Tag Archives: Edinburgh Fringe

Recommendations not reviews. And no stars. Here’s why:

31 Jul
Nick Helm

Nick Helm

Words by Rosalind Romer

“It’s not for everyone”. Nick Helm is one of Punchline’s favourite comedians EVER and if you trust him and go with it you’ll have an amazing night of comedy. But the promise of an anonymous “five star show”, with whatever connotations that may bring, can be damaging because an audience may have unrealistic expectations of a show.

The star system flattens every type of comedy show into a scale of 1 to 5, and the shows we recommend are so different.

Will Adamsdale as Jackson

Will Adamsdale as Jackson

At the Edinburgh Fringe, the critics and judges want something new. A full hour of decent, different comedy is the minimum standard for them. Anything less will be discarded or given a damning review. I was a Perrier Judge in 2004, and by the end of my 44th show, became unforgiving of lazy or self-indulgent comedy. The 45th show and eventual 2004 Perrier Winner, Will Adamsdale’s magnificent creation “Jackson’s Way”, made it all worthwhile. But seeing so many (complimentary) shows can make you complacent and hungry for something different.

Adam Riches

Adam Riches

Adam Riches has created his own style of comedy, heavy on audience participation, and has lovingly built on it year on year until he mastered it and eventually won the big prize. But inevitably the follow-up show would have been damned because it “hadn’t moved on since last year”. An act like this appears once in a decade. It is impossible to be original every year. Is it even desirable, or just a means of getting a look in with the Industry?

A member of the public wants to be entertained. They may not have seen an act who has been around for several years before, and couldn’t care less who is the next big thing, as long as they’re funny.

Stars are a handy way of filtering the shows, because you can look down a list of 5 star shows across publications to narrow down the exhaustive list of thousands of comedy shows at the Edinburgh Fringe. Awards and reviews are essential navigation tools. Although taking a chance is a wonderful thing, time is limited and you want to make sure you catch the good stuff and avoid the crap.

Five stars is a great way to promote a show, but now posters are plastered with a galaxy of stars. Stars given by so many publications and websites have now diluted their significance. Glenn Wool said in an interview that he was affronted when a certain publication only gave him four stars.

Which is why this Fringe Punchline is doing recommendations, not reviews. Bad reviews break hearts of performers who have spent half the year crafting their hour. If we don’t see any merit in a show, we just won’t mention it again. It’s impossible to see every show on the Fringe so let’s spend our energy on finding the good ones and spreading the word.

Let’s be clear, there is a lot of lazy, self-indulgent or just downright terrible comedy on the fringe. There are two axes. One of quality, and one of taste. Every single show Punchline recommends is high quality, and might be your favourite show on the Fringe. The same show will offend or baffle someone else. But the recommendation is made up of more than a number of stars.

Let Punchline guide you through the Fringe, giving you a flavour of the best shows on offer and let you decide yourself if it’s your thing.

Tom Toal: An Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Interview

21 Jul

Words by Susan Fordtom toal

Tom Toal has performed previously at Fringe alongside Ian Smith, and most recently last year, as part of the famous Comedy Reserve. This year welcomes a full hour of stand up from Tom with his show ‘Tom Toal in Prequel’. After catching snippets of his preview, we are really looking forward to his performance this year, and caught up with him to discuss.

Hello Tom Toal how are you?
Very well thank you, just got indoors before the rain started so that’s always gonna put a smile on your face.

How excited about performing at the Edinburgh 2014 Fringe are you?
I’m very excited, Edinburgh is what you gear towards all year round, cannot wait to be up there.

Last year you were part of the famous Comedy Reserve, but this year you are going solo, how does it feel?
It’s certainly lonelier, if we ever got plaudits last year we shared it as we did with criticism. This year gotta have some big shoulders to take onboard such things.

How does performing for a full hour yourself compare to teaming up with other comedians with a shorter set?
With an hour you have so much more time to explain more of your themes and make it a bit more theatre, with a shorter set it’s more focused on how funnier you can be before your time is up.

Without giving too much away, what is your show about?
There is a twist at the end where you find something out about me, but I’ll not give that away. It’s about how life comes full circle, and all the things we learn through childhood and adolescence prepare us for when life truly kicks in.

