Josie Long: Be Honourable!

4 stars

****

I like that the title of Long’s show includes an exclamation mark.  It gives emphasis to a show which seems to have that extra bit of passion and fire.  It makes it sound like a command, a call to arms, although one which Long delivers in her usual lo-fi, enthusiastically whimsical way.

Long didn’t make it up to Edinburgh last year, and my Fringe viewing was worse off for it.  However, this year she’s back with her tales of how she tried to be a better person.  At first this consisted of going on a diet and looking at pictures of food over the internet.  This leads Long into a wonderful segment in which she introduces us to Walter Ezell, a man who photographed his breakfast every day for a year.  By analysing the photos, Long builds up her own picture of Walter’s life and personality and there are various moments where she has the crowd ‘awwing’ as she delightfully dissects the subject matter in front of her.  I think this is my favourite feature of Long’s standup routines.  Her shows are always funny, but more importantly they are shot through with real heart and feeling which you can’t help but warm to.

So why have we been introduced to this man who took photos of his food for 365 days?  Well, Long explains, it’s because she’s looking for a hero; someone to look up to and admire.  She needs an adult who shares her beliefs, having been let down by those who she felt might.  Finding herself in a country governed by those she is fundamentally opposed to, Long is angry at herself for being complacent about politics and simply thinking it was enough to be ‘nice’.  She realises that she now needs to be something more, to have more of a social conscience.   This is where Long seems to make a slight departure from her usual style.  There seems to be a genuine sense of anger and disappointment bubbling under the surface which often bursts through to contrast with her good-natured optimism.

I always come away from an hour in Josie Long’s company feeling uplifted and generally happy with how humanity is turning out.  There is still genuinely a sense of that but underpinning it is a slightly more serious message, that perhaps we ought to start to be that bit more honourable.

Reviewed by Di

Venue: Just the Tonic @ the Caves

19.40

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Susan Calman Chats Up

3 stars

***

It seemed slightly odd to disappear into a cave during a lovely sunny day, but I was intrigued to see what this latest addition to the ever-growing number of lunchtime chat shows had to offer.  Of course, it had Susan Calman, always a welcome feature to any show I’ve found, and it also promised to offer up a taster of some other acts on the show.

Calman is a very engaging compere and easy to warm to, which is just as well as she was giving us tips on how to be a better audience.  In the wrong hands this veer into becoming patronising but Calman soon had us all agreeing to smile at comedians even when they weren’t very good, and to stay in our seats for the duration of a show.

Once the crowd was suitably warmed up Calman intoroduced the first act: Comedy Bitch.  They performed a couple of sketches from their longer show and then stuck about to have a chat.  There weren’t really any revelations made, apart from the fact that their names stems from an act of desperation upon the listings deadline approaching.  However, they seemed ameniable enough and the material they showcased provided the requisite chuckles.

Next on the bill was Jeremy Lion who, to be totally honest, wasn’t really to my taste.  I found his act a bit tedious although others around me enjoyed it.  Finally Loretta Maine took to the stage to perform a song from her set.  The ensuing chat was fairly entertaining, with Maine coming across as a slightly more lucid version of Courtney Love.

All in all a nice gentle hour of entertainment.  I daresay you’ll find similar fare across the various venues, but if you want to try something away from the main venues then seek out some Calman in the Caves.

Reviewed by Di

Venue: Just the Tonic @ the Caves

12.55pm

Brazil! Brazil!

4 Stars

****

The company of dancers, singers and musicians have created a dazzling spectacle. They tell the story of the creation of Brazilian popular culture which has carnival, samba and football as the unifying factors that transcend poverty and politics.

The centrepiece of the show is the troupe of 5 male dancers cum acrobats who give stunning displays of athleticism and timing. One of the troupe gives the narration as they trace the dance forms from the earliest folk roots, through the African slave influences to the contemporary capoeira, a fusing of dance and martial arts. They whirl, spin and somersault to the accompaniment of Rhythm Carnival who provide a full and dynamic sound with the emphasis on percussion.

They are rightly proud of their football heritage and it is a nice touch to mention the influence of Scots in bringing the game to Brazil. There is a little bit of football keepy-uppy amidst all the physical action. Between the dance routines, the female singers perform seductively; swaying hips in short tight skirts.

The finale brings all the elements together creating a breathtaking carnival atmosphere with the audience clapping in time and cheering the individual talents on display.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Udderbelly’s Pasture; V300

Dates                                                  5 to 30 August 2010 (not 16)

Times                                                 18.55 to 19.55

Fringe Programme Page Number: 144

Sam Simmons – Fail

4 Stars

****

Sam Simmons brand of comedy defies easy pigeon holing. This I learned from seeing him last year. It is unpredictable, frenetic and very funny, hilariously so at times.

