Fringe Comedy Reviews: Getting the Girl
James Veitch and James Hamilton serve up new shows at the Edinburgh Fringe, while Jon Brittain directs the excellent What Would Spock Do?
Tales of lost loves and desperate reconciliations have made up the background of Fringe shows for years, and serve a double purpose: the comic can examine where things went wrong and how they can make things right again, and the audience comes along on the emotional journey. The problem is that this often turns a romantic gesture into something calculated, as in James Veitch's stand-up storytelling show Genius Bar [★★★☆☆], in which our plucky hero tries to troubleshoot a failed relationship using the handbook supplied by Apple's in-store customer support. In a high-tech, high-concept show, we go from introspection to online surveys, old family photos to email threads which involve Veitch trolling various organisations for comic effect. These asides sometimes feel like they were shoehorned in without much reasoning, and the highly self-critical style veers off into the dark and desperate. Veitch still provides a good nerdy lament and a thoughtful hour of comedy, but does so with one too many in-app purchases, and without letting us know much about the girl he's trying to get.
The heartbreak at the core of Jon Brittain's latest masterpiece What Would Spock Do? [★★★★☆] is twofold: our host has been an enthusiastic Trekkie since his teenage years, but has more recently learned to keep that particular phaser set to stun. Having concealed his greatest love in life from everyone, he meets a woman who shares his passion and is completely unashamed of doing so. In this story of alienation, acceptance and finding yourself and your people, we are shown the parallels between Star Trek fandom and football fandom, and even religion. Faultlessly performed by Sam Donnelly and wonderfully directed by Brittain, the one-man show even manages to touch on the specific travails of being a woman and a Trekkie, has enough explanatory gags to make it accessible to people who don't know their Vulcans from their Romulans, and includes more than a few nods to everyone's favourite tropes from the original series.
Stepping into the mirror universe, James Hamilton [★★★★☆] shows us the darker side of infatuation with a character so desperate to prove he's a Nice Guy that he's left his ex-girlfriend countless unrequited voicemails, and now aims to win her back through a Fringe show, darkly. As you may well expect if you have previously seen Hamilton in the pitch-black sketch troupe Casual Violence, this doesn't exactly go to plan, and instead we are introduced to a host of strange characters and twisted time-travel adventures which are as painful to watch as they are hilarious. Hamilton's debut solo show is akin to recent Richard Curtis film About Time, except if it were based in a universe where women acted like actual human beings, and time travel had negative effects as well as positive ones. As such, we swing wildly between realism and surrealism, and a few clever staging tricks let this one-man show have a cast of gruellingly vivid characters that show off Hamilton's facial contortions and tease at the audience's imaginations.