Have you been doing many previews and are they going well?
They have been going well, had one where I stank the room up but it made me work so much harder and ended up being a blessing in disguise.

What is the best thing about the Edinburgh Festival for you?
For the whole month I can concentrate on working towards being the best stand up I can be, and the feeling of improvement at the end of every festival.

Who else do you recommend to see this year
Ian Smith, Rhys James, Joe Wells, Fin Taylor, Sean McLoughlin, Mat Ewins, John Hastings, Nish Kumar, James Acaster, Lucy Beaumont.

Catch Tom Toal’s show ‘In Prequel‘ at 2.35pm at Cabaret Voltaire throughout the festival.

Felicity Ward: An Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Interview

15 Jul
Felicity Ward Photo

Photo by Steve Ullathorne

 One of Punchline’s Top 10 Recommendations for this fringe, Felicity Ward is the funniest comedian we haven’t booked. But the exciting news is that she has moved to the UK from Australia so perhaps we’ll persuade her… we caught up with her ahead of her 2014 fringe show: The Iceberg.


Hello Felicity Ward, how excited are you about performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe?

I’m VERY excited about performing! I feel like last year was the first time it didn’t take a massive toll on me. I cried a lot less, I slept a lot more, I spoke to good friends and I didn’t seem to go as crazy so I’m looking forward to seeing if I can top that, and almost enjoy myself.

How many times have you performed at the Edinburgh Fringe?

This will be my fifth show.

This year’s show is called The Iceberg – can you tell us what it’s about?

The Iceberg is a very loose metaphor for when we think we’re looking at the whole picture when actually there’s something else going on. Or that we’re looking at something one way, when there might be a different perspective that’s more interesting.

And you’ve moved from Australia to the UK – how does that feel?

Great! I have a Right of Abode. There’s a beautiful little patriarchal law that happened when I was born, because even though my mum is English, I didn’t automatically get a passport because she was a woman and not a man (that changed in 1983). Last time I had a return trip, and this time I have a one way ticket. You’re stuck with me!

How do the Edinburgh Fringe crowds differ from other audiences?

I find Edinburgh Fringe audiences more adventurous. For one, there are more people. It’s such an enormous international tourist event, that people will go and take a punt on a show they’ve never heard of before. That works very well for people that have no profile whatsoever, i.e. moi.

I also find that people are very loyal. I find this in Australia as well. Last year was the first time that I had a lot of people saying “I saw your show last year, and I want to come back again and we’ll always come to see you”. It was so nice; it felt solidified as of last year. It’s interesting to create a loyalty in a country that you’re not from, or in a city that you’re not living in.

Do you feel quite at home in Edinburgh?

The city itself is so beautiful and it’s so easy to fall in love with and I have so many excellent memories there. I can find The Edinburgh Fringe very lonely: that idea of being surrounded by a hundred people and still feel like the loneliest person in the world. Sometimes that can be Edinburgh when there’s so much going on that you can’t connect to any of it, but that’s just the Fringe Festival and not the city itself. It also depends on how much sleep I’ve had and how much I’ve tried to act like a 21 year old, and not remember that I’m a 33 year old!

Do you have any traditions during the Edinburgh Fringe?

Something that Celia Paquola and I did for a few years was walk up to Arthur’s Seat and we wrote “Hey matey” in stones, and one of us went up to the top and took a photo of the other one and then vice versa.  I have a tradition every year of going “I’m going to swim at North Berwick once a week!” and I never do but it’s nice to say, and hopefully I’ll keep that tradition up. I also have a tradition of eating very well for the first week: I do a big shop, I cook home-cooked meals, and I’m like “I’ve got this shit unlocked this year” and then I get to week three and it’s like “Oh it’s Angus Burgers again, OK!”

I like the hidden secrets in Edinburgh, and every time I go there someone will take me somewhere that I’m like “how did I not know about this place?”. The City Cafe does breakfast until late.  I eat breakfast late and I want breakfast three times a day. If I could have my choice, I would only eat breakfast. My first meal of the day always has to be breakfast. If it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon, but I haven’t eaten, it’s breakfast.

What is the best thing about the Edinburgh Fringe, and what are your previous highlights?

