‘Al Murray: Gig For Victory’ (Assembly Square Gardens – Palais du Variete, until AUG 29)

“It is a joy to watch and is even better in the flesh. Go if you have the chance”

Editorial Rating:  5 Stars (Outstanding)

Earlier in the week I’d attended a Fringe show. There were three of us in the audience. Two on stage. I felt for them. I’d guess they felt for me. Audience participation with three audience members his hard yakka for all concerned.

It did seem odd then that my next show was Al Murray, arguably the biggest name at this year’s Fringe. I got there half an hour early and the already the queue for the landlord snaked out of Assembly Gardens and down the roads towards Underbelly. That is the Fringe for you – in all its ridiculous sublimity. If you come to Edinburgh genuinely do try to see as much as you can – from the big names to the small, from the old to the new.

But to our tale… how do you review Al Murray? In a way it is pointless. You don’t analyse our national treasures. You bask. You understand that he is a very British sort of genius – he couldn’t have come into existence anywhere else – and you enjoy.

The crowd was large and boisterous. The circus tent in the gardens crackling in anticipation. And then it began. He ambles in from the back of the venue, gently caressing the bald heads he passes by and bounds on stage. Beer covers the first few rows. Some are surprised. Really?

And there he is before us resplendent in that burgundy blazer, swinging a pint pot, gleaming, celebrating us those that bested Covid, happily throwing crisps at an overweight man that he admits he is surprised made it through the pandemic. The yeoman of all he surveys. A man sure of his opinions but confused with how the world is going: the character is eternal.

The pandemic has been good for the landlord. He has waited all his life for this moment. Covid was as he says ‘’our blitz’’. The moment we stood as one and did our bit for Queen and Country. For the first time we join the ranks of British heroes. We, he tells us, are the survivors and he wants to learn who is in the lifeboat with him: who made it through? So much of Murray’s show is unique to the night itself.

There’s little point telling you what happened or highlight particular gags because there’s just so much audience work. There’s no one better at it. Many try. Many manage for five minutes or so… but for the majority of the show. That isn’t high-wire stuff. How anyone can elicit so many laughs from two questions: ‘’what’s your name? What do you do?’’ I’ll never know. Flitting back and forward, weaving their lives together, Ollie in the corner must know Evelyn the gynaecologist and the jaeger bomb Durham boys. The strokers who go for a wee within ten minutes. None of these people will be there tonight. They won’t happen tonight. Something though will.

Throughout the course of the evening we meet Rod in finance, Dim Dave who ‘works for a solicitor’, a sheep farmer, a slow brick maker, a family lawyer (‘and a cold wind whips through the hall”) and many more. At one point he speaks to Deborah who has a play on at the fringe about WWII. The landlord lets loose a stunning two minute summary of the relatively obscure war story the play is about and then back to the important things of talking to the audience.

Of course, the badinage ends up back to the themes of the pandemic, our leaders, our survival against the odds of Covid and in the end he moves from the audience to the central theme that the last the two years we have had to endure.

Al’s theory of how each generation is perfect for the challenges the world throws at it. Our grandparents fought Nazism singlehandedly without help whilst we rose to the challenge we faced, a challenge only our generation could face: staying in the house watching TV for four months.

Twice.

Whilst being paid by the government.

Tonight’s show will be similar yet entirely different. Where he goes is entirely dependent on who shows up. Only a handful of comics could pull this sort of show off and fewer still relentlessly hit such heights.

There’s little point dwelling on the technicalities. Murray is one of the cleverest, quickest-witted comics out there. You know that. Everyone knows that. It is like explaining Monty Python or David Attenborough or David Gower’s cover drive. His character allows him to explore areas of life that others shy away from or – if they do – tend to veer to shock or righteousness.

One minor point: for an act so on the button of current affairs and with such an intuitive understanding of what the British public thinks… I was a little surprised that there was no mention (in the show I attended) of that other comedian who plays a character that happens to use the actor’s real name: Jerry Sadowitz. I’d have thought that was ripe material for the landlord particularly given some of the gags early on about the various genders of grandchildren that we might boast about our Covid heroism too.

But let’s not dwell too much on this. That is a throwaway thought rather than a criticism.

