Edinburgh 2008 - Reviews, and Reviews of Reviews, Part 2

20 August 2008

Here’s part two of my reviews of the shows I saw at Edinburgh, in chronological order. You can find part 1 here.

Just to clarify, since I’m not a proper reviewer, thankfully I don’t have to care about making these reviews particularly detailed, or coming up with a long and contrived treatise on the premise of each show. So these reviews are brief, but probably not very helpful.

Richard Herring: The Headmaster’s Son at Underbelly

Richard Herring has done an Edinburgh show every year for a very long time. I thought it was a lot stronger than the show I saw a couple of years ago, “Menage à un” - and I thought that one was pretty good. For a show that’s all about growing up and the relationship with one’s father, I thought the best gag was about paedophilia.

A five star review from Chortle, and for a change I agree with it all.

My rating: A*

Elizabeth and Raleigh: Late But Live at Underbelly’s Pasture

This is a new play written by Stewart Lee. It has a website here. It’s really very silly indeed. Simon Munnery plays a pasty-faced, scruffy Queen Elizabeth I, and Miles Jupp takes on the role of Sir Walter Raleigh.

The Chortle review gives it 3 stars and seems to think they were taking it all too seriously. The Times was even harsher with a 2 star review, but does tell us “Owen Lewis’s production will surely loosen up as the month progresses”. I thought the best bits were when Munnery and Jupp tried valiantly not to crack up, so the reviewers were probably watching very early performances.

It’s not exactly high theatre - in fact it’s all rather sixth form - and it starts off a bit slowly, until Elizabeth enters through the middle of the audience, throwing money. Munnery’s ridiculous facial expressions were worth the price of admission alone, and this is a good fun hour that’s just completely bonkers.

My rating: 1603/2671 (= approx 6/10)

We Need Answers at Pleasance Dome.

Mark Watson hosts this late-night game show, with Alex Horne in control of some silly PowerPoint animations and sound effects. Tim Key reads the questions, but for the most part seemed completely pointless. He seemed to be enjoying himself, which is all very well, but he did little to entertain anybody else. Also I found his beard and glasses inexplicably annoying, probably because it looked like he was trying to be Daniel Kitson, when he clearly wasn’t. Maybe I’m being too harsh on Tim Key. Maybe I just wasn’t seeing him showing off his full potential. But I’ve Googled him and I still can’t work out what the point of him is.

Anyway, “We Need Answers” is a game show where contestants have to answer questions that have been sent in that day to AQA, the text-a-question-and-they’ll-answer-it-for-a-quid service. We got a free book of the best AQA questions and answers as we went in. It made me wonder why the hell I had to pay to see this show, given all the references to fucking AQA everywhere. Maybe I could have texted in and asked. Maybe I could have texted AQA to ask what the point of Tim Key was as well.

The contestants were Richard Herring. who we’d seen mere hours earlier in his own show, and Kirsten Schaal, who played the fan in Flight of the Conchords. It was a closely fought match, and at one point they each had to erect a tent, though I don’t think at any point that had been a question that was texted in to AQA. It also seemed a bit dangerous with them erecting the poles in a confined space. I don’t know what they would have done if they’d taken someone’s eye out. Maybe they’d have texted AQA.

All in all it was a bit too much of comedy love-in for me. It was entertaining enough but I wasn’t in any hurry to go back to see the subsequent rounds of the competition.

My rating: 3/10

Daniel Kitson: 66a Church Road - A Lament Made of Memories and Kept in Suitcases at Traverse Theatre.

Daniel Kitson is a genius and without a doubt my favourite comedian. I saw him doing stand-up at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre earlier this year, where he spoke for a while about moving out of his flat in Crystal Palace. In this new one-man theatre show in Edinburgh, he fills in the details.

It’s basically a love story, with the flat fleshed out just a though it were a human character, warts and all. Kitson sits in the middle of the stage, surrounded by suitcases. At various points, the suitcases light up to reveal miniature dioramas of parts of his flat. It’s captivating, brilliantly written stuff. I can’t find a single review with a bad point to say about it - not this one, this one, this one, this one or this one. An excellent, amazing, fantastic show, and we seem to have a consensus. How can Kitson possibly follow this up? Maybe AQA knows?

My rating: 66/66

That’ll do for part 2. That’s 7 shows reviewed, 13 left to do, so stay tuned.