Quick round-up part 3 – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

Skullduggery

Yet another 'what's on now' choice. I wasn't sure at first, but by the end I could see how good Rachel Fairburn is at stand up. 3.5/5

Robin Boot's Rockomedy: Puns'n'Poses

Good musical comedy and chat. 3.5/5

Jollyboaty McBoatface

Wonderful 'best of' from comedy musical duo Jollyboat. 5/5

Ditty Fiddler

More comedy songs, this time from someone whose voice was going. Still very good. 4/5

7 Songs for Geeks

Having seen the first show, and not having enough cash to buy the CD, I had to see them again. Two songs are the same in both shows, but still great. I particularly liked the summary of Game of Thrones: 'Winter is coming, take off your clothes'. 4.5/5

Graph Giraffe

Gareth Morinan dresses up as a (short, he's 5'0") giraffe to talk data and heightism. 4/5

Company

50 Ways to Leave Your Drummer

A presentation about someone's project to be fired as a drummer by fifty groups. Nice idea, but being deliberately fired is easy… 2.5/5

Company – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

As previously mentioned, I am a big fan of Sondheim's Company. It's about the relationships of Bobby, a single 35 year-old man in New York, with his three current girlfriends and the four married couples he's friends with.

Except that here, they've made the central character a 30 year-old woman, Bobbi. Two of the couples are same sex ones too. So I was curious as to how well it would work, especially when cut down to a run time of eighty minutes.

Obviously, there's no longer an interval, but at least a couple of songs have also gone (I don't remember hearing 'Have I got a girl for you' and the one with the women being rude about the air hostess girlfriend) as has the second visit to the divorcing couple with the balcony – no asking Bobbi about any same sex experiences here, because we already know she's bisexual! Personally, I would have made one of the other couples the 'two women' one too.

There are also some technical problems with the production/venue. The cast isn't mic'ed but the (probably recorded, as we don't see any musicians at the end) backing is amplified so the sound balance between the voices and the musicians isn't great. Sitting at the front is highly recommended, particularly as a couple of the cast aren't as good or audible as the rest. There's also a distinct mains hum on the speakers when more of the lights are on, so someone's not rigged things very well…

… but apart from all that (!) there is lots to like and the basic idea works very well indeed.

4/5

Quick round-up part 2 – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

Woop Woop It's Da Sound of That Pauly

Another 'what's on here, now?' pick, this is Paul McDaniel trying out material in a tiny space. (This time I was a third of the audience.) One section involves hitting himself on the head with an old-style phone handset to a pre-recorded soundtrack. Alas, the biggest laugh was when he did it one more time than the recording required. 2/5

Breaking the Magician's Code

Kane & Abel don't do the magic as well as Caspar Thomas – their central trick isn't that impressive either – but their stage presence is much better for a similarly sized space. 3/5

Peter Dobbing: Armchair Futurologist III

A chat about things that may or may not happen soon, including the chance to try some. 3/5

How to Be a Psychic Conman

The companion show to How to Talk to the Dead, this covers the sort of stuff done by litigious fraudulent spoon-benders. (I don't know if you have any particular one in mind.) Again, some of the tricks are explained and some are left mysterious. 4/5

Men With Coconuts: Improvised Bond

Mysterious Moments of Magic

Mysterious Moments of Magic – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

I had seen two shows by John Henry Blackwood in 2014, so obviously I wanted to see his latest. As with Séance, this has him presenting one trick across the length of the show along with others, but here the theme is time travel.

As mentioned elsewhere, I can be a tough audience for magic shows, but here although I can see that the central trick is probably a couple of forced choices, it carries a significant element of risk – if a volunteer doesn't behave, the trick will be exposed – and is done extremely well. The supporting tricks, including those involving a tiny plunger and some screamingly obviously marked cards, are also done flawlessly.

Very definitely recommended.

4.5/5

Men With Coconuts: Improvised Bond – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

The second of two improvised Bond films I saw this year: while it's always difficult to compare improv shows, I suspect that this one is consistently better than the other one.

