Greg Davies: Firing Cheeseballs At A Dog

5 stars

*****

Firing cheeseballs at a dog?  What’s all that about then?  Well, put simply (and so as not to ruin the story that provides the answer) it’s all about looking for the little gems in life.  The joyous times.  The happy moments we experience and then just move on.  This is the basis for an absolute humdinger of a show from Davies.

Many will be used to seeing Davies as part of ‘We Are Klang’ or as Mr. Gilbert in The Inbetweeners.  However, here Davies is out on his own and, in my opinion, is all the better for it.  The show is essentially a life story, where Davies takes us through various points in his existence thus far and explains where he found these little moments of sheer joy.  Davies used to be a drama teacher at a comprehensive school and, as a secondary teacher myself, I thoroughly warmed to his section on the weirdness of the kids that he taught.  His characterisation of each of these pupils is sublime and this segment is beautifully worked and linked together.  And this is only one example from many, each of which holds up to a similar standard and forms a wonderful narrative.  At times I was able to look around the room and see audience members doubled over with laughter, tears streaming down their faces.

Davies stated that the segments he had chosen for this show were free of consequence.  However, he does reach a point near the end of his set which could be considered quite emotional.  Having spoken fondly of his prim and proper mother and his ‘mental’ 70 year old father, we reach a moment where Davies recounts his discovery of his parents’ fragility.  It’s to his credit as a storyteller that the audience treat this small section with true respect, hanging on his every word.  Of course, Davies is quick to whip us out of this with another perfectly timed comic gem, bringing the show to a joyous end.

There’s no simpler way to say this: Greg Davies is achingly good.

Reviewed by Di

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance Upstairs

21.45

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Jon Richardson: Don’t Happy, Be Worry.

4 stars

****

Richardson starts his show with an admission – just before he arrived on stage he experienced something of a backstage emergency.  Obviously, you start to imagine what could have panicked him so much.  A last-minute technical hitch? A worrysome bowel movement?  Horrible news from back home?  None of these even come close to hitting upon the reason for Richardson’s discomfort.   No.  Richardson had a stone stuck in the sole of his shoe and upon removing it still felt slightly unbalanced.  This was his emergency.

The reason I include this tale of woe in my review is because it gives you an insight into the mind of Jon Richardson; a simultaneously worrying and wonderous place.  It’s truly a delight to sit and listen to him releasing torrents of his pent up angst for an hour as he touches upon why he can’t support morally bankrupt footballers, or why the lyrics to ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ don’t really provide you with any useful advice for life, or why people end up having children, or why he ended up spitting at a traffic light on the North Circular in the middle of the night.  It’s odd that the audience managed to derive so much pleasure from one man’s damaged psyche, but the simple fact is that Richardson manages to craft his dark thoughts into a highly amusing 60 minutes.

Richardson himself states that he thought he would become mellower as time went on but instead he finds himself getting angrier and angrier.  Hopefully he can treat these nightly shows as therapy sessions, otherwise I’d hate to think how else he would channel all this negative energy.  Shades of Michael Douglas in ‘Falling Down’ echo worryingly through my mind.  However, for the moment at least, Richardson’s ire makes for a very entertaining Fringe ticket.

Reviewed by Di

Venue: Pleasance Courtyard, Pleasance Above

19.40

Best of Scottish: Stand Comedy Club

*****

5 Stars

If there is one thing that the Stand Comedy Club can excel at is putting together their nightly ‘Best ofs’ as numerous visits in the past have proved.

The format is the ‘usual’ 4 acts and a compere with a couple of breaks built in for beer, smokes etc.

Compere for the night was Stand institution Susan Morrison. Bedecked in a gold lame jacket, Susan was in top form as usual and warmed up proceedings and got everyone ready for the acts to follow. She has the ability to suss out the crowd identify targets which can be used by later acts should they wish.

Opener on the night was Keir McAlister always a Stand favourite with a incisive wit and a raft of good material. Keir handled the opening slot with his usual panache eliciting numerous laughs along the way.

Following the first interval, Ms Morrison introduced Anthony Murray to do the short slot. Again Murray was well know to me and the young guy again went down well with the very busy house. Maybe not as dynamic as McAlister, but a very good comic for all that.

The closing act of the second part was Scottish comedy veteran Parrot. Again I had seen him perform before, but it seems a while since he was regularly gigging in Scotland. He did his reputation no harm though with a funny, well crafted and delivered twenty minutes.

Headline act on the night was another Stand regular Vladimir McTavish. I have had the pleasure of witnessing him perform many, many times over the years and always find him engaging and being very funny is a given. Vlad certainly entertained one and all as only he can, his selection of gags hitting the right note from the off.

All too soon it was time to make way for the next show, but rest assured this show runs every night of the Fringe and with a different line-up each night there’s no reason why multiple visits can’t take place.

