Tag Archives: Edinburgh Festival

There’s No Festival Like Edinburgh

13 Aug

Royal MileWords by Rosalind Romer

There has been a lot of animosity towards the Festival this year. The curmudgeons complain every year and the bubble has supposedly been about to burst for decades, but this year seems to have gone up a gear. There is enough vitriol at the moment. Like many others, I am stressed out and fearful because of Trump, Johnson, Brexit, climate deadlines getting closer… the list goes on. The Festival has let me breathe. I see that other people feel the same way, performers are processing and reflecting those fears through art and starting conversations which could change the world. Views are being challenged and minds are being opened.

Enter Bonnie Prince Bob and his rant that’s gone viral. I have tried to ignore him like a troll, hoping it would go away but people are still repeating his opinions. It has got to me, tipped over the edge by an Edinburgh taxi driver who after various lazy comments about how awful the Festival is (despite being his busiest month for making a living) proudly announced that he has never seen a show during the Festival. He also said that I had a “well-trained” partner because he took some time off work to spend time with our one-year-old and enable me to work during the Festival. A snarl came out of my mouth and he started talking about the weather.

So. Bonnie Prince Bob. I have risen to your clickbait so here goes.

One point I totally agree with is the spike in rent in August. The only people who benefit are greedy property owners. This is an unfortunate by-product of the success of the Festival, but it’s supply and demand. As long as human beings can get away with it, they will. So legislate. Cap the rent. Maybe some of the figureheads of the Festival can help with this, so appeal to them, don’t write them off.

Harry Potter and shops selling tat on the Royal Mile? Yup, it’s tacky. It’s got nothing to do with the Festival. It’s tacky all year round. Speak to the Council.

The Festival does not help every single person in Edinburgh, but does anything? Many people in poorer areas do find it prohibitively expensive to come into town. But that’s not the Festival’s fault and again, it happens all year round. Appeal to Edinburgh Council and Lothian buses to make journeys more affordable. Speak to the Scottish Government and Westminster to stop poverty in our ridiculously wealthy country. Stopping the Festival will not eradicate poverty. Should we shut down the museums in the centre of town while we’re at it? No, that would be crazy. Many all-year-round attractions and Festival events are free, and the provision for free children’s entertainment has grown in recent years.

And what about the mini-Wimbledon accusation? Many of the food stalls are from Edinburgh, and many of the consumers are not. So bringing money into local businesses is a good thing, isn’t it? As for the locals or those staying in a flat for a month, you can bring a sandwich and a lot of bars put a jug of tap water on the bar for you to help yourself. As for the “Etonian Oligarchy”, I can only assume you mean Ed and Charlie from Underbelly. The percentage of Etonians at the Edinburgh Festival is miniscule compared to the Conservative Government. Is it not better to overcharge people for drinks in a gorgeous beer garden (and yes, take some of the profits back to London, but they do have an office in Edinburgh all year round) than to systematically fuck up the country like their schoolmates? Plus they have some excellent shows to open your mind or even escape from reality for a little while. And if you really can’t stomach it, there are hundreds of other venues. Loads of venues have events and bars in Edinburgh all year so go and support them if you prefer. It’s your choice. As far as I am concerned, people from the rest of the UK and people from abroad are all welcome.

Another criticism over the last few years has been the exploitation of workers, which makes a bit of sense from the outside. However, many venue workers get accommodation and a venue pass, as well as their pay in a lot of cases. For the people who would spend every last penny on shows, this is worth thousands of pounds (see accommodation above). The festivals support over 2500 jobs in Edinburgh, which can only be a good thing. You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. It’s the chicken and egg situation all over again. Yes, the Living Wage is an admirable aim, and supermarket giants can afford it, even if they don’t pay it. Yes, 6-month unpaid internships with no accommodation are exploitation, and can only be taken up by the wealthy. Flyering for one month and seeing a ton of free shows you wanted to see anyway is hardly the same thing.

