Stewart Lee: A Room With a Stew
Early in Stewart Lee’s hour long show he mentions that many critics are not ‘equipped to review’ his show. How the middle class, Daily Telegraph reading fathers he meets in his son’s playground look at him with sadness at his 1 star ratings in their paper of choice. I feel I too am not in any way equipped to review Stewart Lee. So I shall not attempt to do so.
What I guess I am willing to say is that this was the first time I had seen him live having watched his shows on BBC. His show in Edinburgh is a work in progress for his next series on the BBC. Fair to say we’re in for a treat.
Stewart Lee is on at 14.15 at the Assembly Rooms until 30 August. Tickets are £12.50.
Jo Brand: Talking Comedy
When the argument is made that we need more diversity in the arts Jo Brand (and other female comics from my time of coming of age) prove the point. For the first time in Edinburgh the majority of the audience I was sat in were women. People go see what is familiar to them. As I sat there thinking this I then was hit by how few women comics I had chosen to see whilst in Edinburgh. Only the brilliant Holly Burn and Sarah Keyworth. Little can be done about this 3 hours before your EasyJet flight but I had wanted to see Nina Conti and Katherine Ryan. Both sold out shows.
The show I saw was not Jo’s stand up show but an in conversation with academic Olly Double from the University of Kent. It is part of a series of conversations about comedy which has included Mark Thomas, Susan Calman and Stephen K Amos. This is part of the University of Kent’s Stand-Up Comedy Archive. Double was perhaps a little academic in his questioning which was frustrating at times. Yet, Jo Brand’s thoughts on gender in comedy and the aggression of men generally in society was fascinating. With such a female heavy audience there was much agreement and praise towards Brand.
Jo Brand has been in Edinburgh doing a limited number of shows for the Gilded Ballon’s 30th anniversary. Sad that I missed seeing this show.
Jo Brand is on at the Gilded Ballon at 19:30 until 21 August.
Anil Desai: Impressions of a Hindude
Anil Desai had a bit of a gammy throat last night. I felt for him as being an impressionist it cannot be easy to do your job when your equipment is playing up. Yet, if he has not admitted this to the audience early on none of us would have know. He put on a very amusing show.
There seemed to be a theme to some of the shows I saw yesterday. All the men had been dumped by their girlfriends. Anil said he thought it might be because he wasn’t a good listener or showed he cared enough about her problems. I think it might be because you tried to help her through her pain in he character of Robert de Nero. Just a thought.
Anil talked us through some tales of his life through impressions. With Peter in the audience shouting out which impression needed to come next. Not only did his voice match the person but his mannerisms were spot on too. Although I wasn’t sold on his Angelina Jolie.
What was a highlight was the tale of how he dealt with a heckler from a previous show saying all his black characters sounded the same. Anil went from Denzel Washington to Morgan Freeman to Eddie Murphy to Samuel L Jackson with a quick segway to Bill Cosby (who then got quite the roasting). The wit of talent of this certainly deserved the praise it got from the audience.
Give Anil’s show a go. It is definitely worth seeing.
Anil Desai: Impressions of a Hindude is on at 22:15 at Sin until 30 August. It is a free show to attend.
Adam Hess: Salamon
Adam Hess talks very fast. So fast that I am still, more than 12 hours later, trying to unravel some of the things he said. With Adam Hess you basically get two shows in one. That is how fast the man talks. It’s amazing.
For a while I have followed Adam Hess on Twitter. Initially not even realising he was a comedian. I just thought he was a funny chap. When I saw he was going to be at Edinburgh I hoped to get to see his show.
Adam is a lot younger than I thought he would be. And as his show goes on he seems to get more youthful. Or perhaps there is just a correlation between how young someone looks and the amount of enthusiasm they ooze.
His show is titled Salmon. I have no idea why. Salmon was never mentioned once. He spoke of being newly single. The fact he has a single mattress on a double bed frame. That he grew up in a flat so he thought Santa came out the tap. His love of Polly Pocket toys. Being electrocuted at an arcade in Spain. Rescuing a falling scotch egg. The tales go on and on. Not sure if any of these stories were true. He did say at the beginning they were but then that he admitted he does normally bend the truth in his show.
