Archive for the ‘Edinburgh 2010’ Category


Josh Howie: Gran Slam

Tuesday, 5 October, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – Plesance Courtyard – 5-30 August – 21.45 (1:00)

Taking inspiration from the four years he spent living with his grandmother, this comedy set from Josh Howie is immaculately constructed but has serious quality control issues.

Early in the performance he warns the audience, in the first of many pop cultural references, that his show is similar to much-lauded HBO television series The Wire: “You need to watch for six hours before you start enjoying it.”  If anything, the opposite is actually true.  The comedian is so keen to shoehorn a joke of some description into every line, that an initially enjoyable show ends up feeling more like a comedy endurance test.

There’s a framework of sorts – with the set roughly following the performer’s “Old Lady Survival Guide” written on a whiteboard as the set unfurls.  The “Ten Top Tips” range from the instructive “maintain your own personal space and buy a strong lock for your door”, to the more sinister “keeping them alive will kill you”.  These, however, are really just jumping off points for ever more convoluted jokes and flights of fancy.  The same can be said for the set, mocked up to resemble his grandmother’s living room, which is utilised sparingly for nothing more than a few cheap laughs.

The word play in the show’s title provides fair notice of the type of humour and no pun is overlooked.  There are a handful of gems – in particular a section which seems to indicate the performer is losing the plot, only to surface with a pun of breathtaking gall.

With so many jokes of all types interlinking the ever-present puns, it’s perhaps not surprising that many are weak, obvious or simply ill-judged.  There’s still a huge amount of cracking one-liners though, particularly when he addresses his Jewish heritage, but they can’t make up for the equal number of clangers.  More off-putting still, the performer has the slightly superior belief that everybody watches exactly the same television programmes as he does – seemingly becoming confused when a reference fails to chime with every audience member.  Stopping off to explain the concept behind a little-watched reality show does little to maintain the flow of the show and means the punchline, when it comes, seems hardly worth the effort.

He’s a slightly nervous performer, giving the show a not-unpleasant edge – particularly when, as often happens, a joke falls flat and the laughs fail to materialise.   Less pleasantly, his feckless onstage persona occasionally lapses into mean-spiritedness, losing any carefully nurtured empathy in a couple of lines.  The obviously intelligent comedian wastes ample opportunities to provide a more meaningful insight into the human condition and his complex relationship with his family.  But whenever the possibility of some welcome emotional resonance seems to be imminent he shrinks away, preferring to seek solace in often juvenile humour.

Having said this, the theme does work fairly well fairly well before running out of steam after about 45 minutes.  Howie seems uncertain how to end the show and settles on a lacklustre whimper.

Cast Credits: Josh Howie.

Company Credits: Writer – Josh Howie

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Friday August 20


Ian D. Montford: Touching The Dead

Tuesday, 5 October, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – Pleasance Courtyard – 5-30 August – 14.14 (1:00)

Ian D. Montford: Touching The Dead is a pitch-perfect pastiche of the kind of ‘genuine psychics’ who use often dubious techniques to help gullible souls/spiritual believers (depending on your standpoint) contact those who have ‘passed on to the other side’.

Actor and comedian Tom Binns completely inhabits his supernaturally switched-on character – a Sunderland psychic with immaculately-coiffed hair and a beatific countenance.  Wading straight into the audience, he begins the psychic shtick of cold reading with the help of his ‘spirit guide’ – a deceased spot welder named Geoff.  His readings are wide of the mark at the beginning, an excuse to trot out a few easy one-liners at the expense of both himself and his willing volunteers.  So far, so funny, but then the show takes a bizarre twist – a diversion which turns it into something a bit more special than the normal piece of  performance comedy.

Slowly but surely the performers’ predictions and comments start to chime with audience members.  There’s just a few at first, a correctly guessed name, age or marital status.  Within the space of a few minutes predictions which were wide of the mark become unerringly accurate.  Working out how he achieves it is all part of the fun in this subversive celebration of all things occult featuring everything from tarot cards to crystal balls.  When the predictions go wrong, of course, it can just be utilised for comic effect meaning Tom Binns is onto a winner no matter what the accuracy rate is.