My friend has a show called Hot Dub Time Machine, and this sounds like a bad thing, but he broke his foot (that is definitely a bad thing) but because of that, he then asked me and a bunch of our other friends to be the Hot Dub Time Machine Dancers, so we got to come on and hype up the crowd, and that was a career highlight!

The first year the Dead Cat Bounce boys’ show was on after me, and one night I came off stage and went backstage and they all had party poppers and said “Yeah, you finished the show!” Then next night there was a finishing line, and then it got more and more elaborate. One night they set up a table, and Mick was in a tuxedo, and they had a bowl of spaghetti, and they’d set up Lady and the Tramp and written a poem! Another night they blindfolded me and led me over to the window and they’d got a group of strangers in the street. So I was leaning out the Gilded Balloon window and they took the blindfold off and they’re all holding signs saying “We love Felicity!”

They are the things that make Edinburgh so magical, and why everyone is so exhausted, because you don’t want to be the person who went home that night. Because sometimes magic happens up there! In the underpass near Bristo Square, my friend put on an Underpass Party. The slogan was “Do you need a pass for the underpass party?” And everyone replied “You don’t need a pass for the underpass party”. Basically it’s a response to all the promoter parties that are happening that you need a particular kind of pass or invite, so we just had a little dance party in an underpass!

You are one of Punchline’s Top 10 shows this festival. Who would you recommend?

It’s always so difficult because you assume you’re going to see the same people every year. Celia Paquola’s show got nominated for the Barry Award, it’s so awesome and she’s such a good writer. She’s so funny, it’s just an excellent show.

Demi Lardner won Raw in Australia, which is our So You Think Your Funny, then last year she [was joint winner of] SYTYF, so I’m very excited to see what she does for an hour. Luke McGregor is so great – it’s his first hour in Edinburgh. Sara Pascoe is awesome. She’s such a brain.

Adrienne Truscott is fucking great. My friend said it’s the “Most Punk Thing I’ve seen in Comedy” and that’s exactly what it is. It’s so Punk, and it’s so irreverent, and it’s really exciting when you see comedy that makes you want to do something or want to change, or look at how you’re presenting stuff, and make you question if you give a shit about what you’re doing. It’s an invigorating show. It’s tense, and it’s nervous, and as an audience member, sometimes you’re relaxed and sometimes you’re not. It’s very unpredictable which is really exciting in comedy.

Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall is a Canadian who’s been living in Australia, and he’s really understated but he’s got beautiful  ideas, and he’s a wonderful writer and he’s really funny, and once he clicks in the with an audience, once he’s hooked them in, they’re there. He’s got a really original brain and great jokes.

And finally, any advice for Fringe first-timers (performers or audience)?

Just don’t peak too soon. Just don’t party every night like you think you’re going to party every night. Because it will not last. I remember the first year, and for the first week and a half I was like “I don’t know what people are talking about! This is the greatest festival ever! This isn’t exhausting”, then I kept going out every single night until 4, 5 o’clock, and then I started to get tired, then by week 3 “How am I going to get through the next 24 hours?”. I don’t drink so this isn’t the hangover speaking – it’s just exhaustion. As much as you don’t ever want to miss out on the party, I’ve learnt that if I want to get through it, and not cry every day, then I have to give up on the party.

You can catch the wonderful Felicity Ward every day at the Underbelly at 9.25pm. Buy tickets here

Tiernan Douieb: An Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Interview

9 Jul

Words by Susan FordTiernan Douieb

Friend of Punchline and very funny man Tiernan Douieb is set this year to perform his first Fringe show since 2011: needless to say we are very excited for it! ‘Read Something’ will be a free event and will run from 13th – 23rd August.  As Tiernan previews his show, I caught up with him to discuss his feelings on Edinburgh 2014.

Hello Tiernan Douieb, how are you?
I’m great thank you, apart from hayfever which is horrible. I don’t know who the High Pollen Count is, but when I find him, I’m going to have words.

Where will people recognise your name from?
Randomly throwing their fingers around a keyboard probably. Or trying to search for shows by Tommy Tiernan and checking page 6 of his Google search.

