Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy reviews: Flat and the Curves: Divadom | Phil Ellis' Excellent Comedy Show | Madeleine Hamilton Hamilton: Piping Hot

Our latest round-up of Fringe comedy reviews takes in a powerhouse female-fronted cabaret act, some utterly delightful bagpipe comedy, and an exquisitely ridiculous five star show.

Flat and the Curves: Divadom ****

Pleasance Dome (Venue 23) until 27 August

Electrifying the Queen Dome with their big, bold tunes, songwriting flair and irresistible feminist fierceness, Flat and the Curves are a powerhouse cabaret act that burn with the wattage of four distinct stars. The night I caught them, their cheek mics had failed beforehand but they still delivered an outstanding set of relatable balladry and peerless, anthemic bangers, running the lyrical gamut from sophisticated relationship satire to crude, drunken misadventures and down-and-dirty horniness.

Katy Baker, Issy Wroe Wright, Arabella Rodrigo and Charlotte Brooke take turns to dominate the spotlight yet harmonise beautifully. Of their more obvious homages, an impassioned ABBA tribute finds Wroe Wright leading the lament for the collapse of a marriage's honeymoon period in a well-known furniture store, while a nostalgic number for one's bygone “slut years” pairs graphic finger miming with an overblown, Jim Steinman-style arrangement.

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Brooke exquisitely pastiches the sinister, incel energy of young, male singer-songwriters. And one of the standouts is a light opera performance that finds the foursome protesting the porn-influenced demands of their partners, as they appeal in vain for more considered foreplay.

At the show's heart is a resentful, recriminatory howl of anguish at yet another hen do, that yet initially trills with some of the flutey sweetness of The Andrews Sisters, before swiftly degenerating into absolute carnage and depravity, leaving the Curves splayed in disarray around the stage. Picking themselves up off the canvas in the next song, it's an honest assessment of self-disgust that nevertheless culminates in a moment of libidinous triumph.

Mocking those men who regress in their mother's orbit, soulfully savaging perverts and even letting a song about dog psychology erupt into a frenzy of base desires, toxic masculinity is one of Divadom's recurring themes.

Flat and the Curves: Divadom (Photo Copyright Karla Gowlett)Flat and the Curves: Divadom (Photo Copyright Karla Gowlett)
Flat and the Curves: Divadom (Photo Copyright Karla Gowlett)

Yet whether singing about their periods in perfect synch, or reclaiming the cultural pre-eminence of their sexual organs, it's women who dominate and are conspicuously celebrated in Flat and the Curves' dazzling spectacle.

Jay Richardson

Phil Ellis' Excellent Comedy Show *****

The Hive (Venue 313) until 27 August

A perfect title for Phil Ellis, back to his absolute best in a black unitard with cute kitten ears and an hour of exquisitely ridiculous fun and funny. This is exactly what the Fringe needs this year. Every cleverly silly second of it.

When a performer, as much of a stranger to Terpsichore as Ellis is, decides to start his show as a Jellicle Cat, you have to give in and laugh out, as this maelstrom of hilariously silly joy sweeps you up.

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Of course there is darkness, pitch darkness, and death has never been funnier than it is here. I doubt it ever will. Phil leaves no funny bone untickled. The self-proclaimed “Swiss Army Knife of comedy” (he will explain) hurtles us through his troubles with his chavvy grandfather, suicidal friends, and his regret at getting an OCD diagnosis too late to monetise it properly.

There is a most beautifully crafted, exquisitely timed and perfectly performed gag about a father and daughter he sees in the street that will make me laugh forever. On at least three different levels.

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Ellis's performance is touched by comedy genius. Every moment he is on stage, something funny, and then funnier, is happening. This is physical comedy with wit, character play and audience banter all jumbled together in a black lycra catsuit.

Phil tries TikTok, and gives excellent advice about buying gifts for parents. Oh yes, and there is a band, and songs, unexpectable songs that punctuate the hour. Phil is as dreadful a singer as he is a dancer. But both horrors pale into insignificance when he offers up improvised rap. Two performance forms are brutalised for our entertainment and it is sooooo 'bad'.

“I think the message of the show shines through," he says. Maybe it did. I was laughing too much to notice.

Kate Copstick

Madeleine Hamilton: Piping Hot ****

Just The Tonic @ The Caves (Venue 88) until 27 August

One might think that there is not much that will truly surprise in the comedy section of the Fringe brochure any more. Especially this year. But just as you say that, you discover Piping Hot in a genre of its own: bagpipe based comedy. Yes, it is a thing. And yes, it is a good thing.

This utterly delightful and unexpectable hour is so cleverly woven together that the comedy and the sadness and the music and all of its moving parts actually become an endearing whole. The closest of comedy double acts. Where the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

The show is something like a set of pipes itself. The driving force (it would be so awful to call her the wind bag) is a charming American with storytelling skills, piping prowess and engaging comic ability. The underlying depth (yet again, to call them the 'drones' sounds awful, but this is metaphor, people) is added by her stories of love and loss (despite her creative (and demonstrated) ways with peanut butter).

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Frankly, Madelaine is not the luckiest woman on the planet when it comes to relationships, but she knows how to turn her dating disasters into winning comedy. She has a gentle likeability but a killer way with a punchline, when she likes.

Schooldays and romance, comedy and internet dating, vibrators and why men are like a set of bagpipes make a wonderful combination to support the detail added (back to the pipes again) by the chanter, and here there is a wealth of fascination and fun. To say nothing of tunes. Oh yes, the girl can play.

The word unique is horribly overused by PR types. This is the real thing

Kate Copstick

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