Edinburgh Fringe comedy reviews: Kathy Maniura | Lorna Rose Treen | Louise Atkinson | Myra DuBois | Rizal van Geyzel | Deage Paxton
Kathy Maniura: Objectified ****
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Wee Room, Venue 14, until August 28
An exquisitely realised, understated delight, Kathy Maniura's solo Fringe debut is character comedy from the perspective of familiar objects, each imbued with all-too-human personalities. From a new-agey, Californian paper straw greenwashing all before her; a belligerent old blowhard of an armchair, randy for arses, blustering on about free speech and cancellation; to an AirPod earpiece with manic pixie dream girl energy and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's red budget box, seeking a new relationship after being with so many from the same class, political and gender pool, these shunned or misunderstood artefacts are all keen to be noticed and desperate for self-actualisation.
Without costumes or props on her person, and notwithstanding a Chianti wine bottle-turned-candle holder that acknowledges it should probably have a Tuscan accent rather than a Sicilian Mafioso's, you quickly, instinctively make the mental leap into Maniura's inanimate animated conceit and get absorbed into the archetypes. Between characters, the comic discloses how the show originated in a period of recuperation following emergency surgery. And she absolutely dispenses with the fourth wall and engages the audience by having them choose the running order at (mildly guided) random. Post-act outs, she then asks them to plot any affinity they have for the object on a self-reflexive spectrum.
Goofily daft and expressive, Maniura is so accomplished at distinguishing her 10 objects from each other, that when they're eventually all reunited in a closing sketch, she can effortlessly switch between them without confusion. But it's her script that truly stands out, as she draws plenty of studied, observational humour from these previously silent bystanders and makes political points with a light touch. More broadly, she suggests that after human beings fashion our gadgets, tools and trinkets, they end up fashioning and reflecting us, with all our beautifully diverse quirks and flaws. Jay Richardson
Lorna Rose Treen: Skin Pigeon ****
Pleasance Courtyard, The Attic, Venue 33, until August 27
Coming into the festival with a clutch of newcomer awards and a considerable groundswell of buzz, Lorna Rose Treen makes good on her promise with a delightfully silly array of distinctive characters and idiosyncratic humour. A graduate of Edinburgh University's The Improverts troupe, just about the highest compliment you can pay to Treen's Fringe debut is that the moment it finishes, you instantly want to spend more time in several of her creations' company.
Chief amongst these is the intensely committed, nine-year-old Brownie that she first takes the stage as, returning several more times over the hour. With the unblinking, thousand yard-stare of a Vietnam veteran, this shrill devotee to badge accumulation is nevertheless also a dangerous, paramilitary radical. Intent on usurping the Brown Owls' authority, her capacity for animal violence and unwitting testimony about her unsettled home life fill out the ill-disguised madness animating her being. Here, more than anywhere else, the realisation of the creation is so strong that it's easy to overlook the snappy brilliance of Treen's taut script. It's no exaggeration to say that she belongs in the pantheon of superb, precocious little girl characters created by the likes of Caroline Aherne, Morwenna Banks and Victoria Wood.
Dominant as she is, however, she's supplemented by those in other sketches, which veer from amusing quickies to more developed portraits. Ranging from a dolphin capriciously showing off its capacity for abstract thought to a femme fatale, juggling hard-boiled fiction cliches like the cigarettes she sexily tosses in and out of her mouth, alongside a brutally snippy Sally Rooney parody, there's a playful, dressing up box vibe of make-believe to Treen's performances, with costume changes facilitated within a giant mound of laundry. Another highlight, a woman born with guns for hands is an Edward Scissorhands-style tragedy-in-waiting that foregrounds the pathos of these cracked personalities, who tend to be joyously, entertainingly oblivious to their weirdness. Jay Richardson
Louise Atkinson: Mates ***
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Wee Room, Venue 14, until August 27
A fond affirmation of platonic love, Louise Atkinson's Fringe debut is a scholarly yet warm exploration of friendships that doesn't stint on the jokes. Taking the popular science of Dunbar's number as a starting point, holding that the human brain only has capacity for 150 relationships and that the tightest circle is five loved ones, Atkinson elucidates her theories though the bond she has with her closest friends. Chief among these is Steph, a wild card who's messy and prone to a malapropism, whom Atkinson leans heavily on for laughs in the first 20 or so minutes. Refining and expanding her thesis, gradually introducing the other important characters in her life, she argues that friendships shouldn't be seen as inferior to romantic attachments. And certainly, when the Hull stand-up relates the circumstances whereby her own friendships were put under strain, there's a reasonable degree of narrative jeopardy and you're sufficiently invested to hope for reconciliation. With some mannered, perhaps overly matey flourishes to her delivery that come across as a bit ingratiating, Atkinson is nevertheless an amiable presence, persuasive of the pivotal role that our closest confidants and soulmates play in our lives. Jay Richardson
Myra DuBois: Be Well ****
Pleasance Dome, Venue 23, until 27 August
With towering white hair, fixed in a terrifyingly permanent wave, fright queen makeup and a pink sequined cape possibly borrowed from a wrestler, Myra DuBois commands the stage.
