring, an extravaganza of movement and rhythm, accompanied by Stravinsky’s mesmerising music, where opposing groups of men and women come together to perform a sacrificial rite where one young girl dances herself to death. It’s an astonishingly vivid spectacle, and takes your breath away with its beauty, bravery and sheer bravado.

P. S. Don’t try to take a half-drunk bottle of water into the auditorium. Security will insist you tip it away. If they do that to ensure that you buy another one at their bar, it didn’t work with me.

P. P. S. Our performance was very nearly ruined by an arrogant, entitled git of a man who took photos and videos of Rite through almost the entire performance, despite the protestations of a) his nearby theatregoers, b) the front of house team and c) Security. I really thought there was going to be a punch-up at the end, so badly had he aggravated everyone around him. And the lesson to be learned is – don’t waste Security’s time checking for half-empty bottles of water, get them to eject antisocial audience members as soon as they become a problem.

99 Red Hot Kitties and Cockatoo, The Space @ Niddry Street.

99 Red Hot KittiesApparently every night is a different line up for this little burlesque show – I can only say that perhaps we went on an off-night. There were a couple of acts that were decent – a lady depicting a black widow spider who staples a black ribbon to her body, and another lady who cheers up a bad day at the office by stripping to her scanties. But on the whole it was rather underwhelming, and I have to say that some of the audience members were a little more well-oiled than was good for them.

The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 13th August 2023

Another full day of shows in Edinburgh? Yes, although we are also meeting up with a friend!

Here’s the schedule for 13th August:

11.00 – Wiesenthal, Pleasance Courtyard. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Wiesenthal“Wiesenthal, by Tom Dugan, performed by Christopher C Gibbs, is based on the life of Simon Wiesenthal, who survived the Holocaust and devoted the rest of his life to bringing Nazi war criminals to justice. Filled with hope, humanity and humour, it is the true story of an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. Intelligent, funny, flawed and noble, Wiesenthal was a universal hero. His unbelievable dedication and tenacity over decades is honoured in this play. It takes place on his final day in his Vienna office in 2003.”

Another of these plays that tells a most important story that we must never forget about. If this is well done, I expect it will be very emotional.

12.45 – Tarot: Work in Progress, Monkey Barrel Comedy.

Tarot WIP“The best show of 2019 according to Chortle. The sixth-best show of 2022 according to The Guardian. Come watch us continue our slow descent into mediocrity in 2023. This is a work-in-progress show. We’ve made the tickets cheap so you’ve got somewhere to sleep for an hour without having to sell a kidney. ‘Bark out loud funny… the whole show is startlingly live’ **** (Guardian). ‘One of the balls-out funniest show of the Fringe’ ****½ (Chortle). ‘Tarot will not give you nightmares, though you might wake laughing your head off’ **** (Evening Standard). **** (Telegraph).”

This is the first of two shows we’re seeing this year featuring the incredible Tarot pack! We saw them last year and they were brilliant. I have high hopes!

14.25 – The Life Sporadic of Jess Wildgoose, Pleasance Courtyard.

Life Sporadic of Jess Wildgoose“The creators of smash-hit The Man Who return with an explosive new show. Tarantino meets Pixar in this electrifying thriller, exploring universal themes of ambition, failure, revenge, and high-risk equity trading. Jess has it all – until she doesn’t. After suddenly losing her job, sense of reality, and sexy French beau, Jess embarks on a brutal quest for revenge. With virtuosic acrobatics, live music, and physical theatre, this madcap tragicomedy unnerves and astounds in a genre-defying cinematic adventure. ‘Physical Theatre at its most immaculate’ **** (Scotsman, for ‘The Man Who’).

I admit now, I am much more a Pixar man than a Tarantino one, so I hope this show makes sense to me! We will see! However, we saw The Man Who… last year and thought it was excellent, so we had to give this show a go as well.

16.50 – Giving the Gift of Offence with Martin Rowson, The Stand’s New Town Theatre.

Martin Rowson“Multi award-winning political cartoonist, author, ranter, illustrator, broadcaster and poet. In his new show Martin takes us through 40 years of British politics with his personal and cartoon responses to the individuals he has met, including the perennial challenges of working out how to draw the “fresh meat” of each new Prime Minister, alongside the cavalcade of events we’ve all witnessed and he’s depicted. Refreshingly indiscreet in revealing the people beneath the pomp and spin, as well as spilling the beans on the true nature of journalism. This show is fully illustrated.”

