Punchline recommends Beetlemania : Kafka for Kids!

24 Aug

Words by Suzy Romer

Kafka for Kids is a fantastic all-rounder of a show for the entire family. There are jokes, stories, songs, puppetry and brilliant ad libs that make for a really entertaining hour of fun. Kafka is bit of a challenge for adults (well, me anyway) so it comes as a wonderful surprise that some of his stories are arguably more accessible to children, although that may be due to the imagination and humour of the show creators Tom Parry and Russell Bolam. Heidi Niemi, Rose Robinson, Tom Parry and Will Adamsdale make up a magnificent quartet of prodigious talent.

Right from the start, the company plays with theatrical norms and gets the audience involved, while respecting the unwritten rule that only dads in the front row are up for joshing. There are running jokes, a bit of suspense and masses of ideas that children react to with utter delight. At the performance I saw, a child who was completely involved announced some information to the cast members who were supposed not to know and everyone, including the cast, went into heaps of giggles. The joy and brio of the performers is contagious and they keep up their friendly, high-energy shenanigans all the way to the end.

I went with an 8-year-old who declared it to be the best children’s show this year which is a pretty solid recommendation. The lunch time slot is not ideal for those back at school but if you want to see out the Fringe with a bang this weekend, the surprising answer may be Franz Kafka.

Catch Beetlemania: Kafka for Kids! at Pleasance Dome until Sunday 26 August

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Punchline recommends Adam Riches Is The Guy Who…

21 Aug

Photograph of Adam RichesWords by Suzy Romer

Adam Riches is a consummate comedy performer who exerts absolute and exhilarating control over his audience. The moment the show begins we are enthralled. He moves among the tables, creating a high-tension atmosphere which crackles with laughter as he unleashes his latest comic creation on one and all.  We never know when we are going to be involved directly and we watch each other’s reactions at all times, becoming tightly-knit in our mutual comedic adventure.

The show opens with an abundance of in-character jokes, ideas turned on their heads and outrageous situations that he can set up within seconds. He gradually explains the inner machinations of a 21st century seducer, a sort of low-budget Bluebeard, who has updated his repertoire of emotional traps to include feminism and popular psychology. At first he is laughably earnest, given to hyperbole and incapable of small talk, but slowly reveals himself as infinitely more dangerous to the young women he targets. Those of us who remember such attentions in our twenties laugh in recognition as he deconstructs each trick until he lays bare the darker intention behind it. His behaviour is perfectly observed and gleefully funny and takes us, with cat-like tread, towards a finale which makes us consider the consequences of manipulation that go unchecked or unnoticed by older, wiser onlookers.

Catch Adam Riches: The Guy Who… at 2.10pm at Underbelly until 26th August.

Punchline recommends Laura Lexx: Trying

21 Aug

Photograph of Laura LexxWords by Suzy Romer

Laura Lexx has prepared a carefully written, honest and rounded show which she performs with dynamic charm and warmth. She begins her show with funny memories of carefree family holidays in the 1990s, before gently easing us into her recent experiences of anxiety as an adult. Her anxiety stems from genuinely important concerns, namely trying to have a baby while trying to control fears about the environment. With comic dexterity, she takes us beyond the level of healthy, active concern to overwhelming, debilitating anxiety. From this point, she takes us through a series of scenarios, all bathed in comedy light, which lead her back to wellness.

She gives a wonderful, wincing description of buying facial soap in a department store that rings oh so true as an example of the absurdity of make-up counter conversations. It’s enough to turn anyone into a recluse. She weeds out several interesting assertions about pregnancy and mental health which are familiar to us all yet usually remain unchallenged. The rhythm of the show plays out with utter poise and she ends the show with aplomb, leaving us with laughter on our lips and new ideas in our minds. Laura’s many wry observations and welcoming style have stayed with me and I look forward to her coming work as she finds her joy.

Catch Laura Lexx: Trying at the Gilded Balloon at 5.15pm until Aug 26.