The jokes never let up, with a string of dead celebs ‘coming forward’ to help provide the punchlines.  From Record Breakers‘ Norris McWhirter to the inevitable self-proclaimed King of Pop Michael Jackson, they never outstay their welcome – stopping only to embarrass an onlooker or drop a sparkling one-liner.  Carefully chosen to be instantly familiar to all ages, they are spread throughout the performance and apparently suggested by the subconscious minds of audience members.  Never over-used, these famous spirits provide a way to keep the laugh-rate up and ensure that there is some let-up on an initial over-reliance on audience participation.

What Binns has so ingeniously done is to learn many of the real tricks of the psychic trade, making Montford completely believable.  If he wasn’t playing the show for laughs he could probably make a living out of it.  Four set pieces in particular are genuinely impressive pieces of conjury, which would grace any illusionist’s setlist.  A prediction based on the outcome of a phrase entered into internet search engine google is jaw-dropping in its sheer effortless execution.  He claims that his spirit guide is feeding him the information but the only apparently reasonable explanation – that he has memorised the complete work of Shakespeare, the entire Guinness Book of Records or the whole World Wide Web – is scarcely more credible than the supposed supernatural helper on his shoulder.

It’s a storming performance which works on several levels and a piece of work that sets out to make a point and delivers it in spades.

Cast Credits: Tom Binns – Ian D. Montford.

Company Credits: Writer – Tom Binns.  Consultant illusionist – Philip Escoffey

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Thursday 26 August


Six and Half a Seven

Monday, 4 October, 2010

Edinburgh Fringe 2010 – Laughing Horse @ The Argyle – 5-29 August 10 – 18.15 (1:00)

In Six and Half a Seven, a stand up show, Richard Gadd portrays some of the dark faces of comedy. the ‘Zany One’, the ‘First Timer,  the ‘Musical Comedian (with his guitar) to name a few. Most of this show is funny, precisely because it isn’t funny, but Richard Gadd seems to know this, makes it the purpose of this show and his humour and does all this very well. This isn’t the tried, tested and now tired format of misdirection then punch-line; well actually it is, that’s the point, but  there’s something else going on here as well.

Richard Gadd seems to be attempting to at once destroy the institution of stand-up and venerate it, which is a tough challenge for a performer to set for a first attempt at an hour long show. So it’s lucky that he is a charismatic presence in the various guises he assumes for if he wasn’t the show might leave a sour taste in the mouth – for the comedians he is sending up are not masters of the craft but the stand-ups you might see in any other show on the free fringe.

He avoids patronising by being deliberately patronising to his fellow comedians and to the audience – it’s as though by assuming the audience are idiots and then making himself even more moronic, getting his timing even more wrong, making his punch-lines ever more obvious he wins the audiences hearts.

The performance I saw was particularly memorable because the comedian was heckled by a dog one of the audience members saw fit to bring. For a young comedian Richard Gadd handled the disruption with aplomb working even more comedy out of this unusual situation.

Richard Gadd is definitely one to watch out for as he hones his craft further. I am certain he will rise above the tough and heartless circuit all stand ups must negotiate in their search for glory.

Cast Credits: Performer – Richard Gadd.

Company Credits: Writer / Director – Richard Gadd.   Technical Operators – Dawn Taylor, David Mitchell, Stuart Mitchell.  Poster Design – David Mitchell.  Photography – Sophie Malleson.  Producer – Richard Gadd.  Company – Richard Gadd.  Website –

(c) Stephen Redman 2010

reviewed 26 August 2010


Our Share of Tomorrow

Friday, 1 October, 2010

A tale of drifting and loss

Edinburgh 2010 – Pleasance Two @ Pleasance Courtyard – 4-29 August 2010 – 13.00 (1.15)

York – Theatre Royal – 17-25 September 2010 – 19:45 (1.15)

World of Water

The show begins on a tiny boat in the middle of the ocean during a tremendous thunderstorm which tosses its sole crew member Tom Elfman (played by Jot Davies) about like a wet rag before throwing him overboard.  This is a very exciting and well constructed beginning consisting of elements which make fringe theatre so distinctive and great – the creatively innovative use of limited resources.  The epic soundscape, effective lighting and brilliantly utilized set immediately plunged the spectators into the realm of the imagined world – the fundamental objective of the producing company Real Circumstance.  A well thought-out name for just such a company.