The festivals can’t afford to pay more, and already rely heavily on rapidly reducing arts funding and corporate sponsorship (which also comes under fire in Bonny Prince Bob’s rant). Living wage would break them. The big venues come under fire for the huge percentage of ticket sales they take (usually 40%) but it’s not like they are spending it on cigars and lobster (well, maybe at the lobster van on Bristo Square). The costs of running a venue, including marketing, staff, often building theatres from scratch, sound and lighting equipment and health and safety are colossal. The Free Fringe operates on a bucket system so it’s possible to make a bit of money (or lose less once accommodation is taken into account), but you may or may not be in a rowdy pub with bright lights and pub furniture spoiling sightlines. There are pros and cons for each but that’s for another time.

Yes, town is busy and it takes ages to get to work. It’s annoying, I know. But it’s one month of the year and it shouldn’t be a surprise by now. And hey, maybe you’ll even have some fun or learn or feel something watching a show. For me the highs far outweigh the irritations.

If you don’t like the Festival, fine, but don’t ruin everyone else’s fun. I am one of the two thirds of locals who have seen Festival shows in the last two years, so don’t you dare speak for us when you say there’s no Edinburgh at the Edinburgh Festival.

And breathe. Let me describe some of my Festival experiences in the last two weeks.

I have roared with laughter at Jessica Fostekew’s Hench until my whole body ached, along with everyone else in the audience. That group of people will never be together again but we shared a sense of camaraderie that day. Jessica made me realise that the pain of childbirth wasn’t my fault, that somehow if I’d breathed “better” it wouldn’t have ripped me apart, physically and emotionally. Thank you, Jessica Fostekew, for letting me see how ridiculous that idea was.

I have sobbed my eyes out in the Pleasance Courtyard after seeing the incredibly powerful show by Bryony Kimmings, I’m a Phoenix, Bitch. Her show is about a trauma and subsequent recovery. As I mentioned, I have a one-year-old, who happened to be getting a routine check-up at the hospital that night. If you’ve seen the show you’ll get the significance. He’s fine and was always going to be fine that evening, which is why I went to see a show, but I sat with an excruciating amount of guilt, which by the end of the show was released forever from somewhere deep inside. Thank you, Bryony Kimmings.

Before the Fringe, I did a series of questions for my favourite comedians. One question asked who or what each act would like to have waiting for them after the show. Amy Matthews had answered with a very specific beer and it was too tempting to resist. I put a big red shiny bow on the can of beer and presented it to her after the show. The look of excitement, confusion and joy on Amy’s face was wonderful. I know I technically gave you the present, but thank you, Amy Matthews. Your reaction made me so happy.

Yesterday I ended up seeing an amazing sold-out show because I bumped into a friend whose brother (who I had never met) had a spare ticket. We watched the show like we were old friends.

I realise these mean far more to me than you, but they are examples of the interaction you can enjoy if you embrace the spirit of the Fringe. It’s the deeply personal nature of the shows and human interaction that make the Festival so magical for me. Edinburgh hosts the greatest arts festival in the world and it is something we should all be immensely proud of.

To the taxi driver, thank you for making me realise that your opinion doesn’t change my experience. This Festival matters to me and to thousands of others. And to everyone who says they don’t like the Festival, maybe it’s time you gave it a try rather than churning out old clichés. And if it’s really not your thing, let the rest of us have some fun.

Felicity Ward answers Punchline’s Burning Questions

19 Aug

Photograph of Felicity WardWhat is the best advice for a new performer in Edinburgh?

You will cry. It’s just a matter of when.

What is the best advice for a new festival goer?

You will cry. It’s a matter of when.

What do you have to have in your fridge during August?

The illusion that I will eat salad.

What is the weirdest after-show comment you have had from an audience member?

That was the first boob my son has ever seen.

Which living person would you like to spot in your audience?

A dying, philanthropist billionaire.

What is the best non-Fringe thing about the city of Edinburgh?

Everything. This city is in my bones.

How do you relieve Fringe cabin fever?

Swim in the pool. The rage of people using the lanes incorrectly really transports me from my fringe self-obsession.

Who or what last made you laugh like a hyena at the Fringe?

I saw Rose Matafaeo and Joel Dommett’s shows and I laugh so so hard. Honestly.

Tell us about your 2016 show.

It’s about a lady with control issues who loses her bag… mixed in with some jokes about mental health statistics, suicidal construction workers, women’s pockets and swimming.

What are the best shows at the Fringe apart from yours?

