The Noise Next Door on Improv and the Edinburgh Comedy Awards

One of our fringe favourites, The Noise Next Door, has written an article on the exclusion of Improv from the Edinburgh Comedy Awards.  I thought it was really interesting, and I ended up agreeing with their point!

Have a read, and see what you think:

Why do the Edinburgh awards ban improv?

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The Book of Mormon (4*)

2013-09-06Ruth’s 4* Review:

I absolutely love the cartoon movie musical South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut so was delighted to learn that the writers of this had written an original stage musical in The Book of Mormon.  I tried to see it on Broadway two years ago but tickets were booked out months in advance, and we booked for this and paid a hefty £75 each five months back.

In The Book of Mormon, two naïve young Mormon missionaries (Elder Price and Elder Cunningham) are sent to Uganda to spread the word and baptise the locals.  But of course preaching the Mormon religion in the gritty reality of Africa causes all sorts of shenanigans and a crisis of faith.

To my surprise The Book of Mormon takes a more considered and balanced approach to presenting the Mormon religion than I had expected.  It isn’t an out-and-out mockery and it certainly isn’t cruel or even particularly cynical.  Granted, the naivety of the Elders’ approach to the religion presents it as a ‘self mocking’ religion and this is cleverly reinforced by the African people’s reaction to it.  But this isn’t Jerry Springer the Opera, or even Jesus Christ Superstar in how far it goes.  And the Mormons are cool with that.  Rather than kicking up a fuss they have taken out adverts in Broadway Playbills encouraging audiences to find out more.  Good for them, shows a bit of class.

So they say, Matt Stone (one of the show’s creators) described The Book of Mormon as “an atheist’s love letter to religion.”  I can absolutely relate to that, to me the beauty in the piece related to its hopeful and optimistic message that a lot of religious people are doing their best to do good.  Religion is the tool that inspires them and the specifics of the message are less important than the good they do.  I’m grateful for people in my life who have used religion to do good for me, and this shone through The Book of Mormon and made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Worry not though, The Book of Mormon is filthy and outrageous too.  It is tongue in cheek, and silly, and rude.  In some places it goes well beyond what the audience for stage musicals will be used to.  Lots of laughs, some gasps of horror, and plenty of speechless silence.  And there’s some parodies of the musical genre in there too which is fun for a musical lover.  Overall The Book of Mormon is very coherent and cleverly done.  The songs are great, plenty are catchy enough to hum for days after.  We talked and laughed about all sorts of bits of it afterwards.  For me the highlights were the African people’s AmDram production of the origins of the Mormon religion, plus the song ‘I Believe’ which I think might be genius.

So I enjoyed it, and some of my friends loved it.  The audience gave it an enthusiastic standing ovation.  And I thought it was… pretty good.  A very solid production and decent in all respects.  But.  It could have been better, it almost felt like they were not trying hard enough and coasting along on the hype.  The singing was just about adequate, the dancing was just about adequate.  But that’s all really.  It lacked a certain tightness and charisma and energy.  If the performances were as intelligent and witty as the writing this could have been amazing – and I bet the Broadway version was just that.

Ian’s 4* Review:

I really enjoyed The Book of Mormon, and the humour was clever and generally good-natured enough to get away with being outrageous at times. Given what a huge deal it is in the West End at the moment (after its massive success on Broadway) I was slightly surprised that the cast seemed good but not excellent. The dancing wasn’t that tight, the musical performances were competent but unspectacular and there was a bit of a lack of charisma and chemistry.  A great show with a slightly mediocre cast by the standards of the West End or Broadway.

 

Eh Joe (4*)

Ruth’s 4* review:

We went to see Michael Gambon in Eh Joe, a staging of Samuel Beckett’s play as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.  In this play we see Joe’s reaction to a voice – presumably in his head – speaking to him about his life.

I loved the staging of the play, very visually interesting as Michael Gambon’s face was projected onto a large transparent screen across the front of the set.  It reminded me of Alan Cumming’s Macbeth where Alan Cumming was also displayed on CCTV.  I really liked it.  Gambon never said a word, but his face was hugely expressive.  This was a short play – only half an hour – but it absolutely flew.  It felt like ten minutes.

2013-08-29Ian’s 4* Review

Tonight we saw the Samuel Beckett piece “Eh Joe” at the Lyceum as part of the Edinburgh International Festival. It was really very good, and a very clever adaptation of a television piece for stage making use of a huge projection from a camera focussed on the face of the sole performer, Michael Gambon.  Intense.  Compelling.  The time flew by,

Executed for Sodomy: the Life Story of Caterina Linck (4*)

2013-08-25 Fringe 0010Ian’s 4* review:

I saw this get a 5* review in ThreeWeeks and was curious to see how such a complex story could be presented so quickly.  Caterina Linck is a woman who chooses to live as a man in an unforgiving society, and who is ultimately executed for the crime of sodomy.  This three-woman production is extremely intense and presented with great energy and passion.  The audience gets a pencil sketch of Caterina’s life from the courtroom dialog at her trial interspersed with flashbacks to key scenes from her life.  I found this both enjoyable and interesting, but it felt just slightly incomplete – like there was a lot more to explore.  I’m not sure if this has been cut down to 1-hour format for the fringe and lost something in the process?

