Fringe Comedy Reviews: Counting House
A game-changer for the Edinburgh Festival as a whole, the Free Fringe continues to bring performers to audiences seeking sensibly-priced laffs'n'yucks. We head down to catch Milo McCabe, Andrew Watts, Adam Blampied, Paul Duncan McGarrity and Juliet Meyers
The Free Fringe has changed the face of comedy festivals and there is no doubt more people are seeing comedy for a reasonable price, or for free if they dodge the bucket like a shitlord. The Laughing Horse at The Counting House has turned every room bar the bar into a venue and there is a diverse crowd in for the day, young and old chancing their arm in the audience of these brave comics willing to flog their wares.
Juliet Meyers' Through the Pigeonhole [★★☆☆☆] looks at how race and religion can pigeonhole us in the eyes of others, but unfortunately Meyers doesn’t seem to have a proper grasp on the point she’s trying to make other than that she hates one of her friend’s friends who thinks himself ‘alternative’. Some solid jokes aside (about Rachel Dolezal, Auschwitz Trip Adviser ratings and swingers vs racists), the subject matter is handled poorly for such incendiary topics and deserves a lot more thought.
Naming your show after a quote from Adolf Hitler’s favourite comedian is probably not the best jumping off point but in Today is the Good Old Times of Tomorrow [★★★☆☆], Paul Duncan McGarrity has picked a poignant one. In case you were wondering, Hitler’s favourite funnyman was Karl Valentin, as McGarrity takes great glee in revealing, along with many other fun facts – some even proffered by the crowd (carrots used to be purple apparently). Punctuating each gag with an awkward giggle, he sometimes leaves out the chance for those in attendance to laugh at him, but overall a theme about nostalgia and how history is written by those who have the most to gain from writing it (or changing it) comes through. McGarrity is a smart man (an archaeologist), and it's in proselytising about the nature of history that he excels, but occassionally his joke writing doesn't quite match his historical knowledge.
Milo McCabe is an outstanding character comedian primarily, so it is somewhat of a surprise that he has never written a sketch show. In Genesisocide [★★★★☆] he rights that wrong as well as tearing huge holes in the space-time continuum. Based around the idea that Phil Collins has stolen a Greek gentleman’s wife, and his quest to get her back via time travel, it takes in the butterfly effect, 2 Unlimited, Sting singing the Um Bongo theme, the murder of a 9-year-old, a host of pop stars in mundane jobs and Chris Stokes being an outstanding tech. It’s hard not to use the word ‘bonkers’ when talking about this show; that it makes so little sense begins to make almost too much sense come the satisfying end. It is massive amounts of fun and hopefully won’t be the last time McCabe dips his toe in the sketch pool.
The rapid-fire movements of McCabe are matched verbally by the eloquent ramblings of proper chap Andrew Watts as he takes on fatherhood in How to Build a Chap [★★★★☆]. His fun Tory MP demeanour gives way to a terribly conscientious new father and husband just trying to find his way in the world and not ruin too many lives in the process. Taking on mumsnet and howtomeetgirls.com in the same breadth, he has inadvertently written a paean to his late father and the cyclical notion of parenthood and being a chap. His act was perhaps a little too niche for the varied free crowd that were in, with one solid cricket joke only caught by about three slips, but here is an impeccably bright comedian touching on important points. And cricket.
In the Loft, Adam Blampied plays the titular role of I Am Mr Children Man [★★★★☆]. Kid’s author of fabricated series Fabulous Fergus, the show starts off as if it will simply be a man making fun of the frolics that you find in books for children, but takes a turn into darker territory as the story unfolds. Taking on the price of art and expression in a commercial world, Mr Children Man may not be the next J.K. Rowling but he’s at least giving it a shot. Very funny, and at times touchingly honest, Blampied may not have a bestseller on his hands, but he does have a great show from its demise.
Details of all shows at The Counting House and Laughing Horse's wider roster can be found at freefestival.co.uk