Fickle 2 Fingerz

More reviewz from the hip and hoppenin’ Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Stars are out of five, no halves.

Demetri Martin, These are Jokes ****

I mentioned last time that I, Pavel was one of my favourite shows in five Fringes; seeing the first night of Demetri Martin’s very first show—the one that won the Perrier—was another. Last year’s Spiral Bound was a slight disappointment, partly because the first night of that one started late and ran short, but this was something of a return to form. Martin seemed more relaxed, the material felt more polished (it should be—I recognised some of the jokes from 2003), and it got a good response from a much bigger audience. It couldn’t match the intimacy and sense of discovery of that very first night, though, and few of the jokes have stuck in my head (one-liners are like that), so only four stars from me this time.

Chris Addison, Atomicity ****

My brother-in-law is visiting us from Oz with an Australian friend, and they found Mr Addison a bit too English, a bit too intellectual... which must say something about my state of acclimatization, because I enjoyed his romp through the Periodic Table and rambling asides about the London bombings. Addison filled a bigger venue than last year, and like Demetri Martin his show suffered a loss of intimacy as a result, but he’s still one of the hardest-working stand-ups on the Fringe, galloping through his material so fast that he even surprises himself.

Rhod Gilbert, 1984 ***

Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert is one of the hot tickets this year, having just been nominated for a Best Newcomer Perrier. I can see why: he has an appealing Eeyore-like delivery which suits this concocted tale of a very bad year, and the writing was strong (although I would have preferred it if he hadn’t spoiled the illusion by pointing out that it was concocted—I mean, obviously his Nan didn’t explode, but it’s funnier if we can pretend that she did). The audience response this night was flat, though, partly because the Pleasance Cellar is even worse than the Below and the Upstairs and its other boiling venues, adding backless-stool seating to its Gas Mark 4 ambience. We were all so busy keeping upright and conscious that it was hard to focus on the show. Which is hardly Gilbert’s fault... but it meant that this could-have-been-four got only three stars from me. EUSA, use some of the proceeds from venue charges to put some air conditioning in the Pleasance, for God’s sake.

David Strassman **

I didn’t list the two-star shows last time, but ventriloquist David Strassman is a big enough name that it doesn’t feel like kicking a show while it’s down. He’s so familiar from years of TV appearances that it hardly seems right to call him “Fringe”, anyway—he certainly had no trouble filling the Pleasance One. But even with the help of the fanciest sets and props at the Fringe, the antics of Teddy Bear and Chucky rarely roused more than polite chuckles on this Monday night, and not just from me. Strassman himself could see that the show wasn’t going well, bailing on one character a few lines in, so maybe this would have seemed funnier on another night. Or maybe I’m just not that big a fan of ventriloquism; something about Strassman introducing his puppets like talk-show guests feels old-fashioned, no matter how many times Chucky says “fuck”.

Ben Willbond ***

Ben Willbond was once half of French pop parody duo Priorité a Gauche, so it’s not surprising that his solo show also features quite a few outlandish accents. At first he relies too much on them (though you’ve got to admit, yer man does a good Irishman), and the opening sketches don’t seem to lead anywhere interesting; but gradually they start to interlink, and the opening half becomes stronger in hindsight. When fellow comedians Katy Brand and Jim Field Smith join him onstage, the whole becomes much more than the parts. What initially feels like a two-star show ends up in four-star territory, so let’s split the difference and call it three.

Jeremy Lion, What’s the Time, Mr Lion? *****

Jeremy Lion’s new show was my one must-see on this year’s list, and I saved it for my brother-in-law’s visit, figuring he would appreciate Lion’s inebriated brand of educational entertainment. After all, the slow and steady slide into drunken chaos speaks a universal language. But if that was all there was to Jeremy Lion, he wouldn’t be nearly as funny as this, and we wouldn’t have been quoting lines to each other for the past four days. As well as the regular imbibing you get Beef Richards the talking cow, Leslie the hapless straight man, Jeremy’s expensive clock, the birds and the bees, fairy tales reenacted with suspiciously liquid puppets, and the best game of pass the parcel any audience is likely to participate in. And Jeremy and Leslie get the Perrier, with any luck.

24 August 2005 · Comedy