What a show – a Las Vegas Style spectacular, hard to resist, but compared to earlier years, looking slightly forlorn and relying too much on some easy-to-please Scottish-themed tributes to the likes of Bay City Rollers (Aagh!). Nevertheless, the Wonder Women cast can’t fail to raise a smile, and the vaudevillian humour, a hearty laugh, plus the interval noodles are terrific. I hear they may lose their pitching site next year, having previously lost their long-standing one in the Meadows, let’s hope they find a suitable new site that may inspire an all-new concept to the show itself, either way, Viva TLBOB!


Evidently returning, with only a 2017 Facebook Page to refer to (get it together guys!) this, I hoped would be a collection of US comics espousing their tales of woe or, hopefully not, celebration. We were asked to put our questions into a bucket, great I thought, only to find them either forgotten or discarded with a one-line quip. It could be that having what seemed like two drunken UK stand-ups, and a poor Swiss near-stand-up, blighted the theme of the evening. Either way, it seemed like false advertising, but for the few actual US comics that entertained, and one of the best was Canadian.


A Tribute to Weimar Cabaret and the wonderfully brutal paintings of German artist Otto Dix, Aletia Upstairs has put together an informative, witty (Yes, the German sister she portrays has a sense of humour too), and musically entertaining hour that is both challenging and courageous. Whether balancing precariously on a chair, whilst singing beautifully out-of-tune (deliberately), or encouraging the audience to join her in her whiskey-induced songs of protest and woe, this lady in red shines like a newborn star. The piece is worthy of sponsorship and development, yet in its simplest form, is terrific.


I have to admit to having worked with Mr. Straker, however, please do not think my review is that of a sycophant. For his show at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar was like seeing him afresh some 50years on. On a stage the size of a postage stamp, alongside virtuoso accompanist, Gulliver Ralston, and some intimate mood lighting by Charlie Paton, this was one of the most focused renditions of Brel by Straker I have ever seen. No gimmicks, nowhere to go, just pure emotionallycharged vocal prowess. This may be Peter Straker’s 50th year in show business, but this could be another beginning for his Jacques Brel Tributes. Magnifique!


Europe’s only dwarf drag act makes his/her Fringe debut, not miming to songs, like so many, but belting them out live, in a genuinely impressive baritone, and winning over the audience with an onslaught of near-blue, call it azure, material. A quip for every passing heckler, and a song and dance for all tastes – finishing with the poignant ‘This is Me’ from the much underrated ‘The Greatest Showman’ Miss DQ (Dwarf Queen) whips up the crowd with a euphoric blend of outrageous humour, powerhouse vocals, and unexpected pathos. It’s not often you see a whole audience on their feet dancing, but this show achieved it.


Three stand-ups arriving from Berlin, the brilliant wandering UK surrealist philosopher; Shawn Jay, the best-warm-up-man you could wish for; Israeli writer and comic Ori Halevy, and the hardest-working marketeer and proof that German’s really do have a sense of humour (or is it his Italian side); Francesco Kirchhoff. All the best things come in 3’s and the proof of the pudding is this hour of contrasting but complimentary laugh-out-loud humour. Surreal, poignant, inspired. See them.


On Ada comes, like a carnival entertainer from a bygone era – exotic colorful makeup, elaborate feathered headdress, resembling some side-show gypsy fortune teller. With an exaggerated RP voice to die for, R’s never rrrrolled liked this, Madame Campe embarks on a series of tales, interspersed with naïve magic tricks which still amaze, and some stunning shaggy-dog punch lines. This is storytelling at its entertaining best, told by an expert in the field. Even the audience participation is expertly handled, none more so than the finale involvement of two audience members being drilled in a dance that cleverly allowed our host to share the cheers and applause with her audience. A brilliant, generous, rouse.


I was privileged to be invited to a celebration of Assembly’s William Burdett-Coutts 40th year at the Fringe, which beats my 20, or so. Mr Burdett-Coutts told how he had been saved from financial collapse by a new business partner, and this brought to mind the companies and individuals who risk bankruptcy each year because of the rising costs of venues, accommodation, and all else. There still exists a great divide between the Free Fringe and the paid-for Fringe, and the Fringe continues to get bigger. 4000 shows? The Big Venues continue to attract the names of the day and yesterday, the Free Fringe continues to attract the stand-ups who irritatingly turn up at every venue you visit, and the Royal Mile still supplies a myriad of travelling troubadours who sell their wares at £10 a pop. This year, according to many locals, it hasn’t been as busy, yet I’m sure the Box Office will announce record sales at the end of the festival.
The truth is though, the Fringe Festival is too big, too many folk, through greed, or organized chaos, lose their shirt and/or gain nothing but drunkenness. It needs a make-over. Yes, it may be open access, but too many have a monopoly on the content and decision making. Is there an answer? Well, here’s mine, for what it’s worth:

1) The Fringe Society, or similar committee, put a maximum on the amount of shows any one Venue Operator, Entrepreneur, Producer, can register into the Paid-for Fringe – thereby preventing a monopoly of interest.

2) Likewise, the various Free Fringe operators put a maximum on the venues they can each run and amount of shows they can show, thereby allowing performers a better chance of success, and more quality product in the process.

3) It would be great to see a levelling of shows on offer too, a more equal measure of theatre/dance/music/comedy etc., and a 50% of ticketed shows and 50% free shows. Even better, would be for all to do the Pre-book or Pay What You Want option but, I fear, that is a long way off.
Finally, agreeing with a fellow-fringer, it would be marvellous if the Festival took one year off to reflect, reassess, and plan for a new era. A passionate coming together of all sides, old and new, could really make changes for the better, and launch a new model International Festival Fringe to suit and serve all. Meanwhile, see you next year!





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    1. Kafka once said: If this is a comedy, I’m going to see it out to the bitter end. How wonderful to read comedy is alive. Great report!

      Comment by Cy Lester on 23 August, 2018 at 8:25 am

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