For one thing, it's quicker to get going: the title comes a quick vote from three suggestions shouted out (when I saw it, the winner was 'Sphincter') and then it's on with the action rather than more explanation and setup. The title sequence is done live and, more usefully, there are four actors* on stage rather than two.

The highlight for me was the discussion in the briefing, where the imaginary paper list given by M to Bond had just one item on a second page. A couple of minutes of argument between those two and Miss Moneypenny about the best way to get the word processor to avoid that – changing the font size or altering the margins on the page or… – followed. The other show would probably have known to have called that line by its name in typography, a 'widow', and made a comment about how Bond had created lots of other sorts of widows. This lot were just being silly.

4/5

* They're all male, disappointingly.

Quick round-up part 1 – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

This year, I was able to be in Edinburgh at short notice for three days. Next year, next year..

Shaken Not Stirred: The Improvised James Bond Film

Strictly Come Trancing

Are You Really Being Served?

Caspar Thomas: Magic and Mentalism

It's a mix of technically very well performed magic, with some simple mentalism ('Think of a single digit number…'*) but with a distinct lack of stage presence. Performing for your table or in a small space, I'm sure he's wonderful. Off on a stage in a – for the Fringe – large room, he's far less impressive. 3/5

Makin' It Rain

How to Talk to the Dead

Caution: Filming in Progress

Matt Macdonald: Break in Case of Emergency

Techno Glitter Penguins

* Seven, right?

Techno Glitter Penguins – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

This is the latest evolution of Nicole Hendriksen's inspired 'alt-comedy' series of shows – it's too late to see Rainbow Rabbits With Rabies or Honeycomb Badgers on Acid, but if you did, you'll recognise their parentage of this generation.

It was interesting to see the difference that the type of room makes: last year's was in a small but often full cramped space, and this year she's in a large attic with – when I saw it – fewer people. (Perhaps it's because you need to pay up front this year, rather than being part of a free Fringe, or perhaps people prefer to see her other show.) Rather than clambering over everyone, here she starts by offering high quality vegan popcorn in a friendly fashion. It still gets delightfully weird quickly though…

The political bits were the best bit for me. Not talking about Brexit or politicians, but on gender and sexuality. So while there's a routine demonstrating the difference between men and women when it comes to getting sexual, she checks people's pronouns first. And doesn't assume that people like the same things sexually or that two people need to like all of the same things. No-one gets touched without consent either, even by the not entirely sane – ok, bonkers – characters she becomes in the middle.

Awesome presence + good material = great show.

4.5/5

Matt Macdonald: Break in Case of Emergency – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

Walking back to a multi-stage venue and using the 'what's on here, starting now?' method of picking what to see, I ended up being the audience for this spoken word piece on relationships and why watching too many RomComs is not necessarily good in terms of trying to live up to 'movie love'.

It needs the ability to pay attention, but rewards that nicely with a story that is not overwhelmed by the louder shows next door. I smiled in recognition many times and laughed several times.

3.5/5

Caution: Filming in Progress – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

I was pleasantly seduced into staying for the next show in the room that How to Talk to the Dead had been in by Iain Smith's leafleting and chat as the audience left.

He's a location manager in the UK film industry – we chatted about somewhere near to where I used to live in London that's often used as a location – and the show is basically him doing nice chat about his 'real' job. Almost no names are named, with the exception of Rupert Penry-Jones, and 'nice' would be the one word summary of the show.

2.5/5

How to Talk to the Dead – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

Ash Pryce is a magician and skeptic with two main shows this year on debunking frauds who claim mystical powers but who are doing it the same way he does: cheating, aka 'magic'.

This one is on communicating with dead people, and covers the history of spiritualism from its invention in 1848. As well as the obvious cold reading (throwing out guesses until something sticks – people will remember the hits and forget the misses), it also includes the Ouija Board (originally presented as a game rather than any thing serious), ectoplasm (a wonderful demonstration) and all the rest of the fake medium repertoire. Most of it is explained, but a highlight isn't: trepanning done via the nose. Don't try it at home, but do see it being done.

4/5