Fringe Comedy Reviews: Comedy at War
Pat Cahill, Luke Toulson, Garrett Millerick, and Sad Faces: four acts at the Edinburgh Fringe who are well-versed in the art of war
Young sketch group Sad Faces present The Dawn Chorus [★★★☆☆]. It's set during The Great War and is a little reminiscent of the bunker atmosphere of Blackadder Goes Forth. The conceit is that they are adapting a heartbreaking novel by JR Chapterhouse for the war's centenary (albeit plus one year). It's a bit of a 'play goes wrong' as they are stifled by Chapterhouse's legal demands and their own apparent buffoonary, as each of the three strong cast attempt to steal the limelight. Sad Faces have a touch of the joyousness of Pappy's or Beasts, and The Dawn Chorus is an ambitious piece which is only let down a little by one too many plot lines and a tad too much self-knowing and parodying elements. But it's the group finding their feet and just stumbling a little on that ambition – overall Sad Faces leave a very strong impression on the audience.
Jumping ahead to the Second World War are Pat Cahill with Panjandrum [★★★★☆] and Luke Toulson's Grandpa, Hitler and Me [★★★☆☆]. Cahill sets out to recreate the spirit of the Blitz with a jolly knees-up, though his show is an attempt to keep his own chin up and a way out of his introverted lifestyle in a Shepherd's Bush bedsit. Cahill is particularly good at taking entirely mundane stories into improbable plot jumps, and making them seem entirely plausible. Furthermore, he has a skill for speeding through such a plot-line in a couple of sentences. His London underground man story, for example, is worth reserving a seat for alone. The show lacks a little oomph perhaps but this barely matters in a show bringing a good sing-song into a dank bunker.
Meanwhile, Toulson's espistolary show is based on the 200 letters his Royal Engineer grandfather sent to his grandmother in the 1940s. Toulson makes us especially aware of his grandfather's continued belief that the conflict was about to end and also his insecurities about his wife's friend 'Dan'. New details Toulson has learned about his grandfather are also intriguing: why did he never mention his great piss-up on the pyramids in Toulson's lifetime, or the fact that he met the King? While he keeps the humour up, Toulson never strays from the real story but there is an imagined Back to the Future moment where he considers the impracticalities of his show ending on a flourish rather than the more down-to-earth route he sticks with.
Bringing us up to date is Garrett Millerick, who has an interesting story in A Selection of Things I've Said to Taxi Drivers [★★★☆☆], about playing a gig at an American army base and how he sold himself out for the approval of the crowd. It's a segment of the show where he shows us a little more about himself and his potential than he does when he talks, for example, about growing up in England in an Irish family, where his humour suffers from him playing it down the middle. Nonetheless he has a commanding presence and good delivery, and this is a solid hour.
Garrett Millerick: A Selection of Things I've Said to Taxi Drivers, Underbelly Med Quad, until 30 Aug, 9:25pm, £10