Edinburgh 2008 - Reviews, and Reviews of Reviews, Part 1

19 August 2008

I’m going to try and write something about each of the 20 shows I saw at the Edinburgh Festival.

Reviewing is a strange and often pointless form of literary endeavour. Being a professional reviewer must be difficult - you can’t just say “I liked it, it was quite funny, you ought to go” for everything, which is possibly why some reviews just seem to try too hard. I don’t have any need to hit a particular number of words with these reviews though, so, as with my review of the last festival, some of these reviews are a bit short.

In a few cases it’s a bit weird for me to write about a show, because I know (or at least met) the people that put it on, and it seems strange and rude to write about them behind their backs. They may well stumble across this when Googling their own names or show titles. So for some of the shows I’ll exempt them from a rating.

Now, maybe I’m easily pleased, but I generally liked everything I saw. But while Googling links to put in here, I have come across some harsh words about some of the shows, often by reviewers who must have been desparate to come up with something interesting to say. They probably really wanted to say “I liked it, it was quite funny, you ought to go”, but that would mean they got fired. Some reviewers have written such utter crap, I have felt compelled to comment myself, so in some cases, this will actually be a review of the reviews.

Rather than try to do all 20 reviews at once, I’ll do the reviewing in multiple parts. The shows are listed in the order I saw them.

On with part 1….

Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa Walk Into a Bar… (Free) at Voodoo Bar

This show was on at the same venue as my show “Of Mics and Men”, and immediately afterwards. They certainly seemed to be doing a lot better than us with the audience sizes - the show I went to was pretty full, and Steve Hill and Laura Rugg kept us all entertained for the full hour. I’d have gone away happy if I’d paid money for this.

There’s a harsh review of this on The Stage website, though, that moans “it is crying out for good production and some leavening of the marauding egos of the two protagonists”. Seriously, come on. What the hell does “production” mean for a stand up show? They seem to be primarily annoyed that the title is inaccurate. No, Hill wasn’t quite Hitler and Rugg was hardly Teresa, but do you seriously think that was the point? Would it have made the show any funnier? The reviewer is basically saying “well everybody enjoyed it and laughed a lot, but the fucking title was wrong, and for that reason it’s a bit shit”. What an absolute cretin. I rate this reviewer a twat.

The show however was damn good. My rating: 8/10

Paul Conneely: A Beginner’s Guide to Happiness at Holyrood Too @ Faith

I’ve met Paul Conneely a few times and he was also part of the “Of Mics and Men” line-up for the first week, so I’ll avoid the embarrassment of reviewing his show, though I did enjoy it. This is another show where Googling the title brings up a harsh review though, this time by Nick Mitchell in The List:

"The highlight of Paul Conneely's torpid rumination on happiness is an anecdote about missing a train when a man at the front of the ticket queue asks a meaningless and complex question while those behind suffer silently. I can identify - not so much with the joke, but because I found myself suffering silently while the Londoner stumbles through time-honoured comedic fodder in a lumbering, clichéd, evidently nervous manner."

The highlight of Nick Mitchell’s review was when I stopped reading it to look up “torpid” in the dictionary. I found that it meant sluggish or dull. I can identify - not so much with Mitchell’s opinions, but because I found myself suffering silently while I read this lumbering, adjective-strewn, content-free pile of crap that tells you nothing about the show whatsoever.

John Hegley: Beyond Our Kennel at Pleasance Courtyard

After apparently covering the letters A to H in the Alphabet of Animals last year, John Hegley kicks straight off with the letter I. Where H was for Hamster, I is for Invisible Hamster. As expected there were lots of silly poems, songs and daft audience participation - such as getting us to make dogs with our hands.

He gets a five star review from Chortle. Not sure what they’re on about with him being “grumpy” and “angry” though - and again I have to reach for the thesaurus (well, the “definition” link on Google anyway), this time to come up a better adjective. “Morose”? He uses a quote from a review saying “awesomely mundane” on his posters, which I think sums him up nicely.

My rating: 9/10

I think that’s enough reviewing for the moment. 3 down, 17 to go. More tomorrow, or maybe shortly afterwards…