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What’s On London’s Edinburgh Fringe Preview

| Comedy, Festivals, Music, Theatre | 04/08/2017


Ian Cater, Chief Features Writer

With the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – the world’s largest arts event – officially starting today, we decided to follow the Highland herd and put together a list of the comedy shows we’re most looking forward to seeing this month and then subsequently in London.

Given the vast number of acts performing over the next month in this seventieth year of the Fringe, we can’t pretend our list is completely comprehensive, and apologise to the many worthy artists unmentioned below.  It reiterates just how spoilt for choice fans of live comedy currently are.  But we guarantee this: if you choose to see our suggested stand-up, character, storytelling, musical and sketch comedians, you won’t go far wrong.


This year’s unusual in that few of the major players are bringing new shows to the Fringe – Stewart Lee and Daniel Kitson, for example, have taken their wares elsewhere after polishing them here in 2016.  That gives an opportunity for some of the younger crop to raise their status from excellent, to unmissable, performers.

2017JOHNROD_PDJohn Robins is in prime position to do just that, with an emotional take on his breakup from Sara Pascoe in ‘The Darkness of Robins’ (Pleasance Courtyard, 18.40).  The Radio X host has always had a stylishly lyrical delivery, but his new vulnerability helps strike a rare and brilliant balance between darkness and light in this memorable set (full preview here).

You should also catch Sara Pascoe in ‘LadsLadsLads’ (PC, various) for her take on the split and subsequent one-woman stag do.  The content should be less sentimental, but no less entertaining, with the Mock The Week regular at her best when forensically analysing her approach to sex and relationships, as Pascoe did so entertainingly last year in her book, Animal.

Another face frequently featuring on Mock The Week, Rhys James, will look to build on plaudits for last year’s perfectly-crafted ‘Forgives’, in new show ‘Wiseguy’ (PC, 18.00).  If he can fuse his self-deprecating one-liners, clever call-backs and poetic summaries with the more relaxed delivery he achieved during a Soho Theatre run this year, James must be in contention for the top award.

Someone who probably won’t be is Tom Stade, despite the underrated Canadian’s unrivalled ability to win over audiences and go wherever his whimsical mind decides.  Continuing his stoned, favourite-uncle shtick to perfection, Stade guarantees constant laughter and a charmingly upbeat outlook in ‘I Swear’ (Gilded Balloon Teviot, 21.00).

Alternatively, see some high-quality material dusted off by Mark Watson, performing last year’s ‘I’m Not Here’ (PC, 23.20, 24th-26th), and James Acaster, alternating performances of his hilarious shows from 2014 to 2016 in ‘The Trelogy’ (PC, 21.00).  Or if you’re prepared to see a more rough and ready set, you could do no better than see ‘work in progress’ shows from the superb Nick Helm (PC, 17.20, 14th-27th) and Dylan Moran (GBT, 18.00, 25th-27th).

Character comedy

The standout in this field should be Jon Pointing, whose wonderfully flawed acting coach creation – Cayden Hunter – has already wowed audiences across London in ‘Act Natural’ (PC, 19.15).  It’s a hilarious, unique show, drawing its star deserved comparisons with Partridge and Brent.  This is your chance to see Pointing before he moves from BBC Three’s Pls Like onto much bigger things (full preview here).

Kathryn-Bond-Kat-Bond-Loo-Roll-Press-ImageKat Bond, who appeared here alongside Pointing in 2014, is another talented television comic actor earning rave reviews for her debut solo show, ‘Loo Roll’ (PC, 17.45).  Telling a tale about finding the family that left her in a bin outside Papa John’s in Luton, Bond revels as various offbeat comedy characters after years of impressing as half of sketch duo That Pair.

Away from relative newbies, John Kearns (a previous winner of both Best Newcomer and Best Comedy Act) makes a welcome comeback after a year away with ‘Don’t Worry They’re Here’ (Heroes @ Monkey Barrel, 17.00).  The absurdist comedian plays down expectations with transparently fake teeth and monk’s wig, but never fails to provide an insightful commentary on modern life.

And in an even dafter ensemble, Spencer Jones can be relied on to deliver side-splitting relief with the return of The Herbert in ‘Audition’ (MB, 18.20). Jones, who usually provides a chaotic blend of clowning and prop comedy in his live shows, now introduces an intriguing storyline addressing his attempts to balance childcare duties with a recent, real-life deluge of sitcom offers (full preview here).


dec6d45665ecb8d555a0ace536122f8bf5770668In an increasingly crowded category, Wil Greenway could rise to the top if his recent Soho Theatre showing of ‘The Way the City Ate the Stars’ is anything to go by.  Greenway’s endearingly lyrical, funny and moving delivery should make his new set, ‘These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone’ (Underbelly Med Quad, 16.10), one of the under-the-radar hits of this year’s Fringe.

