The most unusual comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe 2018

Lucy Pearman. Picture: ContributedLucy Pearman. Picture: Contributed
Lucy Pearman. Picture: Contributed
From shows you control with your phone to tap-dancing economics lessons, these comedians do things a little differently

Lucy Pearman, Monkey Barrel Comedy

A pink wriggly worm with big ambitions, a bossy bunch of grapes with a massive moustache and a hard-of-hearing potato: they all pop up in Lucy Pearman’s new show, Fruit Loop, the uniquely inventive follow-up to Maid of Cabbage which won her a nomination for Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Comedy Awards last year.

The main character, voiced by Pearman and frequently acted by members of the audience, is “a little worm from some mud in a village who wants to fly”. So she sets off to find her fortune in the Big Apple and meets various characters along the way. Our guide through this story is, naturally, a bunch of grapes – Pearman in a big, bobbly, green costume, with a waggling cardboard moustache and a Spanish accent thicker than Manuel’s. Why? I don’t know, but it’s a delight to watch as Pearman wins over an initially confused audience to her mad world – and, ever so gently, coaxes them into playing in it with her.

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Some of the skits are dafter than others but Pearman’s charm, eccentric world view and knack for a striking visual make this a deeply enjoyable hour. I can’t shake the image of her as a worm crawling along the top of a glittery red and gold curtain, singing along to a funk track. Nor the endless sketch in which she plays a deaf potato, which had the audience roaring in the aisles. An indefinable delight.

Foxdog Studios, Boteco

This must be the most loopily inventive show on the Edinburgh Fringe, which is saying something for a festival which has Famous Puppet Death Scenes in its programme. Foxdog Studios are, in their words, “the Fringe’s most qualified IT professionals” and the loose concept of this show is that we are helping them throw a party after the completion of a big work project.

For that, we need our phones and to download a private Foxdog network which will allow us, over the course of the show, to play silly computer games and virtually mingle with the other guests. Mainly though, we are there to help out with the catering, in the form of a “Robot Chef.”

Lloyd Henning and Peter Sutton, aka Foxdog, have built a Heath Robinson-esque kitchen on stage, featuring a wildly over-complicated system of magnets, pulleys, a 3D-printed tractor and a “head-mounted sausage cannon”, which the audience takes turns to control, with their phone.

So begins the most laborious and collaborative fry-up of all time. It is to the pair’s credit and charm that they somehow manage to imbue the slow cooking of some baked beans with real dramatic jeopardy. By the end, the entire room has united behind their pointless endeavour.

In between this high-concept cooking, Henning and Sutton, play Flight of the Conchords-styles songs wearing hi-vis and a lumberjack shirt/ drum-machine and perform an oddly beguiling number in costume as a giant green duck. It sounds odd, and it is odd, but it also embodies everything that is good about the Edinburgh Fringe and its questing, wacky, creative spirit. I left uplifted, and hungry.

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Jordan Brookes, Pleasance Courtyard

Jordan Brookes also makes use of technology in his new show, though it would be giving too much away to say exactly how. The stand-up, who was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award last year, begins lo-fi and low-key, wandering onto the stage in bare feet, chatting about the room, his microphone, the noise from outside.

Gradually, he ratchets up the tension. There’s something just a bit off. He tells us how he broke up with his girlfriend over a joke she didn’t like. He talks about being single and lonely. He wonders, if performing in this space, right now, with us, could be his new relationship. Is it a bit creepy? Yes, and it’s about to get creepier.

Around 40 minutes in, Brookes kicks things up a notch, removes his shirt and allows the audience right inside his head, to hear his deepest, darkest and dirtiest thoughts. It’s quite the unsettling thrill, though not entirely original if you have seen Simon McBurney’s The Encounter. As a device for comedy it’s genius, though I would have liked to see him do even more with it.

As it is, it’s introduced rather late in the show and is taken too quickly to extremes. As Brookes stalks the stage, topless and preening, his body contorting and arcing, saying ‘I’m the riskiest comic in the business’ over and over again to the point of ear-bleeding absurdity, it felt a little like a case of show, don’t tell.

• This article first appeared in our sister title, The i