His character is timeless and needs no introduction: the garrulous British blowhard who almost knows what he is talking about and has a view about everything. It is a joy to watch and is even better in the flesh. Go if you have the chance. Just make sure you know your job and don’t try to claim you are an acrobat.

Come for the crisps being flung at you. Stay for the white wine for the lady. Get your red blazers on and join him in his lifeboat.

 

‘Bee Story’ (Underbelly Bristo Square Cowbarn, until AUG 28)

“Bee Story is everything you would want in a children’s show. It is charming. It is lovely. It is magical”.

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

All good things come to an end and my Edinburgh Fringe 2022 finished with Bee Story. This is an Australian non-verbal circus show… there seems to be a lot of them about this year. Have they given up on beating us at sport? Is there something different in the Vegemite? Who knows? This trend is very welcome.

So yes, I have seen a few similar shows this year. I haven’t though seen a better one. Bee Story is everything you would want in a children’s show. It is charming. It is lovely. It is magical.

I doubt there is a better opening to any Fringe show than that of Bee Story. They may return – or you may see it elsewhere – so mum is the word but the first time you see Queen Bee was a moment of stunned delight. Neither I nor my youngest could believe it nor did we guess immediately how they did it.

It doesn’t stop from there. Over the course of the next hour there are unicycles, clowning (the facial expressions are simply wonderful), juggling, juggling with knives, some astonishing floor work, ballet, physical comedy (there’s a great scene with a snake and another with a net), acrobatics, gymnastic, and buckets of fun. Neither I nor the youngster could take our eyes off it. It was as if a mini-Cirque du Soleil had landed in Bristo Square. We were far from alone: there were spontaneous rounds of applause and whooping and hollering throughout.

The team at Arc Circus – Robbie Curtis and Lizzie McRae are seriously talented. Where else will you see a woman dressed as a Queen Bee being held in a series of bizarre positions whilst playing pop songs on a flute? You know, and I know, the answer is nowhere.

We meet Queen Bee and Worker Bee. Her Royal Highness – usually accompanied by God Save The Queen – wants more honey and poor old Worker Bee is doing his darnedest to get it but can’t quite. Then, from nowhere, the hive is hit by a bushfire.

Queen Bee has to lose her heirs and graces whilst Worker Bee enjoys a new friend as they work together to build a new hive. Of course, that is harder than it looks.

A magical hour with important messages. Teamwork and collaboration matters, friendship is key, that we need to care for our environment and that bees really do matter.

There’s probably some important British-Australian analysis on overcoming class divisions too but leave that to the grown-up reviewers.

The important part was my daughter and I loved this show and she said it was her favourite of the Fringe. She particularly loved it when Queen Bee poked her toy bee with her flute. I mean, that’s the sort of wonder you only get at the Fringe… and the sort of thing that makes children fall in love with theatre. A genuinely lovely little thing that I’d recommend to anyone.

Come for the buzz. Stay for the seizing of the means of production. Get your yellow/black coats on and go see this.

‘Chores’ (Assembly Piccolo, until AUG 28)

“How many comics can make a few hundred people of all ages laugh consistently barely uttering a word.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Outstanding)

For all the flyering and social media that happens at the Edinburgh Fringe, it really is word of mouth that matters: the talk of the steamie in Edinburgh can make or break a show. Walk around George Square, you’ll get twenty leaflets. All the shows sound good. The posters make every show look must see. So how do you decide? Of course, you should read GetYourCoatsOn but many recommendations are over a pint and that’s who we grownups listen to – a person who has seen it, not a person who is in it.

Turns out though that it isn’t just the steamie* or the pub. The primary school playground is vital. My kids had been talking about ‘Chores’ for days, just as last week all the talk was about ‘Fashion Spies’. By the looks of sold-out Piccolo theatre, every kid in Edinburgh has heard the news of ‘Chores’. What did we learn today kids? Word of mouth matters.

[*noun. Scottish slang. a public wash house. I hope that helps any Aussies reading this.]

‘Chores’ is a simple concept. Our stars play the roles of two children. Their parents who we never see but do hear from want the kids to tidy their room. Every parent in the place realises the battle the poor saps are having. I’ll confess. I wondered how they could spin this out for an hour?