I was friends with Martin at school so I am using the show as a shameless vehicle for catching up with him again! But it will be fascinating to hear him talk about his work. I remember seeing the cartoons he did as a teenager and they were brilliant!

20.50 – I Wish My Life Were Like a Musical, Gilded Balloon at the Museum.

I wiah my life was more like a musical“The definitive comedic musical revue revealing all about musical theatre, and the people who love it on both sides of the curtain! Updated version featuring new songs. Lauded with an unprecedented 35 five-star reviews for its previous sell-out fringe and London seasons. ‘Flawless’ ***** (BritishTheatre.com). ‘Sharp satire, undiluted fun’ ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Delightful’ ***** (BroadwayWorld.com). ‘Hilarious… Wonderfully witty’ ***** (EdinburghGuide.com). ‘Crisp, perfect, immaculate, hilarious. Unmistakable gem!’ ***** (Musical Talk, podcast). ‘Laughs come thick and fast’ ***** (MusicalTheatreReview.com). ‘Loving tribute to world of musicals’ (Matt Lucas). ‘Must-see’ (Tim Rice). ‘Brilliant score’ (Miriam Margolyes).”

A last minute change to the original plan, as the guy flyering for this show did such a good job on me!!!

Check back later to see how we enjoyed all these shows!

The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 6th August 2023

What’s in store for us in Edinburgh today?

Here’s the schedule for 6th August:

10.55 – Chasing Butterflies, Pleasance Dome. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Chasing Butterflies“Murder in London: The Butterfly Butcher strikes again. Beneath the bustling capital, a relentless evil continues to lurk. Pressure mounts on Detective Richards and the Police to catch the serial killer that has haunted Whitechapel throughout 1985. Will Richards be able to save the people of London, or will he fall to the path of wickedness that corrupted the very soul he’s chasing, unravelling darkness? Anyone can be a victim of the Butterfly Butcher and everyone should be scared. May God be with you all.”

A bit of true crime drama to start the day – what’s not to like?

13.00 – The Ice Hole: A Cardboard Comedy, Pleasance Courtyard.

Ice Hole“An epic adventure told with a thousand pieces of cardboard. A great actor recounts his journey from the fjords of Iceland to the dust of the Spanish desert. Cursed by the mermaid he once accidentally caught, a fellow performer helps tell his tale in a language no-one quite understands. Monty Python meets Mighty Boosh with a twist of Laurel and Hardy. The theatrical acrobatics from these virtuoso performers will make you howl with laughter. Pure theatrical joy. From the creators of Edinburgh’s smash hit Fishbowl. Moliere Theatre Award winner. ‘Serious theatre magic’ (NewYorkTimes).”

You can do a lot with cardboard, as I expect this show will reveal! Not that keen on Mighty Boosh, but Monty Python and Laurel and Hardy are fine by me. Fingers crossed!

15.10- Släpstick: Schërzo, Pleasance Courtyard.

Slapstick Scherzo“Spirit of the Fringe Award winner Släpstick is back. Bringing their unique brand of mischief to Schërzo, a clown-esque concerto for the ages where a seemingly highbrow classical concert glissandos into a bacchanal of comical mishaps and absurdity. Neither floppy-wigged composers nor their magnum opus are safe from this Släpstick buffoonery. It’s Chaplin meets Tchaikovsky, Buster versus Bernstein, and Groucho Marx does Mozart, all rolled up into one raucous show! Internationally renowned Släpstick presents Schërzo, a performance of classical music as you’ve never experienced it before. Language no problem.”

Another show where I really don’t know what to expect – a dangerous mix of all sorts of different styles of entertainment, I guess. Definitely in for something anarchic here!

17.30 – NewsRevue, Pleasance Courtyard.

News Revue“We dedicate this year’s show to the late, great, founder of NewsRevue, Professor Michael Hodd, who launched this multi award-winning, Guinness World Record-breaking institution 43 years ago. Emma Taylor, its producer since 2001, says ‘it is fitting that Mike’s enduring legacy will make its debut in the iconic Pleasance Grand.’ Expect 100% brand-new material, much of it written by the preposterously talented cast and creative team. From King Charles to Keir Starmer, Prince Harry to Putin, Sunak to Strikes and Sleaze, no stone will be left unturned. NewsRevue provides ‘license to dissent en masse’ ***** (BroadwayBaby.com).”

