I spent a weekend at the world’s largest arts festival and over 3 days managed to squeeze in a hilarious cross-section of the event’s 2700 shows. Across the month of August Edinburgh’s labyrinthine bars, pokey comedy clubs and shoebox theatres host an array of emerging, acclaimed and (occasionally) questionable comedy talent. The atmosphere is brilliant as hundreds of entertainers and thousands of merry-makers flock to Edinburgh’s beautiful, grey-stone surroundings.
Our first show of the weekend, Liam Williams ‘Capitalism’, was undoubtedly my favourite. Rather than the lefty, anti-establishment polemic the title led us to expect, Williams’ self-effacing and uniquely fragile show explored themes of mental health, aspiration and England’s dwindled world cup hopes hilariously. Capitalism was one of 360 shows featured on the ‘Free Fringe’ that runs off audience donations collected at the end of the performance. The calibre of entertainment on the Free Fringe is amazing and seating space often limited, so make sure you arrive at the venue early especially if a show has been hotly tipped.
Also really enjoyed the sketch comedy duo The Pin at the Pleasance Courtyard – a bustling fringe venue with outdoor bars and seventeen stages. Ben Ashenden and Alexander Owen should win prizes for the use of an OH projector in their show (a stand-up trend that can be really annoying); they seamlessly chat to their past selves in London on a time-looped video link. The Pin is a really slick sketch comedy with some of the funniest audience participation I’ve ever seen (props to my friend Kate for narrating the murder scene like a pro) and the duo’s performance more than lives up to their long list of endorsements.
Oscar Jenkyn-Jones’ debut solo show, Thomas Pocket Presents: Me (Oscar Jenkyn-Jones), is a bewildering, character-based lark and the only performance that made me cry with laughter. The surreal ramblings of Jenkyn-Jones’ unabashedly weird persona, Thomas Pocket, are perfectly crafted observations of not much in particular that, at the same time, seem bizarrely poignant. Thomas Pocket is the kind of show it would be great to go back and watch again, to see the level of improv involved and how much it develops over the festival.