Edinburgh Fringe Reviews: It's only a Game Show

Think you’ve got what it takes to surmount an arbitrary challenge? Try your hand at these game shows to test your mettle.

Feature by Jenni Ajderian | 08 Aug 2016

In Paul Flannery’s The M.M.O.R.P.G. Show [★★★★], three brave representatives are plucked from our midst to carry out a quest taking place in our collective imagination. This is a phrase that will either put you off entirely or have you clamouring for a seat already. This is the magic of the game: those of us who want to be there really want to be there, and it’s the crowd's enthusiasm that gives Flannery fodder for excellent storytelling.

With a skilled questmaster comes greater flexibility for the audience’s suggestions; tonight, our adventurers meet a friendly floating pineapple who has become a really sympathetic character. As with radio, the scenery is better – this show's floating pineapple is all the better for only ever being in our imagination. This show is fantastic in all the senses of the word; stomach-crampingly funny, and one to return to night after night.

In Beasts’ game show Mr Edinburgh [★★★★], we take on the role of a judge. Ciarán Dowd, James Nicholas and Owen Roberts compete for the hallowed title of Mr Edinburgh, settling the score once and for all with contests in speed, intelligence and Who Looks Best In This Jacket. This incredibly sweaty contest sees our competitors playing off against each other, with an occasional aside to move back in time and tell a bit of their personal history.

Each performer’s personality shines through, with Dowd giving us exceptional gross-out comedic moments, Nicholas the stickler for the rules and Roberts increasingly anxious about the outcome of the games. Good sportsmanship and common decency go out the window, replaced by fierce competition and very revealing lycra. This is a sketch troupe honed to perfection if not always overly polished. Each scene feels scruffy, half-improvised and very real, the three Mr Edinburghs all bursting with energy and absolutely bringing the house down.

Paying attention to the news over the last few weeks has been exhausting, and even more so for writers of satirical shows. Fortunately, the eponymous queen bee of Margaret Thatcher Queen of Gameshows [★★★★] is a constant we can all rely on: flamboyant, welcoming and absolutely ruthless. Having made it as an international cabaret sensation, our lovable and mercilessly cut-throat host has now turned to the world of light entertainment. We’re all in this together, and we strive in our teams to complete a series of arbitrary tasks to receive the hallowed giro cheque of our job-seekers allowance.

Glitter, dancing men in hot pants and social commentary have never looked so good together. Throughout the show, Margaret is visited by the ghosts of game shows past, and is told to change her ways. Does society only work when there are winners and losers? What will come up next on the eight-foot sparkly Wheel of Misfortune? A dazzling show for the austerity generation, with just enough thinking about the world and just enough dance numbers to provide something for everyone.

The M.M.O.R.P.G. Show, Gilded Balloon at the Counting House (Ballroom), 3-28 Aug (not 15), 9.30pm, £6-8/PWYW
Beasts Present Mr Edinburgh 2016, Pleasance Dome (Queen Dome), 3-29 Aug (not 13), 7pm, £6-11
Margaret Thatcher Queen of Game Shows, Assembly George Square Gardens: Piccolo, 4-28 Aug (not 15), 9pm, £10-14