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REVIEW: A couple of days at Edinburgh Fringe

A couple of days at Edinburgh Fringe

Photo: Carliol Photography
We had a chance to pop up to Edinburgh and to take in a few shows. We hadn’t done much planning as this was a last-minute decision so no official press passes and free tickets to enjoy. Instead we had the PBH free fringe app ( and the new Working Class Fringe App (  to help us. This gave us a chance to enjoy some great “free” fringe – of course, these shows are free to get in but not free to leave and I put in between £5 to |£10 in the bucket at the end. I remember someone commenting in 2016 that reviewers didn’t put their hand in their pocket and I pointed out that we had. The visit then finished with a paid show that was on a 2 for 1 offer (our photographer managed to pick up a free ticket for that one).

The apps worked well and the google maps function on the Working Class Fringe app was really handy when you don’t know the locations of the venues or the venues don’t make it that clear what they’re called.

Now reviews are subjective – we all know that.  This is a summary of how we felt and other people may disagree. That’s fine. All of the shows run to the usual 1 hour time slot or less… the odd performer ran out of material at 50 minutes. We took a “risk” on many of these performers, having known nothing about them other than the title and flyer before the show – but we now have a number of new names to look out for. Having said that, it was a change to catch up on 3 old friends too, talking of which we started with the brains behind the Working Class Fringe website (, Lee Kyle.

Lee Kyle. Kicking Potatoes Into The Sea ★★★★★,
Venue 85: Laughing Horse @ City Café (Hollywood room)
August 6-14, 16-18, 20-26. 10:20 am.

It may have been 10:15 on a Sunday morning but the room was full to bursting as Lee Kyle appeared to start the show. Not just seats filled, we had the floor full too. Fortunately this Karaoke room came with air conditioning unlike some of the venues we would visit later.

Kyle is an immediately likeable chap who quickly has the rapport and trust of the audience. Writing this review after we have returned from Edinburgh, we appreciated just how good he is at quickly winning an audience around. Our later shows would include some acts who just didn't know how to handle an audience. Unlike a local North East gig, this wasn’t a room full of friends, this was a crowd that needed impressing and sure enough Lee did this.


This is the best show we have seen Lee do to date. It is quite a personal show. Lee discusses his time in wrestling, his upbringing, his family and coping with autism within his close family circle.  His genuine open style doesn't offend and you could feel the warmth in the audience’s reaction. But Lee doesn’t go for quick sympathy votes nor does he forget to be funny. Despite the intensity of the material often being covered, he makes the room laugh with almost everything he says, and that takes skill.


We like Lee Kyle a lot and he is well worth getting early to see (in our case, leaving Gateshead at 6am!)

Free tea and biscuits

Venue 398: Three Broomsticks. 12:10pm

Described as “What better way o start your day than with free tea & biscuits from three lovely comedians, with oddity Daniel Nicholas, the engaging Paul Savage, and the dark musings of Hannah Platt” we decided to head to the show after our lunchtime supermarket sandwiches.

We struggled to find the venue as the sign saying “3 broomsticks” consisted of a piece of paper on the window. Upstairs we found a variety of small rooms in need of decoration. We are talking bare plaster and an odd assortment of light fittings here.


Before we got into the room our order for tea was taken. This show is certainly different. We only had 2 acts: Dan Nichols, who got the crowd to discuss their favourite childhood toy and board game followed by Phil Savage with a more conventional 30 minute set. Nothing wrong with the show at all and the tea and biscuits were worth stopping by for.

The Tanner

Venue 398: Three Broomsticks

Until August 25. 1:20 pm

Photo: Carliol Photography

Alex McSherry performers a great single-handed play about William Wallace’s fight against the English. Taken from the point of view of a tanner who fought alongside Wallace, we get the blood and guts. In fact we get lots of bodily fluids, thus is the nature of a tanners work. The flyer suggests 18+ but to be honest this strong, passionate performance will go down well with 15+. Robust language features in films with this cert and the descriptive power of McSherry is something a GCSE/Standard Level student should witness. This was a real emotional treat.