Love current affairs and news comedy, so hopefully this will be bang up to date and on the button. Should be great!

19.15 – Lovefool, Summerhall.

Lovefool“A brutally honest, hilarious and heartbreaking one-woman show navigating the impossibly confusing gender dynamics of modern love. Grace, a young woman hungry for affection and looking for love in all the wrong places, is forced to discover what healthy (self) love might look like. A sensational solo performance championing a life’s endless pursuit of healing, told with vulnerability and humour. Presented by the Théâtre National du Luxembourg, where it played to sold out audiences and received critical acclaim. This extraordinary piece of new writing received its UK Premiere at The Coronet Theatre.”

The reviews from its runs in Luxembourg are very intriguing, so I’m looking forward to this very much!

21:00 – Weathervanes, Summerhall.

Weathervanes“Weathervanes is an immersive-multimedia exhibit and ritual dance-theatre experience – a re-thinking of the beautiful and what is holy… This mesmerising performance-installation by Jian Yi tunes into the collective psyche with audiences to create a dreaming state of mind; an architecture of queer futurity. Produced by Journey to the East Productions in association with Summerhall/Eclipse and Tramway – it features an ensemble of dancers with a live musician, and multimedia/FX created by Cryptic artist Heather Lander. ‘A manifestation of purity, of potential, of value and intrinsic grace… ’ (Critic Gareth Vile, on Weathervanes at Tramway DiG21).”

To be honest, that description sounds a little pretentious to me, but this sounds like the kind of experience one just has to attend so that one can form one’s own opinion!

Check back later to see how we enjoyed all these shows!

The Edinburgh Fringe Full Monty (nearly) – Day 19, 23rd August 2022

Wanna know what’s scheduled for today in Edinburgh?

Here’s the schedule for 23rd August:

11.30 – Death of an Author, Greenside @ Nicolson Square. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Death of an Author“What if your favourite characters didn’t quite like the way they were written? What if they decided enough was enough? When an unnamed author is found dead, his characters are brought in for questioning. And they all have motive. Death of an Author is a celebration of untold female stories and a murder mystery like nothing you’ve seen before… come solve the crime in Edinburgh! Will you catch the killer?”

This sounds like a fascinating play – I often think that it’s the characters who are in charge of a book. It will be interesting to see if this play agrees with me!

UPDATE: A very clever premise,  excellent performances, extremely well written, and surprisingly moving. Lots to think about – and truly intriguing for literature buffs! I shan’t reveal who murdered the author…. but no jury would convict! I also liked how the detective did a spot of mansplaining! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

13.40 – Man of 100 Faces, Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Man of 100 Faces“One performer. 100 characters. One hour. Impossible? Not for The Man of 100 Faces. This is the unbelievably true story of Sir Paul Dukes. A child runaway who, with just three weeks’ training, was made head of MI6 in Russia during the bloodiest year of the Revolution. He’s the man that nearly defeated Lenin. The man that first brought yoga to the UK. He’s a master of disguise, the original inspiration for Bond and the only British spy ever to be knighted. But can The Man of 100 Faces unmask who he really is?”

This could be brilliant – or it might be a bit iffy. Only one way to find out!

UPDATE: The story of Paul Dukes. Never heard of him before, and he sounds like one helluva guy. But it needs a larger venue for the loud and physical performance that Saul Boyer gives. In the middle of the front row, we felt  uncomfortable, were sprayed with sweat, and constantly bellowed at. I’m sure that three or four rows back it would have been much more enjoyable. Tremendous commitment from the performer, but our own personal experience was not one I could recommend. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

15.55 – Messiah, Underbelly Bristo Square.

Messiah“Jesus tells his disciples: ‘the Messiah will never come, so we have to create one’. An intense and darkly provocative retelling of the myths and realities surrounding the rise and fall of Christ. Fusing realism and surrealism, history and the present, poetry and vulgarity, we enter a beguiling picture of the last days of Jesus’ life and those that surround him. A cast of four play multiple characters, moving between ensemble, monologue and song. Includes nudity.”

