Friday, 16 August 2019

Top 10 Things to see at the Edinburgh Fringe


At this year's Edinburgh fringe I saw 35 shows, around 1% of the total on offer but here are my top recommendations. There were a couple of notable shows that did not quite make the top 10 recommendations: “Keith Moon: the real me” for Who fans, “Now that is what I call Brexit” for musical satire fans and “Paris de Nuit” for circus fans but here are my favourites ten.


The Dots are a sophisticated singing trio, elegantly dressed, stylishly choreographed and word perfect ..at least they were until the soprano stormed out and the mezzo died. The remaining Dot Helen played by Helen Colby decides to carry on with under rehearsed understudies, Macey Cherett who wants to incorporate magic and Nerine Skinner an enthusiastic amateur. The joy of this show is that they each totally inhabit these comic creations.


It is devised and performed by the Founders of Hot Coals Theatre, Clare-Louise English and Jo Sargeant who work so well together. You hardly notice that there are no words as they use movement and facial expressions synchronised with the beautiful underscore to tell their story. With their comical noses and Harris's sumptuous beard, so much of the emotion is expressed through their eyes and they exploit this wonderfully, never rushing the moment and always aware of the audience watching them. 


One artist, Lee Mark Jones has put his whole life story on stage in an incredibly raw autobiographical performance at the Zoo venue. He calls it a Rock and Roll suicide and in the course of a powerfully honest 50 minutes we begin to see why. It is of course a tribute to his music hero, David Bowie, especially in his Ziggy Stardust incarnation and the tone is set when he enters the stage to "There is a star man”. Tragedy and musical fresh starts seem to be the story of his life. 

He tells of his life forming bands, touring in support of big names, of failed music contracts and mistakes he has made. He seems to have no regrets but a deep sense of sadness of what might have been. When he tells us that late in life he was diagnosed as having ADHD it seems to explain much of his life decisions.


Mary Humphrey Baldridge has taken the story of Byron's challenge to his friends on Lake Geneva in 1816 to write a ghost story which led to Mary Shelley writing one of the most famous horror stories of all Frankenstein. She hooks us into the hedonistic world this group inhabited and their obsession with Death and the afterlife.

Tayla Kenyon is excellent as Mary Shelley supporting her husband to be Percy Shelley, Ben Francis , and resisting the extravagant overbearing Lord Byron, Ellis Wells who taunts and teases the others as he tries to reach spirits of Newstead monastery. He is accused of being "the devil himself ". 


The play makes you think about what it would take to undertake a one-way trip to Mars over 240 days and the impact on family and friends. Is it enough to be remembered as the first to make the Trip? As someone says 10 died before the Moon Landing, that must be why they called it Apollo 11! It also raises the debate of would it not be better to spend the money on saving (terraforming) Earth rather than flying to Mars? Are those aspiring to join the mission Lunatics (of the Moon?) or is it Suicide?


Milton Jones has developed his own unique style which gets him noticed more than his huge quaff of hair. Here dressed in garish orange clothes he takes us on a exploration of his secret service career and we listen in to the world Nations arguing out the issues of the day. His show is packed with puns and visual gags which come think and fast and he regularly checks which joke his audience has just laughed it. When someone in the front row giggles loudly at all the wrong moments she becomes part of the show! 

It is fast paced without being quick, it is witty and daft and as he points out the only think you can't put out of your mind is the teddy bears in green jelly and cream! 


At 62 Frank Skinner is still doing stand up and all his experience of getting the audience on side makes this show a hilarious conversational hour involving most of the front row in the show as he tells anecdotes from his life including stories of Bruce Forsyth , a wheelchair on a bus , and the perils of getting old. Brilliant quick-witted comedy that could have gone on for another hour.


Christopher Biggins is a national treasure and hosts different guests every lunchtime at the Fringe. On our visit it was the Spice Girls from Wannabe, A Finish female impersonator and a Burlesque teacher. Biggins treats them all as big stars as he gently coaxes stories out of them.

However, he is at his best telling his own anecdotes about I'm a celebrity, Big Brother, Porridge and his other extensive career as an actor, celebrity and all-round entertaining guy.


Ian Shaw, the son of Jaws Actor Robert Shaw has been quite a hit at this year's fringe and his main show “The shark is broken” about his father’s role in the making of Jaws sold out but in this show he gets to recreate some of the great characters from Damon Runyon book Broadway world in two of the short stories acted out by a cast of three. In the first we meet Nicely Nicely in Mindy’s again from Guys and Dolls in an eating contest which gives all three a great chance to have fun with the characters and story.

In the second story we meet a gangster hold up after being shot and befriending a one-eyed cat and its young owner. It’s a charming story despite the dubious characters and once again does makes the most of Runyon’s curious delightful criminal world.


Firman's cheeky chap style shines in this clever and I would say slightly risky format of plucking an assistant (the TBC) from the audience but he gets great value from the audition process and then successfully cajoles the new assistant into doing the tricks with him. We get the usual Bowling ball drop and a clever looking trick with a phone and a mallet before building to a brilliant climax.

There are other comedy magicians at the Fringe this year but Firman shows how it should be done in an engaging, fast paced and amusing show that was one of my Fringe highlights.

Article written by Nick Wayne

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