You are not just a stand up comedian; can you tell us more about your writing and acting?
I primarily do stand up (for adults and kids) but I try to do acting and writing work when it pops up. Last year I did a few adverts and had a lovely bit part in Channel 4’s Fresh Meat which was a lot of fun. I’ve written for a few bits of children’s TV and regularly write blogs and articles for all sorts of bits. Currently I’m working on a children’s TV show with the brilliant Tim Fitzhigham so fingers crossed that happens.

We love ‘Partly Political Broadcast’, can you tell us more about what it is and what you set out to achieve with it?
I’ve been increasingly interested and irritated by politics as I’ve got older and as a result, it’s what I spend a lot of my stand-up talking about now. I think across the UK politics is in a very interesting and often quite easy to mock place. Yet there is nothing on TV that properly satirises it. We have the same old panel shows that are lightly topical and not much more. Andy Zaltzman’s and John Oliver’s The Bugle podcast is the best thing out there, but what we actually need is a British Daily Show. So myself and Ben Hilton decided to see if we could do our own online version. We’ve made 12 episodes now and while it’s been really well received, it’s hard to keep getting views for a weekly online show, so we’re having a break and plotting where to take it next….

How excited about performing at the Edinburgh 2014 Fringe are you?
I’m really looking forward to it. I haven’t done the Fringe since 2011, apart from popping up for a few days last year, so it’s nice to know I’m coming back. I’m only doing half a run this year, and I’m already starting to wish I was there for the whole thing.

Without giving too much away, what is your show about this year?
It’s about how noisy the world is. It’s not as political as some of my material has been lately but it does focus on how a lot of people just shout out their opinions having not researched them or thought about it, and with no empathy for others. It’s also about spiders and Sigur Ros.

You have performed at the Fringe before, what have been your highlights?
Wow, that’s a hard question. There’s been so many after the years. Doing Political Animal with John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman hosting in 2011 was great, so was doing my Tom Waits impression at Karaoke Circus. There have been tons and tons of shows that were amazing too from most Kitson things to Transluner Paradise by Theatre Ad Infinitum which had me welling up for about a day afterwards. There’s always several things every year that count as highlights.

What do you expect your new Fringe highlight from 2014 will be?
Turning up halfway through full of energy when everyone else is already knackered! Hahah just kidding. Not sure yet, I’ll just wait and see when I get there.

Apart from your stand up show ‘Read Something’, will you be involved in any other shows during the Fringe?
I’m hosting Comedy Club 4 Kids (which I co-run) everyday that I’m up there. I’m not planning on doing too many other shows unless people ask me too. I wore myself out in 2011 by doing between 3-8 shows a day and I’m wary of ever doing that again. I mostly want to go see things this year if I can.

Who else do you recommend we see at this year’s Fringe?
So so many things. Mark Thomas’s new play, Chris Coltrane, Josie Long, Stuart Goldsmith, Nish Kumar, Nat Metcalfe, Tiff Stevenson, Simon Munnery, Foil, Arms & Hog, and many many more. Definitely go see at least 2-3 things you’ve never heard of and take a chance on them. You never know what brilliant things you’ll stumble on.

Tell me more about the sock puppets and foil hats…
Hahahaha someone’s been looking back through my old youtube vids and odd blogs. Foil hats are purely to defend yourself should you ever go and see Derren Brown live. It’s a necessity. He’s a mind witch. As for sock puppets. I worked on a children’s TV pilot teaching kids to express themselves using puppets, so I learned with the children how to make my own. As a result of my ever erratic brain I then spent some time creating characters like Zack De La Sock and Chris Sock because I really have too much time on my hands.

Tiernan’s Douieb’s show ‘Read Something’ will be on at 7.30pm at Beat from 13th – 23rd July. And it’s on the FREE FRINGE. More details here!

An Interview with Zoe Lyons: Edinburgh Fringe 2014 Preview

8 Jul

Words by Susan Ford_MG_3256

You might have seen Zoe Lyons on Live at the Apollo and Mock the Week, but you’ve seen nothing until you see her live.  Zoe Lyons is not just a sharp and brilliant comedian, but also a lovely person.  I was hugely excited to be given the opportunity to speak to her on the build up to her 6th Edinburgh Fringe show ‘Mustard Cutter’…

Hello Zoe Lyons, how are you?
I am splendid. I am in my pre Edinburgh training build up. Doing previews and getting my head around the fact that the year has in fact whizzed around and it is almost festival time again.

