Magazine article The Spectator

Fun on the Fringe

Magazine article The Spectator

Fun on the Fringe

Article excerpt

From George Street to Cowgate, the word on the Edinburgh Fringe is: stand-up is dead, long live slapstick - only now we call it physical theatre. Less noted is the absence of the once ubiquitous tabloidheadline show title - `An Alien Stole My Skateboard', `Lady Macbeth Firmed My Buttocks' - for which demise, much thanks.

Sometimes, though, I have to agree with Sean Foley and Hamish McColl of the The Right Size (Assembly Rooms) who scream to each other during the manic, brilliant Do You Come Here Often? 'I can't believe you're still using that material!'. They are sharp and funny. From the situation of two men stuck for years in a toilet they spin inventive, character-driven comedy with added pratfalls that is anything but lavatorial.

Trying for a similar audience, Peepolykus, at the Pleasance with I Am A Coffee, fall a little short of last year's sublimely funny Let My Donkey Go, but I am sure the show will grow in pace during the run. It could hardly become more surreal. Already the fake fish routine is fab and I loved the grave perambulations of their fluffy penguin. Edinburgh toy shops must be well used by now to raiding parties of performers auditioning the stuffed toys for star potential.

Another kind of plaything is tested at the same venue by a company called Jade. Grace is a woman on the verge of 30 trying out toyboys as husband material. A clever set full of doors opens and closes on her hopes and dreams faster than a Feydeau farce, as the cast of three slams from one gag to the next. The hairy-trousered satyrs were especially astonishing, although a dripping Darcy caused hearts to flutter in a certain section of the audience.

More problems of modern womanhood are wittily addressed at the Gilded Balloon by an Australian a cappella quartet called Crying In Public Places, who twanged all the emotions of a capacity audience in Jump! Though their dancing is an effective back-up to their strong harmonies, I could not quite see why one of them had to hang upside down from a rope during one number.

Perhaps it is because circus skills seem to be mandatory on the Fringe this year. Acrobat at the Assembly Rooms set the standard to aim for with heart-stopping antics on trapeze and high wire. This postpunk Australian group also sweep up all the prizes for bare-faced cheek as they cavort and twist, variously dressed, undressed and cross-dressed, in a range of rubber bondage gear and grubby underwear. The live band thrashes, naked bottoms fly past and tongues are definitely in the other cheek in this unexpectedly exhilarating show.

Infinitely more refined is the balletic Stung at St Bride's in which the trio Momentary Fusion take the inventive movement of the best kind of contemporary dance aloft on rope and trapeze. Once again we were open-mouthed with surprise but there is no outrage here, just beauty and perfect, calm control. Yet, for the best theatre-circus combination you have to make the trip out to Leigh Links where the French troupe Cirque Baroque present Candides. Even if you are ignorant of the travails of the clown and his consort you will be mesmerised by this striking show. A high spot among the jaw-dropping feats was the general leading his troops in a complex fusillade of juggling clubs, the effect of the terror of war heightened by a percussive live band.

More clowns, the Russians Derevo this time, can be found late-night at the Pleasance in Red Zone. Director Anton Adassinsky shares an ancestry with last year's smash hit Slava Polunin in that both were once in the justly renowned St Petersburg troupe Licedei. …

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