Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy reviews: Rich Hardisty | Katie Pritchard | Andrew Maxwell

The Fringe saved some of its best laughs to last for our comedy critic Jay Richardson, as Rich Hardisty proved himself a real name to watch with a candidly hilarious hour that's crying out for TV or radio adaptation.

Rich Hardisty. PIC: Contributed.
Rich Hardisty. PIC: Contributed.

Rich Hardisty: Silly Boy ****

Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Below) (Venue 33)

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It seems odd to classify Rich Hardisty's Fringe debut as one of the most enjoyable, viscerally pleasing hours I've spent at this festival, given that it plumbs the bleakest depths of hard drug addiction, self-harm and mental health collapse. So packed full is it of trauma that Hardisty can barely touch on the unlikely account of tracking down his absent American spy father in adulthood, saving it for a future show. But for conveying what it's like to have bipolar disorder, and a range of attendant afflictions, Silly Boy is hard to beat, a tale that's by turns eye-opening, deeply affecting and candidly hilarious. From his childhood to the present day, Hardisty thoughtfully reflects upon the circumstances that have made him the man he is, aligning you with the thought processes and motivations for his most degrading episodes. Wry and likeable, he nevertheless emphasises that while he's in a decent place in his life just now, he may well succumb again in the future. That's an ever-present jeopardy and energy that underscores the hour, culminating in the incredible video montage of his finale. Simulating the mania in his head through a pop culture blizzard of imagery, part of an extended coda that highlights the artistry applied here, this is so much more than mere cautionary tales reeled off as inspiration porn. The hyper-focus that has so dogged Hardisty's life has, simultaneously, been an absolute boon for this hugely impressive, exceptionally resonant production, crying out for a television or radio adaptation to introduce it to a wider audience and introducing a real name to watch. Jay Richardson

Katie Pritchard: Disco Ball ***

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Pleasance Courtyard (The Cellar) (Venue 33)

A glittering disco ball of energy, Katie Pritchard's Fringe debut is full of catchy tunes and keep smiling through endeavour. Notwithstanding the white sheet she pulls on at one point, the ghost in the machine of her hour is loneliness, both that brought about by lockdown and the split with her repeatedly invoked yet barely elaborated upon “former partner-slash-ex flatmate”, as she strives for connection with her crowd. This she accomplishes with her gleeful recourse to homemade costumes, irrepressible vim and vigour and impressive musical chops. Showcasing mostly original, eccentric compositions, they just about carry a show that's disappointingly short of punchlines and arguably belongs more in the Cabaret section of the Fringe brochure. Regardless, the vivacious Pritchard goes out of her way to foster an inclusive, feelgood atmosphere. The audio description that accompanies every show is a chance she grasps at for further gags, with it ironically commenting on the spectacle of her flailing through her costume changes. Sharing tunes about her desire to see Robert De Niro in Cats, her struggles with IBS and of fast food restaurants closed because of semen in the condiments, Pritchard is an acquired taste but entirely her own performer. Jay Richardson

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Andrew Maxwell: Krakatoa ***

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Debating Hall) (Venue 14)

Andrew Maxwell's venue may stand on extinct volcanoes. But the impish Irishman has built his own more volatile one, that erupts at his or any audience member's invocation of “Krakatoa!” to signal incredulity at the crazy, unpredictable times we're living in. Accompanying sound and fury, Maxwell extols tales of an eejit like himself as the palliative to coping with the anxiety of the climate crisis, war in Europe and Liz Truss being handed control of the nuclear codes. With typically original lines of thinking and sufficiently impressive local knowledge to seem like one of Edinburgh's ain folk, including observational material on the Royal Commonwealth Pool for example, for his 27th Fringe the rascally Dubliner is on solid if not peak form, delighted to be back out in front of audiences. He can see the upsides to Scotland registering soaring temperatures but recounts a road rage incident he was involved in, hilariously able to get the full biographical measure of his would-be assailant thanks to the wonders of modern technology. He brilliantly and persuasively links the disaster of Brexit to the children's books of Richard Scarry, feeding into his preoccupation with the future of jobs in this country. But his ultimate conclusion feels as contrived and gratuitous as his throwaway volcano gimmick. Jay Richardson