There is a theatrical feel to his show, with his failures forming the recurring theme. This is maintained by his tightly scripted responses to a soundtrack of a set of bizarre quiz questions. Despite the mayhem, this gives the show some coherence. The answers to these questions give him the opportunity to go off in all kinds of directions form the surreal to the slapstick – cracking one liners, long rants and  visual gags with props like Diane the cabbage and a sellotape dispenser. He is a master of non sequitur humour. The soundtrack also has backing music for a variety of silly songs.

He ends optimistically by appreciating the small things in life which give him happiness, thus throwing off the shackles of failure. It is interesting leaving the Dining Room auditorium because you are passing close to the performance area and it is littered with all the many props he has used, from a saucepan to bundles of wool. It does give confirmation that his humour is the product of an inventive and ingenious mind.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Gilded Ballon Teviot; V14

Dates                                                  4 to 29 August 2010

Times                                                 21.15 to 22.15

Fringe Programme Page Number: 118

Misconception

3 Stars

***

Dilemmas abound in Bill Dare’s well acted satire. Jimmy (Toby Longworth) and Louise (Sian Reeves) are a happily married couple in their early 40’s. They are childless through choice and circumstance. Jimmy is no lover of children. Motor bikes, gambling and generally having a good time are his priorities in life. Louise has known for many years that she is barren but takes the pill to regulate her periods. That is until the evening that their best friend Noel (Stewart Wright) comes round to celebrate his birthday. He is becoming something of a loner with a strong tendency to moralise.

Louise confides in Noel that the she can now somehow have a baby but circumstances are such that she must conceive that night. She is desperate to have a child but how to tell Jimmy? Louise is scared to do so, fearing it will destroy their relationship. When she goes to change, Jimmy returns and senses something in the air. Does Noel tell the truth or lie? He opts for the former. Louise returns and the atmosphere becomes charged with recrimination.

The plot has many twists and turns. Louise does become pregnant and does give birth.

The touches of humour help to lighten the mood in this examination of attitudes to parenthood. After a ponderous opening, the action picks up pace in the second half of the play and there is a subtle twist at the end.

Reviewed by Ben

Venue; Venue Number                  Assembly @ George Street; V3

Dates                                                  5 to 30 August 2010 (not 9, 23)

Times                                                 15.35 to 16.55

Fringe Programme Page Number: 272

Terry Alderton

*****

5 Stars

Terry Alderton has been around the comedy scene for a number of years now, he was even nominated for the Perrier Award way back in 1999, so I was delighted to see he was returning for Fringe 2010.

Aptly entering onto his stage to the sounds of Madness on the PA he proceeded to deliver a frantic, occasionally manic, outstandingly funny hour of varied material, a lot of which featured his uncanny ability to mimic accents, both regional and personal yet also do planes helicopters and motor bikes.

Almost every avenue of the comedy genre was visited by this Essex geezer, all of which worked and worked well such is his versatility. He had his audience in stitches from minute one until the end, One of his most used ploys was back to the audience having two of his characters carrying on their own conversation,, how he managed to remember who was saying what I’ll never know.

I have seen a lot of comedy this festival of various styles, but for outright silliness and mayhem one would have to go a long way to find a funnier show than this.

*****

Reviewed by Geoff

Pleasance Ace Dome V 23

4 to 29 August

21-20 to 22-15

Fringe Brochure P 130

Chris McCausland- Emotional Retard

*****

5 Stars

I became aware of Chris McCausland during Fringe 2009 when I saw his show on a recommendation, and was pleased to see that he had returned for 2010.

McCausland is a blind comic, though apart from an occasional reference initially, he doesn’t labour the point. The show title Emotional Retard, an observation passed on him by his girlfriend, spawned an e-mail of complaint, basically that the writer was offended on someone else’s behalf

He then talks about people other than he can be offended by almost anything and a new slant on the Men are from Mars while women from Venus scenario.

Scouser McCausland has a wicked sense of humour and a pleasant delivery style, often self deprecating always clever. He is the master of the call-back setting up things earlier to re-introduce later and through out the entire gig had the crowded venue in the palm of his hand.

Part of his intro was that last year he was in a permanent building, thought he did well and ended up in a portacabin. I feel that they should be making room in a far plusher space for next year as I’m sure this guy will be huge in the very near future.

*****

Reviewed by Geoff

Pleasance Hut V 33

4-30 August

19-15 to 20-15

Fringe Brochure P44