Edinburgh Fringe 2023 Reviews – Four, Rob Auton: The Rob Auton Show, Marlon Solomon: How to be an Antisemite, Shenanigans Cabaret, and Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment!

FourFour, Gilded Balloon Teviot.

Let’s start with the positives! It’s a terrific premise for a show. Leonard, the lead violin of a string quartet, has died and the three remaining members had made a pact not to carry on after he’d gone, but to quit the quartet. But Hassim, their spivy, untrustworthy manager has recruited a new member, Kiki, to replace Leonard without telling the others. They decide, eventually, to allow a four-month trial, to see if they get on together and want to carry on. And the result? You’ll have to watch the play to find out! The play takes a variety of themes – grief, loyalty, the value of the arts, the need to move forward and change with the times, trust, and more – and deals with them pretty well. However, if you do decide to watch the play, there are five performers on stage and I regret to say that only one is a good actor. One is – and I hesitate to say this – very wooden indeed. The others give performances that are just about adequate. One of those tricky judgments – an intriguing play that’s not very well executed. Given the range of terrific shows on offer at the Fringe, I cannot recommend this show because of the acting. But it’s your choice!


Rob Auton: The Rob Auton Show, Assembly Roxy.

Rob AutonHaving performed shows built on various subjects over the years, Rob Auton’s newest show is about the topic he knows best – Rob Auton. He takes us through personal moments over his formative childhood years, like the simple pleasure of watching a lava lamp with his sister, or his excellence on the cricket field, through his first experiences with the opposite sex and finding his feet as The Crab Cake Kid. Rob Auton is nothing if not engagingly honest; his flights of both fancy and fantasy take wing as he taps into his natural philosophical poetry and brings out many of the more ludicrous of his observations. His humour is not for everyone; few people have that kind of universal appeal. But personally I love wallowing in his mental somersaults; and, like all his shows, there is a journey to be followed and both the route to get there and the final end point are thoroughly enjoyable.


Marlon Solomon: How to Be an Antisemite, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Marlon SolomonMarlon Solomon delivers a well-researched and entertainingly illustrated talk about the history of antisemitism which goes right back to the Bible and the earliest art, and is more engrained in human brains than I could ever have imagined. It’s a very informative  show – for example, I’d never encountered the word “jew” as a verb before – and it’s never used as a complimentary term. And isn’t that David Icke a horrendous stain on humanity? I’m glad to know nothing about him. Entertaining and educational, this is a fascinating and enlightening hour that never gets over-serious despite the seriousness of its topic.


Shenanigans Cabaret, The Space on the Mile.

Shenanigans CabaretA brash, funny and talented burlesque show included circus stunts (I think that’s the right phrase), boylesque and some terrific routines. The cast change from tomorrow, so I can’t say how it will be next week, but tonight’s show was very enjoyable! Classic burlesque and cabaret at its best.


Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment! Pleasance Courtyard.

Rosie HoltI love Rosie Holt’s social media videos where she pretends to be a feckless and condescending Tory MP – they’re priceless. But how well does the character transfer to live theatre? We saw her show last year and it worked really well – not too much reliance on her pre-recorded material and plenty to laugh at. This year, however, it isn’t so successful. I commend her for using no pre-recorded material at all, so all the material was fresh and new; and the structure of the show is clever, with a right-wing shock jock TV and radio presenter warming up the audience for Rosie’s appearance as a bigoted MP and then reappearance as a stand-up comic. Unfortunately, the show never goes far enough in any one direction to be truly funny – the TV presenter holds back from being truly foul, the MP doesn’t quite make the social and political gaffes we might expect, and the “stand-up” sequence is full of padding and repetition and just doesn’t hit the jackpot. There’s still a lot to amuse and the characterisations are frighteningly believable; I just wanted more.


The Edinburgh Fringe All Month Long – 20th August 2023

Wanna know what’s scheduled for today in Edinburgh?

Here’s the schedule for 20th August:

12.45 – Four, Gilded Balloon Teviot. From the Edinburgh Fringe website:

Four“In this poignant and compelling new work, an ambitious manager introduces a new first violinist to a longstanding string quartet with an uncertain future. As the reconstituted quartet plays, over twelve weeks of rehearsals and performances, it becomes evident that this new blood has disrupted the settled dynamics of the group. The award-winning playwright of Four, Clé Holly (Parallel Lines, Stretch, American Standard), is herself a violinist, and it shows in the verisimilitude of this sharply written drama. Featuring live music.”

This sounds like an interesting combination of genres. What happens when a new person disrupts a happy team?

14.25 – Rob Auton: The Rob Auton Show, Assembly Roxy.

