Fringe Comedy Reviews: Best of nonsense

A series of question marks seems a more appropriate rating system for certain shows and here's a round-up of the best of them

Feature by Ben Venables | 26 Aug 2015

Originally meant to play in St John's, Cheekykita and Donal Coonan became collateral damage after the Cowgatehead fall-out and lost their original room. Fortunately they landed in The Caves but are off again to take their audience on a space mission. Comedy tends not to attract arts funding, and our hosts wear polystyrene baubles as astronaut helmets, give out miniature glow sticks and spray the audience with water (space juice) in order to suspend our disbelief. And they are successful in doing so. For all its dream-like sequences and plot twists, Dead Ghost Star [★★★★☆] is underpinned by a love story and, even with all the surrealism, it never becomes overburdened with its analogies to supernovas, black holes and how we look back in time when we look upon a star. It's a surprisingly feelgood hour and a reminder of the kind of truly alternative shows that could have been lost due to some sorry argument.

Something like obsessive love is at the heart of Candy Gigi's latest half hour as she folds her recently acquired Tinder honeytrap skills into her act. It's hard to believe Gigi hasn't done her full debut show yet. Instead she's adding layer upon layer of new material onto her 'old tricks', such as the musical use she puts vegetables to, or covering her face in lipstick. We caught the very beginnings of this show in March at the Glasgow International Comedy Festival and the Chicken Soup [★★★★☆] of the title has indeed evolved into a centrepiece, albeit in an unexpected way with the chicken 'himself' playing something of an understudy. Gigi seems to have an instinct for knowing when to dominate the room and when to row back. Today she has a warm crowd who seem to appreciate, say, foodstuffs flying around the room and she allows her guard down and to laugh along. She grows in confidence and it's strange to think of the reign of terror she'll bring with a full length show still to come.

Another person growing in confidence is Spencer Jones, and it's some leap he's made from last year's pleasing debut – perhaps partly due to the solid foundation left him by 'the builders' around whom the previous hour revolved. As with the former show, his innocent character Herbert finds himself alone with all manner of props with which to entertain himself, and again there's a story holding the show together; this time revolving around his son's hospital appointments. There is also a sense of Herbert's struggle as he goes for a job in a nuclear plant. But there's something less careful or deliberate about this year's offering Proper Job [★★★★☆]. Perhaps Jones isn't quite so anxious to please second time around because he really does seem to be enjoying himself – and it is utterly infectious. The increasing absurdity of the different parts of his body that can make a face are a highlight, and occasional breaking of the fourth wall to contrast his own life and family with his Herbert's add nice touches. There's a definite link between the two shows but a change in ratio. Basically fun has gained the upper hand over story and character – yet Jones never loses sight of these other aspects of the show either.

The final show is in no way absurdist or surreal like the above but a mirror image of a normal comedy hour. There is perhaps a healthy concept here for any artist, with all those ideas that Michael Legge and Caroline Mabey can't fit into their main shows given a run out at the Liquid Rooms. What's more, while Fringe venues tend to sabotage comedians, every disaster here only adds a new dimension. As stalls that are meant to be closing off doorways fly across the stage when accidental entrances are made into the room, it seems like a slamming door stage farce is being plotted in front of us. Countless times Legge dutifully has to escort incomers out to the more popular neighbouring show The Coin Operated Girl. And this is before we get to any of the actual comedy material of Legge's and Mabey's B-sides. Newly invented swear words and piss takes of the faux-embarrassment of reading old diaries (the sort of thing that constitutes much mainstream comedy) stand out. But if there's a criticism of this show it's that Legge and Mabey are of such a calibre that Two Stupids [★★★★☆] is too good – their shit-lists bettering many set-lists on offer.

Dead Ghost Star, The Caves, until 29 Aug, 5.30pm, free Spencer Jones presents The Herbert in Proper Job, The Hive, until 31 Aug, 9pm, free/£5 (PWYW) Candy Gigi: Chicken Soup, The Hive, until 31 Aug, 3.30pm, free/£5 (PWYW) Michael Legge & Caroline Mabey: Two Stupids, Liquid Room, until 30 Aug, 3.45pm, free