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.

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

Are You Really Being Served? – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

This is Steve McLean trying out observational stand-up on things like WH Smith's pricing (cheaper to buy two books separately than take advantage of the 'offer' to have them both); Poundland condoms, lube, vibrator and pregnancy tests; and what Waitrose considers 'essential' (Brussels paté and kale).

There's some nice material, but some of the comments are off. It's not that Poundland pregnancy tests are poor crap, it's that the big brand ones are appallingly overpriced. (I've bought pregnancy tests in bulk for somewhere and they cost pennies.) Similarly, while one of their lubes might not mention being condom friendly in big letters, a look at the ingredients and small print says that it is.

2.5/5

Shaken Not Stirred: The Improvised James Bond Film – 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

The first of two such shows in two days. This one has Alexander Fox and Dom O'Keefe doing all the acting, along with three musicians playing live throughout, sometimes accompanied by one of the actors on a drum box. The set up involves them choosing the title from three or four written suggestions; a start location plus the actor playing Bond picked fairly randomly, and two audience members chucking stuff on stage to initiate a romantic scene or a chase. They also have a nice but mostly pre-recorded video title sequence.

The pair get on well and are clearly the sort of know-it-all that the Connery Bond in particular was. (Even when they're supposed to be Craig!) But only having two of them makes having most scenes much harder and a little too much time is spent on that setup and the prepared elements – the chase uses cutout shadow puppetry – mean there's not as much improvisation as there could be. So while the band are very good, as an experience, it's not as good as it could be.

3/5

Mae Martin: Us – 2015 Edinburgh Fringe

I had seen her 2014 show almost by accident and wondered why there were so many other people at it. Having seen her this year, I no longer wonder.

The two do have some content in common – I am sure that some of the stories about her parents and their friends were there last year – but this is a much better and, not coincidentally, a more personal show.

Most of it is about her sexuality, the responses to how she looks (not everyone reads her as female) and what happened when she put in her dating profiles about being interested in both men and women. (The relationship that was mentioned last year is over…)

She misses out one of the most common questions asked of bisexual people – 'but which do you prefer more?' – and my favourite bit of Roman history – the emperor Claudius being seen as a bit odd for only fancying women – but there is a lot of very good bi stuff here.

And, helped by her delightful delivery, the audience get it.

4.5/5

Kayfabe – 2015 Edinburgh Fringe

The 'real' Kayfabe is the code of silence that allows professional wrestling to pretend that it's not scripted to within an inch of its steroid-enhanced life. This one is a character-based comedy show from Simon Lukacs and Lola-Rose Maxwell.

It starts with them both introducing the 'not a cult' but a close relative of Scientology, Kayfabe. A series of one person sketches follows,  covering some of the people who have been 'helped' by Kayfabe – a snooker obsessed novelist, the jealous sister of a famous novelist, the star of a 1970s sitcom now doing university gigs, a Texan religious campaigner against the Internet – thanks to paying its voluntary mandatory financial donation.

They are all failures as individuals (although I would love to read more of the sister's children's book!) but the show is great. Each of the characters work, down to the little things of each pronouncing the word differently and even the snooker details are apparently true.

Kayfabe? Fab!

4.5/5

Rainbow Rabbits With Rabies – 2014 Edinburgh Fringe

Nicole Henriksen was another one of the six comedians that night at Pandamonium, so it was only right that the last live show I see be hers.

RRWR is a mix of stand-up, created characters (MC Misogynist was my favourite), songs and video. Although some of the material is a bit patchy, the best bits are as good as anything else I've seen at the Fringe.

Nicole's a complete star even if some of her self-description of "all-round mad bitch" refers to her being a One Direction fan. (Still, why be in denial when Niall could be…?) If you get a chance to see her do a guest spot, jump at it. YOLO, after all…

3.5/5

On at 11pm at Bar 50 / Smart City Hostel (venue 151) until 11th August.

Deep Throat Live – 2014 Edinburgh Fringe

After the comedy films, I was on my way to another show via a supermarket to get some snacks. On the way out clutching my purchase, I was seduced by a masked man into going to see this. He turned out to be in it and lied about the content.

What it was supposed to be was "the most outrageous sex comedy you'll ever see", a direct spoof of the infamous porn film. What it actually is is a series of poor jokes silently projected on a screen – because of the equipment used, one third of the audience will have the light of the projector reflected into their eyes – followed by what's best described as a mix of modern dance and bad dialogue. Some couple started to act out a rape fantasy; someone did something while a man mimed giving a woman oral sex; something else happened under some unwarned-about flashing lighting. It was at this point that I left.

Each of the performers wears a mask, and I can see why.

0/5

On at 6pm at Chalky's (venue 219) until 24th August.

Brainwrap Short Comedy Films – 2014 Edinburgh Fringe

Twenty two films, at least seven of which I thought were great. It was also interesting to see that two were filmed very close to where I used to live in London: Balotelli Postman in Brockley and Smell Investigators in Peckham.

Particularly good for a wet afternoon going between two shows.

3/5

On at 4:45pm at Pivo (venue 24, and really on Calton Road rather than Leith St) until the 9th August.

Mae Martin's Workshop – 2014 Edinburgh Fringe

When Oh Boy! finished, it was in the middle of a thunderstorm outside so any plans to leave the building got cancelled. Fortunately, the venue has six performance spaces, what's on?

Mae is a young Canadian bisexual / lesbian woman (she's had both boyfriends and girlfriends in the past, and is currently in a relationship with another woman, but says she is beyond "labels", so I'm going to say 'bisexual'…) Interestingly, this probably had the biggest audience of anything I saw at the Fringe this year and only Magic and Tea With An Evil Genius filled a higher proportion of the available seats. Was this because she's got a popular YouTube 'channel'?

The show is a 'work in progress' which meant that this afternoon, it was a mix of stories about her family (particularly her mother's odd announcements), some name-dropping, and some audience suggestions. I missed the chance to join in with the latter, but others had put some short phrases on pieces of paper and she drew out some of those out of a bucket and talked about them.

It's all fine stuff, but I did leave wondering why this had a bigger audience than shows I think are much better.

3/5

On at 3:30pm at Cowgatehead room 4 – not room 1 as on the flyer – (venue 32) until the 24th August. No show on Wednesdays.