Shows I saw in Australia that are here that I loved were: Zoe Coombs Marr, Susie Yousseff, Nick Cody, Rhys Nicholson, Tom Ballard, Naht Valvo, The Blind Date Project. There are so many. I don’t know how anyone chooses.

When you go home and your friends say “How was Edinburgh?”, what will you say?

A lot less crying than usual. Which is all anyone can truly hope for. #blessed

 

Catch Felicity Ward: 50% More Likely to Die at 9pm at the Pleasance Courtyard until 29 August

Punchline Recommends James Acaster – Reset

16 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Photograph of James AcasterIs it worth recommending a run of sell out

shows? Yes, definitely when it comes to James Acaster, because it would be an absolute crime not to. This multi-award nominee has never put on a bad show, and is consistently the highlight of the Fringe.  James Acaster is an absolute genius when it comes to writing a Fringe show, and proves again that he doesn’t need just one year to be ‘at the top of his game’, he has, and always will be, right there up at the top.

James Acaster always runs with a theme (this year being ‘reset’), and comes back to this theme throughout the show when you are least expecting it. It’s these reoccurring jokes, and the masterful timing that makes his performance so special. ‘Reset’ is a personal insight to James’s make-believe life, a whimsical fantasy that is just as surreal as it is cleverly written. There is absolutely no doubt with this year’s performance, that James Acaster is a very funny man, and a real festival treasure.

As I starting writing this recommendation, there were seats left for one date within the festival run, but I believe it now to be completely sold out.  If you find any tickets to see this comedy royalty throughout your time at the Fringe, I highly recommend it.

James Acaster performs ‘Reset‘ at 7.30pm at the Pleasance Courtyard until 28 August

The Best Shows at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe

28 Jul

The magic is about to start again and it’s time for your annual menu of events from Punchline. It includes some discoveries since last year as well as some classics. No doubt this year’s discoveries will become classics by next year…

 

Larry Dean: Farcissist

Pleasance Courtyard, 7.15pm

Remember the ice challenge on Facebook? Larry Dean is like that on stage; refreshing, surprising and occasionally shriek-inducing. He’s also as soft as a teddy and hard as nails. Larry will be the next comedy superstar. @larrydeancomedy

 

Richard Gadd: Monkey See Monkey Do

Banshee Labyrinth, 9.45pm

This is a tricky one to recommend because it’s not your normal comedy show. We don’t often use the word edgy but we will for this boundary-smashing comic. We can’t tell you what it’s about as it will spoil the show but as the man himself said, there will be walk outs. @MrRichardGadd

 

Sofie Hagen: Shimmer Shatter

Liquid Room Annexe, 7.50pm

Go and see the “Guilty Feminist” presenter whose podcasts might change your life. She keeps it real and gives you a new angle, reminding you that there’s another way to see the world. If you want to enjoy her wry intelligence ahead of the show, follow her on Twitter @SofieHagen.

 

Adam Hess

Heroes @ The Hive, 4.10pm

Adam Hess is the best supplier of free jokes on Twitter. With his bouncing energy, he is one of the main players in the much needed upcoming comedy yoof. His star is rising, so see him now if you want to show off about it in a few years’ time. @adamhess1

 

Jack Barry

Just the Tonic at The Mash House, 6.40pm

Jack’s self-depreciating, friendly manner belies his clever, occasionally twisted mind. He gives the impression of being your mate as he shares his personal view of the world and you’ll be reminded of what he said for days after the show. If you like a bit of sneaky profundity, he’s your man. @JBazzler

 

Fern Brady: Male Comedienne

The Stand, 12:10pm

We wouldn’t like to get into a fight with Fern Brady but we would kind of enjoy being defended by her. Sharp as a knife, with a style that’s different from other comics, you can’t categorise her in any of the comedy ratpacks. Surf on a new comedy wave with Fern Brady. @FernBrady

 

Casting Call Woe

Gilded Balloon at the Museum, 4.30pm

A privileged glimpse into the crazy world of minor acting roles where lazy scriptwriters let loose all their prejudices at once. The show is based on twitter account and viral blog sensation @ProResting. You’ve got to see it to believe it, and even then you won’t believe it. Each day, a different guest attends to share their most outrageous audition stories, so if you think you’ve had a bad day at work …

 