Rob Auton“The Rob Auton Show is a show about Rob Auton. Rob Auton has written nine hit Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy/theatre/spoken-word shows on specific themes including yellow in The Yellow Show, and sleep in The Sleep Show. In his tenth show Rob turns the pen on himself to explore the memories and feelings that create his life on a daily basis. ‘A genuine original’ (Guardian). ‘Makes laughter out of wonder. We need him’ (Scotsman). ‘Charming, eccentric and uplifting’ (Independent). ‘Brilliant’ (Stewart Lee). ‘One of my absolute favourites’ (Daniel Kitson).”

I’m a big fan of Rob Auton’s quiet, unconventional style so I’m looking forward to seeing what his new show is all about!

16.20 – Marlon Solomon: How to Be an Antisemite, Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose.

Marlon Solomon“From the maker of Conspiracy Theory: A Lizard’s Tale – **** (BroadwayBaby.com), **** (TheWeeReview.com) – comes Marlon Solomon’s highly anticipated second show. A black comedy about the current rise of antisemitism, where it comes from and what we can do about it. Marlon explores his own experience being a target and how it changed his life. Told in his own unique style, How To Be An Antisemite is a wry piece of storytelling which exposes a shocking underbelly in society that few know exist. It’s another comic tale which is no laughing matter.”

The last time we saw Marlon Solomon live was in the remarkable The Curing Room at Edinburgh a few years back. This will be a very different kettle of fish, and I’m looking forward to hearing everything he has to say about antisemitism.

18.15 – Shenanigans Cabaret, The Space on the Mile.

Shenanigans Cabaret“East London’s five-star variety show comes to Edinburgh for the third year in a row, bringing you top-class cabaret acts from across the performing arts industry, including circus, burlesque, sideshow, acrobatics, live music, drag, dance and anything else we can get our hands on. From the weird and wonderful to the sublime and ridiculous, showcasing a diverse cast of both new and established performers, anything goes at this show and, indeed, anything can happen… Hold onto your hats as they’re about to be blown away! ‘Highly entertaining’ , ‘hilarious’ and ‘a revelation’ ***** (Audience Reviews).”

I don’t know why it sounds funny to associate burlesque with East London, but I’m sure this will be a great show!

20.00 – Rosie Holt: That’s Politainment! Pleasance Courtyard.

Rosie Holt“The worse the political career, the more lucrative the subsequent entertainment opportunities. Matt Hancock may have slaughtered millions but now he’s making a killing. So can Rosie Holt’s viral hit MP follow “politainers” Dorries, Farage and Rees-Mogg and leap from the pages of Hansard to Heat? After her sell-out Edinburgh show last year, Rosie returns to tightrope the thin line between politics and entertainment. ‘The Thick of It levels of writing and performance applied to a very current flavour of political bullshit’ (Times). ‘Beautifully observed and performed’ (Guardian). ‘A character comedy treat’ **** (Time Out).”

We saw Rosie Holt’s Edinburgh show last year and it was a breath of fresh air – terrific political comedy. Hoping for great things again this year!

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


Review – Rob Auton, The Crowd Show – Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 3rd March 2023

Crowd ShowWasn’t it Barbra Streisand who said, and I think it was, People – People who need people – are the luckiest people in the world…. I’m sure that’s an attitude that Rob Auton would 100% get behind. It’s a sentiment that always reminds me of a great Tommy Cooper line: A friend in need… is a pest, get rid of him.

If anyone treads the thinnest of lines between stand-up comedy and spoken word, it’s Rob Auton. We saw him at the Royal and Derngate four years ago with his Talk Show, which I described at the time as an intelligent, thoughtful and emotional hour’s comedy. Since then, not only have we had the Covid pandemic and a plethora of Prime Ministers, but also the return of Rob Auton with his Crowd Show. And, guess what? It’s another evening of intelligent, thoughtful and emotional comedy. I guess I didn’t really expect him to change.

As before, the gentlest of first halves brings Rob to the stage, delighted to be performing again, and genuinely thrilled (I really don’t think he’s pretending) to meet the good Burgers of Northampton on a Friday night out out. He quickly elicits which of us have seen him before (a good third, I would estimate) and he’s chuffed that we’ve returned. Front row John had already seen his Crowd Show in Edinburgh, and Rob is gobsmacked that he’s come back for a second helping. He’s easily distracted by sweet-rustlings; he has to investigate the nature of the individual sweet concerned (Maltesers). He has a well-prepared riposte for the guy who leaves shortly before the interval, assuming he couldn’t wait to nip to the Gents; but in fact he’d gone to place a wine order for the interval. Pinot; although he never clarified if it was noir or grigio. The riposte was, therefore, inappropriate and not used.

