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Lara A King – Four Stars and Two Thumbs Up Lara King/ Laughing Horse Free Festival

ThreeWeeks favourite James Sherwood is accompanied on stage by his ever trusty piano this Fringe, but the musical comedian isn’t planning on forming any long-lasting relationship with this particular set of keys. He bought the piano just days before his first Edinburgh show and will be flogging it off in aid of charity at the end of the festival, complete, he hopes, with some autographs and graffiti added by his fellow Fringe performers during August.

“I’ll not lie to you”, James told ThreeWeeks when we asked him where the ‘piano sale’ idea came from, “we thought buying one and then selling it might be cheaper than a hire. Tightfistedness is the mother of invention after all. But once we’d thought up this plan, we thought it might make a fun caper to get everyone involved. And maybe a charity might make some money”.

The profits from the piano auction will go to a charity of the buyer’s choosing. “We should clarify”, James clarifies, “that the successful bidder will have to choose a registered charity. So we won’t be giving the profits away to ‘Geraldine’s Gin Fund’ or anything similar. Obviously there are some less than deserving causes who still manage to qualify as registered charities.

I’m just hoping we don’t end up writing a cheque to ‘Eton College’ or anything like that”.

Asked what sort of people might want to bid for his piano, Sherwood continued: “Well, people should bid for this piano if they want to own a piano. That’s really all there is to it. You might get a bargain. You’ll get a piano that’s already been in the papers a couple of times, probably. It will have a few signatures on it from people who have played it. It will be a piano with a story to tell but, being an inanimate object, you will never have to listen to the story. It’s like a grandparent, but without the downside”.

If the piano sale is a success, James is predicting the venture could have a bigger impact on the comedy community at large. “We think that the ‘buy at the beginning of August, sell at the end’ model might work for all Fringe expenses. Next year, I might buy the Festival Theatre in July and sell it in August. If the property market remains buoyant, it might just work”.

Anyone interested in bidding for the piano should email james@ Anyone just interested in seeing James’s show ‘One Man And His Piano’ should head down to The GRVat 7pm.

In a cramped room at the Counting House, the audience was treated to an evening’s light comedy, interspersed with some competent music. There was no scathing political satire here, the jokes concerned the everyday: queues at Tescos, the DSS, or simply the process of ageing. King is a much better singer than comedian, playing some really melodic songs, but the combination of the two types of material make for confusing viewing: the comedy was irreverent, but the songs were earnest, meaning King’s set has no consistent tone. However, there was a pleasant atmosphere to the proceedings, and for a free show, this is certainly worth seeing.

Laughing Horse@The Counting House, dates vary, 6.30pm (7.30pm), free, fpp 84. [amb] tw rating: 3/5

Behind The Truth: More Lies Who is Jean? / PBH’s Free Fringe

Claiming to follow a progression of three (one seems to be missing) starlets and their post-filming debacles, this show is very hit or miss. The writing has moments of unadulterated genius, like when a getaway driver bases his entire escape plan on ‘Back To The Future’, or what happens when you combine ‘Deal Or No Deal’ with the ‘Schroedinger’s Cat’ experiment (the latter proved somewhat intellectually divisive in its reception). The content is well crafted, but the narrative is underdeveloped and doesn’t quite bind the segments together. Sadly, the performances sometimes don’t rise to the writing, but perhaps the absence of one member temporarily disrupted the group’s dynamic. Whilst the structure may be rather cursory, these are well composed sketches.

The Voodoo Rooms, 09 – 27 Aug (not 11, 18, 25), 2.25pm (3.25pm), free, fpp 33. [np] tw rating 3/5

A Calculated Risk Sam Gore and Max Dickins

Max Dickins went first, presumably because he’s less famous, and his set ranged from boring to very, very funny. Amongst the predictable, quasi-offensive stuff were some gems: an interlude, for

example, where he drinks a pint of milk, slowly and rather bitterly, and some well presented Demetri Martin-style graphs and charts. His counterpart, the award winning Sam Gore, fails to demonstrate his alleged skills, however. His material is drab and, yet whenever he failed to generate laughs from the audience, he displayed infuriating smugness, responding as if it was because he’d said something too outrageous. “I’ve crossed the line there!” he’d say, and I’d have to stop myself from shaking him and screaming “you’re not provocative, you’re just NOT FUNNY”. Dickins has genuine potential, though.