Burnistoun Live at the Fringe

Gilded Balloon, 9pm (4 – 16 August only)

Get along to this sketch group which pokes fun at the dodgier side of Scottish life. Don’t worry about how to pronounce Bunistonoun – it doesnae exist. A fairly rare opportunity to see these TV guys in an intimate setting. @Burnistoun

 

Then there are Punchline’s ALL TIME favourites:

 

Katherine Ryan (work in progress)

The Stand, 6.05pm (4-13 Aug only)

If you like the thrill of a fairground death-swoop ride and your laughs ripped out of you, Katherine Ryan will give you comedy that is as sharp and as terrifying as her heels. Be among the first to see her brand new material here. @Kathbum

 

Nish Kumar: Actions Speak Louder Than Words, Unless You Shout the Words Real Loud

Pleasance Courtyard, 8pm

Tolkein said that “The most improper job of any man… is bossing other men. Not one in a million is fit for it, and least of all those who seek the opportunity.” Nish Kumar argues that comedians should not be politicians but with sparkling charm and wit, he gives you a better commentary on life in the UK than anything on BBC news. He’s also fucking funny. @MrNishKumar

 

Cardinal Burns

Pleasance Courtyard, midnight (23 – 26 August only)

Of course they’ve been on TV, but these guys have hysteria-inducing charisma onstage. Expect high energy comedy from performers who just morph into each new character and blow you away again and again. But remember, don’t try these jokes at home. @CardinalBurns

 

Bridget Christie: Mortal

The Stand, 11am

Beloved Bridget is back, a sort of brisk-mannered guru whose guide to life has audiences of all descriptions in thrall. She’s silly, she’s profound… she’s just what you need to make your morning scintillate. Don’t miss the best part of the day. Originally this was supposed to be work in progress about death ‘but then we voted to leave the EU, which is worse than death, and so I’ve re-written it.’ @BridgetChristie

 

Birthday Girls: Sh!t Hot Party Legends

Pleasance Courtyard, 9.45pm

If you don’t know these gals yet then GET A WIGGLE ON because they are a Fringe fun one stop shop. The title of the show could be a list of word associations to describe their comedy – hot comedy in a party atmosphere with a surprising quantity of jokes about poo. Three legends for the price of one! @BdayGirlsComedy

 

BEASTS Present Mr Edinburgh 2016

Pleasance Dome, 7pm

Oh the delicious anticipation of ruthless competition and monumental, messy arguments as the three lads we know and love tussle to become Mr Edinburgh. Scientific research and anecdotal evidence concur on this; Beasts prove that nice boys are the biggest beasts of all. @BEASTScomedy

 

Luisa Omielan

EICC, 9.30pm (26 & 27 August only)

This show is a rally to joy and a celebration of wanting what we’ve got as well as getting what we want. We want Luisa and we’ve got her right here in Edinburgh, for two nights only! Catch hit shows ‘What Would Beyoncé Do?!’ and ‘Am I Right Ladies?!’ at the EICC @luisaomielan

 

Tom Binns

Assembly George Square, 8pm

Tom Binns is like a bottle of Bollinger. Actually, he IS dry and bubbly, but what we mean is it doesn’t matter how often you go back because you know you’re getting the best. He makes it look effortless but this is world class character comedy. @tombinns

 

Lou Sanders

Pleasance Dome, 8.10pm

Another corker of a title from our favourite meandering meditator. Don’t be deceived by the dippy demeanor. She can and does do whatever she wants and doesn’t give two hoots about what anyone thinks. Happiness is an hour with Lou. @lousanders

 

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Punchline recommends Phil Jerrod: Neanderthal

9 Aug

Phil Jerrod 2015

Words by Suzy Romer

Phil Jerrod presents a good solid set with some insights into life when you are least expecting them. He sets up an immediate, comfortable rapport with the audience and wastes no time before getting on to the good stuff.

Starting with his beard and his country upbringing, he takes us on a gentle mosey around the preoccupations and distractions of the British middle-classes. His meandering themes are shot through with shrewd observations which allow us to giggle at our own weaknesses and take comfort as he dispatches some of our more ridiculous worries. He teases out universal human themes from baking and Facebook with the profundity and elegance of a novelist.