As many an English batsmen has discovered over the years it is better just to stop questioning Australian decision making and let the inevitable happen to you. Shannon Vitali and Christian Nimri own the stage and wow the audience consistently. The kids are rapt. After all which kid here hasn’t been in this situation? Which kid hasn’t said ‘I’ll tidy my room now’ only somehow moments later for the room to have become a toy explosion they cannot explain with an exasperated parent mouthing ”HOW?!’ at them.

The adults are rapt too. The show has it all and the actors keep us in the palm of their hand barely saying a word. The children loved the toilet paper guns and water sprays but they were all screaming ‘’it’s behind you!’’: a lack of Pantomimes these last two years hasn’t killed this British tradition.

There are some stunning set pieces: the box trick in particular was genuinely brilliant. There aren’t too many shows that involve roller skating, bed sheets, mime, mini bikes, physical comedy and good ol’ fashioned clowning. My youngest enjoyed the bit where they sneezed into the pants. I won’t spoil it any more than that.

Both of these performers are talented. First and foremost this duo are funny. How many comics can make a few hundred people of all ages laugh consistently barely uttering a word? Physical comedy, funny faces, and props are a lot harder than a rude gag that can be the go to for many a kids’ entertainer. Yes, of course there are a couple of fart gags but this is old school Chaplin style comedy. It isn’t easy. It is hard, hard yakka.

But more than funny there is real, deft skill. Acrobatics, strength, gymnastics, clowning, strength.  All I could think about as I grinned was the hours of practice, the mistakes and the – one assumes – drops and injuries. This show looks effortless but is based on trust and commitment. It shines through. Whether the kids are chatting about it in the steamie, the pub, or the primary school playground they are right. This is a proper, tight, quality show.

Could they do more? Well in terms of activity no. I wonder if the show would have been even better if the characters had slightly more interplay: one being the goody two shoes trying to tidy up whilst the other consistently undermining them? I suppose there approach is more realistic – both trying to tidy at points, the other accidentally undermining their effort or, on occasion, the room getting messier despite both of their intentions. There were moments of repetition, I think, that perhaps could have been cut down to make the show slightly shorter. That is to quibble though unduly. I doubt any of the kids who after all are the primary audience give the slightest of hoots about this.

Come for toilet paper guns. Stay in the hope your kids might tidy their room. Get your coats coats on and see this, you can tidy your rooms later.

 

‘Basil Brush’s Family Fun Show’ (Gilded Balloon Teviot Debating Hall, until AUG 21st)

“This is pantomime, this is Butlin’s, this is the kid’s entertainer you wished you had at your birthday, this works because we know it and love it. It is part of our heritage.”

Editorial Rating: 4  Stars (Outstanding)

A long time ago I was involved in the Scottish student debating circuit. That could be a genuine contender for the sentence most likely to lose friends and alienate people. The only reason I raise this terrifying prospect is that I have fond memories of the debating union at Edinburgh and it is always a trip down nostalgia lane to find myself at the top of Teviot (or the Gilded Balloon as many of you will know it).

And so it was on Saturday that the youngest and I found ourselves in that grand old hall where so many great debaters have cut their teeth… to see Basil Brush.

She had been keen to see Basil purely because of his posters around town. Upon interrogation, it became clear that this legend of British kids’ TV is unknown to the young team. Other than the image from the poster she had no concept at all of Basil. She had not seen him on TV. She did not even – God help us all – know his catchphrase. What do they teach them in schools these days? I sat and wondered: is she going to enjoy this? Or am I going to spend the show saying ‘not too much longer, darling’ as I threw Jaffa Cakes at her to keep her schtum?

I need not have worried. There’s a reason the fox has been around so long, after all. Now striding into his sixth decade he knows what is what and how to make a group of kids giggle.

Brush’s sidekick, Britain’s Got Talent’s Mr Martin, walks on stage and kicks it all off. Good as he is we are here to see the Grand Old Fox and soon enough the great one joins us.

Over the next forty-five mins – the perfect length for a kids’ show as it happens… other shows please take note – a hugely interactive show dazzles us. At every point the audience is asked to do something – sing, dance, cower from a water pistol, shout, clap, Mexican Wave, or wave our arms about. It might not seem sophisticated but, ultimately, it is a puppet (sorry to destroy illusions but we value brutal honesty here at GetYourCoatsOn). The duo need to work hard to get the audience onside and they do from the off: always involving us and always changing up how we are involved.