Where will people recognise your name from?
Family members may recognise me from various gatherings over the years. Non family members might have seen me larking about on stage or wearing heavy make up on television.

How excited about performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe are you?
Very much looking forward to this year’s festival. It might be the last time I do the fringe for a while so I am really going to throw myself into it and enjoy all it has to offer.

We’ve loved your Fringe shows in the past, how many times have you performed in Edinburgh now?
That’s very sweet off you to say! This will be my sixth solo show at the Fringe. I think I am just about getting the hang of it now. This is the most relaxed I have felt pre festival. Let’s see how long that lasts!

Without giving too much away, what is your show about this year? Was there much mustard involved in the making of it?
My show has the very loose theme of being better. The only mustard that was harmed in the making of this show was spread liberally on the many midnight sandwiches that were eaten after gigs. Both mellow yellow and English mustard were used.

Have you been doing many Fringe previews, and how have they been going?
Previews have been going well. There is always one preview thrown into the mix that makes you question your very existence but so far so good.

What do you think is the best thing about the Fringe, and what are your previous highlights?
The festival can be a long month full of ups and downs. My first solo show was a real hard slog. I was getting very low numbers and I thought the month would never end. When the last week of the festival did finally arrive I was nominated for best newcomer and it made the whole thing worthwhile. I have seen some amazing shows at the Fringe over the years and met some brilliant people.

Who else do you recommend from the Fringe programme this year?
Anyone who hasn’t seen Sara Pascoe live really should go and see her show. She did my gig in Brighton recently and she really is brilliant.

Apart from your solo show, will you be involved in any other performances?
I will also be doing a play this year called “Outings”. It is rehearsed readings of people’s real coming out stories inspired by Tom Daley’s YouTube outing. Of course I will also be doing spots at various late night gigs as usual.

Zoe Lyons new stand up show ‘Mustard Cutter’ will be at 7pm at the Gilded Balloon from 30th July ­ 24th August. Book your tickets here

10 ways to save cash at the Edinburgh Fringe

19 Jun

Save Cash at the Fringe

There are all sorts of tricks to saving cash at the fringe (and we don’t mean not eating). Here are our favourites:

1. Previews: Wednesday 30th July to Friday 1st August

Before the Fringe officially begins on 1st August, lots of acts will preview shows to perfect them Sometimes technical shows are best left to settle in, but good comedians will improvise so you’ll get jokes nobody else will!

2. Free Tickets

Hang about big venues for the first few days and you may get free tickets. For the first performances, acts and venues want bums on seats and people to spread the word. So loiter around venues which have lots of spaces (Pleasance and Assembly are particularly fruitful…). Just remember to be kind on first performances and laugh lots.

3. 2 for 1 Tickets: Monday 4th & Tuesday 5th August

Most shows offer 2 for 1 tickets for the two days, which you get automatically when booking. Just be prepared to be mocked for being a cheapskate by the act. They also sell out for some bigger names so get in quickly.

4. The Virgin Money Half Price Hut on the Mound: 6th – 25th August

Tickets are 50% off rather than 2 for 1, which is handy if you’re on your own or in a group with an odd number of people. Offers are posted daily. Turn up in person or download the handy app.

5. The Scotsman

The Scotsman often offers a free ticket giveaway at the start of the Fringe. Keep an eye on Punchline’s Facebook page for offers as we find them. They also offer 2 for 1 tickets throughout the festival.

6. 2 for 1 boards at venues

Keep an eye out for boards outside some box offices with any offers

7. Free Fringe

The Free Fringe is outstanding this year. Can we point out that it’s free to get in but you give a donation at the end? Some are guaranteeing entry for a fiver, so bear this in mind when you leave, and remember if you liked it and leave a fiver, that’s still dirt cheap. Do leave more if you think it’s worth it. The fringe financially cripples many comedians every year – let’s do our bit to help.

Read “Punchline’s Guide to the Free Fringe” to save you skulking past someone who has made you cringe for the last hour.

