Sketch a laugh at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

One week of the festival left to enjoy – Here is what’s good to see!  Don’t forget these guys will all come to London once the tourists leave Scotland . . . By Alice Sage

You can burn out on any kind of show.  A good sketch show draws you in and keeps you hooked with quick changes, sharp writing and energy.  However, it can be distancing for an audience to sit and watch scenes acted out on stage.  It’s too much like TV. Stand up comedy, on the other hand, is literally in-your-face and very hard to ignore – even if it’s truly awful (especially if it’s truly awful).  Either way it’s a good plan to chop and change between the different styles on offer.  It is barely worth paying big money for a show and unless you booked a month ago you won’t be able to!  So here is my choice for (under a tenner) cheapo shows…

Cheapo shows:

Durham's Ned French

  • Our very favourite reviewer, miss Hattie French, has an equally talented wee brother called Ned.  See him and his mates every day at the Underbelly where they perform as the Durham Revue.

It’s a fantastic thing to see a university revue really killing it, especially as the oh-so-famous Cambridge Footlights weren’t getting such good reviews this year.

The show is a corker – snappy, warm and very likeable – eliciting drink-spewing stupid laughs every couple of sketches.  According to Ned the show is intentionally family-friendly and accessibly silly – saving any swearing for tightly honed comedic effect.

Watch out for the big-haired Hugh Laurie-esque chap, he is a serious talent.  More info on their website (but ignore their gig listings, they need to update the site soon).

  • At the Caves on Niddry Street we saw a fantastic troupe called WitTank.  The venue is a little larger than most and was packed full.  In fact I had to sneak to the front of the Underbelly’s ticket queue to get us all in (much love to the boys that let me cut the line, I really didn’t mean to)!

The show is pretty varied, relying on weird situations, uncomfortable silences and loud caricatures.  The biggest laughs were on the horrified, this-shouldn’t-be-funny side – a la Monkey Dust.  There were touches of old-school prop humour, with one (very pretty) very tall man playing convincing drag.

Some sketches felt overlong and the larger venue felt a lot less high-energy and intimate.  However, they brought a hellavu lot of energy to the set and improv-d themselves out of a few screw-ups with hilarious aplomb!

See for Free – tips from the PBH free fringe

The fringe used to be free.  Now it costs a tonne for a performer to get even a backroom bar for a stage.  PBH supports performers by covering the venue costs.  They have their own programme – pick one up at any venue or online.  PBH is (surprisingly) not a massive corporation but one crazy comedianPeter Buckley Hill.  I know.  Weird.

Any PBH free fringe show is worth a look – my picks will follow later!

Feeding and Drenking

Perry at the Pear Tree

Perry at the Pear Tree

When you’ve got a free moment to fill try the Pear Tree for a real nice beer garden (big enough that you might actually find a seat – just stand and hover till a table vacates).

behind the Beehive

The Beehive has a damn fine beer garden but it closes at 10pm – just head through the back and turn right.  For daytime coffees and snacks try the Hub – a converted church at the top of the Mile (with the tallest spire in the city, dontcha know).

The Clam Shell fish and chip spot on the High Street just up from Cabaret Voltaire is the best place for chips and cheese and chippy sauce (a delicacy).

chips @ the clam shell

Smart City Hostel

Finally, hang out at Smart City Hostel – always free tables as it’s hidden behind the Cowgate right under Southbridge.  Drop in for drinks, to rest your weary feet, or to check out their tiny (but well packed and free) mini venue (Bar 50).  Don’t eat the food though, it’s pretty boring.


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