Fringe Comedy Reviews: Identity

Tony Law, Bridget Christie, David Elms, Rhys James and Tez Ilyas feature in this review of some of the best stand-ups performing at the Fringe

Feature by James McColl | 19 Aug 2015

Tony Law is the living absurd comedic incarnation of the Fringe. His latest show Frillemorphesis [★★★★★] brings old and new fans together for his masterwork. Yes, this is one of the most shambolic shows you will see, if not the most, as Tony frantically launches his material at the wall to see what sticks. “A different thing! I’m a different thing!” is his epiphany mid-show, referring to the young comedians at the festival, and it’s true. He seems to thrive on the destruction of anything that would provide him with some safety and structure, occasionally gesturing to his notebook and set list as things he’ll make sure not to touch. Verbally, he paints himself into a corner yet manages to make it through the show in one piece.

Diving in and out of his personal life, he talks about the problems of middle age, his current crises of identity and some dark realizations. Despite being a veteran of the Fringe, he comes across as the most unhinged and insecure he’s ever been, though as regular patrons of his stand-up know, this could apply to any one of his Edinburgh shows.

Identity is something that Tez Ilyas dissects and discusses in his show, Tez Talks [★★★★☆]. Ilyas presents a mock Ted Talk to the audience, walking us through the Ten Commandments of the easy to follow dos and don’ts of British values (inspired by the government's insistent that all children are instilled with these values at school). It is a deeply moving show that offers some genuine insights and cultural commentary. Ilyas takes the audience to a safe space where he talks about the areas of religion and culture that is often vilified in modern Britain. The show opens a dialogue that explores what it means to be British by someone who is often treated as if he were not. Often emotional, always funny, Ilyas offers the audience nothing but love and laughs.

Similarly, David Elms’ new show Mister Boy [★★★★☆] sees the 'mild-mannered comic' (his words, not ours – well, the words he quotes from past reviews), spouting routines that are nothing but celebratory stories of loved ones, presented in a silly, joyous and – most importantly – funny way. Despite his young age, he has a firm grip on his identity and comic style, mixing his own brand of pleasant downbeat stand-up with songs that are, well, pleasant and downbeat. The music adds flavor to the show and moves it along at a steady pace before adding the x-factor that is audience participation into the mix. Elms is a comic that we’re laughing with rather than at, a courtesy he passes on to the participants.

Like Elms, Rhys James is returning to the Festival for a second year. He begins his new show Remains [★★★☆☆] with a short film. What exactly did the twenty-something take away from his 2014 debut? A large amount of debt apparently. No, his first show didn’t change the world nor did it catapult him to stardom, but it did prepare him for this year’s Fringe. Rhys is smart, confident and a great joke writer; however, it's the sprinkles of poetry and films that separate him from the mob of twenty-something, white, straight man acts that floods the Fringe. He is fully aware of his position and plays with it in a somewhat exaggerated, obnoxious way – which would start to bore if this was all that he had to offer.

Seeing Bridget Christie verbally and physically trip over herself as she furiously runs head first into a routine about the latest Conservative policy concerning tax credits is, in a word, incredible. After two consecutive years of critical success at the Fringe, Bridget Christie’s shows have become a beacon for fans of her refreshing mix of absurd, sometimes surreal, but always accurate social commentary.

Often labelled as simply a 'feminist comedian', Bridget takes the time to lay out her exact position on things: "If you're for gender equality and equal rights, then you’re a feminist." A clear theme in Bridget’s show this year, A Book For Her [★★★★☆], is the twisting of her public perception and feminist identity that seems to precede her. Expect her to be tackling the underwhelming Labour leadership race, her bathroom taps and the VAT tampon tax.

Tony Law: Frillemorphesis, The Stand 3 & 4, until 30 Aug, 1pm, £12

Bridget Christie: A Book for Her, The Stand, until 31 Aug, 11am, £8-9

David Elms: Mister Boy, Pleasance Courtyard, until 31 Aug, 6pm, £6.50-9.50

Rhys James: Remains, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 4.45pm, £8-11

Tez Illyas: Tez Talks, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 7.15pm, £10-12