He helps us to see that we are not to be congratulated too much for our achievements, nor berated if those achievements are of a lesser sort. There is a lot of laughter in this show and while he’s one to watch, he provides a great evening’s entertainment right now. Other than a couple of Neanderthal comments about women (just take them OUT) this is a splendid Edinburgh debut.

You can see Phil Jerrod: Neanderthal in the Pleasance Courtyard at 19:00 throughout August.

A 2015 EdFringe Interview with John Hastings

2 Jul

Written by Susan Ford

John Hastings knows how to make the most of the Edinburgh Festival; this year he prepares to do another hour long show, a podcast, and a presenter’s job at Late ‘n’ Live. John Hastings is absolutely fantastic, as you’ll know from his performance at Punchline’s second Comedy Gala in Edinburgh, and we strongly recommend catching him at this year’s Festival. As John mulls over a forgotten train ticket, I caught up with him to discuss this year’s Fringe.

john hastings

Hello John, how are you?
I am good. Forgot to book a train for something and now I have some excellent self loathing stuff going on.

Are you excited about performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year?
Very much so. I have a show which is 10 minutes longer than my time slot, so if anything, the people in attendance will get more than their money’s worth.

What have you been doing since last year’s Festival?
Mostly travelling for comedy. I have slept in my own house somewhere in the neighbourhood of 40 times this year, and it has been awesome! I have also forgotten to book many train tickets and honestly I cannot seem to let it go.

How many years have you performed in Edinburgh, and what does the Festival mean to you?
The festival was my first introduction to performance in the United Kingdom. I love it up there – the energy of the city is amazing, as well as the opportunity too, that many people using monuments as toilets is staggering.

Tell us about your new show for 2015 Marked from the Start?
It was supposed to be about a race I lost but, has morphed into a jaunty family tale about your favourite Canadian boy’s journey through the last year. I became a godfather. I will not bring up the train ticket that keeps popping up in this interview.

Tell us about ‘Anything Can Be a Podcast Podcast’.
It’s me in a tiny attic space jawing off the top of my numb skull for an hour. The room is small and hot and the comedy will be big and juicy.

What can the audience enjoy most about your show, and what’s the best reaction you’ve received from an Edinburgh audience?
Any reaction is good from that wall of hate audience up there. Basically it’s this, they have seen 11 shows that day and now they are seeing yours. They are tired, they have to pee and Bill did not buy the right amount of pints for everyone, and you are funny, but they are just happy to be inside.

john hastings 2

What is the best thing about the Edinburgh Fringe for you?
No train tickets!
Actually I would say it’s the feeling you get after a HORRIBLE show, you think about giving up and then you do a late show or 11 and you build yourself back up. It’s like show biz boot camp.

Will you be involved in any other shows this year?
Yeah, I am doing those two listed above as well as hosting Late ‘n’ Live twice a week!

What other acts do you recommend we catch at this year’s Fringe? Go see Dylan Gott, Chris Betts, Lazy Susan, Phil Wang and David Quirk (who is not coming to the festival but is still awesome).

Catch John Hastings Marked From the Start at Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)​ 21:40 Aug 5-30.

Anything Can Be A Podcast Podcast is in Laughing Horse @ The Counting House (Venue 170) ​ 17:30 Aug 6-30.

Punchline recommends Harvey, Garvey and The Kane

23 Aug
Photograph of Harvey, Garvey and The Kane

Harvey, Garvey and The Kane

Words by Suzy Romer

Harvey, Garvey and Kane are a smart sketch group who allow you to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. It’s always nice to see three chaps take to the stage in suits but these men can become anyone and anything with no costume changes and virtually no props.

We are taken through a range of sketches with seamless style. A little boy asks his mummy and daddy what sex is and the answer goes far beyond the comic possibilities explored by anyone I’ve seen before. A deliciously silly press launch with a grown-up boy band neatly exposes the less media-friendly aspects of reunion after twenty years. Amid the virtuosity of the performances we get a really generous dose of classic material, the stuff we quote at each other long after the show.

In an age where the boundaries between genres are constantly being poked and prodded, it’s immensely reassuring to be entertained by a group who can follow the great old traditions with freshness and vigour. There is a caper ability about these guys that will see them go far. That’s pure sketch, that is.

