Monday, 4 August 2014

Richard Gadd - Breaking Gadd ****

Another act that I first saw in comedy competition heats is Richard Gadd, who is not your run of the mill stand up comic.

In the early days when he was a new open spot comedian, he played the character of "a new open spot comedian", trying out new material and by playing a slightly unstable version of himself he pretty much managed to de-construct and dissected the whole stand up comedy art form, by being deliberately terrible to the point that he was brilliant.

I saw his first full our show in the basement of the Argyll Bar in Marchmont which was done in front of me, a weird looking couple and four people from his Dad's work. It wasn't the easiest gigs with such a small crowd, but he still provided enough laughs, despite having a nervous breakdown on stage which you weren't sure was part of the act (it was, as his subsequent shows have demonstrated).

Since then he's gone onto much bigger and better things, going full time and performing in a number of London Theatres. So after hearing good things about last year's show "Cheese and Crackwhores" (5 stars in The Skinny being one of many good reviews) I thought it was time to see him again, this time he's moved from the basement to the top floor in the Counting House into a small room which is perfectly intimate if a little warm.

The show itself is indescribable (so much so that I'm tempted to look up the other reviewer who I know was in the room and copy her, but I'll resist the temptation). It's certainly surreal, it's certainly funny and it's certainly shocking in places. My personal highlight was the reaction of the two old dears in the front row to some of Gadd's stranger stunts - I've no idea what attracted them to the show, but they didn't look like they'd seen an episode of Breaking Bad before, put it that way.

More importantly, it's professional with Gadd interacting with audio, video and a co-performer (whose name I can't remember unfortunately) and nailing all the cues despite it being his first show of the Fringe run. It really is more of a theatre piece than a stand up comedy show now, but it's still very very funny.

So if you want to see something a bit different and you aren't offended by trivial things like sex, murder, drug taking or plant molestation then you won't regret an hour with Richard Gadd. You'll laugh, you'll wince, you'll squirm in your chair but most of all, you'll simply be entertained - although like me, you'll probably not be able to describe how or why!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Rik Caranza - Charming ****

I've mentioned Rik Caranza before in my blog. He's been around the comedy scene in Edinburgh for a while now. I must have seen him for the first time around seven years ago, upstairs at the Beehive on a random Saturday night out with the Fringe.

Back then he was a open spot with some funny lines about his ethnicity and weight and a likeable manner and he built on that when I saw him at the Laughing Horse new act competition a couple of times, standing out from the crowd as the most polished of the Edinburgh open spots and progressing to the next stage of the competition.

Later he added music to his repertoire and this year, for the first time, I saw him displaying some comedy sketch drawings, which were probably one of my highlights of the show. (Fortunately he can't do the fat jokes any more because he's slimmed down a fair bit).

This year, Caranza is assisted by Des O'Gorman, another Edinburgh based stand up comedian and actor (originally from Ireland), who I wouldn't stay stole the show, but some of the the best bits were when the two of them were working together, especially when O'Gorman burst back into the room in costume (I won't say who he was dressed as) for a film related sketch.

I saw O'Gorman in Globophobia last year and he definitely did steal the show in that one, so I should probably mention that he is doing a solo show this year too.

But the majority of the show concentrated on Rik and the word "charming" which was used to describe him in several reviews last year. Rik wanted to know, was he charming in a good way (Will Smith) or a bad way (Hugh Grant) and had a sliding scale which the audience were allowed to move depending on his material and general demeanour.

I won't tell you where he ended up on the charming scale, nor can I predict where he'll end up in his comedy career. I know he doesn't do stand up comedy full time (despite faring much better than a lot of full time comics that I've seen).

If he doesn't go down the full time route, he'll have many more good nights for years to come at the Free Festival and he'll become even more well known on the circuit in Edinburgh and Scotland. If he does go full time, his sense of timing, good choice of subject matter, and yes his charm, could see him going even further than that.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

2014 and all that...

After an eleven month blog hibernation, the Fringe returns, so it's time for me to indulge in a bit of wandering round the Fringe and rambling about what I see!

For the past 10-12 years I've habitually stuck to the same plan on day one and two of the previews... Plonk myself down in the middle of the Pleasance and wait for all the performers to offer me free tickets to their preview shows (which happens surprisingly more than you think, see my second ever blog post for more info). That, mixed in with a trip to the Free Festival Launch Party and the odd trip to Shaggers was pretty much my staple Fringe diet.

This year I've started a new job and being only a few weeks in I felt it was a bit soon to be asking for holidays so I've had to curtail my activities somewhat and my Pleasance squatting has taken the biggest hit!

I still went to the Laughing Horse Free Festival Party, which was fantastic as always and I'm getting to know more faces year on year.

With a limited amount of time I've been sticking to showcases so far, starting with Game of Loners at the Beehive (Scottish Comedy Festival), moving on to a couple of Laughing Horse Free Pick of the Fringe shows and finishing with Shaggers last night, which was great banter as always, with regular Shaggers Mike Belgrave, Christian Elderfield and Matt Price all on form and headliner Katerina Vrana (the only act on the bill I'd not seen before) rounding the show off nicely.

Game of Loners is a three comics in an hour show, with local acts Gareth Waugh, Gareth Mutch and Robin Grainger all doing 20 minutes each. I've seen all three before and all are improving well. Gareth Waugh is probably the most established of the three, doing comedy full time and performing regularly at The Stand out with the Fringe, but all three have something different to offer and are decent acts in their own right. The show I saw was the very first preview two days before the Fringe officially started on a dreich Wednesday afternoon, so understandably it was quiet which made it difficult to really get the room rocking, but once the festival is up and running and they get bigger crowds, I'm sure it'll be a hit.

The Laughing Horse showcases were similarly quiet on Thursday but two comics really stood out in difficult conditions. Tom Goodliffe had the ideal combination of likeability and good material and Oliver Meech's mix of geeky science banter and magic immediately made me want to see more of the show which is aimed at kids aged 8-80 but on during the day, so I probably won't get a chance!

Two more local comics who have come through the ranks are Rik Caranza and Richard Gadd. They're very different types of comedian who have graduated from doing 20 minutes of an hour long show to doing a full hour by themselves. I managed to catch both of them in the last couple of days and enjoyed both shows, so they'll be my first two full reviews of 2014, when I get round to it!