Sarah Bennetto: The King And I

4 stars

****

I first encountered Sarah Bennetto when I reviewed The Storytellers’ Club a couple of years back.  I enjoyed that show very much indeed and found Bennetto herself an endearing and engaging performer, qualities which were very much in evidence in this, her one-woman show.

The show is framed around Bennetto’s invitation to attend a party thrown by HRH Prince Charles at Clarence House.  She has no idea why she’s been invited to attend; it can’t be anything to do with her thankless job as a host on the cable TV channel ‘The Soundtrack Channel’ can it?  She ends up running late, dressed in polyester and displaying a nice line in plastic accessories.

This is a gentle glimpse into the rather bizarre situation Bennetto finds herself in and she tells it with confidence and warmth.  13.30 is a tricky timeslot for stand-up and the show I attended had a rather sparse audience, which was a real pity.  There’s no doubt that she deserves bigger numbers as she has a genuine knack for telling a story, and telling it well.  A nice way to start an afternoon’s Fringe viewing.

Reviewed by Di

Venue – Pleasance Dome, 10 Dome

13.30 – 14.30

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Late Night Gimp Fight

5 stars

*****

As I excused myself from the pub last night and explained to my assembled friends that I had to run away to review the Late Night Gimp Fight, I have to admit there were a certain number of eyebrows raised.  It’s a divisive title, one that will either repel or intrigue you.  Obviously, I fell into the latter camp.

This is a sketch show without boundaries.  Boundaries of taste, that is.  Or boundaries of what may be considered acceptable behaviour in polite society.  And do you know what, it’s all the better for it.   I had an inkling that I’d happened upon a good thing when the introductory tune turned out to be ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’.  How can you better a beginning by Buggles?  Well, these guys managed it by segueing into a gleefully wrong interpretation of Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’.  I know we’re all sick of the song, but here it was given a new lease of life.  From then on Lee, Matt, Dave, Paul and Richard pounded through their wonderfully wrong sketches, never simply aiming for shock value but providing genuine belly laughs along the way.

This whole show held together beautifully.  During the sketches you would have been hard pushed to see the punchlines coming, and when you did it was because it was because it was part of a running gag weaving itself through the set.  Transitions between scenes were kept slick through the excellent use of the AV equipment, in which popular adverts or music videos were given a gimpy twist.  The 5 performers used their limited space brilliantly and I don’t think there was a single second wasted.

Of course, now I have to go back and confess to my friends that I absolutely loved my time spent with these particular gimps.  They can raise their eyebrows all they want, I don’t care.  Deeply and darkly delightful.

Reviewed by Di

Venue – Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance Beside

23.00 – 00.00

Comedy Countdown

4 stars

****

How best to describe the Comedy Countdown?  I think ‘ramshackle’ probably just about covers it.  If you’re familiar with the format of Channel 4’s ‘Countdown’ then you’re probably one up on some of the comedians involved in this late night version of the well-known show.  But don’t take this as a negative criticism, in the hands of these professionals ‘ramshackle’ becomes delightfully entertaining.

On the evening I attended the hosting duties were taken on by Toby Williams, who seemed to be more concerned about getting his next Guiness from the bar rather than which order we progressed through the rounds.  Contestants Stuart Goldsmith and Sarah Millican battled it out, whilst dictionary corner was manned by Marcel Lucont and James Sherwood.  Whilst Goldsmith and Millican provided good natured banter, the real stars of the night were Lucont and Sherwood as they dryly played up their wonderfully antagonistic relationship.

This is a show that required all involved to think on their feet, and in doing so showed off their skill in drawing laughter from the most unlikely of places.  Aficionados of the show proper might tut at the rule breaking that runs rampant, but the rest of us will be chortling (an appropriate nine letter word) the night away.

Reviewed by Di

Venue – Gilded Balloon, Wine Bar

00.15 – 01.15

16th, 17th, 23rd, 24th August

Bowels

3 Stars

***

Edinburgh based, amateur company Big Village Theatre embrace the spirit of the Fringe by showcasing new writing. In 2009 Neil Walden won the Company’s writing competition and now his entry is being premiered. This does represent something of a gamble but his comedy is given a lively and highly entertaining treatment by director, Paul McGuigan.