This is another intriguing show – a blank canvas on which anything could be written. Let’s hope it’s good!

UPDATE: Very good, thought provoking play, as you would expect from the pen of Steven Berkoff. We particularly enjoyed the brainstorming session on how to make the resurrection really work!  Very good performances, lots of fourth walk breaking, well worth seeing – and deserves a larger audience. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

18.00 – Rosie Holt: The Woman’s Hour, Pleasance Courtyard.

Rosie Holt“Social media sensation and Chortle Award winner Rosie Holt debuts an hour of character comedy based on her hit satirical videos. A right-wing “opinionist” distorting the news, an MP desperately defending a failing government, a left-winger wanting to say the right thing but scared of getting it wrong. These characters and more come together when their creator accidentally becomes the news, as they try to speak their truth whatever the facts. ‘If she can stay in character long enough, she’ll have a Telegraph column and a seat on Question Time by teatime’ (James O’Brien).”

Can’t wait to see this. Rosie Holt’s tweets are a thing of genius. This is going to be amazing!

UPDATE: Will the real Rosie Holt stand up? Very good use of video, and virtually 100% new material, which I wasn’t expecting. I liked the confusion of who is Rosie and who isn’t, super interaction with the audience, and all in all an extremely funny hour. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

21.15 – Foil Arms and Hog – Hogwash, Underbelly Bristo Square.

Foil Arms and Hog“Ireland’s top sketch comedy group. With over 500 million online views the internet sensations return to McEwan Hall to premiere their new show, Hogwash. A mix of sketch comedy, audience participation and improvisation. Best reviewed show at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018 and 2019. Sold out 2009-2019. ‘Quite simply, a sensation’ (Edinburgh Festivals Magazine). ‘Very funny show’ (Rowan Atkinson). ‘Hilarious lads’ (Kevin Bridges). ‘An effervescent hour of fast-paced gags, fizzing with energy, invention and great lines’ (Chortle.co.uk). **** (Times). ***** (Irish Examiner). ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). ***** (Metro). ***** (EdFestMag.com).”

Foil, Arms and Hog are another of the terrific acts that bring us back to Edinburgh year after year. They’re always fantastic, and know they will be again.

UPDATE: At first we wondered if Foil Arms and Hog had reached their pinnacle, and were beginning to lose their way a little. A very long get-to-know the audience introduction (vital for later material) followed by a too-long sketch based on a ghost story experience, meant that half the show had already gone before we started getting into the really good material, but rest assured it’s as good as ever. I loved the suitcases on the carousel, and the long lost reunions were inspired. Three genuinely hilarious guys – you don’t get better sketch comedy. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Edinburgh Fringe Full Monty (nearly) – Day 17, 21st August 2022

Have I got some Edinburgh shows for you? Yes, I have!

Here’s the schedule for 21st August:

12.15 – Mat Ricardo: The Extraordinary Gentleman, Gilded Balloon Teviot. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Mat Ricardo“A unique, hilarious and unmissable one-man show from the worlds most critically acclaimed variety artist. Scalpel-sharp wit and astonishing skills honed over three decades travelling the world’s stages, streets and spiegeltents come together to create an unforgettable hour of big tricks and big laughs for all ages. ‘One of the greatest variety artists working today’ (Scotsman). ‘The most talented man at the Edinburgh Fringe’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Breathtaking’ (Evening Standard). ‘Terrific’ (Guardian). ‘The Derren Brown of juggling’ (LoveFringe.com). ‘Mat Ricardo is amazing!’ (HRH Prince Charles).”

I’ve seen Mat Ricardo a couple of times as part of the Burlesque Show that used to come to the Royal and Derngate in Northampton, and he was always superb. It’ll be good to see him in a full show by himself!

UPDATE: Good to see Mat Ricardo again – his juggling skills are second to none. A few gasp out loud moments – he said there would be. Whilst he’s technically brilliant, I’m slightly less sure of his ability to host a complete hour with his presentation style, but that’s just me. Nevertheless, it was thoroughly entertaining, and the hour flew by. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

14.05 – Fritz and Matlock, Pleasance Courtyard.

