Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotland on Sunday review: Richard Herring, Phill Jupitus, Red Bastard, Set List, Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra, Adrienne Truscott – reviewed by Kate Copstick.
It is shaping up to be a vintage Fringe with a terrific spectrum of comics from the newly minted to the veterans. Like Richard Herring. Richard is thinking about death, and talking about it in an unfailingly entertaining show. He worries that he will go in a manner open to comedic interpretation by those that are left to report his death – Steve Bennett of the comedy website Chortle in particular.
Herring obsessively gallops us through the punny possibilities of his obituary. Very funny. But of course he is still very much in the swim, and looking good, sporting long greying hair – not so much a silver fox as a silver darling.
It is a brave comic who incorporates the whole of Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy into his show but Herring just about gets away with it. Death becomes him and he rips into his subject like a lion on a tethered goat. We get Keats and serial killers, 9/11 and Paddy McGuinness and we really don’t stop laughing. And his deconstruction of The Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly will keep him in my mind for a long time.
Another of the “big names” around is Phill Jupitus, a comic of lightning wit who is a great live performer and a man with passion and intelligence. Or so I kept reminding myself through a dull hour. This solo show is a spin-off from the improv-fest Voices In Your Head, which itself returns this year. Here, Jupitus is alone, except for the voice of Deborah Frances White, in Voices in Your Head – The Phill Jupitus Experiment. It is about as experimental as Countdown.
“See the human consciousness pushed beyond its limits,” says the brochure. Perhaps I saw a bad show. Perhaps my expectations were too high. But this is simply an old drama school exercise called “hotseating” writ large. Phill is given a character and then Deborah asks him some fairly banal questions which he has to answer, in character. End, as they say, of. Phill was a retired postal worker, a jeep-stealing nun and a Spanish dancer. He got to do some funny voices and wear some hats. Anyone who considers this pushing consciousness beyond its limits really ought to get out more.
If you do want to see limits being stretched, see Red Bastard, a performer to whom your limits are mere playthings, to be bent and broken at whim. An hour with the Bastard is the closest thing to a life-changing experience you will have this August. This is jaw-dropping stuff, with elements of clowning, physical theatre, wit, repartee and gratuitous bullying made art.
If psychological warfare made comic isn’t your thing then you can still get that “edge of your seat” excitement at the returning Set List. Now out of the Caves and all gussied up at the Pleasance Dome, it is garnering huge audiences to watch well-known comics dice with humiliation as they are given a surreal set list with no notice from which to create ten minutes of comedy. Surviving Set List has become a badge of honour, and those awarded the badge the night I saw it were Susan Calman who was quite brilliant, Robin Ince who made the whole crazy thing entirely his shouty, angry own and Greg Proops, a man whose brain works faster and more powerfully than the Large Hadron Collider. He was so ferociously good that Dylan Moran felt like an anticlimax after him.
Down in the bowels of Espionage something strange is stirring. Not only stirring but shaking, singing and telling tales of such ridiculousness that they make the works of Edward Lear sound like the Six O’Clock News. Twonkey is a Fringe stalwart and this year brings us his Blue Cadabra. Of course you don’t know what a Blue Cadabra is, you will have very little idea what anything is in this strange hour. But loosen your grip on reality and step into Twonkey’s world. You will not forget it in a hurry.
Another show that will live with me for a long, long time is Adrienne Truscott’s Asking For It. The entire show is about rape and about comedy about rape (for which it has been, as Adrienne reminds us, “a big year”). This is her debut show as a stand up and she absolutely wipes the floor with any other female comic I have seen. It is brave, brutal, brilliant stuff that takes comedy – to say nothing of Powerpoint demonstration – to places it has never been. Do get there early as Bob’s Bookshop is tiny.
MORE INFO: Richard Herring, until 26 August, The Stand; Phill Jupitus, Voices In Your Head, Pleasance Dome, until 26 August, Red Bastard, Assembly George Square, until 28 August; Set List, Pleasance Dome, from Tuesday until 24 August; Twonkey’s Blue Cadabra, Laughing Horse@Espionage, until 25 August; Adrienne Truscott, until 26 August, except Mondays, Heroes@Bob’s Bookshop
Originally published in Scotland on Sunday