8. BBC Tent at Bristo Square


Go to the BBC website and apply for up to 4 tickets before 4pm on 6th July

9. If you buy your tickets in person at the Fringe Box Office on the Royal Mile, or at venues, you’ll save on admin fees (which can be fairly hefty per ticket). Some tickets sell out in advance so if you’re not in Edinburgh, you’d be better off taking the hit to ensure you get those tickets.

10. Virgin Money Stages at the Royal Mile and Mound

Watch free street entertainment on the doorstep of the National Galleries of Scotland. The daily schedule will be available at www.edfringe.com/streetevents

Have we missed anything? Tell everyone your Fringe cash-saving tips on Facebook or Twitter!

Punchline’s Top 10 Comedy Shows for the 2014 Fringe

13 Jun

The Edinburgh Fringe is famous for its vast variety of performers taking to the stage in just one month, so how could we possibly narrow it down to 10? Well, here it is, Punchline’s Top 10 shows for the 2014 Fringe:

1. Bridget Christie: An Ungrateful Woman

Last year’s big winner of the Edinburgh Comedy Award. Grab a coffee instead of a pint (it’s on at 11am), and spend an hour with one of the funniest and most life-affirming comedians on the Fringe. Buy tickets here

2. Cardinal Burns

No doubt destined for greatness. You may have seen their TV series but they are EVEN BETTER live. Their off-the-wall and increasingly dark shows have always been popular at the Edinburgh Fringe so make sure to catch them before they get too big for it! Buy tickets here

3. Lucy Beaumont: We Can Twerk It Out

We’re particularly excited about Lucy’s debut show at the Fringe this year. She has won a plethora of awards including the BBC New Comedy Award. Like a kitten with really sharp claws. Buy tickets here

4. Felicity Ward: The Iceberg

We’ve been banging on about Felicity for years and she continuously gets better and better. Outrageously hilarious stories and shriek-inducing observations, definitely a hot ticket this year. Buy tickets here

5. James Acaster: Recognise

Whimsical whilst wearing knitwear, James Acaster is a fantastic act. He weaves make-believe tales in with bizarre refrences and of course, is a two-time runner up for the Edinburgh Comedy Award. Buy tickets here

6. Susan Calman: Lady Like

A favourite on Radio 4 and a loveable story-teller who everyone will immediately warm to.  Calman is a sure fire, strong candidate to please everybody. Buy tickets here

7. Abandoman: Hot Desk

So slick you’ll think it’s all been planned before the show. But it can’t be! Abandoman will enchant you with improvised rap – go and find out for yourselves. Buy tickets here

8. Lloyd Langford: Old Fashioned

Slightly grumpy, very silly and one to watch, expect childish yet sincerely clever humour from Lloyd Langford. Buy tickets here

9. Dave Griffiths: C U in Court

Something a bit different – listen to Dave’s engrossing story of taking on the big boys. It’s being made into a feature film so here’s your chance to catch it live. Buy tickets here

10. Nina Conti: Work in Progress

Laugh out loud funny, Nina and Monk return to Edinburgh for a delightful and outrageously rude show. You’ll love it. Buy tickets here

We’re also looking forward to seeing David Trent, Tiernan Douieb, Luke McQueen, Hennessy & FriendsEleanor Morton and Ellie White.

We have already got our tickets for Fringe heroes Will Adamsdale, Adam Riches and Nick Helm!

Look out for our Guide to the Free Fringe coming soon, and we will let you know about new shows as soon as we discover them throughout the Fringe.

Edinburgh Fringe Review: Holes by Tom Basden

20 Aug

Holes by Tom BasdenWords by Hannah Clapham-Clark

There comes a point in the Fringe when you can’t physically stand to digest another crêpe and the thought of being penned into yet another alcohol filled patch of land fills your with momentary dread. I would, then, very much recommend Holes as the perfect remedy to Fringe fatigue.

Sitting in a coach, having numerous school trip flashbacks, whilst watching the seaside roll by is, by any standard, a lovely way to spend an afternoon. And you get to see a bright, interesting play as well? Bargain!

A catastrophic plane crash has occurred with only four survivors in tact, with three of whom are work colleagues being left stranded with a sixteen year old who lost her parents in the tragedy. After a brief panic, it’s assumed that the whole world has been destroyed and things start getting very tetchy after the last chicken chasseur has been eaten.