He dragged a chap from the front row onto the stage and put him in a Adam Hess mask to read out some observations. I can’t remember why but it made a lot sense at the time. Adam put a cardboard square mask on with the word SOCIETY on it. Whilst playing the bongos. Can’t decide whether this was more funny or the true excitement he had when he asked the chap who had come on stage what he did for a living. The words of ‘film director’ came the reply. Adam Hess looked like Santa had finally come out the tap.
Go see this show. You’ll be sorry if you don’t.
Adam Hess: Salamon is on at 17:20 at the Hive until 31 August. Tickets are £5
Kieran Butler: Australia is F**ked
Kieran Butler should probably emigrate to the UK. And soon. It seems that his love for Australia has well and truly expired. I wanted to see this show as I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia and know the political situation out there reasonably well. This was billed as a political satire. However, it was more a rant on his loathing of Australian politicians and Australia in general.
I did find the show funny at times. There are amusing takes on how he views Australian society today. But I feel that if you didn’t understand the Aussie way of life parts of this show might be lost on you. And if you don’t like swearing, please don’t go. This show would definitely not be for you.
Give this show a go if you’re an Aussie in town or you know Australia well.
Kieran Butler: Australia is F**ked is free to attend at 15:00 at George Next Door until 22 August.
Alex Hylton and Sarah Keyworth: Chasing Tales
Chasing Tales was billed as a show of love, sexuality and social awkwardness. It is both Sarah Keyworth and Alex Hylton’s first show at Edinburgh. As a fan of love story – or people’s attempts at a happy ever after – I headed along. This was another free show as part of the free festival.
Alex opened the show with his sorry tale of how he is starting to date for the first time in his life as he has just broken up with his childhood sweetheart. Bless him. His honesty of taking on the challenge of dating through his broken heart was very relatable. We’ve all been there. His frank admissions about what he is *lacking* was also very amusing.
He, like most single Brits, has signed up to Tinder. I doubt though that many Tinder users are taking their first dates on the first train that arrives to look impulsive and for the moment. Perhaps not so for the moment when you spend the day in Nuneaton.
Sarah’s show was about her sexuality and her growing into her ‘own body’. She has a girlfriend so unlike Alex isn’t prowling Tinder profiles. She shared her experience of working out what being gay was and how to deal with people who ask odd questions about the male gender role in her relationship. In response to ‘but who is the man in your relationship, you know, who is the big spoon’ her quip of ‘there are no male humans or indeed cutlery’ in her relationship did tickle the audience.
Both Sarah and Alex’s shows were very smart and I look forward to seeing them at the Fringe again. Definitely worth a shot at their show.
Alex Hylton and Sarah Keyworth’s Chasing Tales is on at 13.45 at the Laughing Horse at Espionage on Victoria Street until 30 August.
Balletronic are a Havana based dance group. Their show is high energy with a mix of traditional en pointe ballet through to much more contemporary movement. Supported by an 11 piece band, live singer and colourful costumes this show almost makes you want to get up and dance yourself.
The female principal is the constant throughout the many pieces that make up the performance. She begins in an electric blue tutu and dances a passionate, loving routine with her male partner and a white violin. She returns in the next piece in a equally electric blue dress. As other dancers change costumes and characters she remains the same throughout.
The main theme seems to be unsolved love and attraction. One scene sees dancers coming from both sides of the stage be being held back on long pieces of ribbon. They come to each other and try and embrace. They might be able to get close or they are pulled away from each other. The dancers added tension to the ribbon, using it to balance themselves as they moved and contoured their bodies. It was an effective and beautiful sight.
The live band were a brilliant addition. The lead fiddler took to centre stage on a couple of occasions much to the delight of the audience. As did the female vocalist.
As you think the performance is over and the cast have taken their bow some great pop music kicks in with some Daft Punk and Jamiroquai. The cast kept dancing and looked as though they were having the times of their lives. You just couldn’t help but smile.
This show is likely to be raved about long after the Edinburgh Festival closes. Get in and see it now. It is a real treat.
Balletronic are on at 21:30 until 31 August at the Grand, Pleasance Courtyard. Tickets are £12.50.
Reginald D Hunter: Bitchproof
Reginald D Hunter’s show (or Reg, as I feel I can now call him) is a big one. It’s a the Grand at the Pleasance Courtyard. There must have been almost 1000 people at the show. Reg is proper famous as comedians go. He is the doyen of panel shows: Have I Got News For You; 8 Out of 10 Cats among others. He is recognisable as a TV regular. I was excited to see his stand up.