The story is set in the early years of the 20th century. Eddie McDowell successfully plays Richard Arrowsmith as a parody of an Edwardian gentleman explorer. Since, Amundsen and Scott have cornered the market in terms of the race to the South Pole; Arrowsmith needs another epic journey to find his place in history. A heroic expedition to the centre of the earth starting from Iceland is his inspired choice. Thus the silliness begins, bizarre and a touch corny.

He leads his faithful compatriot Captain Jangles (Sara-Jane McGeachy) and, curiously, a German female soldier, Rita von Schultz (Wendy Brindle), on the dangerous quest into the unknown. The action flows along as they encounter a dinosaur and an earthquake. Do they succeed or is their expedition to be an example of glorious failure? In many comedies, there can be predictability about the ending but in this case the final scene is wonderfully novel and very funny. Credit is due to the whole cast and the technical crew for a polished performance.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number – Augustines; V152

Dates – 9 to 15 August 2010

Times – 19.55 to 20.40

Fringe Programme Page Number: 234

Bright is the Ring of Words

Three Stars

***

Jeffrey Mayhew’s play is an uncompromising yet poignant drama putting together two men who could not be more different. John, played by the author, is living in a dingy bed-sit. He is an aging alcoholic who was once on the verge of international fame as an opera singer. Stanley (John Garfield-Roberts) is a young man who has experienced a violent working class upbringing. Following an act of mindless vandalism, he enters John’s life through a community service order which involves cleaning John’s bed-sit.

John’s existence is almost at rock bottom. He makes no effort to look after himself even to the extent of keeping himself clean. Stanley’s visit on this occasion is to prepare John for the visit of his daughter. Their conversation centres on John’s pathetically few possessions – a few photographs and a pair of lacy knickers. Despite John’s situation, Stanley has a touching regard for the man. John is full of self pity, throwing in acerbic comments about the people in his life during the better times. His observations may be humorous but we can feel little sympathy for the man himself. Movingly, Stanley has spent his own money preparing a buffet tea but John’s selfishness destroys his good intentions.

This production is an interesting take on the age old theme of talent being wilfully squandered and the resultant pathetic decline of an individual whose life could have achieved so much.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number – Pleasance Courtyard; V33

Dates – 4 to 30 August 2010 (not 17)

Times – 15.25 to 16.30

Fringe Programme Page Number: 234

That Moment

2 Stars

**

Young actress Jenny Harold takes on around a dozen or so characters in Dougie Blaxland’s solo performance comedy. The central character is Alicia Harding, a struggling young actress/waitress. She recounts the heartaches and the dashed hopes of her career – failed auditions and appearing in a struggling Fringe play. Her private life is not so wonderful either – is Ben a boyfriend or just a good mate?

Jenny Harold does give a sterling performance extracting humour from a script which is in parts thin and the characters she portrays tend to be stereotypes. What is missing is a sense of real drama in Alicia’s situation as a counterpoint to the whimsical humour.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number – Underbelly Cowgate; V61

Dates – 5 to 29 August 2010

Times – 12.50 to 13.50

Fringe Programme Page Number: 295

The Wau Wau Sisters Last Supper

*****

5Stars

This is not the first time I have seen The Wau Wau Sisters perform in Edinburgh. Hell no!! So I was a little prepared for the maniacal mayhem that was surely going to be on the menu for this Last Supper

The Wau Wau Sisters, Tanya and Adrienne. Are they singers? Are they comedians? Are the circus performers? Are they musicians? Are they burlesque performers? Are they even sisters?

From the onset on being welcomed by them dressed as school girls to the finale when they are dressed in only red wine, these, I hesitate to use the word ladies, run through a whole gambit of their phenomenal skill.

A almost Benny start with them running around the audience, fine demonstrations of their strength in a raunchy undressing each other routine, country and western singing horizontal while one supports the other plays guitar, the inevitable get the audience involved, some ‘lucky punters’ get more involved than perhaps they would wish, the sisters demonstrate their skills at what ever segment they are performing at the time.

For two such slender women their strength is phenomenal and is integrated into the routines on numerous occasions, especially when dealing with two more lucky punters, but as with all of the shows I’ve seen, it is their tandem trapeze act towards the end that is the highlight for me, as this is done almost in the crowd and at times only inches from the floor.

So if you are looking for the outrageous, the audacious, the most entertaining, the raunchiest, show to finish off the Fringe day then this could well be the show for you, but be prepared for literally anything.

*****

Reviewed by Geoff

Assembly Supper Room Venue 3

5 to 30 August

22-40 to-23-45

Fringe Brochure P 140