Fritz and Matlock“In a Sheffield basement, two men try to bury the bodies of their past to find a hopeful future. With no way out, will Fritz make it to his wedding? Will Matlock get away with murder? Or will the police finally raid the marijuana grow in the attic? A new dark comedy with a fresh take on men’s mental health, the care system and addiction. 2021 Offie nominees for Lead Performances and Most Promising New Playwrights. ‘Reminiscent of the works of Beckett and Pinter’ ***** (TheReviewsHub.com). **** (Stage).”

As well as Beckett and Pinter, this sounds rather Ortonesque, which is what drew my attention! Fingers crossed that it works well.

UPDATE: Definitely Pinteresque; not so much Beckett and definitely not Orton. Two excellent performances in an intriguing play with a clever twist that I certainly didn’t see coming, and I definitely won’t tell you about! Not sure that the plot was entirely watertight, and there were a couple of scenes that weren’t sufficiently clear for us to understand. But the acting certainly carries the day, and the play is definitely worth seeing. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

16.00 – Afghanistan Is Not Funny by Henry Naylor, Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Afghanistan“In 2002, whilst researching a comedy, triple-Fringe First winner Henry Naylor and two-time Scottish Press Photographer of the Year Sam Maynard, went to the Afghan war zone. An extraordinary tale ensued in which they were threatened by a war criminal, captured by the Mujahideen and nearly blown up by the Taliban. Performed by Naylor himself, the show takes us back to the start of the modern Afghan tragedy. It comes direct from the Adelaide Fringe, where it won twelve five-star reviews and two major awards. European Premiere.”

This sounds like a truly fascinating mix of dark comedy and true tragedy. But it’s considered a hit, so that’s good enough for me!

UPDATE: A fascinating and very personal account of Henry Naylor’s time in Afghanistan, coupled with some extraordinary photographs that speak volumes, are at the heart of this slightly unbalanced show. Whilst everything to do with Afghanistan in this hour totally captures your interest and imagination, the framework surrounding it, with his dealings with the Gilded Balloon, and his psychotherapist, largely miss the mark. But it’s a very intense and thought provoking show. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

18.00 – Tim Vine: Breeeep! Pleasance Courtyard.

Timi Vine“Tim Vine returns with his new stand-up show. A mountain of nonsense. One-liners, stupid things, unlikely songs, wobbly props. (Plus utter drivel.) Tim’s like the manager of a sweet shop where all the sweets are replaced by jokes, and he serves them in the order he chooses. So, it’s like a sweet shop where the manager just throws sweets at you. Winner of Dave’s Best Joke of the Fringe 2010 and 2014. Star of The Tim Vine Chat Show (BBC Radio 4) and numerous TV appearances. Enjoy the foolishness. Then leave. ‘A symphony of silly’ ***** (Times).”

It’s been the sin of omission that we’ve never seen Tim Vine live before, so I’m sure this will be magnificent!

UPDATE: Having realised we’ve only seen Tim Vine in short spurts on TV we became concerned that a full hour of him might be too much. And so it proved. The relentless silliness quickly palled with us, and whilst others guffawed throughout, we only chuckled occasionally. As Mrs C noted, she wasn’t expecting it to be quite so *infantile*. Not for us, but I completely accept that he went down a storm with others! ⭐️⭐️⭐️

21.00 – Ballet Freedom, Pleasance @ EICC.

Ballet Freedom“Spectacular world renowned ballet company journey from Kyiv. Freedom Ballet celebrate their 20th anniversary in Edinburgh with 14 incredible dancers. An outstanding dance collective. Their intimate, sensual ballet is astonishing. This adaptation of their hit show Boudoir is about the moment of life, when knowing yourself, your love and your loss, you can truly see yourself in the mirror. Credits include performing with Franco Dragone, legendary director of Cirque de Soleil, and sharing the stage with Dita Von Teese, Queen of Burlesque Cabaret. Sold out tours in more than 30 countries with over 5,000 performances.”

Given the appalling situation in Ukraine I can only believe that this will be a truly emotional performance. I’m sure it will be a rewarding dance experience too.