Real Circumstance has set out to ‘explore intimate human narratives that exist in detailed, three-dimensional worlds with fully-realised imaginary selves that can respond truthfully to any given circumstance.’  A highly respectable ambition and one which is not far out of their reach.

They have certainly succeeded in their goal on a technical level.  James Cotterill has to be commended for his innovative design concept.  The set, which consisted of wooden decking and a massive mesmerizing box frame hanging from the ceiling which changed colors throughout the piece was used to create a dock, a hospital and – with just a couple extra ropes – even a ship.

The acting, although strong in its own right, didn’t quite reach the same high standards set by the technical team.  The cast of three clearly had an onstage chemistry with one another.  Their connection to the script however would fall flat at times and they would be left awkwardly standing on stage.  Perhaps it’s an issue with the direction of the piece by writer Dan Sherer but several of the show’s bigger moments lacked much connection to any real human emotion.  The characters emptily paced back and forth on stage as if they had been told to but did not know why.  The fight choreography was another element which sorely stuck out.  Not only was it feebly staged but it was also weakly executed by the two male cast members and had the opposite effect needed for the scene and slowed the pace right down.

Each performer did however have a few moments to shine in their own way.  Jot Davies playing Tom Elfman powerfully commanded the stage during the opening shipwreck scene.  Toby Sawyer playing John Broughton had a beautifully delivered speech about an army fire fight he had been in.  Finally Tamsin Joanna Kennard as Cleo Sparks got to show off her enchantingly beautiful vocals.

From a show which highlights the message ‘we all make mistakes,’ it is probably best to look past the shortcomings of the show and look forward to this exciting company’s next production.

Cast Credits: Jot Davies – Tom.  Tamsin Joanna Kennard – Grace.  Toby Sawyer – John.

Company Credits:  Writer – Dan Sherer.  Director – Dan Sherer.  Designer – James Cotterill.  Lighting Designer – Michael Nabarro.  Sound Designer – Steve Mayo.  Technical Operator – uncredited.  Stage Manager – Steve Muckersie.  Publicist (Edinburgh) – Steve Forster.  Producer – Anna Bewick.  Company – Real Circumstance with York Theatre Royal & Escalator East to Edinburgh. Website –

(c) Carl Livesay 2010

reviewed Thursday 26 August 2010


Up ‘N’ Under, by John Godber

Monday, 27 September, 2010

Can Abi Titmuss galvanise a hapless rugby team?

The Sporting Life

Edinburgh 2010 – Assembly Rooms – 7-30 August­­ 2010 – 17.25 (1:35)

Up ‘N’ Under is a cheery, if slightly uninspiring, retread of John Godber’s 1985 comic play about a shambolic amateur rugby team challenged to overcome the odds and beat polished opposition in the final of a big regional Sevens tournament.

The action starts with washed-up rugby star Arthur (William Ilkley) betting his old nemesis Reg (Eamonn Fleming) that he can coach any team to win against his fearsome unbeaten Cobblers.  To Arthur’s dismay, Reg picks the Wheatsheaf – a bunch of losers who can’t even field a full team and whose idea of success is keeping the opposing side’s score down to double figures.  Arthur’s potential ruination is complete when he agrees to stake his house on the outcome of the game.

Arthur goes to meet his new team and finds their four remaining players on the brink of giving up the game after another thrashing.  Overweight butcher Tommy (Eamonn Fleming), mechanic Steve (Lewis Lindford), fireman-come-stripper Phil (James Crossley) and ageing teacher Arthur (William Ilkley) take some convincing but agree to play after some soul-searching.

A chance meeting with svelte gym-owner Hazel (Abi Titmuss), the daughter of a famous hardman who Arthur used to know and respect, gives the team a fitness trainer, somewhere to train and a sixth player for the game.  Her obvious good looks aslo give the team some much-needed motivation to get into shape.