Laughing Horse @ Espionage, 6 – 28 Aug (not 16), 7.15pm (8.15pm), free, fpp 39. [kb] tw rating 2/5

Obama Mia! Carron, Fitzpatrick, Quinn and Smyth

I have a niggling feeling that this company came up with their show’s name first, and on the basis of that decided it should be a musical – I can see no other reason why they would ruin this funny play with such excruciating songs. For the most part, it’s great, following the story of an actor playing Obama when the man himself is in a hope-induced coma; the jokes come thick and fast, the cast have great comic timing, and their musical theatre skills enable them to make this an outgoing and engaging production. But the songs are worse than the first round of Britain’s Got Talent – lyrically abysmal and off key. A real shame.

Just the Tonic at the Caves, 5 – 29 August (not 17), 1.45pm (2.45pm), £5.00 - £6.00 fpp 106. [tc] tw rating 3/5

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: A Romantic Comedy Vaguely Qualified Productions/PBH’s Free Fringe

It’s a classic tale: boy meets girl, they share a night of passion, boy never calls, boy occupies girl’s homeland. This is a hilarious cross-cultural love story (with songs) structured around real historical events - the 1948 Geneva Convention, the 1967 war, and Kurt Cobain derailing, the 1993 Oslo peace talks. It revels in rom- com clichés while staying politically sharp (without ever beeing gratuitously offensive). It’s impeccably performed by two outstanding comic talents, Negin Farsad and Mike Mosallam. The one thing that is not pitch-perfect about this production is

Farsad’s singing, though she did apologise for having a cold. Anyway, perhaps it’s appropriate that Israel and Palestine cannot quite harmonise in a show that otherwise hits all the right notes.

Whistlebinkies, 7 - 25 Aug, 5.15pm (6.15pm), free, fpp 73. [gg] tw rating 4/5

Mrs Bang: A Series Of Seductions in 55 Minutes Ines Wurth Presents (Australia)

At the Fringe it’s not unusual to see a show that doesn’t go to plan, or to watch a performer crumble under the weight of nerves, disappointment and shattered dreams. ‘Mrs Bang’ is a cabaret character act that humorously dramatises such failures, as the eponymous diva takes the stage looking convincingly panic-stricken, apparently stood up by her band, and desperately attempts to salvage her show. Interspersing embittered anecdotes of failed love affairs with musical numbers accompanied by a hastily enlisted pianist and an audience member with a tambourine, Bang is a beautifully delineated character who irreverently satirises showbiz aspirations and cabaret conventions. She’s also a genuinely impressive singer proving that, behind the amusingly incompetent facade, lies a truly accomplished performer.

Gilded Balloon Teviot, 4 – 29 Aug (not 16), 11.00pm (12.00pm), £8.00 - £10.00, fpp 99. [ac] tw rating 4/5

Dave Hill: Big in Japan Mick Perrin For Just For Laughs Live

Channelling Dave Hill himself, I am about to rock the fuck out of this review. Yeah! Perfect for anyone who has ever been in a rock band, failed to be in a rock band, is in a rock band but is really too old (hi dad!); for all of you, Hill has lived the dream (in Japan) and is here to tell you how awesome he, I mean it, really was. Part travelogue, part rock story, part ode to Japanese toilets, this tall, but apparently true, tale is charmingly crass, full of epic guitar riffs, and finally weirdly uplifting. Not to everyone’s taste (one poor woman looked physically uncomfortable for most of the show I saw), still solid rocking comedy.

Pleasance Courtyard, 4 - 29 Aug (not 16), 8.15pm (9.15pm), £5.00 - £9.50, fpp 53. [es] tw rating 3/5

More comedy reviews on page 9>> 5/5 show

The Three Englishmen Three Englishmen

This delightfully daft sketch group delivers all the comedy staples - plenty of cross-dressing, crudity and chaos - but also much more in terms of energy, spontaneity and originality. Over one raucous hour, the group moves seamlessly through darker, one-man mini-sketches to overblown musical comedy, poking fun at everything under the sun, and at themselves in particular. The sketches are intelligently written and brilliantly performed, all fast- paced and interspersed with witty and rather sweet songs. Most importantly, the group manages to avoid the pitfalls of much sketch comedy - pointless sexism, cliché and over-reliance on crude gags. Bizarre, charismatic, and side-splittingly funny, The Three Englishmen are one to watch - both right now and in the future.

Just the Tonic at The Caves, 7 - 29 Aug (not 16), 4.45pm, £7.00 - £8.00, fpp 131. [lw]

tw rating: 5/5


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