Edinburgh Fringe comedy reviews – Paul Sinha: Pauly Bengali | Chloe Radcliffe: Cheat | Stefania Licari: Medico | Tom Little: The Reliably Funny Comedian You Want To See
Paul Sinha: Pauly Bengali ****
The Stand's New Town Theatre (Grand Hall) (Venue 7) until 27 August
If this does prove to be Paul Sinha's final Fringe show, with his ongoing debilitation from Parkinson's disease and a medical emergency during this run that saw him cancel a couple of performances, well, what a swansong. While his stock as a celebrity and LGBTQI icon has never been higher, a source of much amusement to him, he's been emboldened by the dying of the light, at least in his capacity to perform, and he's lashing out. Clinically settling some scores with fellow comedians, he's also, he deprecates, inflicting his singing voice and keyboard playing on audiences once again. Ranging from a semi-ironic appreciation of straight men, to a guide to thriving on his hit ITV quiz show The Chase with a few choice hacks, the tunes are nevertheless archly witty and full of the same sort of playfulness and misdirection as his still laceratingly sharp stand-up.
While only a few will lament the passing snipes at Hardeep Singh Kohli or Graham Linehan, there's still something invigorating about the more extensive blue-on-blue fire that Sinha lays down on a notoriously backslapping (in public) comedy industry. While often served cold, years after the slight, revenge is ultimately more about him living his life well. And he can lean on a supportive marriage and family, the knowledge that his writing has attracted the backhanded compliment of plagiarism and that his star has risen, even as his capacity to handle fame has not adjusted.
The core anecdote in Pauly Bengali revolves around an awards ceremony where he got stupendously drunk and really shared his mind in the acceptance speeches, an incident that saw The Chase's victory effectively airbrushed from history. Yes, most of the subjects of his ire are utterly beneath him, his standing have long ago eclipsed theirs'. And yet somehow, that petty edge only makes the routines funnier, with Sinha superbly channelling his frustrations for typically bruising, punchy lines that reverberate with feeling even as they express a still fiercely keen mind. Jay Richardson
Chloe Radcliffe: Cheat ***
Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker Three) (Venue 33) until 27 August
As a stand-up, Chloe Radcliffe knows that she has a USP but it's not the easiest sell. A pathological cheat, incapable of sustaining monogamy, in her Fringe debut the American is laying bare the long history of her infidelities, less concerned with seeming likeable than being seen. Complicating matters, is that while she can point to quantifiable evidence for her attractiveness, she was an ugly duckling who flourished into being a swan. So she retains some of that adolescent insecurity, even as her mother has always gone too far in boosting her self-esteem and perhaps, being an ear to bend about her sexual escapades. Her father not so much, having never really been around. Also chucked into the mix, she has a sizeable birthmark on one cheek, an elephant in the room that she quickly addresses.
Opening with the account of how she effectively starred in her own porn film, banging a delivery guy, although Radcliffe has almost never been caught in her unfaithfulness, it's not been a consequence-free existence, the psychological toll considerable. Heavy on self-justification and internal agonising, Radcliffe is nevertheless bracingly honest about her lack of guilt. And she's slyly funny, engaging and sympathetic in spite of herself, great girlfriend material in fact. Right up until she isn't. Jay Richardson
Stefania Licari: Medico ***
Underbelly, Bristo Square (Dexter) (Venue 302) until 27 August
An Italian intensive care doctor in the NHS, as well as a stand-up and aspiring actor, Stefania Licari has radically overhauled her thinly-veiled 2022 character comedy show of the same name, to deliver a more personal hour, directly relating her experiences in medicine. Still notionally teaching a class on intimate procedures, the perkily upbeat, mischievous act nevertheless gives the greater part of her show over to the trials and tribulations of her career, including the dispiriting racism and sexism she's encountered, both from patients and her superiors. But she invariably finds the funny as she reflects upon becoming a British citizen and trying to make the leap into entertainment. With songs and various set-pieces, it's a generally frothy, entertaining yarn, with Licari playfully negging her would-be British suitors, yet with sporadic, surprising grit as she offers up a first-hand account from the frontlines of a struggling national health service. Although playful with broad British and Italian stereotypes, Medico is superbly, tonally balanced, earning its moments of emotional drama, while Licari's bright-eyed commitment, whether on the ward or on stage, entertaining, makes her immensely likeable. Jay Richardson
Tom Little: The Reliably Funny Comedian You Want To See **
PBH’s Free Fringe @ Subway (Venue 56) until 27 August
Tom is like no other comic you will see and anyone with an operative maternal instinct will want to get up on stage, give the boy a cuddle and tell him everything will be alright. I do not have that instinct. Because of his repetitive style, and despite breaking the speech speed record for words (or parts of words) per minute, Tom manages to make Peter Rabbit, Lynx Africa, a train trip to London, a battered sausage and brown sauce last an hour. Perhaps that is a kind of genius, and to be fair, he has a killer ending. Kate Copstick