Much of the second half of the play is then concerned with the game itself which ebbs and flows to a nail-biting conclusion.  With the Wheatsheaf a kick away from victory the ending is never certain.

The first half of this play is amusing enough but slightly stilted in its telling.  The writing is packed with quips and one-liners but they are seldom delivered with a comedian’s timing.  Much of the humour is derived from the slightly pitiful state of the Wheatsheaf players – constant complaints about aching limbs, one player who seems happy to take the field in sandals, training sessions held in the pub – while the employment of a surfeit of double entendres is quickly introduced as soon as the shapely Hazel appears.  Sadly, the actors never seem to be able to settle into a rhythm and the lines, rather than being smoothly passed down the line, are fumbled and dropped.  Where there should be overlapping pot-shots, indicative of a sporting team’s easy banter, there are moments of silence giving proceedings an unwanted formal feel.

Things improve drastically in the second half as the teams take to the field for the potentially life-changing game.  Clever direction sees the actors play both teams and uses a range of theatrical trickery to effectively convey the match’s atmosphere and key moments.  There are segments which are almost balletic as the team put their bodies on the line for glory.

All the actors are capable enough and Abi Titmuss has all the necessary physical attributes required for the role of Hazel – attributes which are shown off to full effect with tight shorts and skimpy top.

It is all just a little bland with nothing to really raise the whole to anything other than average

Cast Credits (alpha order): Abi Titmuss – Hazel.  Robert Angell – Phil. James Crossley – Frank.  Eamonn Fleming – Reg/Tommy.  William Ilkley – Arthur.  Lewis Lindford – Steve.

Company Credits: Company – Hull Truck Theatre Company.  Writer – John Godber.  Director – John Godber.  Designer – Pip Leckenby.  Lighting – Graham Kirk.  Stage Manager – Alex Constantin.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Thursday 26 August


Odds, by Alex Horne

Monday, 27 September, 2010

Edinburgh 2010 – Pleasance Courtyard – 5-30 August – 20.30 (1:00)

It’s not often that a standup comedy show includes a basic introduction to quantum mechanics, but Alex Horne is no ordinary comedian.

‘Odds’ is a Herculean comedy experience which relies on far more than just some tightly-written material and some decent comic timing. A full two years in the making, the show jumps from subject to subject at a dizzying place and, ultimately, never opts for easy laughs over scientific nuance.  This is breathtakingly intelligent stuff which takes in everything from Carl Sagan to the very meaning of life itself.

Ostensibly the performance is about odds and gambling, in particular a bet placed at a William Hill bookmakers in 2008 that non-golfer Horne could get a hole in one by his 32nd birthday (getting particularly ungenerous, if nicely-relevant odds of 32-1).  This is used as a jumping-off point for a range of material about growing up, fatherhood, science and finding our place in the world.  It’s a clever and perfectly paced routine which pulls off the rare trick of being both hilarious and interesting – with the hirsute Alex Horne coming across as the coolest teacher ever to enter a lecture hall.

Audience members are given lottery tickets on their way in and are asked to take part in a series of bets – all of which are updated versions of the performers favourite “off-beat” bets from history.  These are proposition bets, namely wagers which posit challenges to be achieved in order for the money to be paid out.  There’s bets on racing raindrops, feats of speed, battles of the sexes and an intriguing search for people who share the same birthday.  It’s all terrific fun, is a nice way to hold the show together, and also provides plenty of twists in a search for a winner who is suitably rewarded at the conclusion.  Most importantly, these passages of audience interaction segue seamlessly into the prepared material in an unforced way and never feel like mere novelties or time-fillers.

Regular updates on the golfing bet also surface throughout the show using powerpoint presentation and video of the increasingly capable golfer – from early footage of him barely able to connect with the ball, to the final film which show an enviable swing and an increasingly competitive nature.  It’s a recipe guaranteed to breed empathy with the performer as he is seen struggling with an obsession which threatens increasingly to take over his life.