In recent years his show has had the N word in the title so perhaps we should be relieved with a very friendly Bitchproof. But he did drop the N word many, many, many times. Perhaps the most I’ve ever heard it in one sitting. As he owns it as he says it it is somehow it’s funny. I doubt many people could do this.
His show is a lot about family and friends. He tells tales of his clearly gay cousin which his family haven’t quite realised yet. He talks of his friend who now hates him as Reg makes better pancakes than him. But he also talks of the radio journalists who call him up to speak of the racial tensions in the US. He asks them why me? I was not there! What have I to add? They offer him anything he wants in return for taking part in the discussion. Anything he asks? Seems BBC radio can’t quite go as far as naming him King of the Blacks.
As expected this show was brilliant. I was laughing so much that the hour flew by. If you have the chance DO go see it.
Reginald D Hunter: Bitchproof is on at 20:00 at the Grand, Pleasanace Courtyard until 30 August. Tickets are £17.
Matt Forde: Political Party Podcast
Matt Forde is doing a show called Get the Political Party Started. Without me realising this is not what I booked for. I booked for the one off Political Party Podcast. So rather than a stand up routine it is an in conversation with a political figure. Last night it was the wonderful Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party*.
Ruth Davidson has what all politicians want: like-ability. No matter where you sit on the political spectrum it would be difficult to dislike Ruth Davidson. She is warm. She is funny. She is the kind of woman you would want a drink in the pub with. Matt was able to draw some very amusing tales from her including a time when she accidentally showered in the male soldier shower block in Kosovo. She was a BBC journalist at the time. For an MP as young as she is (she is 36) she has done many interesting things including being in the TA. It makes you like her just a little bit more.
Matt Forde’s political podcast is a regular feature. You can download them on the iTunes. His aim is to have politics in a much more friendlier fashion. He certainly successes last night. You felt you got to see who Ruth Davidson really was and to cut through the soundbites and lines to take. He opened questions to the audience and Ruth answered with ease and honesty. Listen in to the podcast to guess which is mine (hint: it’s the one Matt Forde said was a ‘great question’).
Last night’s podcast show was a one off for Edinburgh but you can still catch Matt’s Get the Political Party Started show at 15:50 at the Pleasance Courtyard until 30 August. Tickets are £10. I think I’ll be heading to see it.
*Full disclosure: I have met Ruth Davidson in the past when I worked in politics. I last saw her at Scottish Conservative Conference in 2011 when I was working for the No to AV campaign. She was a delight back then and seems still to be now.
2Faced Dance Company: Dreaming in Code
My original plan for coming to the Festival was to see as much dance as possible. Somehow the lure of laughing detracted me and this is the first dance show I have seen here. And what a delight it was. I cannot recommend this show enough.
2Faced Dance Company is a young dance company – still a teenager at 16 years old. The aim of the company is to nurture young talent and it certainly seems to be succeeding. The five males dancers in Dreaming in Code all are recently graduated from dance school or other dance training. It is good to see talent coming from a variety of avenues. It adds to the richness of what we then see on stage.
The performance was two separate pieces with a projection of a filmed dance piece in-between. For the first first performance the stage opened with three tents in the dark. The only lighting initially was from lamps held by the dancers. It added an eerie feel to the stage as with the smoke you couldn’t quite see all the action. I’m still not sure what these 5 young men who were camping were up to. It felt like a coming of ages cult at times but then at others like a group of mates at Glastonbury having way too much fun. Either what way, it did not matter. The movement, skill and strength of the dancers was mesmerising.
For the second performance the back of the stage has five floor to ceiling silver foil drops. They shimmered in the light and acted as slightly odd mirror at times. The dancers were dressed in long coats that fluttered as they spun. It seemed to be a mix of something from the Matrix and a shoalin monk. Whatever the aim, it worked as the fabric moved with the dancers and added to the overall movement and flow of the piece.
There was an incredibly warm response from the audience with some of their feet. This is a show that is of a high calibre of dance and incredibly enjoyable. Get yourself tickets as it is not one you want to miss.
2Faced Dance Company’s Dreaming in Code is on at 16:00 until 30 August at Zoo Southside. TIckets are £14.