A mix of rude jokes (mostly fart-based but not exclusively… my youngster enjoyed one that was cut off by Mr Martin as she guessed the next word), disco sets to dance along with, Mr Martin with his Super Soaker and focusing on a pensioner with an umbrella, magic tricks, and – in one indescribable sequence – a visit from a flatulent Princess Elsa all land well with the kids. Two didn’t: the PANTS Alexa gag was grand enough but went on too long and the three envelopes gag was clever but well over the head of the kids.

But there is no need to overanalyse sunlit genius or quibble too much. No. This is old-school fun. Many of us have seen it all before. Indeed, that’s the point. We love it because we have seen it before. This is pantomime. This is Butlin’s. This is the kid’s entertainer you wished you had at your birthday. This works because we know it and love it. It is part of our heritage. It is part of us.

There’s a reason that the disco section included Baby Shark and YMCA because this show is for everyone. I couldn’t help but notice the granny at the end of our row was dancing away to Agadoo and the mum in front of us was doubled over laughing at the farting Elsa.

The sort of old-school silly fun that is easy to sneer at but hard to do and ultimately the kids all walk off smiling having had a grand 45 minutes, a signed photo and a selfie with a comedy legend. Ultimately, there’s not much more you can ask for?

So come for the gags, stay for the Boom Booms, and leave with the feeling of having bathed in nostalgia. Get your foxiest coats on and go see this! For those who want things a little foxier Basil has an adult show at 6.30pm (unleashed and uncut… for the rest of the Fringe).

‘Chris McGlade: Forgiveness’ (Frankenstein’s, until AUG 24)

“He is serious, powerful talent.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Would you laugh at jokes about a pensioner being murdered?

Even when the pensioner in question is the comedian’s father?

I did. And you would.

In the basement of Frankenstein’s pub, we met Chris McGlade, the Smoggie James Nesbitt. From the off he was prowling the audience, slapping us on the back, getting in our faces, and joking about us all with a glint in the eye.

McGlade told us at the start it was a long show (2 hours) and we were to get comfy: go to the toilet, get a pint, come and go… you just aren’t allowed to leave’.

The first hour of the show has been called elsewhere a cri de cœur against the metropolitan liberal elite. It is in part.

It is more than that though and to view it as such misunderstands the show. The first hour is McGlade not only telling us about who his dad was but also explaining the culture that he, and his father, grew up in. A culture that shaped them. A culture that was rough but kind. A culture where you mocked others but with a smile.. and with the expectation you would be mocked back. The culture he feels his now ignored, belittled or denied. A culture that has roared both here and in the USA.

This show is an English ”Hillbilly Elegy”. To see it is to understand why so many Northern working-class voters voted Tory in 2019 and voted for Brexit a few years earlier.

There were a few folk younger in the crowd and whilst there are moments of genuine shock in that first hour the moment they bristled was when he announced he’d voted Tory. That interested me – some of the language and themes will likely offend some people but it was a working-class man who announced he’d voted Tory that brought silence. The use of racial language, the on the edge jokes… they got laughs.

Did I agree with everything McGlade said about working-class culture? No. There was plenty to challenge but I think he’d welcome that with a joke, a wink, and craic. There was plenty of truth there and plenty to think about. There were moments that made me think deeply and moments that made me laugh out loud. There were moments throughout where I swore out loud in shock only to find myself laughing.

This is a comedian who has been brought up in the tough world of working men’s clubs. There is much disdain of this. I’d guess many comedians on the circuit couldn’t shine there and at Edinburgh. McGlade does. He is a serious, powerful talent. He notes he is an outlier – a 50-something, white, working class, heavily accented guy who hasn’t been to University. It is a long way from the all too frequent liberal university grad tell a bunch of liberal university grad jokes that make them feel smug.

His skit of walking around the audience telling the sorts of jokes he’d tell there – all the expense of audience members – was very good. Whilst I am sure he shines in those venues he shone here because of his fleetness of foot – there are times when you think a joke is going one way and he totally wrongfoots you. His gag about middle-class people peppering their speech with French only to do so himself was very clever. Gags about heroin addiction and being a good Catholic were laugh-out-loud.