The very nature of a show such as this means that the question of whether the performer will succeed in his challenge hangs over proceedings.  This question never threatens to take over proceedings, however, and it is testament to Alex Horne’s expertise and intellect that the conclusion of his endeavours comes as a simple footnote.  He makes it clear that the bet is just an excuse to look at some of life’s big questions and it proves an effective metaphor for the day-to-day struggle of existence.

Partly because of this, and like life itself, there is no big finish to enjoy – a fact acknowledged by the comedian – but with a show this wide-ranging and enjoyable there’s no need for bells and whistles at the conclusion.

Cast Credits: Alex Horne.

Company Credits: Writer – Alex Horne.

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Thursday 12 August


Caroline Rhea

Monday, 27 September, 2010

An hour of Canadian comedy

Edinburgh 2010 – Gilded Balloon Teviot – 6-25 August – 21.30 (1:00)

Canadian comedian and actress Caroline Rhea gives an interesting, if occasionally scattershot, insight into her varied life in this hour of anecdote and observation.  Somewhat unusually the performer is supported by her real life partner Costaki Econompolous, who spends ten minutes grinding his way through a fairly hackneyed set concerning the differences between Britain and America. Some localised material about the notorious Edinburgh climate is the only segment which threatens to break away from his monotonous comic rhythm.  Time constraints mean “the biggest name in comedy” never able to stray from his overly-scripted performance – a shame because there is no doubting his potential and professionalism.

Caroline Rhea then takes to the stage and swiftly establishes herself as a delightfully self-deprecating figure, poking fun at her perceived fame and slightly-curvier-that-she-would-like figure in equal measure.  Wondering whether she should place her “muffin top” above or below the waistband of her dress is the type of aside she utilises to distance herself from the Hollywood glitterati and make herself appear an empathetic everywoman.  It’s a fun way to set the scene for the rest of the show.

Constantly distracted by audience members, flights of fancy, or just ideas which suddenly pop up in her brain, she is exactly the opposite of her slick and shallow warm-up man and benefits greatly from the comparison.

The heart of the show sees the actress cater to fans of the hugely successful television show ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’- the programme, she explains, that she starred in as character Aunt Hilda over six hit seasons.  She takes on the persona of a bitchy back-stage gossip, revelling in being wilfully indiscrete about the production in general.  Her scathing comments about a particularly shoddy animatronic cat who she featured alongside and many viewer’s inability to see that it clearly wasn’t a real animal is a particularly strong riff.  “Have you ever actually seen a real cat speak?”, she spits with unveiled derision.

The recent birth of her daughter at a relatively mature age (she is not shy about revealing that she is 46) is another rich seam for prepared material.  Motherhood, it seems, has not softened her, but the love for her offspring is apparent as she takes a skewed look at the changes a new arrival can bring.  Personal relationships are also picked over and audience participation dealt with in a conversational rather than confrontational manner.  This chatty demeanor successfully stetches the small amount of written comedy to fill the time while maintaining momentum throughout.

She’s not afraid to venture into more traditional comic territory, with some nice pieces of observational humour based on snippets of her experiences in Scotland.  Her amusement at how the Scottish accent can change the innocuous-sounding ‘Falkirk High Train Station’ into an expletive is one such piece of ‘fish out of water’ humour.

The show culminates in a beautifully-realised skit about a misheard line in The Sound of Music.  It’s the naughtiest moment in a set packed with good-natured joshing rather than finely-written one-liners.

The key to the whole performance is simply Caroline Rhea’s good-natured persona.  Her sheer force of personality overcomes the parts of the show which occasionally fall flat, in particular more familiar riffs on the Scottish climate, and nurtures an infectious bonhomie throughout.

Cast Credits: Costaki Econompolous. Caroline Rhea.

Company Credits: Writers – Caroline Rhea and Costaki Econompolous

(c) David Hepburn 2010

Reviewed Tuesday 24 August


No Son of Mine, by Rufus Jones and Alex Kirk

Wednesday, 15 September, 2010

Father and Son

Edinburgh – Pleasance Courtyard – 4 – 30 Aug 10 – 15:15 (1.00)

No Son of Mine is a comedy play exploring the relationship between Dennis Hazeley and his father, Don.

