Edinburgh Fringe 2019: 4 Great Free Fringe Shows

Fringe-goers taking in a street show. Picture: Contributed.
Fringe-goers taking in a street show. Picture: Contributed.
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Laughs. For free. Free laughs. Free laughs!!!

The Free Fringe really sells itself, the perfect “something for nothing” that all your economics professors smugly told you didn't exist. You pay no money and get to sit down and be entertained. And then you get to leave, having still only been charged that original no money. Discounting the laughs, you have broken even for the day. Accounting for the current market value of a giggle – which has got be skyrocketing in our times so encumbered with political and environmental crises - and what you are looking at is a guaranteed profit.

What's more (and honestly it is ridiculous that you are looking for more, got get your free laughs), the Free Fringe offers you the chance to see works-in-progress and newbie comics still finding their feet – a behind-the-scenes look at how your favourite funny people come to be.

And all for the grand old price of not one single penny.

Sid Singh: American Refugee, Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, Until August 26

The fact that Sid Singh is both a comedian and a human rights lawyer should be enough to set him apart from the mass of comics competing for your attention at this year's Fringe. The novelty of seeing someone who could make a living standing before a judge, standing instead inside a comedy club working - that alone should be worth the price of admission.

Add in the fact that the price of admission is zilch and you've got an even more enticing proposal.

Throw in the fact that Singh has found a way to fuse these two professions into an entertaining, insightful and informative show about borders, bigotry and the sublime power of well-directed hate, and you've got one of the most unique, prescient and politically powerful shows of the whole festival.

Read our full review here

Daniel Muggleton: Pimpin Ain't Easy (But I Reckon it’s Easier for Straight, White Men?), Laughing Horse @ The Counting House, Until 25 August

So it turns out Daniel Muggleton also has a law degree. That was unlikely and makes the entry above this look kind of silly and uninformed. The odds on this really were very low. Lawyers are, generally speaking, not funny.

Anyway, not-a-lawyer Daniel Muggleton is a UK-based, Australia-born comedian with a new Fringe show about some of the many differences between the two, as well as some of the things that unite them – like racism and misogyny. He is, in fact, very funny.

He delves into serious matters in good faith and with real perceptiveness, but never allows the weight of it all to drag him below the easy-going, no worries style that befits a comedian in a bright red tracksuit.

Read our full review here

Chris McGlade: Forgiveness, Laughing Horse @ City Cafe, Until 25 August

Chris McGlade is the very definition of no-holds-barred comic - a cigarettes and whisky comic from a previous time who approaches sensitive topics with all the sensitivity of a rampant sledgehammer.

He is brazen, and he definitely looks to shake his audience out of their pre-established ideas of acceptability, but he isn't callous and his comedy isn't cruel. This is never clearer than with his new show, which is centred around the murder of his father and his own difficult journey towards forgiving the murderer. That willingness to show vulnerability, using comedy to process pain rather than to ironically glaze over it, is what makes him more than an old-school shock comic.

Read our full review here

Jimmy McGhie: BA (Hons) Laughing Horse @ The Pear Tree, Until 24 August

Jimmy McGhie is feeling a little lost – a single man on the cusp of 40, marooned in his sister's attic with a second class arts degree and a sea of married, mortgaged, career-focused contemporaries to look out on. A more serious man might despair. Fortunately, McGhie has an irrepressible talent for taking things lightly.

Taking his “Need(y)” show from earlier in the year as its blueprint, his Fringe show is a work in progress that is still in search of its final form. Fortunately, when the bits and pieces are as good as McGhie's you don't find yourself worrying too much about what he might one day make out of them.

Not while the jokes keep coming, at least.

Read our full review here

Honourable Mention

Darcie Silver: I Know You Are, Laughing Horse @ Brass Monkey, Until 16 August

The great beauty of the Fringe is that it brings together comics from every career stage – superstars with regular TV slots rub shoulders with newbies just starting out, cult favourites who never quite made it mainstream and everybody working at all the places in between.

Darcie Silver is right there near the beginning, and (like almost everyone round those parts) she still has a way to go. Our review made clear that her show is far from the finished article, lacking the self-assurance to deliver on its potential. But Silver's got something – a delicate stage presence and a gleeful willingness to go dark or get dirty in service of a good line. It's a potent combination.

The star rating wasn't great, but that is mostly a reminder that star ratings only tell you so much.

Because it brings together performers of all levels, the Fringe is naturally attractive for those seeking out a little schadenfreude – combing reviews for the year's most spectacular disasters, seeing which critic can deliver the most imaginative, unforgiving execution by one-star.

But the Fringe is also a chance to build people up and help them realise their potential. For audiences to throw their time, attention and appreciation into the mix so that artists can come out stronger. It won't always work, but the chance to help someone unlock their ability is a really meaningful opportunity.

Go see I Know You Are, and it won't even cost you a thing.

Read our full review here

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