Liam Withnail: Homeboy

20 Aug

Photograph of Liam WithnailWords by Susan Stewart

Liam Withnail (2018 Amused Moose Comedy Award Nominee) is very well-known in the Scottish comedy community outside of the Festival, but how does his new show Homeboy rate with an Edinburgh audience in August? The answer is well, and is in fact one of my most exciting recommendations this year.

Homeboy is an hour of stand up, delivered in Monkey Barrel 2 (which outside of the Festival is a Harry Potter themed escape room). The dark underground venue has the feel of a proper rock show, and Liam Withnail brightens the place up with his outstanding funnies and upbeat personality.

Liam’s previous shows have been based on his own personal big events, but this year Liam confessed that not a lot has happened. Instead, he takes on some big issues and themes, and puts his views and perspective across in delicate but very funny way. Liam’s experiences and views are so on point, and delivered in a way that brings the whole audience together and keeps them on his side. His jokes and narratives are brilliant, proving his humour is very worthy of the Award Nomination he has received from Amused Moose.

Catch Liam Withnail: Homeboy at 5pm at Monkey Barrel throughout August. The show is Pay What You’d Like, but we recommend you get a ticket in advance to ensure entry.

Punchline recommends Gráinne Maguire: I Forgive You; Please Like Me

20 Aug

Photograph of Grainne MaguireWords by Susan Stewart

Gráinne Maguire is certainly no stranger to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and 2018 is in my opinion, her finest hour of stand up yet. Gráinne is completely prepared for the extreme heat of Gilded Balloon’s Wee Room, and before the show has even started and we are taken to our seats, there is a sense that the whole audience is excited to enjoy the company of Gráinne Maguire.

Gráinne’s show is based around the concept of a “Lovely Girl”, and how she perhaps doesn’t meet the qualifying criteria to be classed as one herself. But why be lovely, when you can be a rebel, right Gráinne? Gráinne spends her hour in the spotlight creating well structured themes, definitions and narratives, that give a true insight to her wonderful mind. She is gloriously funny throughout, showing off how sharp and witty she is as a comedian.

An hour with Gráinne Maguire is simply not enough, so please go and visit her more than once this festival.

Catch Gráinne Maguire: I Forgive You; Please Like Me at 3.15pm at The Gilded Balloon Teviot throughough August

Punchline recommends Mark Simmons: One Linererer

19 Aug

Photograph of Mark SimmonsWords by Susan Stewart

The Edinburgh Fringe is an excellent platform for comedians and performers to talk about big issues, and this year has certainly brought a lot of well-deserved hot topics to the forefront of comedy. However, sometimes you just need hundreds of jokes thrown at you really quickly, to momentarily forget how grey the world is outside. I know just the man to bring this kind of levity and joy: if you were wondering where all the jokes are, you can find them in Mark Simmons show, One-Linererer.

Mark’s show is everything you’d hope it would be with a title One-Linererer; it is full of fast, punchy one-line jokes, combining clever and silly in the perfect recipe.  It is a show that you need to be on board with from the start, because if you fall behind, you aren’t going to be able to keep up to the end.  Despite being a show of one-liners, Simmons sets up each punchline perfectly, with callbacks and themes that you wouldn’t think could even be possible.

Catch Mark Simmons: One-Linererer at 4pm at Banshee Labyrinth throughout August. This is a free performance, though we recommend a generous donation at the end of the show.

Punchline recommends Rosie Jones: Fifteen Minutes

19 Aug

Photograph of Rosie JonesWords by Duncan

Rosie Jones welcomes us warmly with a glint in her eye, ready to tease the audience with her sparkling wit and juicy surprises. She’s willing to take a joke to extreme lengths, Borat style, with gleeful enjoyment in the social discomfort of others. The fact that she has cerebral palsy is not in competition with her comedy but rather forms a central part of the creative process, and she is a comic force to be reckoned with. As the audience catch onto her style, she builds on the anticipation of her jokes with pulsating fun and she visibly relishes the shrieks and giggles that meet every surprise comment.

In the show she explores whether she would be funny if she were able-bodied Rosie with beautiful simplicity. She illustrates with utter clarity that every comedian brings everything that makes them them onto the stage, and any other comedian would struggle to make the same jokes as funny. Every once in a while a show makes a shift in your brain as you re-evaluate your assumptions. Hannah Gadsby did it last year and Rosie Jones did it this year.

