Edinburgh Fringe goes with a BANG!

Jason Smith30 September 2014

I’ve always been somewhat bemused by the North American use of ‘bangs’ to describe a fringe of a haircut. It just appears to be such an inappropriate word that one wonders if someone, at some point in America’s history of cosmetology, was having a laugh trying to get that one started. This idle semantic pondering on such things segues quite nicely to a recent visit to the Edinburgh Fringe last month. How’s that for a link!

Speaker Cornerites: Louise Collins (marketing) and my good self (recently marketing after sales) were sent up there on a mission to check out new comedic talent and acts that would work well in the corporate environment. Immediately off the list were the major comedians, the ones we see regularly on TV, as most people have a good understanding of them. So it was our job to hunt out the new Bishops, the new McIntyres, Whitehalls & Bridges.

I don’t know if you’ve ever picked up a Fringe Magazine? It’s an overwhelming publication that edges into the definition of a tome for sure; think the War & Peace of Entertainment Directories with more potential for laughs. For better or worse comedy outweighs all other art forms at the Fringe so it has the largest section in the magazine. Approaching this without mental prep and/or coffee is a daunting task but Lou and I got on with it and after about 3 weeks, with as many meetings, drilled down on a list of acts we wanted to see. It pretty much evened out at around 13-15 acts each over one and half days. I really wasn’t sure what this amount of comedy was going to do to me: send me into a continual wide eyed hyena laughing fit or turn me into a coma like zombie where any outside stimulation is lost and middle distance is the sole focus for one’s eyes?

The day came and Lou and me, both being north Londoners, travelled there largely following this combination:

Walk, bus, tube, train, plane, tram (which Lou got very excited about), another walk up a huge hill to our hotel (I’d forgotten how bloody hilly Edinburgh is), drop bags, saying farewell to each other (as we had our own acts to see), eat a burger for me (carbs for them hills) and then off to see the first act. For the next day and a half I walked up hill, down granite sided dale and across the city through rain and shine existing on a combination of hot & cold caffeinated drinks and £3 meal deals!

There are too many acts to go through here and like everything varied in quality, but highlights for me were Grainne Maguire who comes from a political slant and pulled together a loose, yet entertaining Have I Got News For You style format inviting the audience and fellow comedians to comment on the week’s news.

Carl Hutchinson is your classic comedian who manages to bring observation and story-telling together to hilarious effect. Topics included everyday stuff around getting a seat on a train, sandwich toasters and men talking to each other in changing rooms. His acting skills didn’t go unnoticed either as it really brought the comedy alive.

Iain Stirling, I believe from the Granite City itself and now living in London, was pleased to be back on home turf and he delivered (I’m not going to say sterling) a splendid (I never use this word usually) performance even with the knowledge that a group of women in attendance were from The Edinburgh Business School who, as it turned out, knew his mum! How to follow that? He did brilliantly and went on to talk about that subject that will always be main course comedy cuisine (or a form of therapy) which is the romantic break up.

Now Andrew O’Neill History of Heavy Metal was of personal interest rather than a corporate one. Even Andrew admitted he doesn’t get a lot of gigs talking about the ‘majesty’ of metal or issues around it, I paraphrase: “you know when you get home, open the drawer and there’s a bat’s head in there...” doesn’t work so his material is usually more general albeit looking like a cross between Slash and Skrillex . Heavy Metal however is a first love (like mine) and Andrew takes the audience through its history while hammering out riffs and shredding them arpeggios with his very own V shape axe (aka electric guitar).

Basically, looking back is a blur. Not as a result of any imbibed local liquids but because it was so hectic with hills and various levels of hilarity. I remember the last day and an opportunity to debrief with Lou over my first hot meal for a couple of days at Wagamammas (no 71). Lou’s standout acts were:

Bra Zouka – sixteen dancers from Brazil who integrate (mashes up) a number of Brazilian dance forms together in to  energetically tell a story through movement & music. Lou "loved it; amazing dancers who bring together samba, capoeira and football!” Next for Lou was Hull comedian Lucy Beaumont and Lou had to explain a couple of times to me about the premise of the show which was basically this: Lucy’s friend Jackie was dumped by a man whose ideal woman was Miley Cyrus! Lou said she was brilliant mixing in bleak poetry (???), audience participation and a lot of laughs! Lou’s final tip was Acapella group Out of the Blue which, she admits, she wasn’t looking forward too but said they were brilliant singing current & past hits with aplomb and, I’m told, with a hint of Glee about their character.

We then tiredly reversed and retraced the journey finding ourselves back at Finsbury Park to bid our farewells to each other. On getting home and matching the horizon on perspective (on the settee) I attempted to reflect on the last two days. However, that application crumbled from its edges and I dutifully fell asleep and dreamt of being chased down the Royal Mile by a sinister troupe of street performers with huge bangs!

Picture: taken by a passing tourist who managed to get the bus in beautifully.

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