It’s a long August spent at the Edinburgh Fringe. I keep looking wistfully back at the first show I saw, the memory fuzzy like one from my distant past. What, it was only the beginning of the month? Surely not? But one of the lovely things about being up here – apart from seeing all those people you ordinarily only catch when they pop by Manchester for a gig – is that comforting feeling of seeing folks from back home, whether it be doing a show or just out and about in the street. Having such a healthy circuit in Manchester it’s no surprise that a chunk of the talent at the Fringe is direct from the city.
While the biggest names from Manchester here are probably Jason Manford (who plays a handful dates at 1,000 plus the EICC as part of his tour – a far cry from the 50-seater in the Pleasance Courtyard he played in 2005, the first year he was up here with his Urban Legend show) and John Bishop who’s popped up here for a couple of gigs. Yes I know he’s from Liverpool originally but despite that strong Scouse accent he’s been living in Manchester for more than half his life so we’re claiming him.
Elsewhere are the slightly lesser known but brilliantly talented guys who make up the comedy scene in Manc and beyond. Mick Ferry has presented a show at the Fringe a few times now, and this year it’s imbued with poignancy. After a rather drunken family wedding, his two older, grown up children decide to tell him how he doesn’t measure up as a Dad. Their comments lead him to look back on his difficult relationship with his own father and how he likes nothing better these days than to embarrass his kids. It’s a great show, thick on gags but also sensitive. This is one of the reasons why it’s surprising that a critic at the Glasgow Herald held Ferry up as an example of the type of misogynistic comic that feminist comics are up against this year. He’s probably one of the least misogynistic on the circuit and was said to be genuinely hurt by the allegation.
Martin Mor (formerly BigPig) also has a big issue to talk about. On February 2 he found himself in a life threatening crash on the M40. It may have wrecked his Honda Civic but it’s given him a new lease of life and (as he notes himself about any kind of adversity in a comedian’s life) a rather handy structure for his show. Working his way through his bucket list and looking back on the most memorable events in his life is a rich source for humour, all energetically presented by the man with the biggest beard in comedy. Deservedly he was short-listed for the Amused Moose Laughter Award.
Despite the Geordie accent Seymour Mace has been living in Manchester on and off for the past decade so he’s practically one of us. This year he’s gone all out in the daft stakes with Marmaduke Spatula’s Fuckin’ Spectacular Cabaret of Sunshine Show. There’s all sorts of brilliant nonsense to be found here. Firstly he changes the names of everyone in the room as it’s best we remain anonymous, shows his unhinged drawings to us, partakes in a marshmallow duel and accepts an award in slow motion.
Michael J Dolan‘s show is a gloriously misanthropic event in which he looks forward to death. He also delights in the idea of getting away with murder and generally despairs of his fellow man. Though you worry about his mental health it makes for some great comedy.
Elsewhere Dan Nightingale is decidedly chipper despite having been single for the past five years. He’s looking for love and laments that he hasn’t seen a lady put her tights on in the same amount of time. But he’s spent his time constructively searching the internet for a date and practising his Dad skills on his new nephew.
Mike Newall‘s show Six Weddings explains why he couldn’t afford to do the Fringe last year having had six weddings to attend in the space of eight months. His hour is typically laid back with some lovely routines about throwing his housemate’s stale baps away and some funny, as well as very handy, tips on how not to lose your socks in the wash.
Tucked away in the back room of the Jekyll and Hyde pub is Bury-born comic Danny Deegan and his show about being a Life Winner. He sees it as an ironic title but in the time he’s been gigging on the circuit he’s proved himself to be a skilful storyteller; his tale about travelling back from Australia is particularly eye-watering.
Phil Ellis’ debut at the Fringe was a revelation. On the Manchester circuit he’s something of a loose cannon – you’re not entirely sure what he’s going to get up next, or whether it will work, but he goes for it anyway. His first Edinburgh show is pitched perfectly though. He’s put together a kind of anti-show where everything that can go wrong does. At first you’re not sure it’s for real but by the end there’s no doubt. He’s had polarising reviews (both of which are stuck proudly to his posters) but it’s very clear that the ones that gave him two stars declare that they simply didn’t get it rather than didn’t like it. This is bizarre: surely if you stayed to the very end it’s obvious what is going on? This deserved a place on the Foster’s Comedy Award Newcomer list, the Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality or perhaps the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for paying a flyerer to flyer every day for a show that didn’t even exist.
Dipping his toe into the Fringe this year is Steve Bugeja, who runs the regular comedy night at Manchester University. He’s put on a modest 40 minute set in the Yurt stood in the courtyard of the Three Sisters pub. It’s quite cosy and he shows what he’s been doing recently to impress new competition judges having reached the final of a fair few comps.
Manchester based sketch troupe Gein’s Family Giftshop are also trying their hand at 40 minutes on the Free Festival and displaying a love of the dark side with sketches of blood letting and handyman murder. It’s promising stuff.
That’s just a sample of the many Manchester acts here. There are many others whom I’m sure would be worthy of mention had I managed to get to them. Not least my fella Ian Fox‘s Shutter Monkey which I’ve been sat outside of for the last couple of weeks doing the door so never actually got to see the show…
Review by Marissa Burgess
Images by Ian Fox, www.ianfox.net/foxblog/
What: Manchester acts at the Edinburgh Fringe
More info: www.edfringe.com