Dan Willis: Live At The Laugh

Venue 276: Liquid Rooms Annexe

Until August 26. 2:30pm

Photo: Carliol Photography

Dan Willis is very comfortable on the microphone. A very slick operator. He not only has a great pace with his own material but also in his responses to those in the audience who are invited to say something. I’ve not witnessed a comic with such a quick reply reflex since I saw Bob Monkhouse back in the day. The hour flies by as Dan dissects zombie attacks and self-help books.


There are reminders of why he was so successful compering the Grinning Idiot shows at Newcastle’s St Doms before he moved to Australia (which form part of another show I wish we had time to see). Then I remember: Dan is the reason why, years ago, I worked out how fast I could get to the Gosforth Asda if there was ever a zombie invasion.


Dan is still a really good laugh. A real comedy treat.

Janey Godley: Godley's Cream 20 Years and Counting

Venue 170: Laughing Horse @ The Counting House

Until August 26. 5:30pm


We had been aware of Janey’s work for some years. Not only is she a fellow socialist and campaigner for equality, she is not afraid to get in the face of those in power. But she is much more than a woman who stood on a golf course with a pair of signs about the current American president.


This show features a whistle stop tour of some of her life story. Unlike some youngster at the fringe today, you get a real sense that Janey has many, many more tales where these came from. We have the real life encounters and protests with Trump of course but we also have so much more. This is a history of a Scottish woman of our time and you get the impression that she has hard to work hard for everything she has.


There are some tough moments amongst the comedy. I’m not that familiar with the sectarianism that was very much a part of Janey’s upbringing. Don’t get me wrong, I know it happens – it’s just that you don’t get that sort of thing happening on the streets on Hull or Newcastle.


This is a fabulous solo show and it is easy to see why the venue was packed.

Lovell’s Labour’s Hoss’ed

Venue 398: Three Broomsticks

Until 25th August. 7pm

Here’s the thing. Reviewing is subjective. We are not going to like everything. That’s just personal. This show with Matt Hoss and Nigel Lovell is one we’d rather forget. Wee-man wanted to give it one star. I thought 2 as Lovell wasn’t that bad.

Can we please move on?


Joke Thieves

Venue 338: Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire

August 6-13, 15-26. 8:30pm


Oh boy – this was fun…

Host Will Mars explained the format. We will see 4 acts. A member of the audience nominates a pairing and each pair of acts will come back on stage to repeat the set of the person that they have been paired with.


We had the pleasure of Laura Lexx @lauralexx, Paul Taylor @paul_f_taylor, Andrea Hubert @ShutUpAndrea, and Nick Page @NickPageUK1.


Of course the audience member thought pairing up the biggest chap, Nick, with tiny Laura would lead to some fun. Of course it would as Laura energetically bounced around the stage comparing sporting opportunities for the 2 sexes: football and netball. In the other pairing Paul tried to make it hard for Andrea by including lots of sound effects in the set. Whilst each of the first sets was brilliantly funny, another barrel of laughs was to come when the partner in each tried to replicate the set. Some got political whilst Laura got a chair to stand on.


This was a really rapid show – 9 sets (if you include the host) in an hour and hence no chance of getting bored.  They all got into the spirit of the show and it was a superb treat – no wonder the room was packed.


Different people appear each night which are announced on Twitter – so it is literally a different show each night.

Day 2
Why is every venue uphill in Edinburgh. Even when you return to the venue you’ve just come from? We had sorted tickets for the 4pm show and wee man loved last night so much he wanted to do sketch thieves so that limited the shows we could fit in. This was going to be about quality rather than quantity today.

Tw@t Out Of Hell

Venue 85: Laughing Horse @ City Café (Hollywood room)
August 8-20, 22-26. 11:35 am.


As we left Lee Kyle’s show the previous day, the imposing figure of Gary G Knightley had invited us to had straight back into the room to see his show but we had been up since silly o’clock and we needed food. We did, however catch his show on day 2 of our visit.