Ruth’s 4* review:

An extremely interesting play about the life of Caterina Linck  who was born a woman and lived as a man in eighteenth century Prussia, and was tried and executed for various ‘crimes’ relating to this.  A very passionate and intense performance all round.  I think if anything the play would have benefited from being a bit longer as I would have liked to see more depth and I think the story had more to it so it could have stood that.

The Lastminute Comedy Club @ Whistlebinkies

2013-08-25 Fringe 0011Ian’s Review:

Compere Paul B Edwards (pictured) was an energetic host for an hour of high-quality standup.  Danny Ward kicked off and warmed the room up nicely  – his National Express story rather tickled me.  Alex Edelman’s material overlapped a little with when we saw him at Richard Herrings podcast, but he did some different stuff too – also very funny.  Christian Schulte-Loh may not be welcome in Israel after an unfortunate misunderstanding concerning the Holocaust, but he’s welcome here any time.  Matt Price finished the show, quickly turning a slightly strange audience interaction into a near hostage situation!  His prepared material was funny, and his banter even better.

If this is the standard of show Paul is putting together, I’ll be back next year!

 

Ruth’s review:

We went along to this compilation show because we had a free hour and it was nearby, and it was excellent!  Four really good acts and we laughed and laughed throughout.  It was nice to see Alex Edelman again and his material varied to a certain extent from his set at Richard Herring’s Edinburgh Fringe Podcast, so that was a bonus.  Matt Price entertained us with some high quality spontaneous audience participation.  Very good.

Silhouette Burlesque – 3

Cherryfox singing to Ruth and I

Cherryfox singing to Ruth and I!

Ian’s Review:

A final visit to Silhouette Burlesque for their bumper-last-night-special.  Kim Khaos  started the show (as a panther!), Aurora Winterborn & Poppy La Pilule did a spectacular “drunken sailor” number (loved it!), Sarah ‘Gypsy Charms’ Vernon & Goldilocks Bears did a charmingly weird “hysteria” performance, and Frankii Wilde, Impressive Johnson, Gilda Lily, Serena Bellydance and Calum MacAskill completed the lineup for a great evening of entertainment.  Cherryfox was helped out by co-host Baron Bartholomew Black who I’ve not seen before, but was rather splendid.

The highlight was Cherryfox closing the show with “Dream a Little Dream of Me” which she dedicated to Ruth and I! We’d told her last time that it was the first dance at our wedding, and she remembered.  An extra-special moment since Ruth and I had been together 12 years to the day.  What a way to end the fringe!

Ruth’s Review:

Our third time at Silhouette Burlesque, for their final show.  It was slightly extended, which was great, and the vast majority of the performances were ones we had not seen before so that was also great.  Of particular note, me and my friend K got pulled up on stage for vital roles in one performance (fun!) and Cherry Fox dedicated her final song (Dream a little dream) to me and the husband because it was the first dance at our wedding.  Lovely!  Especially as we had been together exactly 12 years that day.

The Distraction Club – 2

Ruth’s review:

A second attendance at this music comedy compilation show. Brilliant. If I was rating this I would give every single act 4.5*, which is an unexpectedly high standard. I’m not sure how well the Nazi-based Frank Sinatra act (Frank Sinazi) went down with the crowd but I loved loved loved it. Loved Bob and Jim (particularly That’s Not My Gnome) and Johnny and the Baptists was a very funny, charismatic and talented act. Also liked Ria Lina, she’s a terrific singer and her songs are witty and intelligent. It was unfortunate that she singled me out for audience participation to say that I was too prissy and middle class to enjoy her stuff – and I just smiled and sucked it up. That pissed me off – I’d take on anyone in the room in a competition for ‘who likes the most edgy comedy’ and ‘who likes knob gags’ – and I think I’d win both. Ha. Plus we saw Jollyboat and Adam Kay who we have seen and enjoyed before. This is a very good value late night show, and it went on for two hours this time which was awesome.

The very lovely Kirsty Newton

The very lovely Kirsty Newton

Ian’s review:

Absolutely brilliant – really sad that it wasn’t full although I’m not objecting to being able to get half-price tickets.  The house band is brilliant, and I have to confess that the good looks, wit and musical talent of their leader Kirsty Newton is almost enough reason in itself for me to attend!  Each of the band did a number of their own, of a consistently very high standard.  As for the rest, it really was a superfluity of comic talent.  Bob and Jim nearly choked me to death with “That’s not my gnome” (click to watch), and it was great to see some songs from Adam Kay that weren’t in his full show when we saw it (Amateur Transplants: Adam Kay is going for a number 1 – 4.5*).  We got another helping of Jollyboat too – it turns out that their Pirate Pop Songs are still funny fifth time around (we’re not stalking them – they just seem to be at every cabaret we go to!).  Frank Sinazi pushed past the boundaries of good taste for his Sinatra-inspired song 3rd Reich – comic genius.  Rea Lina was also very good, and Johnny and the Baptists brought great energy to finish off the evening.  An absolutely cracking line-up.

There is a part of me that is a tiny bit sad this isn’t the last show of the fringe for us – it would have been great to go out on such a high.  We will DEFINITELY be looking out for this next year, and when we are in London.