August 23, 2008

Oh, Go On Then

I've had several requests for more Fringe blogging in the past few days, and though my show intake has been rather lower than usual this year I thought that, going into the final weekend, any Edinburgh readers seeking last minute tickets might benefit from a rundown of the best I've seen this year. So.

3. Elizabeth and Raleigh: Late But Live. I generally find Stewart Lee's stand-up to be overrated, but I think in large part that's because I don't really enjoy his utter-contempt-for-the-audience-and-general-situation persona (at least, I think it's a persona, but I suppose he really could be that bitter). In any case, this most recent of his comic "plays" involved him only at the writing stage, and without his dour dragging-down of the punchlines, it's an hour of delightful (albeit painfully pomo) material. The basic premise is that Sir Walter Raleigh is hosting an evening of entertainment for the assembled modern-day crowd -- which is an odd setup, as the characters are sort of half historically "accurate" and half selectively aware of the present (mainly as a vehicle for punchlines) -- but while that works okay, the real oomph of the show comes from Simon Munnery's turn as Elizabeth I. It's classic high-status/low-status conflict and Munnery milks it for all it's worth -- his Elizabeth is the most eccentric, haughty, demanding character I've ever seen on stage, and watching her make Raleigh jump through hoops is (pardon the expletive) absolutely fucking hilarious. Four pundigrions.

2. Adam Page Solo. Page is one of those loop-box musicians who seem to be a staple of pretty much every Fringe festival I've ever been to (you know the type: they sample themselves live and then loop them back and layer them to create the illusion of many different sounds going on at the same time). The difference between Page and the rest is that while many of his ilk rely mainly on the perceived novelty of the technique, he is a fantastic musician who plays fifteen different instruments and even a carrot (and while that latter one may sound like a cheap gimmick, it's actually a pretty cool sound). It's a very fun, very musical, very interesting hour. Five pundigrions.

1. Simon, Helen, Nick, and Pete Call a Conclave and Elect a New Pope. Does what it says on the tin: the four eponymous comedian friends open the house dressed as cardinals (and one archbishop) and proceed to write out nametags for each audience member. The audience are then also pronoucned cardinals, and the interactive show a conclave at the end of which one audience member is elected pope. There are jokes, challenges for the candidates, and lots and lots of ridiculous Catholicism trivia. It may sound a bit dubious but it's such a fun, light-hearted, and deeply funny show that I have no problem pronouncing it my favourite of the year. Five pundigrions.

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