24 hours at Edinburgh Fringe
Having grown up in Scotland, I was always told to avoid Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival. Visiting the Scottish Capital in August was deemed a fools game, as the notoriously busy streets of the Old Town become grid locked with tourists ticking off the sights and performers hustling for business.
Yet there has always been a part of me intrigued to see why so many do choose take in the Fringe. So when Comic Relief asked me to head up there as part of their team, I packed my overnight bag (and umbrella) and boarded the LNER train to check it out.
With only 24 hours in the city and being new to the festival, I decided to booked in a few shows in advance and take in any extra as I went. First up as Aaron Simmonds, with his debut fringe show ‘Disabled Coconut’. Simmonds has cerebral palsy and this show centred around both his and his families reaction to being trolled on Twitter for not being “properly disabled.” Simmonds also jokes about his dating life, his gluten intolerance and his stint as a basketball player at the Paralympics. His storytelling lost its way at points but for a debut show, it was a great start.
In between my next show, I had a couple of hours break and at the recommendation of a colleague took in Tania Edwards. Her show ‘Don’t Mention It’ is a plea for us all to stop oversharing our emotions especially on social media. Instead Edwards explains (with her savage wit) how she wants to us to keep our anxieties in. She reminded me of a unhinged Gwyneth Paltrow, lamenting the toll that motherhood and marriage has taken on her mentally and physically. A largely enjoyable way to pass a Wednesday afternoon I have to say.
Next up, I headed to The Pleasance to check out Sarah Keyworth. I had heard a lot of buzz about Keyworth and she certainly didn’t disappoint. Her show was called ‘Pacific’ but it should have been ‘New Hair, Don’t Care’ as she discusses her new found self and almost super powers since have her long hair cut short. Her comedy was slick, authentic, genuine. Her beautiful observations about her Dad were a spot on depiction of a man who has given up after years of being in a long term marriage. However its when Keyworth talks about her fears of being in a serious relationship and coming to terms with being a lesbian that she excels at her game. Her quick fire delivery and wonderful storytelling reminded me of Victoria Wood and like the legendary lady herself, I have no doubt that Keyworth has a great career ahead of her.
After Sarah Keyworth, it was a short hop across the courtyard to see Kai Samra, another comedian making his fringe debut with his show ‘Underclass’. Samra is fresh and outspoken about his working class upbringing and how his disillusionment with the comedy industry being dominated by the posh, middle class and white, led him to quit comedy for a period. Thankfully for us, Samra made his peace with this anger and returned to the circuit to use his voice to represent the underclass. His ability to joke at interviewing EDL Leader, Tommy Robinson, is testament to this maturity and the result is both a humble and bold show which certainly made the audience I saw Samra with, glad he returned.
A quick pit stop for a bite to eat before running through the rain to make it just in time to see Nish Kumar. The gig was jammed packed and rightly so as Kumar is pure genius. The 60 minutes flew by as Kumar launched into a politically charged examination of everything that is wrong in the world - from Brexit to Trump with airport security and Ricky Gervais squeezed in between. Kumar is unashamedly fired up and presents both a hilariously satirical and intelligently informed perspective on the world today.
After the political rallying cries from Nish Kumar, it was time to end my time at the festival with something decidedly more fluffy. Step forward, Amusical - the 90 minute show that unites comedy and musical theatre lovers together in one room for a cathartic singalong. Jayde Adams and Kiri Pritchard-McClean are your hosts with Dave Cribb and his band as the accompaniment. It’s a safe space where everyone’s inner geek is welcomed as comedians step forward to sing their favourite musical theatre numbers before the audience decide on the winner. The show I saw featured the delights of Phil Wang, Lost Voice Guy, Rose Matafeo and Max and Ivan taking on numbers from ‘Hamilton’, ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Dirty Dancing’. It was odd, eccentric but nevertheless a rip roaring laugh of an evening and I couldn’t think of a better way to end my 24 hours at the Fringe.