Catch Rosie Jones: Fifteen Minutes at the Pleasance Courtyard at 8.30pm until 26th August.

Punchline recommends Ciarán Dowd: Don Rodolfo

17 Aug

Picture of Don Rodolfo looking thoughtful with swords sticking out of his chestWords by Suzy Romer

For an hour every night, Ciarán Dowd converts his venue into a box of delights. As soon as he fights his way onto stage, we are thrilled by his swishing sword, black frilled shirt and ravishing eye liner. Add in a Spanish accent (with Irish undertones), outrageous tales of derring do and a succession of filthy jokes and you have your evening made.

For anyone who has a hankering for a bit of Princess Bride, The Three Muskateers, Dangerous Liasons or Cyrano de Bergerac, this is an utter joy but he goes far beyond the format of any particular genre. Ciarán manages to simultaneously indulge every extravagant whim AND undercut his own cocky bravado with multiple layers of acting and jokes so pithy I wish I could memorise them and take them home. The pace of the show is phenomenal with wave after wave of new ideas, plot developments and theatrical devices, many of which are startlingly original and I say that with more than twenty five years of fantastic Fringe shows behind me.

You know you have attended an outstanding show when the audience spills into the fresh night air with energy and the vibrancy straight from the performer. I’d say we’d been Rodolfo’d but the man himself uses his name as a verb with a very different meaning. So rude. So good. Bravo señor!

Catch him if you can. Ciarán Dowd: Don Rodolfo is at the Pleasance Courtyard at 10.45pm until August 26.

Punchline recommends Henry Paker: Man Alive

16 Aug

WPhotograph of Henry Pakerords by Ross Stark

A live drawing intro is a gentle ice breaker that kicks off this absolute treat of a show. Paker paints an image of living an unhappy middle class life; doing so only to keep his middle class wife happy. However, not everything is as it seems.

The show cuts between Paker’s stand-up and a live narration of a story board containing hand drawn images. It is a beautiful piece of work with a musical accompaniment that provides an experience comparable to that of Dianne Jackson’s “The Snowman”.

Paker has a gentle, eager-to-please comedic style and a wonderful and extremely professional narration.

Henry Paker should be proud. He has a beautiful show on his hands and I can’t recommend it enough.

Catch Henry Paker: Man Alive at 5.10pm at Banshee Labyrinth throughout August

Punchline recommends Kieran Hodgson: ’75

16 Aug

Photograph of Kieran HodgsonWords by Suzy Romer

Kieran Hodgson is a multi-talented writer and performer who masters any subject of his choosing. This year he provides a rich, frothy hour of comedy from the most unlikely of sources; the story of how the UK joined Europe. It turns out that there’s a heck of a lot we don’t know but that’s OK because we are treated to Kieran’s round-up of an actual shelf-load of books which he has absorbed, highlighted and dramatised to full comedy potential for our delight.

The script is thoroughly brought to life by marvellous impressions, gorgeous music, snappy lighting changes and Kieran’s ever-changing presentation of himself which veers between self-deprecating eye-rolling and unashamed flights of fancy. He is quick to point out his own errors of judgement and biases with cheeky asides that make the audience giggle.

It’s a great reminder that our perspectives are more flexible than we think, and that the ability to see different perspectives simultaneously is what we need to enjoy a joke as much as to get through political negotiations. There is no lazy disrespect for vulnerable targets here though, nor the desire to provoke anger and distraction from real issues and responsibilities. Instead, the show is a splendid attempt to get to grips with political events that affect us all and look for a kind, civilised way to take action. Forget the social media extremes and sensationalist headlines for an hour. Kieran does us the favour of reminding everyone in the room that whatever our opinions, there is always some common ground to let off steam and have a laugh. He finds the funny in whatever he touches and brings it to us in an easy-to-use format that makes the hour illuminating and highly entertaining.

Catch Kieran Hodgson: ’75 at Pleasance Courtyard at 8.15pm throughout August. Extra shows have been added at different times

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