DR GEORGE Ryegold is one of comedy’s gloriously appalling monsters. This year, George’s alter ego Toby Williams has written him a play.
George Ryegold’s God-In-A-Bag/Billy The Mime/Men Of Character/Voodoo Varieties/Stuart Goldsmith/Alfie Moore
Watching the tide of George’s bile rise to swirl around the knees of his sweet, Battenburg-loving flatmate and long-suffering girlfriend is painfully funny. Williams manages to give us someone markedly less pleasant than even George as the villain of this little piece. Dr Andy Chode has a penchant for plagiarism, an ego that exerts its own gravitational pull and a face in search of a smack. He is played pitch perfectly by Milo McCabe. George has hit a new low, as the show opens. Only the thought of having stolen £82 from Marie Curie buoys him up. Go and see him teach pornography to Class Nine and prove the existence of God using only a metal teapot. Look, he is currently suspended from work for a ketamine-related offence, so he needs the money.
It takes quite a performance to get a standing ovation when there are only 15 or so people in a giant burrow that smells of emptiness, but as Billy The Mime expires in a despairing frenzy of pills, booze and class-A drugs, having been spurned by a girl in the second row, he got one. Now I realise that, so far, the show doesn’t sound very funny. But, believe me, it is. Funny but strange. And very dark. And, as the name might suggest, entirely wordless. The fact that the man is doing some fairly political comedy without words puts a fresh coat of funny on a lot of old topics. I don’t think anyone else in Edinburgh is still doing Michael Jackson material, or Charles and Di jokes. This is fascinating-funny rather than rib-tickling funny. Each section is like a little pull-back-and-reveal joke all of its own as we discover how Hitler came to start the Second World War and watch the unexpected aftermath of 9/11. There is more light and shade in this show than in a 1970s disco (where Billy sets a cruelly comic tale of sex and drugs and Aids and death) and the wonderful bonus is that along with the jokes and the sillies, the rude bits and the barbed punchlines, you get a supremely talented mime performance. Every sketch has its amusing details, each played against cleverly chosen music, and there are many beautifully touching moments. Whitney Houston fans, take tissues. An extraordinary experience.
Down at the Jekyll & Hyde pub, the Men Of Character, two smart young Americans, very cleverly make their entire show site-specific by setting it in “a Victorian-themed Gothic bar and grill”. There is some terrifically left-field funny here, much of it centred on a hideous blind date between a deranged aviator and a nervous girl called Carla.
We meet Gerald and Thirsten, a couple of appalling teenage students planning punishment for a problem colleague, we are voyeurs to a gloriously inept sex scene and sit through a litany of appalling speeches by totally inappropriate well-wishers at Patricia’s and Charles’s wedding. We end by being blown up by quite the nicest suicide bomber ever to convert to Islam. This is fresh, smart stuff.
Down in the Voodoo Rooms, if Mat Ricardo can’t convert you to variety then no-one can. His Voodoo Varieties changes each night but you are guaranteed a couple of great acts, an interesting interview, Ricardo himself (the man who doesn’t just pull the tablecloth out from under the tea set in the TV ad, but pulls it back in again) and a section in which Ricardo shows archive footage of variety greats from days gone by and tells you a bit about an Irish duo called Up & Over It, whose brilliance I still have not got over.
They call themselves “nouveau folk deconstructionists”. After watching them take Riverdance apart, I’d call them feckin’ funny.
I am fully intending to catch up with all the guys from Show Me The Funny, the TV show on which I am a judge, and last night I saw Stuart Goldsmith (left) – who was always urged to get more edgy – give a surprised and very entertained man a lapdance and reveal his Inner Social Monster to a roomful of giggling festival-goers. Edgy? I nearly fell off my seat.
An hour later, Alfie Moore showed me so much funny he made me forget that Edinburgh University had just charged me £4.30 for a bottle of Bulmers. Gloriously, life-enhancingly funny stuff.
• George Ryegold’s God-In-A-Bag, Underbelly, 1.45pm, until 27 August;
• Billy The Mime, Just the Tonic at the Caves, 6.15pm, until 23 August;
• Men Of Character – free!, Laughing Horse @ Jekyll & Hyde, 3.05pm;
• Voodoo Varieties, Voodoo Rooms, 8.15pm, until 26 August;
• Stuart Goldsmith: Prick, Pleasance Courtyard, 7.30pm, until 27 August;
• Alfie Moore – I Predicted A Riot, Pleasance Courtyard, 9.50pm, until 27 August
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west