The first half is integral to the second. He wants you to understand his dad, and the world they lived in, and the second half focuses more on the relationship with his father, his family, and his now estranged wife and how those relationships (and their endings) have shaped him.

The second half just wouldn’t work without the first. There are jokes aplenty still but it is more thoughtful, more poignant, more beautiful. He tells us of his anger, his rage, his tears. He tells us of the jokes he told to the Police when they explained his father had been murdered. He tells us of the moments in court where people fell about laughing. He makes the audience laugh when he tells us of a bizarre suicide attempt where he is saved by a mobster’s daughter. His point throughout is what unites working class people is that they find humour everywhere.

There are moments of beauty here. I enjoyed his occasional diversions into poetry. His joking with the crowd was phenomenal (at one point it looked like he was going to do a Sadowitz by unbuttoning his trousers but stopped and laughed it off). The political message in the first half will make many uncomfortable but it will make more laugh.

Ultimately though it all builds to forgiveness. Here is a man who has forgiven the man who brutally murdered his father. A man who understands how the relationship with his father has shaped him. His language at points is astonishingly un-PC. If he can speak so eloquently about forgiving a man who strangled his father perhaps the Edinburgh Fringe crowd can forgive him that?

Come for the insight. Stay for the laugh-out-loud moments. Get your heavily accented coats on and go see this.

 


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‘Fashion Spies’ (Assembly George Square – The Box, until AUG 29)

“My 8-year-old said it was ‘the funniest thing on Earth’. I’m not sure I would go quite that far but it was good fun and ultimately she was the target market.”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars (Outstanding)

Trotting around George Square last weekend we were accosted by a hugely glamorous man. He looked my daughters in the eye and said: “The world’s finest fashion is being stolen all over the world! We need new fashion spies to help us recover them!” The girls gawped as they were handed a leaflet, “do you think you could help us?” Asked this vision in glitter. They nodded solemnly.

And – for a week now – they have said: “Can we go to ‘Fashion Spies’, Dad?

It should be no surprise that we found ourselves outside the Box on George Square waiting to get in. The staff handed us some bits and bobs that we needed for the show and gave us our spy names. I was ‘Britney’. An early win.

In the shipping container, we were seated in the front row. Madonna was blaring out. The three stars worked the room, laughing and joking with us. It turned out the vision in glitter was Jack Davies: one of the stars of the show.

Over the course of the next hour, a madcap romp ensues. The three stars play multiple characters as they train the audience in spy techniques to help track down some missing clothes.

The story rattled along: songs, gags, audience interaction involving fabric and tubes. My youngest loved the tubes and the creation around them. One scene with a fox had me guffawing heartily and though primarily a kids’ show there were a few gags aimed at the adults. It all came together with a grand, silly reveal which went down well in our house (I saw some of it coming but not all of it).

My 8-year-old said it was ‘the funniest thing on Earth’. I’m not sure I would go quite that far but it was good fun and ultimately she was the target market. My youngest (6) really enjoyed the props, getting involved in the show and helping choose the direction of the play.

The eldest got a decent laugh herself. When the lights went out for a second time to aid costume changes she loudly said: ‘’oh no not this again’. Cue everyone – including the cast – laughing. To his eternal credit, the stars nicked the line later on when they did it again.

This is what EdFringe should be about: taking a punt on a new show in a small venue. A young, talented group putting on a fun show trying to make a name for themselves. All three – Jack Davies, Eleanor Rattenbury, and Abbi Greenwood – put everything into the show. They worked relentlessly, singing, dancing, over-acting, camping it up and working the audiences.

It was well put together although A few bits didn’t quite land as well as they might but those are forgiven easily enough. This trio deserve a bigger audience and kids who are into spy thrillers and getting into glamour will love it.


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Police Cops: The Musical (Assembly George Square Studios – Studio One. Until August 29th)

“The perfect Fringe show”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

Where do you even start to review Police Cops: The Musical? I’ve tried around ten different openings and cannot crack it. Such is the life of a hungover hack. I toddled along to the show with a pal who had booked the tickets. I didn’t know what to expect. Sometimes you just luck out and this was one of those times. Grinning at each other during the entirely deserved standing ovation he said ”loved that! Relentlessly bonkers!. That, I think sums it up.