It also provides an interesting contrast with more established fellow Australian Sarah Kendall, telling another powerful story in ‘One-Seventeen’ (Assembly George Square, 19.00).  Although more abrasive than Greenway, Kendall always provides pause for thought, as anyone who heard her Australian Trilogy will attest to.

Scott Gibson (winner of last year’s Best Newcomer) and Bilal Zafar (runner-up) follow their debuts with ‘Like Father Like Son’ (GBT, 15.45) and ‘Biscuit’ (Just the Tonic at The Mash House, 15.40) respectively.  There are few doubts about their storytelling skills; the test will be whether the underlying material is as strong this time round.  It’s a tough ask: Gibson’s story about discovering a post-stag do brain aneurysm and Zafar’s superb send-up of Twitter-based Islamophobes were exceptional.  But it’ll be fascinating watching them try to replicate 2016’s achievements.

Someone sidestepping that risk is Richard Gadd (winner of Best Comedy Act 2016), who’s instead performing last year’s hit ‘Monkey See Monkey Do’ (Summerhall, 23.00, 18th-27th) for the final occasions.  That’s not a criticism, as reputations are lost more easily than they’re gained.  It’s just a reminder to catch Gadd’s incredibly brave, dark and moving show – delivered as he runs off his anxiety on a treadmill – while you still can.

Musical comedy

Starting with the established performers, although Jonny & the Baptists aren’t bringing new material to the Fringe, their ‘Best of 2012-2017’ show (Roundabout @ Summerhall, 19.25, 16th-19th) will still be amongst the most funny and motivational sets around.  Unlike most other political comedians, lead singer Jonny Donahoe and singer/guitarist Paddy Gervers don’t just lampoon, and complain about, the status quo; they offer an attractive alternative.

DGJ65XoW0AAF3hhRachel Parris should excel again in new show ‘Keynote’ (Pleasance Dome, 20.20), using music and stand-up to discuss the motivational speech she’s been asked to give at her old school in September.  Containing her usual thoughtful introspection, incredible pianism and surprising lyrics, don’t miss the chance to see Parris in her natural habitat before her escalating comic acting career takes over entirely.

Predicting the next success story is invariably tough, but there are certain parallels between the lyrical creativity of British duo Flo & Joan and Flight of the Conchords – the global phenomenon nominated for Best Comedy Act here back in 2003.  Sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey made a mark with viral smash 2016 Song and should grow their fan base with ‘The Kindness of Strangers’ (Just the Tonic at The Tron, 14.20).

Vying for the crown as the next Flight of the Conchords is melodic Kiwi Paul Williams, whose ‘Summertime Love’ (The Space @ Surgeons Hall, 11.20pm) has already been loudly trumpeted by David O’Doherty and Nish Kumar.

Sketch comedy

5546-fitandcrop-405x320Last but not least, in what could be considered a fallow year with no Birthday Girls, Lazy Susan or Massive Dad, there’s no need for sketch comedy fans to despair.

Gein’s Family Giftshop return with their relentlessly dark but somehow silly sketches in latest instalment ‘Volume 3’ (PC, 22.20).  Since their 2014 debut, Kath Hughes, James Meehan, Edward Easton and Kiri Pritchard-McLean have created, in their own words, a special “brand of jizzy, blood heavy (separate) comedy”.  Although not to everyone’s tastes, this is puerile humour at its best.

Far wetter behind the ears, Giants could take huge strides this year as Will Hislop (son of Private Eye editor Ian) and Barney Fishwick add depth to their impressive 2016 debut.  In ‘For an Hour’ (PC, 16.30), the pair thoughtfully deconstruct their approach, and make light of their privileged upbringings in sketches and songs showing precisely why Hislop scooped this year’s Musical Comedy Award.

Finally, Doctor Who actress Ingrid Oliver makes her solo debut with ‘Speech!’ (PC, 16.30), sketches showing varied approaches to public speaking, whether as an Oscar winner, politician or wedding toaster.  The show, cleverly demonstrating Oliver’s range, also serves as an interesting counterpoint to Parris’ examination of the same theme.

Head to the Fringe’s official website to purchase tickets and stay informed of any scheduling alterations.  All venues and timings stated above are correct at the time of publishing. 

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