We've just come back from a weekend of fun in Edinburgh - here's what we saw:
- Sarah Millican is the top tip, her stand-up show was absolutely brilliant all the way through. Very nice interaction with the audience, and her material was really strong too, everyone should see her if they can.
- Also really highly recommended is Eco-Friendly Jihad. The title makes you expect something aggressive or at least preachy, but surprisingly, it's a very gently-spoken Irishman. Yes of course there's politics in it but very friendly and funny indeed. It's the first thing we saw when we arrived in Edinburgh and we were surprised at our luck in hitting upon this one - do see this, it's great.
- Count Arthur Strong was very funny. Sometimes it baffles me how some old bloke tripping over his own malapropisms and terminally distracting himself could be so funny. This show didn't have any of the really hilarious moments that the radio show sometimes achieves but it was good to see him in the flesh.
- Much less good was Olivia Neville. I picked her show due to Lancashire loyalty, but unfortunately it wasn't a very funny half an hour: there were some nice moments but they really failed to build to anything laugh-out-loud. As Philippa said, the fault was in the writing - many of the sketches had potential to add up more than they did. It's a shame because there was clearly a lot of work put into the (solo) performance, with a very good conjuring up of the extra people in the scenes.
- Also poor, and MUCH more annoying was a four-person show where some people call a conclave and elect the new pope. The show was basically just some people messing around for a while, with some half-arsed stupid ideas based on some of the silly things about Catholicism. The Catholic faith has many weird things about it with lots of comedy potential (e.g. bizarre patron saints), but putting them on a Powerpoint slide and being mock-serious about it doesn't add up to comedy material. Entirely half-arsed.
- Back to the good news: Wisecrackin' Midsqueezin' Behemoth was really entertaining, full of really funny things and really well-executed! Hooray. The appearance of Banksy was one of the best bits. (BTW the link is to a review of their previous year's show.)
- Ed Byrne was great. When you see people on the telly you can never be sure how well they work in real life. Ed Byrne is witty and affable, with a lot of intelligent material, really deserving of the big venue he was in and used it well. Unfortunately we drew the short straw and ended up in almost the worst seats in the house, craning our necks around pillars if he moved. Ah well.
- It Is Rocket Science was another very friendly show, a sort of combination of comedy and history-of-science lesson, with some really cute shadow puppetry helping to illustrate proceedings. Charming and enthusiastic, and definitely reminded me of some of the popularising-science folks I've been a bit involved with recently. And the shadow puppetry really was good!
We also happened to see some great art. The "Stills" gallery on Cockburn Street had a great roving library where I read about the prehistory of cooking. But best of all was Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller's show in the Fruitmarket gallery. They have done some amazing sight-and-sound installations, the best being Opera for a Small Room:
OK, from the picture it just looks like some old speakers and some old records. But it's a sort of animatronic installation involving automated record-players and some other audiovisual surprises. Basically beyond description. But really really excellent.