The show is a pastiche and a homage to 80s cop double act shows. So many tropes lampooned: the moving origin story as to why our hero becomes a cop; a gnarly old partner who bleeds red, white and blue and runs on Jack Daniel’s; the shadowy villain who is always one step ahead; the play it straight boss who cannot see eye to eye with the renegades who might get results) but again… this description doesn’t butter any parsnips. The Police Cops constantly surprise you – and sometimes themselves – with ad libs, improvisations, or just gags that wrong foot you (ex-cop Gonzalez constantly surprised me). There is always something happening – something funny, something silly, something that makes no real sense.

In many ways this is the perfect Fringe Show. Well-performed, funny songs. Everything on point. Hilarious plot twists. A steady stream of revolving characters. Improvisation throughout. There was even hilarious interpretative dance (the use of toilet roll was genuinely hysterical). Each actor stealing the stage from the rest time after time – each absolutely nailing their performance.

I loved that the cast just about kept it together as one of them went off script to hilarious effect or threw a curveball mid act. You never know if it is planned or not – either way they are so quick, so charming that it doesn’t matter. The key to the show is in the consistent inventiveness and how they make it all happen. A small example without spoiling anything: a man inside a cardboard television giving a news report on developments and then telling us he was only doing it to allow him to move to the other side of the stage one of a hundred examples of their silliness but also cleverness.

Stewart Lee is giving these guys shout outs at his show every morning. No wonder. Relentlessly silly. Endlessly clever. Constantly surprising. The cast were beaming when they saw the ovation. So they should. They were having a hoot as were we.

Only one question for you now: Are you an American’t? Or are you an Ameriwill?

 


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‘The Wonder Games with Maddie and Greg’ (Underbelly George Square, until AUG 13)

“My youngsters asked if they could recreate an experiment at home and watch more of Maddie and Greg’s videos. Result.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

If you don’t have children under the age of 10 you may never have heard of Maddie and Greg. They are though to the CBeebies generation rockstars. Their popular science videos on YouTube were enormous hits during lockdown and helped inspire a generation of youngsters to stay curious.

We arrived early at the big purple cow to see a queue already snaking off towards the Meadows. Many children (and some adults) in Maddie and Greg t-shirts. There was a genuine hubbub. Maybe even a hullaballoo.

And then Maddie and Greg bounded on stage. They explained the Wonder Games: a series of games – with full audience participation – which would bring science to life.

The duo are exceptionally skilled pros. Working with kids and parents wearing comedy Sou’Westers isn’t easy. Experiments can go wrong.

They make it look easy as they guide the audience through the science. Youngsters cheering, clapping and desperately hoping to be picked. From the first minute to the last they hold their young audience in the palm of their hands. Youngsters nearby shouted out for particular games or experiments they’d tried at home and wanted to see in the flesh (I suppose a bit like those middle aged dads shouting ‘’Do more Beatles’’ stuff when McCartney was playing Glastonbury)

Over the course of four games – all involving the audience, all built around learning about science in a fun way – Maddie and Greg compete with each other. We were resolutely Team Maddie. There’s vortexes, intros to gravity, Irn Bru, and a genuinely hilarious game called Fact Bombs. Our girls – and two friends they bumped into – thought this was hilarious and were properly belly laughing. Maddie was doing her best to corpse Greg but he was just about fly enough to get through it.

It is a highly polished, inventive, enjoyable show. It makes you want to learn more about science. My youngsters asked if they could recreate an experiment at home and watch more of Maddie and Greg’s videos. Result.

 


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Splash Test Dummies (Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows – The Lafayette, until AUG 27)

“Adults were grinning. Kids were grinning. Isn’t that what you want from a show?. Stars of the Fringe”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars  Outstanding

The last proper Fringe was 2019 – Gosh that seems a lifetime ago. That was the first Fringe my eldest daughter (now 8) really remembers. Since that carefree summer – the last summer we all enjoyed without worrying about the chap coughing behind us at a show – she has consistently talked about one show: Splash Test Dummies. My youngest who was too young last time round has been desperate to see what the fuss was (and remains) about.

I trotted off with the whole Marrs troop to revisit the Dummies. Would they be as good? Could they be as good? Would the youngest daughter (now 5) be similarly besotted?