Catch the last performance of Harvey, Garvey and The Kane at 4.55pm at the Underbelly (Bristo Square) on Sunday 24th August. Buy tickets here

Photograph of Harvey, Garvey and The Kane

Harvey, Garvey and The Kane

Punchline recommends Ian D Montfort’s Midday Séance

23 Aug
Photograph of Ian D Montfort

Ian D Montfort

Words by Suzy Romer

Here’s some unusual advice for a comedy show: when you go to see Ian D Montfort, try to sit near the front. This comic creation is a walking, talking spectacle in himself, to the extent that it’s difficult to believe he’s not real. Every smirk, grimace, raised eyebrow and self-conscious flick of the hair is crafted to perfection by the performer Tom Binns.

Ian presents himself to us as a middling to successful clairvoyant and mind reader but Tom provides us with a first-rate collection of conjuring tricks. Ian himself points out that Fringe budgets are simply not high enough for the technology required to cheat. How does he do it? In fact you stop asking yourself because you are too busy laughing at the secrets of audience members which are revealed periodically through the show. Ian reveals a tip-top selection of the sauciest secrets in tones of teasing concern with eyes that sparkle with mischief. He also nominates a sceptic who – entirely coincidentally – has a dark future ahead of him, predicted by our charming and calculating host.

This genuine charlatan is a delightful cure for anyone exasperated (or fascinated) by the “real” thing and he outperforms the competition at every level.

You can catch Ian D Montfort’s last séance of the Fringe at midday on Sunday 24th August at Bob’s Bookshop. More info here

Punchline Recommends: Lucy Beaumont ‘We Can Twerk it Out’

22 Aug
Photograph of Lucy Beaumont

Lucy Beaumont

Words by Suzy Romer

Lucy Beaumont opens her show by kindly introducing us to her Hull accent, but you know what? She had us at “hullo”. Right from the start, we find ourselves in a conversational relationship where we are literally expected to say yes and no, and we thoroughly enjoy doing so.

This is her first full-length show at the Fringe but you wouldn’t know it. She glows as she tells us about her experiences, observations and ideas. Her friend Jackie is having difficulty meeting the right man and the stories about her are a perfect balance of poignancy and twinkling cheekiness. Lucy’s mum worries about her safety when she is out alone and comes up with a highly original way to fend off potential attackers. Lucy Beaumont’s world is very real, yet every cloud has a comic lining.

For the duration of the show we are gently lifted out of our own existence and forget ourselves. Lucy Beaumont is warm and wry and enjoys springing an occasional surprise on her captivated audience. I leave the venue having already adopted her lilting “I know…” when I agree with something. She may still be taking off but she is going to be one high flier in comedy and she leaves diamonds in her wake.

Lucy Beaumont is at Pleasance Courtyard at 5.45pm until Sunday if you can get your hands on a ticket. But of course you will have if you took our Top 10 recommendations at the start of the fringe!

An Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Interview with Nish Kumar

12 Aug

Words by Susan Ford

Nish Kumar

Nish Kumar

The festival is still going strong, and I’ve had the delightful opportunity to speak to some of my favourite comedians for Punchline. Today I’m with Nish Kumar, the “veteran underdog” of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Hello Nish Kumar how are you?
Pretty good thanks friend – how are you? (Bit cold but in love with the Fringe – SF)

Are you enjoying the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Yeah it’s been pretty fun. I’m eating a lot of noodles. Is that weird? (Who doesn’t love noodles? – SF)

Is this your first time at the Festival?
Nope – it’s actually my ninth consecutive year here. They call me the “veteran underdog”.

What have been your highlights so far?
The noodles have been pretty great. Also David Trent has been constantly photographing my every move on his twitter feed.

Without giving too much away, what is your show about?
Opinions – how they are formed and how we express them. It does have jokes in it though.

What have the audience reactions been like so far?
Pretty good. I’m expecting a terrible one any day now.

What other shows do you recommend this year?
Nat Metcalfe, Tom Neenan, Stu Goldsmith, David Trent and Massive Dad.

See Nish Kumar’s act ‘Ruminations on the Nature of Subjectivity’ at the Edinburgh Festival, 7.15pm in Pleasance Courtyard (Beside) until 24th August. Buy tickets here

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