Admittedly, it doesn’t sound like a great start to a comedy but within seconds we are laughing due to Tom Basden’s pithy and ruthlessly sharp dialogue. Both broad and subtle, the humour pulls the play along with a pace that is impressive for what could have been a fairly stationary performance.

Each character is accurate and intricate, perfectly depicting the people we all love to hate at work or the family members we get inexplicably annoyed at; From the vapid Marie (Katy Wix), constantly seeking male attention, to Gus (Matthew Baynton), a frustrated loose cannon on the brink of losing his faculties, with Bebe Cave’s portrayal of teenage fragility and misguided obedience finally dismantling the dynamics of this very volatile group.

The play is, however, very much a vehicle to display the sheer brilliance of Daniel Rigby, and rightly so. Seeing the crisis as an opportunity to prove his masculinity and worth, Ian begins to build dams and repopulate the world, one person at a time. He is the archetypal fool, using bravado instead of wits as a means of survival and Rigby excels in depicting this blind confidence and sad insignificance.

As a fascinating, inventive and beautifully performed production, Holes succeeds in epitomising the Fringe’s ability to surprise and push the normal expectation of theatre.

You can see Holes at Assembly at 3pm until 25 August. More information and tickets here, and read our interview with writer Tom Basden here.


Edinburgh Festival 2013 Preview: Max and Ivan

1 Aug

Words by Hannah Clapham-Clark

We often hope that double acts find love at first sight! How did you two first meet, what were your first impressions of each other and how did the idea of a having comedy act develop?

How does one come to the conclusion that the only possible way forward in life is to form a comedy double act? It’s probably the mutual loathing of “having a real job”, though I’d like to think a shared comedic sensibility was also a decisive factor.

Narrative sketch shows are still quite unusual, have you always gone for this style of comedy? What drew you to this approach?

We’ve dabbled in all sorts. Sketch, narrative, improv, fleeting and rare bits of solo stand-up and compering, not to mention Ivan’s three years touring a one-man minstrel show (highly disturbing, and completely unacceptable). But our current mode of performing – blending sketches and theatricality, with a beautifully interwoven narrative, and a vast array of dick jokes – has naturally evolved over the years.

The Fringe is fairly dominated by stand-ups, how is it working in a double act, is there a secret to it working successfully? Are there any main dis/advantages?

We presumed that as there are two of us, we’d get paid double. This really is not the case…

What is the process of writing a show which has a clear storyline? Where do the ideas for your characters and their distinct personas come from?

Our current show, The Reunion, is based on a 10 year school reunion. Now, we’re not saying that we’ve based a lot of the characters on old school friends, but if you happen to have gone to either Birkenhead Boys School or Priory School, then you might recognise some (all) the names.

How important is the Fringe and have there been any particular high/lowlights over the past few years?

M: The fringe is an all-consuming megalithic behemoth that drains you of every ounce of joy, energy and strength you have ever possessed. However, we love it dearly.

I: We once found a human shit outside our venue. That was pretty distressing.

This year you’re bringing wrestling back to the Fringe! What were your experiences of this from 2011 and what can we expect this time around? Did you predict such a positive response? And is there a secret skill Ivan has which could lead to its own show?

M: Other than shattering my ankle into a thousand tiny fragments (great work, my ankle) my experiences from 2011 were utterly magnificent. This time around, without giving too much away, you can expect an all-new roster of wrestling comedians, a comedian going one-on-one with a wrestler for the first time, and –

I: We’ve said too much. Come to the show. And, in the mean time, check out the steady torrent of videos we’ll be releasing in the run-up to the show. As Malcolm X once said, “shit’s going to get cray”.

It seems like the last few months have been pretty exciting with visits to Australia and SXSW, could you talk a bit about your time at these festivals? Has it differed to playing in the UK?

It’s been AMAZING! SXSW was a wonderful 72 hours of jet-lagged comedy, tacos, and awesome american comedians. And the Melbourne International Comedy Festival was better than we could have dreamed of – Australian’s were actually happy to be flyered, imagine that!

This year’s show is The Reunion, can you tell us a little bit about the story and what it’s been like to work with Tom Parry (from Pappy’s)? How have previews been going?