Resounding yeses all round. Slapstick, silly, skilled, puerile, the works. Both of the girls were in hysterics at points, both whooping and hollering at points. Their highlight was me having a net thrown over me by one of the Dummies and called a ‘’pretty man’’.

For seasoned Dummies fans (we are in that ballpark), there are elements you’ve seen before: the ping pong ball scene, the smell travelling round the room and being thrown hither and thither. That isn’t a criticism! These are classics that kids love. And of course there is always the capacity to surprise. The act with the huge ring showed the gymnastic capacity of the Dummies – I’ve never seen anything like it before. I still don’t know how the Dummy manages it. The swimming hat gag is everything you’d want from clowns: silly, clever, and you never know quite where it will finish.

If you can’t enjoy a show where three men dressed up as lifeguards run around with the audience and spray each other (and you) with supersoakers then you probably need to re-evaluate your life.

The three dummies are seriously talented: acrobatics, gymnasts, smashing through the fourth wall atwill, physical humour, clowning, juggling and much more besides. There are moments where they lift each other in seemingly impossible ways. It might look funny but there is real skill there. To make it look effortless as these three do is quite something.

One minor quibble: the show seemed to start late. I think that was perhaps a technical issue. Nothing major but kids shows probably do need to start on time – simply because exasperated parents can only answer ‘’I don’t know when it is starting’ so often.

This is a show for kids but one adults will enjoy to. Under 10s will enjoy it enormously. Both of mine thought it fantastic. The younger said I should give it a ‘’googleplex’’ when I asked what the score should be. I had to look that up. The other a resounding 10 out of 10. Neither are compliant with our scoring system.

Adults were grinning, Kids were grinning. Isn’t that what we want from shows? The Dummies know their audience and deliver precisely what the audience wants. Joyous, wholesome stuff from the minute you meet the Dummies at the entrance through to chatting with them for photos afterwards. Stars of the Fringe and I’d guess it will be a sell-out run.

 


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Shannon Matthews: The Musical (Just the Tonic at the Caves – Just up the Road, until AUG 27)

“You’ll feel awful as you cackle throughout.”

Editorial Rating: 5 Stars (Outstanding)

A common complaint of seasoned Fringe goers is the gentrification of the event: Aperol spritzes, padded seats, expensive tickets. All a bit prawn sandwiches.

It is refreshing then to find the old Fringe, the real fringe: a small, sweaty venue, shock value, plastic pints and the general feeling that you are seeing something naughty and exhilarating.

And that is what I found in the Caves: ‘’Shannon Matthews: The Musical’’ has made headlines with various blowhard MPs calling for the show to be banned given the subject matter. It was banned from a number of venues in Leeds recently but has managed – for now – to escape the wrath of the Whitehouses here in Scotland.

For those who don’t know the background: it revolves around a staged abduction of a child – in the wake of Maddie McCann’s disappearance – with the aim of making her dysfunctional family famous and rich. Is a child abduction fit for comic purposes? That is for personal taste. There’s nothing more unpalatable here than you’d find at a Gervais or Boyle gig. It isn’t as if Kunt and the Gang hide it. The clue is in the name of the show after all. If you don’t think it is appropriate don’t go. It is your loss,

But… never mind the should it be allowed discussion. Is it funny? Yes. Is it good? Yes.

I was doubled over laughing often ashamed of myself for doing so admittedly. Thee sheer outrage of the jokes forced the audience to whoop, applaud and cackle. It may seem blunt or base but it is more than that. There is cleverness here and a deft touch. It is relentless: Shows hitting 90 minutes and with pretty much constant gags are as hard to find as Prince Andrew’s used sweatbands. Those who have seen Kunt before know what they are getting: electro pop, 80s nods, hilarious songs, gags that would make the Profanisaurus blush and a deep understanding of a certain sort of British life.

More Shameless than Downton Abbey but as British as looting cultural treasures. Some of the songs will stick in your head. That may cause issues or funny looks. I found myself singing ‘ Can’t work, won’t work’, ‘Shannon ain’t dead (she’s under my bed), and ‘I’ve got a plan – based on Maddie McCann’ walking through the Cowgate. Perhaps ones to sing under your breath. Hilarious, shocking, catchy tunes. Well worth a watch.


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