Rotherham’s finest diva has recast herself as a wellness coach for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe run. She has a notion of giving Gwyneth Paltrow a run for her money.
The stage is decked out for a chat show – with leopard skin rococo chairs and a leopard print-covered mid-century bar.
But we soon realise this is a one-woman star vehicle. DuBois has no intention of sharing the limelight with anyone – and all the drinks at the bar are hers.
She’s tremendous with her audience – which on this occasion includes a woman with an emotional support dog and a non-binary, non-verbal person on the front row. Dubois carefully negotiates pronouns and lifestyle preferences while delivering absolutely stinging pronouncements on the hair, demeanour and fashion choices of the crowd.
She claims to be psychic, but it’s really just an excuse for more withering put-downs. Even the meditation exercise she teaches us seems designed to increase resentment and rancour, rather than to be truly restorative.
There are a few pre-recorded segments that don’t quite work, but it could be that DuBois was having so much fun with the audience she had to rush the bit of drama at the end of the show.
She’s a wonderful creation – convinced she is full of love but refusing to give up the spotlight for anyone. In her mind she’s a great humanitarian, a world leader and a shining star. Her delusion and self-belief knows no bounds.
You won’t regret spending an hour with Myra DuBois. She may not make you more relaxed or teach you how to gain enlightenment – but a trip to her outrageous world will definitely make you splutter with laughter. Claire Smith
Rizal van Geyzel: Arrested ***Laughing Horse @ Bar 50, Venue 151, until 27 August
This is an impressive hour from a genuinely engaging performer. It is a clever mix of politics, Islam, storytelling and a slew of funny and fascinating stuff about South East Asia in general (and Malaysia in particular). Van Geyzel is a terrific comic and a wonderful storyteller, warm and so likeable that you cannot imagine why he would be arrested and his hugely successful comedy club shut down. So he tells you. And it is quite the tale. Although it does involve being charged with sedition and spending time in the cells. However, in Rizal's comedy hands, it is much less traumatic than you might think. Rogue swingers and trending on Twitter lighten the drama. Open mike nights, you will learn, are more dangerous than they look. This is probably the most genuinely international show you will see. We get a comparative analysis of audiences Chinese, Indian and Malay and we learn about the Fillipino problem with the letter 'f', the Malay problem with mixed race marriage and Rizal's problem with toilet roll. His account of, on his first trip to London, going to mosque and hearing the Koran read in cockney Arabic is lovely. The entire show is fresh and funny. Kate Copstick
Deage Paxton: Impersonable ***
Laughing Horse & 32 Below (Venue 442) until 27 August
The room is absolutely rammed, which is marvellous to see, and pretty much none of the audience opt to hear clean jokes (we are asked which we prefer). Deage is, he says, from Newcastle, a middle child and, as if that wasn't bad enough, a ginger. His show is packed with nice one-liners, kicking off with opera, cotton buds and masturbating in the shower, just to get us warmed up before getting stuck in to Poundland, weed and a fearless dig at fat children. He is an engaging presence and the comic energy here never flags, which is impressive, in a Fringe where so many have opted for the much less labour-intensive monologue about their inner selves. Paxton offers up Wetherspoons and yoga, algorithms and women's football, orgasmic births (yes, this is a thing) and aliens. This is a straightforward, fun hour of funny, and there is less of that about than you might think. Paxton does not give anyone a hard time to get his laughs except perhaps Biggie Smalls. And he is already Notorious. Impressively, pretty much the entire room has come along because they were flyered by the man himself. And I don't think any one of us is disappointed. Kate Copstick