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Fringe review: Barry Cryer, Innit

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* * * * (4 stars)

With the stage holding a high winged back chair and a small smoking table beside it, some might think that a King was about to appear and hold court. Given the performer is Barry Cryer, the crowd might be on to something.

Cryer’s career is so long that the simple “A to Z” list format used here may have been considered cutting edge during his first Fringe appearance in 1847, but when it is put to such effective use, we’ll let Cryer have a pass.

On offer here is a walk down Memory lane, as Cryer talks about the people who have had an impact on his comedic life, throwing in anecdotes, their favourite jokes, and the occasional comment popping up on screen from the tech crew on how well Barry is doing compared to previous nights.

All of this and the spectacular use of puns and wordplay loved by fans of “I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue” and other appearances.

It’s clear that the building blocks of material used here aren’t original, but in a sense that doesn’t mater, because the war stories are what the audience want. They want to be in the same room, to be entertained, to be charmed, to laugh with the Master. And the old pro delivers.

* * * * (4 stars)

Barry Cryer
Innit

Gilded Balloon

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Fringe Review: Tim Fitzhgham – Gambler

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* * * * * (5 stars)

Momentum. Some comics struggle all their careers to find it and harness it for their material. If they can just the ball going, their career moving, then they’ll be happy. Tim Fitzhigham doesn’t have the ability to slowly build up the momentum either in his one hour show, The Gambler, or his whole run at the Fringe. He is the typical Aristotelian performer – he’s either “off” or “running at full speed.”

With an unexpectedly shortened run at the Fringe this year, Fitzhigham is making up on lost time with his high energy show looking first at famous gambles in history, and his subsequent attempt to replicate them. Even though there is one horse race, there’s nothing traditional about the bets here, and we’re not going to spoil the moments he reveals hat he’s actually up to, which happen throughout the show.

Fitzhigham (along with Edward Aczel) always strikes me as a Fringe specialist, thriving in the chaotic nature of the Fringe. At last night’s show there were a lot of “seen Tim before” who; come back, and Fitzhigham seeds in nods to his other shows, but at no point did newcomers feel they are missing out on a joke, as the experienced raconteur painted the back story in one broad, fast, hilarious sweep. That he could spend an hour on each of these asides is just part of the charm of this wonderful man  – Edinburgh missed him when he was gone, don’t let this show go to waste in the last week of the Fringe.

* * * * * (5 stars)

Tim Fitzhigham
The Gambler

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Fringe Review: Tea Room

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* * * * * (5 stars)

A cup of tea in a china cup, a pristine white tablecloth and an enticing cake stand. And listen carefully, the show is going on around you. You only have to listen in.

Characters come and go from the tearoom, each bringing their own story. There are ups and downs, fights, resolutions, fears, tears and joy. We are swept along with the characters, wondering about who they are and hoping they find happiness after this brief glimpse into their lives.

If you enjoy people-watching you will love this show, and watching the reactions of the other members of the audience as much as the diverse cast. There is much to ponder on and take away from this unique experience. Bring a hankie.

* * * * * (5 stars)

Tea Room
Lauriston Hall

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Fringe review: Ian Kendall’s Obsession

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* * * * * (5 stars)

Two years ago, after eighteen years on the Fringe, Ian Kendall said he would never do this again. After his sell-out show (called “I said I would never do this again”) last year he’s back this year for two nights only with a new show entitled “Obsession”, as well as daily performing slots on the Royal Mile.

If you’ve seen Ian performing street magic on the Mile you may have felt a little scared but you would definitely have felt mystified, impressed and very entertained. His stage show is a step up from his outdoor performance, with much more chat and close-up magic that often fails to result in its deserved response as audience brains struggle to comprehend what they’ve just seen and forget what their arms are for. A quick repeat and a witty comment and the trick receives stunned and awed applause.

Ian’s shows are a combination of humour, encyclopaedic knowledge on a variety of geeky subjects and the most mind-blowingly amazing magic. He is also very tall.

If you want to see Ian this year you’ll need to try and catch him on the Royal Mile – his two-show run finished last night. But he will be back next year for his 21st anniversary on the Fringe.

* * * * * (5 stars)

Ian Kendall
Obsession

Zoo Roxy

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Fringe review – The Noise Next Door

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***** (5 stars)

The Noise Next Door are five young lads doing improvised musical comedy the way it should be done. There was no sense of the audience needing to warm up to the show, the laughs were coming thick and fast before bums were even on seats thanks to two puppets in the tech box making witty comments while two of the boys made beautiful music on the stage. The fifth member of the crew was out with a box of acetates and pens encouraging audience members in the queue to draw random scenes for use later in the show.

The speed at which the suggestions from the audience were incorporated into sketches and songs was impressive. Even when a joke took several attempts to formulate properly, there was a real sense of camaraderie as the audience respected the effort clearly being put into this fast-thinking, and willed the punchline to materialise on the tip of the performer’s tongue. These young men are remarkably talented and work incredibly well together. Ending a five-part improvised song by rhyming “taramasalata” is just one small example of their combined genius.

***** (5 stars)

The Noise Next Door
Their Finest Hour

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Fringe Review: The Brandreth Papers

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* * * (3 stars)

This is an interesting mix of one man monologue, comedy character piece, and good old fashioned shaggy dog stories. It doesn’t quite hold together, but the charm of Brandon Brandreth holds it all together with passion, charm, delightful turns of phrase, and dexterous wordplay.

The chiselled chin, smart dinner jacket, slicked back hair (and a prop Walther PPK pistol) bring to mind a young James Bond, but it feels a little bit excessive. There’s no easing the audience into the character, and it’s vital to the show that we believe in this character before we are taken on a journey that covers love, a Kraken, Tolstoy, the Duke of Edinburgh, and more. Without that belief, the heightened reality feels false. While that might be the ultimate intention, I think the audience should be taken on that journey, rather than start at the destination.

There is a good show in here, and there’s every chance that it wil improve over the Edinburgh run, but right now it’s more Roger Moore than Sean Connery, and I’m a Connery man.

* * * (3 stars)

The Brandreth Papers
Gilded Balloon

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