The feathers on the boas were wilting and the city was rapidly running out of double espressos, but with a squirt of hairspray and a sprinkle of glitter we geared up for the final weekend…
As ever the Edinburgh Fringe has been a lot of fun. I’ve seen loads of great work by many acts whose names I didn’t even know three weeks ago.
Surprisingly this year, after the multitude of inappropriate squeezing I got from so many performers last August – the Fringe is way too interactive – the only real audience participation I’ve endured was being one of many pulled on stage to pretend to be on a train at Tatterdemalion, as well as playing an invisible trumpet in Louise Reay‘s show which is entirely performed in Chinese. Audience numbers felt like they were up this year as I’ve not found myself attempting to review something and being one of three in the crowd.
I caught a couple of previews before I even left Manchester. Sketch group Gein’s Family Giftshop were getting ready to follow up their Foster’s Comedy Award-nominated show from last year – a show that though as dark as ever promised “more death, less jizz” than 2014. Former Manchester resident, but now living in Coventry, Michael J Dolan was also showcasing his show Misery Guts, which despite pondering his role in the world was misanthropically hilarious.
Also following up an award-nodded show from last year was Phil Ellis. Three years ago he performed a show where everything that could go wrong did. The critics who did see it were split in opinion despite it being very funny indeed. Last year he returned with a very “wrong” kids’ show, everyone got the gag and it was awarded the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award panel prize.
This year’s follow up Funz and Gamez Tooz is equally side-splitting; joining Phil is Jim The Elf, Bonzo the Dog, the Num-bear and Uncle Mick, sorry Uncle Rick – Mick died at the end last year and so arrives in his urn. Surprisingly it’s a show that does work for children too.
Talking of Uncle Mick, Mick Ferry has a solo show too. Fed up of being told he needs a theme he takes suggestions from the crowd and the message he should deliver at the end. I saw it on a lovely busy Friday night and it’s laugh a minute; the improvised format allowing for the occasional ‘greatest hits’ routine such as one featuring ‘Barmcake’ – the fella that used to chase the local kids when Mick was a lad.
Martin Mor now lives just outside Manchester but is still a stalwart on the scene. His show is similarly improvised, featuring anecdotes from his travels as directed by the audience who shout out place names. There’s much good-natured teasing of the crowd too.
Justin Moorhouse is another act who rejects the theme tradition of Fringe shows and simply fills his hour with solid stand up. But there is a semblance of a thread throughout – having reached 45 he’s pondering the question of where exactly is his mid-life crisis?
Stephen Bailey grew up in Moss Side and has recently moved back there – where you can only imagine he’s an unlikely figure – well turned out in his dickie bow. His debut hour is a breezy, chatty and thoroughly filthy enjoyable romp.
Also performing his debut Fringe show is Brennan Reece. Reece has a lovely demeanour with a slight giddiness, and a solid 40 minutes of material questioning whether he really needs to grow up. We think not, he’s doing just fine as he is.
Elsewhere long-term Manchester resident, but now residing back in his native Newcastle, Seymour Mace has been nominated for the Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award. It’s a long time coming as he’s been bringing innovation, anarchic shows up here for some time.
Elsewhere at the Fringe Lou Conran was doing two shows a day in her small caravan venue and Dead Cat’s Red Redmond was sharing an hour with Freddy Quinne. MMU graduates Norris and Parker performed their well-received sketches and Roland Gent brought his Rock ‘n’ Roll show up for a week and there was plenty more. Oh, and I could be seen appearing on the door of Ian Fox’s Shutter Monkey, a show I could just see through the window.
Now I’m off to watch something that doesn’t answer back or make confrontational eye contact. If you want me you’ll find me on the sofa with a Mad Men box set.
Main image: Edinburgh Fringe. Credit: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society