UPDATE: Audience reviews online were about 75-25 in favour of this show, but those who didn’t like it *really* didn’t like it! We thought it was terrific; inventive, dynamic choreography, danced with joy and skill, frequently very tongue in cheek, lots of dark humour and even a few instances of audience participation (and don’t think by not sitting in the front you’re safe – you’re not!) Invasion by a hostile neighbour was tastefully suggested in a few of the dances. I was very disappointed at the amount of photography and videoing from audience members, which was extremely disrespectful of both the performers and other audience members. But we loved the show! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Edinburgh Fringe Full Monty (nearly) – Day 16, 20th August 2022

Another day in Edinburgh heavy on comedy!

Here’s the schedule for 20th August:

12.00 – Joe Wells: I Am Autistic, PBH’s Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Joe Wells“Joe is not a “person with comedy”; he’s a comedian. Nor is he a “person with autism”; he’s autistic. His video Having a Brother Who is Not Autistic went viral, with over 2 million views. Support for Frankie Boyle and Alexei Sayle. ‘Some of the most surprising and thought-provoking material coming from any comedian’ (Guardian). As seen on BBC Two’s Ouch! Storytelling Live, BBC Three’s Quickies and Dave’s Comedy Guide to Life. Writer for Have I Got News For You. A show about being proud of your weird brain.”

We first saw Joe Wells at the Fringe a few years ago on the strength of word of mouth and were blown away by his brilliant incisive observations. We never miss a chance to see him! I’m sure this will be as good as ever.

UPDATE: Always one of our favourite comedians, Joe is on fantastic form with a show that gives rise to pretty much non stop laughter, mainly about autism – and yes I know it sounds unlikely. He’s a truly gifted comedian, with a beautifully crafted set, and there’s no better way to start your Fringe day! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

14.45 – Trevor Lock’s New Show, PBH’s Free Fringe @ Bannermans.

Trevor Lock“The UK’s number-one comedian returns to the Fringe with a brand-new show that, as usual, will probably be entirely different each day. ‘Blew me away – an absolute masterclass in comedy performance’ ***** (Scotsman). ‘The most fun you can have without taking your clothes off’ (Mirror).”

Trevor Lock is new to us, so it’s a bit of a punt but he gets good reviews, so here’s hoping!

UPDATE no 1: in a change to the advertised programme, we’re going to see Oleg Denisov, Escaped Artist, instead!

UPDATE no 2: Oleg’s a funny guy, with great material, solid, reliable delivery, and I liked how he looked the Ukrainian conflict head-on, there’s no point trying to deny or ignore it.  Plenty of good jokes that stem from being a foreigner, living overseas, trying to make a living from comedy. He’s also trying to be feminist, which creates more comic delights. Very good indeed. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

16.15 – Richard Stott: Afterparty, Underbelly Bristo Square.

Richard Stott“Richard Stott returns to the Fringe with a brand-new show filled with trademark storytelling and joyously acerbic one liners. The runner-up in Dave’s Jokes of the Fringe 2019 talks about stripping down for a documentary, club nights that turned into afterparties and then into crime scenes, and finally starting to grow up and beginning to like the adult he’s become. All while living with a disability… perhaps. As seen on ITV2’s Stand Up Sketch Show. ‘Definitely one to watch out for’ (BroadwayBaby.com). ‘Thoroughly enjoyable’ (Skinny). ‘Reminiscent of Jonathan Pie’ (ThreeWeeks).”

More comedy, again from someone we don’t know but again they get good reviews. You have to take a risk in Edinburgh!

UPDATE: First of all, I see absolutely no similarity between Jonathan Pie and Richard Stott! A very well structured show, where Richard is coming to terms with being in his mid-30s without being ready to accept it yet. Afterparty becomes a metaphor for those bleak years after the fun of your 20s. Likeable and easy to identify with, Richard has a good attacking style, although some of the material could do with a bit of sharpening up. Nevertheless, very enjoyable! ⭐️⭐️⭐️

18.40 – Pear, Underbelly, Cowgate.

Pear“You have a one in 250 chance of being an identical twin, so for Hugo and Patrick McPherson, they started life by being a bit unusual. And that’s not all: 6’8″, benders of the truth, and standing at 6’7″, these enormous twins now launch their debut show, Pear. A riotous, absurd and hilarious collection of sketch comedy and wacky characters. There was originally cultural commentary; it got cut for time. But it was as brave as much as it is now not in the show. An unapologetically original hour of comedy.”

Fringe favourite Patrick McPherson, whom we’ve already seen once this Fringe, returns with his brother for a series of sketches.