I’m going into this kind of detail about the audience behaviour, by the way, because Rob himself takes a lot of time considering what his individual audience members get up to during the show. He sees it as a shared experience; what the audience does is just as vital to the nature of the performance as what he does. And he’s right; before the second half starts, a chap from the back of the crowd runs up and places a box of Maltesers on the stage. It’s all integrated.

Rob AutonMeanwhile, back to the show. Mr A takes us on a journey through his career to date; how he moved from advertising to performing, initially via the medium of poetry, through all his one-man Shows, to where he is today. He remembers aspects of those performances, his content and his intentions with each. It’s a cross between Rob Auton’s Greatest Hits and This is Your Life.

He returns after the interval as a heckler for his own show, sitting at the back calling for it to start, setting up a chant of We Want Rob! which he naturally obliges by eventually returning. The Crowd Show, as such, starts. It’s based on a Google search regarding advice on Speaking To A Crowd Of People (which is what he’s doing). A mangled file of papers in his hand, to which he apparently frequently refers, he goes through the list of individual pieces of advice one by one, showing how he is conforming to Google’s suggestions. It’s charming, frequently funny – although rarely belly-laugh inducing – and strangely reflective. He also plays some games with us; it’s a way of cementing the bond between audience and performer that probably works best when the audience is fully behind the idea. I’m not entirely sure we were.

Rob Auton has an almost unique ability to tell a universal truth in a quiet but winning way. As an example, he remembers an occasion where he saw his (then) fiancé at a distance texting someone and looking really happy to be doing so. Whoever it is she is texting must mean a lot to her, he thinks internally. And then he receives her text and realises it is he of whom she is thinking lovingly. And that’s a perfect, simple, totally natural moment of sheer joy.

I must be honest though – The Crowd Show didn’t fully engage me in the same way that The Talk Show did; whether it was due to his sticking rigidly to the structure of the Google Advice throughout the hour, or whether his observations and thoughts weren’t quite so revelatory, I’m not certain. He’s drawing very near the end of his tour, but no doubt he’ll be back with more reflective emotion soon!

Review – Rob Auton: The Talk Show, Underground at the Derngate, Northampton, 17th May 2019

Rob AutonI guess when a show declares itself under the category of comedy/theatre/spoken word, you ought to realise you’re not in for an evening of typical stand-up comedy. And, indeed, Rob Auton doesn’t give you a typical evening of stand-up comedy. But don’t be alarmed, gentle reader, there are good things to follow…

He starts the show as his own warm-up act, getting to know the front row a little, talking about his previous shows, sharing with us some of his more dubious reviews, reading poetical gems from his books, and generally relaxing himself into the rest of the evening. After an interval he wanders back on to the stage; there’s no “welcome back ladies and gentlemen, did you have a good interval” type of showbiz introduction, rather it’s straight into his themes for the Talk Show – it even took a few moments to realise he’d started, as people were still checking their phones.

The Talk ShowHe talks a lot about his parents, with affection and understanding of their funny little ways; but, primarily, he talks about talking. He gets us to talk to strangers, and when we pluck up the courage to chat with our neighbours, he celebrates it as a great achievement.

Unusually, he stands in front of us with what I presume is a detailed script in his hand, that he tipped out of his Sainsbury’s bag earlier on, even though you never for once think he’s going to lose his place or not know what to say next. Perhaps it is his comfort blanket. Projecting a very engaging personality, but also exuding an air of great vulnerability, you sense that quite a lot of this material is joint therapy for both the audience and the performer; and that it’s all from personal experience. There’s humour at every turn; whether you choose to laugh at it or wryly recognise that it’s what makes the world go round, is up to you. And by that I don’t mean that it isn’t a show full of laughs – quite the opposite, he frequently had us all in hysterics. But there is meaning and pathos behind each laughter moment.

There are passages of great sensitivity and stillness, where he holds us in the palm of his hand waiting for his next word. The emotions are so strong that at one stage I thought he, or I, was going burst into tears. Neither of us did, but you could see the wetness in his eyes. There’s nothing forced or false in this show. His main message seems to be to make sure that those you love and care about know this fact. That can be a hard lesson to learn, but once learned, you don’t forget it. There will sadly come a time when you can’t tell them you love them anymore.

Rob Auton has a compelling style of delivery; measured, careful, each word chosen for its suitability. As a result, you have complete confidence in his mastery of his own material. He’s been taking shows up to Edinburgh for ages, so I’m very surprised not to have come across his work before – but I’m very glad I have. He’s still touring with the Talk Show, and also work-in-progressing this year’s Edinburgh show. Catch him if you can for an intelligent, thoughtful and emotional hour’s comedy.