*****

Reviewed by Geoff

Stand Comedy Club I V 5

5 to 29 August

Jason Byrne 2010

*****

5 Stars

I can’t remember when I first saw Jason Byrne perform but it was many years ago when he was a fairly new kid on the Fringe and now many years later he has graduated to be  Fringe Institution, selling out the cavernous Assembly Halls space every night, every year. That’s a fact.

I haven’t had the chance to see him for a couple of years due to the reviewing ticket going elsewhere in the team so when I fought to get a ticket this year I hoped it would be worth it. It was. And then some!!

Byrne hit the stage grabbed half a dozen assistants from the audience to join him in a step-aerobics work out and we were warmed up for the hour of mayhem that followed.

Byrne never is still always prowling his stage, interacting with the crowd, drawing information and running with it, and just occasionally interspersing this with his set!!

There a re a few instances where old family photos are projected onto three large screens as he proves he can take the mickey out of himself as well as every one else.

I’m sure every night will have a different show with this manic Irishman, and equally sure each will be as enjoyable as the others. Byrne has mass appeal and it’s not difficult to understand why. The man’s a legend.

On a personal note I’d like to really thank him for the dedication at the end of this show. It was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated. Thank you.

*****

Reviewed by Geoff

Assembly Halls V23

5 to 30 August

21-00 to 22-00

Fringe Brochure P 76

Phil Nicol: Welcome to Crazy Town

****

4 Star

Those who know of Phil Nichol, the winner of the if.comedy Award in 2006, will know that there is more than one string to his bow. There is Nichol the stand-up, Nichol the actor and he is a good singer and guitarist too, so I suppose it was almost inevitable that given his all round talents that he should choose a vehicle like this to showcase all of his abilities in one show.

Set in a sleezy run down jazz bar in Baltimore on 19/01/1974 Nichol plays Jazz beat poet Bobby Spade who is debuting his latest opus ‘Welcome to Crazytown.’

Nichol is backed by a tight jazz trio, a double bass, a keyboard and a clarinet / guitar player to back up himself on acoustic guitar and vocals. Now I have to admit to not being a jazz fan or for that matter a beat poetry fan, but given the quality of the performance delivered I may have to reassess my tastes.

As with all performances I have seen Nichol deliver, he puts he heart and soul into it and this is certainly no exception. He delivers a performance that is worthy of the work and the backing band is excellent also.

It is obvious that he loves this piece and so he should. I wonder if it had been at a different time slot and possibly in the theatre section it would have attracted more of an audience.

****

Reviewed by Geoff

Stand I  V 5

4 to 30 August

18-50 to 19-50

Fringe Brochure P 109

Holly Burn – Living and Dying

***

3 Stars

I occasionally find it very hard to get to grips with the style of Holly Burn. She is a very likeable, undoubtedly talented and funny young lady who has made her name doing female character comedy.

I have seen her last two shows and last years, Holly’s House was a spectacular success both from a critical point of view and from a pure enjoyment perspective.

More traditionally staged this year, Ms Burn plays out her hour with a delightful mish-mash of really funny, occasionally abstract, even surreal at times material with recurring characters and situations. Occasionally she seems to have little structure to the show, but in fact does have, at least in her mind.

Never scared to do things differently she fully integrates with the audience, with some perhaps more than they may want and occasionally there are looks of consternation and bewilderment greeting her, but generally laughter is not in short supply.

So why not give her a chance. There is plenty mundane stuff out there and that is never an accusation one could level at Holly. She is wacky, you’ll either love her, loathe her, which I doubt, but you certainly shouldn’t ignore her.

***

Reviewed by Geoff

Just the Tonic at The Caves V 88

5 to 29 August

15-35 to 16-25

Fringe Brochure P 70

Al Murray: The Pub Landlord’s Compete for the Meat

****

4 Stars

All hail The Guv’nor, Al Murray returns to the Fringe with his larger than life Pub Landlord and is hosting a real life pub quiz, with real prizes!! Daily until 28 August.

On entering the packed Ace Dome one is invited to join one of the many quiz teams competing to win a frozen chicken. There is the opportunity to just observe, but beware one team gets dropped part way through and Al selects random people to replace them!!

Murray warms up the crowd in his own inimitable style, insisting ‘the rules’ are observed ,a pint for the gentlemen , a glass of white wine or a fruit based drink for the ladies’ is adhered too, and then it is off and running.

The quiz is played fairly straight, with independent markers and formal answer sheets, but in between Murray has plenty of scope to do as he will, a number of surprises are forthcoming, throughout.

There has not been a pub quiz show of this stature for a while at the Fringe, and for me it is a win-win situation. I love a quiz, I love good comedy and both are provided for me in this lunchtime package.

So why not give it a try. Be prepared to get involved, have a laugh and spend an hour and a half with one of the comedy greats in his own back yard so to speak.

****

Reviewed by Geoff

Pleasance Ace Dome V 23

16 to 28 August

12-20 to 14-00

Fringe Brochure P 23