UPDATE: “Are there twins in the audience, oh oh, oh oh, are there any twins in?” 🎵 🎵 I guarantee you’ll be singing that for ages.

Patrick and Hugo do an amazing double act, with a nicely structured, incredibly silly, beautifully funny show, with perfect callbacks and audience interaction. You don’t stop beaming from start to finish! Is there nothing these McPhersons can’t do?! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

21.15 – Adults Only Magic Show, Assembly George Square Studios.

Adults Only Magic Show“Winner of Best Magic Show and Adelaide Fringe Weeklies. Prepare to be wowed out of your seats in this jam-packed, 18+ spectacular! Featuring an array of raucous comedy, mind-bending illusions and a cheeky hint of nudity seen on stages all across the globe! The Penn & Teller of Australia! ***** (GlamAdelaide.com.au). ‘Wildly hilarious, wonderfully confident and wickedly inappropriate!’ ***** (TheatreTravels.org). ‘This duo is a force to be reckoned with!’ ***** (WeekendNotes.co.uk). ‘Magic at its finest and funniest! **** (FringeFeed, FringeWorld.com.au).”

Always up for a bit of naughty magic! This show has been going for some time but we’ve never seen it – first time for everything.

UPDATE: Sam and Justin have put together some amazing magic and framed it within this “adult only” naughty presentation, to the delight of everyone. Very funny, very naughty and very incredible! Not a clue as to how any of it was done. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

23.20 – A Shoddy Detective and the Art of Deception, The Space on North Bridge.

Shoddy Detective“A bumbling detective is called upon to uncover the mystery of a priceless stolen painting, but when he cannot solve it himself he is forced to enlist the help of an old nemesis. Together, the pair must interrogate the many characterful suspects that reside at the manor, in order to catch the conniving culprit and solve the crime of the century. A multi-roling, slapstick comedy bringing the classics of comedy to the 21st century. **** (LondonPubTheatres.com).”

From the comedy whodunit genre – let’s hope it’s more hit than miss!

UPDATE: They may call themselves Shoddy Theatre, but there’s nothing shoddy about this brilliant piece of nonsensical, physical theatre, packed with terrifically ludicrous scenes, hilarious characterisations, knockabout humour and superb stage fighting! Loved every minute of it. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Edinburgh Fringe Full Monty (nearly) – Day 13, 17th August 2022

Fewer shows today as we’re meeting up with family!

Here’s the schedule for 17th August:

10.45 – Pundemic, Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Pundemic“From running an online pun show gaining hundreds of thousands of views to the culmination of an appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, a lot has happened over the last two years for this prolific pun-producing comedian from Glasgow. Join him as he presents the best of his puns as written all through this Pundemic. UK Pun Championship finalist (2017, 2018, 2020, 2022). ChampiPUNship runner-up 2019. UK Pun Off Puntest of Champions runner up 2021. ‘Corny’ (David Walliams). ‘Scotland’s Prince of Puns’ (Johnny Beattie). ‘Likeable and a funny guy’ (Alesha Dixon).”

An hour of puns with Iain MacDonald. What’s not to like?

UPDATE: A fun and entertaining way to start the day, with Iain MacDonald delivering exactly what it says on the can. My only criticism is that his delivery style is quiet and measured; all the other punsters I have seen deliver their material fast and furious, with no time for you to reflect before moving on to the next joke. So, it could be a little punchier (geddit?) but it was still very enjoyable. ⭐️⭐️⭐️

16.45 – Magical Bones: Soulful Magic, Assembly Checkpoint.

Magical Bones“Following a totally sold-out debut in 2019, the Britain’s Got Talent finalist returns to the Fringe with ‘a dazzling show… full of imagination and flair’ **** (Guardian). Direct from appearances on America’s Penn & Teller: Fool Us, BBC One’s BAFTA Awards, ITV1’s This Morning and Sky’s Around The World in 80 Tricks, join Bones as he brings you a brand-new hour of the most awe-inspiring and high-energy magic you’ll see this year. ‘What’s happening on stage really is magic’ (Telegraph).”

This our first magic show of the Fringe; Mrs Chrisparkle isn’t always easily impressed by magic (whereas I gape open mouthed at the simplest tricks) so we’ll see how well Mr Bones entertains her!

