Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy reviews: Trevor Lock: The Most Interesting Person In The Room | Becky Fury: C*nt! | Tom Little Has Good Reviews So Prepare to Be Impressed | Charmian Hughes: She! Immortal Horror Queen's Guide to Life | Ursula Burns: Trucking Harpist | Consignia Present: The Flatterers
Trevor Lock: The Most Interesting Person In The Room ****
PBH's Free Fringe @ Bannermans (Venue 357)
Becky Fury: C*nt! **
PBH's Free Fringe @ Globe Bar (Venue 161)
Tom Little Has Good Reviews So Prepare to Be Impressed ****
PBH's Free Fringe @ Subway (Venue 56)
Charmian Hughes: She! Immortal Horror Queen's Guide to Life ***
Laughing Horse @ the Counting House (Venue 170)
Ursula Burns : Trucking Harpist ***
Consignia Present: The Flatterers ****
PBH's Free Fringe @ Banshee Labyrinth
“Pop in for a wash and spin” says the really rather gorgeous bloke who is making me my second cup of the best coffee I have yet had in Edinburgh. It is 9.30am and I am enjoying another of the excitements of the Free Fringe – a venue is never just a venue. Chris O'Neill's A Political Breakfast is a great way to start the day if you are even mildly into politics. Today's panel (including me) talked more about crows and chicken, as it happened, which is a lot funnier than it sounds. The Natural Food Kafe (Venue 415) is a perfect home for the show, friendly, chilled atmosphere and a mini launderette in its basement! Feel free to add your own joke about dirty linen.
Along Cowgate and its cobbled environs Fringe-goers can cruise a crazy comedy Diagon Alley. Down there, Bannerman's Pub has a GREAT barman (Chris), where I got the best offer in Edinburgh – half pint of craft ale and a Bunnahabhain for six quid – PLUS, it has got Trevor Lock, discovering who is The Most Interesting Person in the Room every afternoon. This is a quintessential Fringe 'experience' rather than a comedy show, as everyone in the room is part of the gig. It is also a display of the most masterful interaction between professional comedian and audience that you will see. Today audience star Elizabeth is (as she frequently enthuses) “on fire”. Extraordinary things happen when Trevor stirs his audience pot. You should try it.
Just around the corner, behind a curtain in the always buzzing Globe Bar, I watch the first showing of Becky Fury: C*nt! On a Saturday night, The Globe is the most challenging of Free Fringe venues and offers a decidedly multi-layered auditory experience. Becky has blossomed as a performer. She has charm, confidence, a tabletful of fascinating random facts about the word c**t and a powerpoint presentation of images ranging from medieval labia pin badges to senior Tory politicians. She does not yet seem to have an actual show. Audience participation is encouraged – mainly shouting “C*nt!” at the aforementioned Tories, which is, of course, fun. This is best described as a truly memorable Fringe experience.
Over at the Laughing Horse's Counting House, always one of the most 'grown up' venues with free shows, Edinburgh legend Brian Dobie points me at The Attic where the eternally charming Charmian Hughes’ She! offers stand up reborn as a funny and fascinating memoir, in which she (Charmian) enthuses, shares and vents in turn as she takes us back to the day her teenage self met the immortal She (fabulous cult movie from 1965). Charmian's shows always feel so relaxed and guileless that you have to remind yourself of the perfectly matched writing and performing skills that it takes to dance this comedy waltz. Life lessons from She Who Must Be Obeyed and the Colossal Squid, age gap marriage, ponies and some delightful sexual similies, make for an engrossing hour. You may never again thread a needle without thinking of Charmian. Perhaps I am biased because I, too, love She (dusty end and all), but, Ursula Andress herself could not enchant you like this.
Words come tumbling out of the Cumbrian comic Tom Little like an eager to amuse avalanche. It is an extraordinary performing style but, please, do lean into the torrent, and you will love it. The laughs are there, they are some of the most memorable you will have and they are uniquely Little. Tom's is a laugh out loud comedy world in which there is no Boris, no Covid and no leadership election. It is exactly what the Fringe needs at a time like this. Protractors and yoghurt give way to the least likely but funniest love story you can imagine. Actually, unless you are Tom Little, you undoubtedly cannot imagine it. His hurtling delivery, sweetly anxious demeanor and air of hapless innocence make his surreal personal disaster/ age gap romance not so far from possible, and, even, joyful. Nothing in this hour is expectable and to squeeze fresh laughs out of biscuits, pizza, cucumber and vaginas takes a properly talented comic. Unique is an appallingly overused word. But you know it when you see it. I see it in Tom Little.
Ursula Burns is back and every bit as warmly, wonderfully, welcoming as ever. This woman pretty much epitomises the description “force of nature”. She is the perfect advert for Irish Womanhood, red of hair and large of harp, although fans of the more traditional Irish Womanhood might not enjoy her glorious greatest hits singalong of Dry Yer Eyes Jesus, It Was Years Ago and, of course, what she describes as her “calling card” song, I'm Yer F**kin' Harpist. Indeed she is. She can certainly harp, and her horizontal Snow Patrol finisher speaks volumes about the other. This year she is singing (and harping) and laughing about deleting dead people's numbers from her phone, Zoom courses, unvaccinated sperm; she also offers up a pointed new Burns classic about feedback forms which had me toddling off down Niddrie Street singing “you can't be a c*nt anymore” to myself.
I won't understand Consignia. I never understand Consignia. I suspect that they, themselves, don't understand Consignia. But some things are just not meant to be understood. This is a fully directed show this year, with about four directors, all directing in real time, albeit mainly the two directions “deeper” and “harder”. Even the audience, thanks to Mark Dean Quinn, who isn't even in the cast when we start, gets directed. I think we are rather good. Consignia fans will be surprised at the use of an unexpected joke at one point, but, as usual, if you like fat blokes sweating, futuristic, nihilistic storylines, confusion, repetition and a LOT of poo, then this is undoubtedly the show for you. There is no need to like everything on that list, but if you really don't like poo then you might find it challenging to commit to.