Edinburgh Fringe 2013 – The Cream of the Crop

Richard Herring
Blue Herring

Mildly delayed due to other writing commitments, better late than never, here we go with a round up of my top picks from this year’s Edinburgh Fringe!

NB – I’ll try not to give away too much in these summaries as each show will probably tour later in the year or in 2014, so feel free to read away spoiler-free.

Round the horn.

Knightmare Live

One show that I knew I had to get locked in before I even hit the country was Knightmare Live. The legendary children’s show that ran from 1987-1994 is one of my all-time favourites and I still remember having the show’s address written down on a piece of paper in a drawer in the living room table ready for mine and my brother’s application to take on the dungeon.

Grinning like an idiot, we queued up in the Gilded Balloon and took central third row seats for this live re-imagining. Hosted by nu-Treguard (Paul Flannery) the show obviously does away with the technical wizardry of the show (look, it was the early 90s, it looked like ACTUAL magic) and instead uses simple screens and ingenious props to recreate the dungeon feel. Flannery is an excellent dungeon master, slotting in all of Hugo Myatt’s catchphrases and ad-libbing brilliantly when things can and do go slightly wrong, never once breaking character.

Meanwhile, Tom Bell’s authentically-helmed Lord Fear is a delight, quipping his way through the show with lines that ooze with sinister sarcasm. Throughout the absolutely hilarious hour there’s no pause for breath as a dungeoneer is navigated by two comedians through doors, around obstacles and past a rogues gallery of supporting players. Faithful to the original but also brilliantly bonkers in its own right, you could watch this show every night and never have quite the same experience twice. An absolute joy.

Tim Key
The Masterslut

Tim Key

I’ve seen Tim Key twice before and was utterly blown away by how madcap but likeable the guy is, so it was a no-brainer to go and check out his ‘Work In Slutgress’ .

Entering the Pleasance Dome venue, Key is up to his usual trick of being there already, acknowledging the audience as they walk in with THAT cheeky grin and naughty wink. And this time, he’s lying on a bed in the middle of the stage, casually sipping a beer…

What then ensues is an absolutely hilarious, surreal show that combines Key’s trademark poetry, tales of bizarre experiences in the movie industry, audience interaction and even contemporary dance. This show really sees Key take it up a notch and is mesmerizing in both its material and its execution. One thing’s for sure, when it ends, we’re all left gasping for more.

Tony Law

The law (no pun intended) of the Edinburgh queue is an odd one. many people seem to get down to the venues super early and then pick not the front row, but maybe seats in the second or third section. Being perennial mid-queue people this suited us as it meant that the front was often free and for Canadian madman Tony Law we were literally in spitting distance. A regular on shows such as Never Mind The Buzzcocks, Law is another comedian who plays with surrealism, riffing off stories that begin based in reality before veering into utterly insane territory. Law is a whirl of wordplay, and to some may seem intimidating as he rants right into your face. But underneath it all there’s the grin of a true tease and Law is utterly infectious as he draws you into his darkly comic world.

Marcus Brigstocke

A regular on radio and TV, it’s not that I don’t find Marcus Brigstocke funny, it’s just that he appears on the sorts of programmes I tend not to go out of my way to watch or listen to. Fortunately, at Edinburgh he had a couple of shows to pick from and on our very first night we went to see his ‘Je m’accuse – I Am Marcus’ outing. I probably wasn’t quite prepared for just how physical a comedian Brigstocke is, so seeing him hobble around following a recent foot injury, he initially appears a little frustrated before the adrenaline takes over. Telling hilarious stories about his life, from growing up in Devon to the bizarre jobs he’s taken on until now, Brigstocke is utterly engaging, brilliantly vulgar, honest and tear-inducingly funny. This is simply some great material performed brilliantly, but you can tell what a master Brigstocke is at doing just that.

Josh Widdicombe

A relative newcomer but one whose star is rising fast, Widdicombe is one of those comedians who can have you in stitches with the most basic of concepts. Taking a look into his seemingly banal home life, it’s when he hits that high-pitched incredulity that things become totally infectious and you’ll struggle to see a sombre face in the vicinity.

Love Hearts, Super Noodles and The Snowman are some of his targets as he meanders through old-school observational comedy that is delivered with so much warmth that it becomes bizarrely obvious, yet charming, despite some choice language that even your Mum would excuse him of spouting as she ruffled his curly hair. Belly laughs aplenty from the

Max and Ivan

The Wrestling II
Max and Ivan. Wrestling with comedy.

My surprise hit of the festival has to be Max and Ivan. I fully admit I hadn’t heard of the duo before this year’s shindig but after being advised to go and see them I was in no way disappointed. The pair echo the brilliant, bizarre characterisation of The League of Gentlemen in their latest show ‘The Reunion’ with all manner of wild and wonderful creations coming to vivid life despite being played solely by the energetic two.

Telling the tale of unrequited love re-emerging at, obviously, a school reunion, Max and Ivan throw themselves around an hour-long play that is full of hilarity and yet also utterly engaging. Helped by the relatively small size of the venue, the pair prove to be completely at ease with each other as well as the audience, and you will find yourself rooting for the good guy by the end. This kind of comedy is sorely missed on our screens at the moment and if this lot don’t have their own TV show by this time next year, I’ll eat a not inconsiderably-sized marsupial.

Extra props to the pair for participating in the annual Wrestling-meets-comedy show The Wrestling II where both proved themselves to be decent competitors both in and out of the ring.

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