UPDATE: A slick and skilful magic show, with a few breathtaking tricks, all nicely paced and amusingly presented. We *think* we worked out how he did one of his tricks, but the rest were pretty astounding. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

19.00 – Troy Hawke: Sigmund Troy’d! Underbelly Bristo Square.

Troy Hawke“Last year he found the nefarious link between Ikea, the Nazis and Kanye West. Now 1930s throwback home-schooled investigator Troy Hawke returns to battle a new enemy on behalf of all people everywhere…psychotherapy! Leicester Comedy Festival Best Show nominee, 2022. Leicester Comedy Festival Best Show nominee, 2020. Perth Fringe World Comedy Weekly Award winner and main award shortlist, 2020. Perth Fringe World Comedy Weekly Award winner and main award shortlist, 2019. Total sell-out run Edinburgh Fringe, 2019. Top 40 best reviewed comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2019.”

Milo McCabe’s brilliant creation Troy Hawke returns with a new show and he always effervesces with wit – I’m expecting nothing less this year.

UPDATE: Effortless characterisation, the mischievous Milo has formed a brilliant, creative set of material for Troy based on a random tweet that caught his imagination. With scrabble values, psychotherapy, magic numbers, shop greetings and pizza dedications, this is an extraordinarily detailed flight of fantasy. I know that by sitting in the front we were asking for it – and we got it. But so did many others! Fabulously funny! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

21.00 – Dog / Actor, Greenside @ Infirmary Street.

Dog Actor“Two hilarious and explosive plays written by Steven Berkoff, performed back-to-back by the same actor. Dog follows a day in the life of a racist football hooligan and his beloved pit bull terrier Roy, who changes his life. Actor is a spoken-word monologue which delves into the heart of the acting industry, humorously and poignantly portraying the trying life of a struggling artist. Without the use of any set or props, Dog / Actor presents a masterclass in physical theatre and comedic storytelling, promising a thrilling theatrical experience. ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). ***** (NorthWestEnd.co.uk). ***** (Everything-Theatre.co.uk).”

As soon as I saw this show in the listings, I knew I needed to see it. Stephen Smith is the actor (and dog) in question. I always like the works of Steven Berkoff so this is a must-see for me.

UPDATE: A true masterclass in acting from Stephen Smith in this Berkoff double bill. Berkoff’s superb writing demands excellent characterisations, and that’s exactly what Mr Smith delivers by the truckload. He’s also amazing with the physical theatre – in “Dog” particularly you really got a sense of the powerful and aggressive Roy. An enthralling show! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Review – John Archer, Against the Odds, Underground at the Derngate, 21st February 2020

John Archer Against the OddsAs a prelude to what we hoped would be a weekend of riotous laughter at the Leicester Comedy Festival (more of which soon), Mrs Chrisparkle and I were joined by our friends the Squire of Sidcup and the Wise Woman of Wembley for dinner, drinks and an evening in the company of comedy magician John Archer. Mr Archer was recently on Britain’s Got Talent (apparently – we’re never in to see it.) However, clearly a lot of the good burghers of Northampton had watched his appearance because when we arrived twenty minutes before the show was due to start (normally plenty of time to get a good seat) we had to make do with the back row. Not a great position from which to observe close-up magic.

J ArcherHowever, that’s not really Mr A’s style – you didn’t need to be in the front few rows to watch any sneaky dexterity. Most of his magical feats were mind-based; predicting the numbers that people would choose to create a fantasy lottery ticket, for example, or which card from a selection, all bearing different words on them that an audience member would pick unseen. There was yet another very clever trick where he had £80 in an envelope, with four other worthless envelopes, and he manage to convince audience members to pick all the other envelopes except the one with the dosh.

John ArcherBut he’s not just a fantastic magician. He has a lovely, gentle comedy style – self-deprecating, whacking out short silly songs on a ukulele; playing slightly on the fact that he won’t see 55 again but there’s definitely life in this old dog yet. An intriguing and impressive act; there’s no way that you’ll work out how he performs those feats of magical intellect – and to preserve the mystery I’d really rather not know anyway. No gimmicks, no pyrotechnics; just good old-fashioned entertainment. Nothing more to add! John Archer is touring his Against the Odds show in various venues around the country between now and May. Very enjoyable!

4-starsFour he’s a jolly good fellow!