The Reunion is basically a love story, but it’s still funny… we’ve basically established a new genre that mixes romance and comedy, or ‘romedy’ if you wish. We’re hoping it catches on.

Speaking of love, Tom has been a brilliant director – we were a bit worried to step away from the wonderful Jessica Ransom (who directed our past two shows), but as she was busy filming until July we had to get someone new.

M:The first thing that happened under the Parry regime was to triple the amount of previews we had booked, which was dreadful and invigorating in equal measures.

Finally, if you could pick a dream third member, who would it be and why?

Tom (Parry) has often jumped into scenes during rehearsals, which has been fun – but we really don’t feel there’s much future in three-man sketch comedy. We heavily doubt it’d work.

Make sure to see Max and Ivan’s new show, The Reunion, at the Queen Dome, 8:20 through the Fringe.

Edinburgh Festival 2013 Preview: an interview with The Pin

3 Jun


By Hannah Clapham-Clark

The Pin are a sketch double act tipped for great things in the future. Smart and funny in equal measure, their shows are sophisticated, witty and impressively complex. Make sure to catch their next Edinburgh Fringe show this August. Here they are being funny –

How did the two of you first meet and what were your first impressions of each other?

Alex: We met at University.

Ben: I first spotted Alex in an alley, and I wasn’t much impressed.

How did your comedy first develop and how has it changed since then?

Alex: We got stuck into student comedy with a big six man sketch show a few years ago and just kept going. Since then our style hasn’t changed drastically. We’ve got to know each other better so perhaps it’s a bit more loose on stage, with room for changing things on stage as we go. A bit more in unison I suppose.

Ben: I don’t really agree with that.

If you could describe The Pin in three words what would they be?

Alex: Silly Fun Friends.

Ben: Spot on mate.

Are there any specific sketch groups which have influenced your work? If so, who and why?

Alex: Big Train on TV was great. ‘Cowards’ is a group that really set the bar and I think they had a big influence on our writing style, particularly when we started out and were trying things out.

Ben: Later on ‘The Pajama Men’ with their fast-paced propless act definitely made us experiment along those lines.

Alex: We love ‘Sheeps’ too.

Ben: Oh yeah.

Last year’s Fringe was a big success for you, what were the high/low points? 

Alex: High points include going, on day one, to Red Box, a noodle bar near the Dome. Low point is realising in week two that you need the MSG to stay sane.

Ben: I think I spotted Matt Lucas in the audience once. (High) It wasn’t him. (Low)

Can you tell us a little but about the new show this year?

Alex: Most notably we’ve gone from three to two.

Ben: So now it’s more about us as a double act, rather than a trio. Less narrative and more about our relationship.

There’s a lot of nice things being said about The Pin at the moment, do you ever feel any pressure to get it right because of this?

Alex: Are there? Well that’s lovely. I suppose we never want to disappoint.

Ben: Can I just clarify, I said ‘an alley’: it was a backstreet, and there were other people there.

Where do you see The Pin in five years’ time?

Alex: We’d love to film some of our sketches and see if people like it. But performing live is the real deal so we’re hoping that sketch comedy keeps growing in the way stand-up has.

Ben: So long as I’m with this guy, I’ll be alright. Also, I realise that ‘backstreet’ doesn’t sound any better.

What would your advice be for young sketch comics wanting to get established?

Alex: We find the practice of discarding material as ruthlessly and often as possible helps in the long run. If you keep trying to write better stuff to replace what you’ve currently got in place you tend to end up doing alright on the night.

Ben: Go with you gut. For god’s sake don’t get that ripped out by some ‘ambitious’ surgeon.

Finally, if you could be any other comic dead or alive, who would you be and why?

Ben: I’d definitely go for an alive one. Probably Alex; I already know his lines. Or Freddy Frother- the man’s a genius.

Alex: Freddy Frother isn’t real Ben.

Ben: I know, the guy’s talent is unreal.

Alex: Forget it then.

The Pin will be performing at The Pleasance Courtyard at 6.15pm, 31st July – 26th August. Find out more at http://www.pleasance.co.uk/edinburgh/events/the-pin–3 and Twitter at @thepincomedy

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