Dennis is an aspiring actor who has brought his play, ‘Afghan Hounds’ to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, only to have his co-star drop out at the last minute.  Dennis is an endearingly insecure character, who apologises frequently in his desperation for audience approval.  His original play is laughably poor, lacking in both cast and confidence, but the show must go on.

When Dennis’ father Don turns up unexpectedly, and late, to ‘support’ his son, the outcome is excruciatingly embarrassing for Dennis, already struggling with his failing play.  He tries to continue, but has to battle constant interruptions and personal interjections from his father.  Performing is Dennis’ dream, but Don finds it hard to accept that his son has chosen such a creative and flamboyant path in life.  ‘Afghan Hounds’ is, thankfully, soon abandoned as Dennis’ priority becomes salvaging his dignity in front of his audience.

Dennis has to endure his father’s politically incorrect views and jokes, spanning racism and homophobia, and repeatedly attempts to make him leave.  As Dennis squirms, he effectively removes some of the discomfort and awkwardness of this type of humour.  By providing a character whose politically incorrect views and jokes leave his son cringing, the duo invite the audience to laugh aloud without feeling too uncomfortable.  Dennis is clearly worried about how the audience will react, and therefore, there is a recognition that these views may cause offence.  In fact it is Dennis who is most offended by the views of his father, and by the fact Don cannot accept his life choices, and watching Dennis try to minimise the damage caused is the funniest part.  His over sensitivity is in direct contrast to Don’s total lack of tact, an entertaining combination.  The succession of bad jokes in bad taste, as Don delights in winding up Dennis, is just the right side of wrong, and the audience was laughing out loud throughout.

As Don tries to find Dennis a girlfriend, tells stories from his childhood, and eventually reveals the wonderful ‘magic hand trick’, possibly the best of all the world’s dad jokes, the relationship between the two men goes through many ups and downs.  Dennis and Don are so convincing in their respective humility and pomposity that many will feel they know someone just like this. David Brent from The Office might ring a bell.  While real affection between the two is apparent, a parent turning up unannounced in the domain of the offspring is the kind of horrifying situation that many can relate to, and highlights a generation gap that exists in many families with but which is rarely addressed or explored.

The characters in No Son of Mine are exceptionally believable, surprising likeable, and endearingly normal.  Combining excellent timing, insightful social observations and terrible ‘dad jokes’, this play is original, and very funny.

Cast credits:  Rufus Jones – Dennis Hazeley.   Alex Kirk – Don Hazeley.

Company credits:  Writers – Rufus Jones and Alex Kirk.

(c) Claire Higgins 2010


American Cougar of Comedy – Free

Monday, 13 September, 2010

Edinburgh Fringe 2010 – Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters – 5-29 August 10 – 19:15 (1:00)

Sandra Risser wanders on stage from the back of the room, and for a moment it feels like she’s going to ask us if we can spare some change, she stretches a shaking hand towards the microphone and struggles to remove it from it’s stand.   I check the flyer I was handed on my way in no this isn’t  AA it’s the American Cougar of Comedy, a comedy show with a difference.

The difference is Sandra Risser, the cougar herself, she’s 69, has smoked a lot of pot in her day, has a husband 15 years her junior, has the shakes and because she’s a stand-up kinda gal speaks frankly about her sex-life and the breasts of her friends.

As I watch Sandra Risser hand out small pieces of paper and pencils and explain in the dullest drawn out manner that she wants us to ask any question we like and she’ll answer it. My heart sinks as I realise that this lady has all the charisma of a used tea-bag and is about as verbose.

The first portion of the show is stock material, a series of worn out unfunny jokes which seem designed to shock but which fail in the attempt. There is something about the delivery which sticks in the craw, a smugness about the performer and as I write my question onto the piece of paper in front of me I plan a particularly tricky question, with mischief in my heart

As the show moves from set piece to improvisation, something happens excitement builds as the audience realise that all the insane questions they have asked are now about to be answered by a 69 year old who prefaces almost every sentence with ‘The thing about being a woman who likes younger men is…’ and who regularly riffs on the difficulties of being a 19 year old cougar – i.e. she had to touch young boys.