We love rock music and we love musicals so it is no surprise to discover that we’d find the show very funny. The Meatloaf element was short and to the point. The full room had a working knowledge of his greatest hits, when asked. I was going to go for Paradise By The Dashboard Light or Modern Girl but wasn’t asked.


In a room this small, the mic is more of a prop than a necessity but Gary can sing, he could belt them out if he wanted to. But this was about comedy and soon the focus moved to musicals.  Given the theatrics of Meatloaf, there is plenty in common. Our wee-man was ready to give Avenue Q or Urinetown if asked about his favourite (I had explained to Gary at the start that he wouldn’t be the first to corrupt his poor young mind…he has witnessed it on stage before).


Funny and near the knuckle with some of the material, Gary isn’t nasty but he made full use of the adult vocabulary as we described the re-write of a number of shows. He worked the room very well indeed. He wanted a reaction and got one. A great start to day 2 of our EdFringe journey.

Sketch Thieves

Venue 338: Laughing Horse @ Cabaret Voltaire

August 6-13, 15-26. 1 pm.

This is a similar format to Joke Thieves but with sketch groups. Again, we had 4 acts who would perform a routine and then copy the routine of another group. The pairings were once again selected by an audience member to stop any rehearsal beforehand. Just like Joke Thieves, the material appears to have been selected to make it hard for the other group.


The performers change daily and our lucky quartet were MOON @mooncomedy, Dirty White Boys @dwbcomedy, Tracy's Leaving Party @tracyisleaving and The Delightful Sausage @mmmsausage.


This was as good as Joke Thieves. If the first act made a mistake, you could guarantee that the copying act would highlight the fact. The audience would get into the spirit of the show and repeat their first half interaction too. So we had quiet talking (with shouts of ‘Speak Up Please’), Geezer lad interactions, Toothbrushes and Mexican waves.


It is amazing how quickly the hour goes by when you’ve having this much fun. If we had been in Edinburgh for longer than 2 days then this is a pair of shows that we would have definitely returned to.


That was the end of our tour of the Free Fringe as we headed over to one of the city’s Student Union buildings.


Venue 14: Gilded Balloon Teviot

Aug 6-7, 9-14, 16-21, 23-27. 4 pm


Our last big trip to Edinburgh Fringe was 2016 and one of the stand out shows was Trumpageddon. Back then Trump was simply a candidate. He was a man that could be laughed at as he made a bid to become the President of the USA. Events later in 2016 changed that and we all know what happened next as the reality TV businessman and major user of Twitter took up residence in the White House.


This is a totally different show to 2016. A lot has happened since then.  Not only was Trump elected but the Twitter feed has become daily international news. On TV we’ve also had The Handmaids Tale discussing a possible future for the States.  Simon Jay has rewritten the show and added an assistant, Ofdonald, dressed as a Handmaid.

Photo: Carliol Photography

The show has been successfully scaled up. A much bigger room has resulted in a much larger audience than 2016. The show is still attracting a vocal north American section to each audience. There is still a question and answer element, though now Ofdonald collects and writes down the questions from the queue outside and then brings a microphone so you can ask Trump yourself.


This show constantly breaks the fourth wall. Audience participation, through clapping, cheering, booing, questioning, cheerleading and occasionally insulting Trump happens at regular interval.

Photo: Carliol Photography

This Trump is not as nasty as the real thing.  The trouble with the source material is that real life is producing unthinkably surreal moments so sticking with real events produces the craziest material. The thin line between fiction and reality is blurred. The line between theatre and stand-up is equally blurred. Questioning is broken up with theatrical moments which reflect the bizarre nature of Trumps’ behaviour.  The use of a rear projection and sound design supports the madness on stage. This results in a show that is both very funny and equally shocking in equal measure. This show has matured and is even better than the original.


Is satire dead?  Not yet, it isn’t!


Review by Stephen Oliver, with additional material from Joanne Oliver and Wee-Man.

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