The excitement is now palpable. The potential for cringe-worthy moments of excruciating embarrassment is so high it’s like being back at school and watching your parents walk into your classroom a start talking to your teacher about you know not what. It impossible to know what the next 40 mins will contain, and as Sandra Risser starts to mumble her way through a mixture of set material and difficult questions I start to laugh.

In her faltering grasp material which would seem flat, run of the mill and downright boring in the hands of a younger woman is elevated into something which has that car crash appeal which makes you turn you head.

As the questions are drawn out of the hat, I look around at the audience trying to gauge the level of question the audience will ask – I’m not disappointed.  Go see this show because you will not forget that hour you spent sinking into your seat, cringing and crying with laughter.

(c) Stephen Redman 2010

reviewed Friday 20 August 2010 / Laughing Horse @ The Three Sisters, Edinburgh UK


Nathan Cassidy: The Frog That Says Sausages

Thursday, 9 September, 2010

Edinburgh 2010– Just The Tonic at the Caves – 5-29 2010 – 17.20 (1.00)

Nathan Cassidy: The Frog That Says Sausages is a jaw dropping, eye brow raising, unforgettable evening.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t the good kind of unforgettable.  Not in the least.  Instead, the image of a man frantically, aggressively and obsessively trying to make a silent audience laugh as he slowly dies inside will forever be burnt into the memories of the brave men and women who sat their patiently and stood their ground as they waited until the bitter end.  Faces full of confusion and fear, praying that there was a point to it all, that their time, tolerance and strife was not in vain.

Alas, this story does not end happily.  It ends with heavy casualties to both sides. For the performer – he leaves with his dignity on the floor, torn and bloodied.  For the spectators – an hour apiece, never to be reclaimed again.

The setting for the show appeared appropriate.  For it takes place deep within the damp musty stone chambers which lie beneath South Bridge.  A sepulchre in its own right.  On stage sat nothing more than a white dry erase board on which was written ‘Things you must not joke about at the Royal Variety Performance.  1:  Josef Fritzl.’  Bad taste?  Perhaps.  But an appropriate beginning for a show which uses the tag line ‘Warning: Contains most offensive joke ever.’

It is an intriguing set up.  A show about preparing for an even bigger show of the Royal Variety kind.  Seeing as the Royal Variety is a ‘clean’ show, Nathan Cassidy uses this time to get all the filth and obscenities out of his system whilst attempting to find a style of comedy which will entertain everyone.  An impossible feat he concludes, but something he will still try and achieve ‘in his own way’.  A task and a belief which is hard not to have respect for – even if he appears to be failing miserably at it.

He began the show on a promising foot.  Jogging up to the stage from the back of the chamber wearing a comical Josef Fritzl beard as he sings a unique version of ‘Close Every Door To Me’ from the musical ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat’ which was received quite well.  Sadly the show hit its peaked with the first joke and only went down hill from there.  The rest of the show continued with a variety of ‘offensive’ stories about pedophiles, Thai lady boys, and Simon Weston.  All of which received nothing more than apologetic chuckles from the otherwise silent audience.  There was a particularly low point when Nathan tried to recreate a chase sequence with Benny Hill music.  He ran around the cave struggling to get people to join in as they all sat their motionless and painfully watched.

It all seemed relatively juvenile and poorly thought-out.  Even the joke everyone came to see, the gag which claimed to be the most offensive joke ever, was an absolute tragedy.  Not because it was so unbearably offensive, but because it was so childish and overtly un-clever that every year eight school bully could have thought of it.  A simple, straightforward joke which did nothing but combined racism with pedophilia.

Nathan Cassidy set out to make a point.  What that point is no one knows or even really cares. It’s just unfortunate that he had to go about it in an extremely unentertaining way.  One can only assume however that he will continue his quest, as the rest of us go on to better things.  You can only go up from here.

Cast Credits: Nathan Cassidy

Company Credits: Writer – Nathan Cassidy. Director – uncredited. Lighting Designer – uncredited. Sound Designer – uncredited. Technical Operator – uncredited. Producer – uncredited. Company – Rat Pack Productions

(c) Carl Livesay 2010

reviewed Saturday 28 August 2010