Review: Edinburgh Round-Up: Page 2 of 2

Bruce Dessau review

Pierre Novelli – Pleasance. If you want to put a bet on a newcomer who will be famous in five years time your money should be safe with Pierre Novelli. He is clever, engaging and certainly has no shortage of colourful stories – he comes from South Africa, grew up on the Isle of Man and is so imposing he looks like he should be playing international rugby. He’s got one gag about people meeting 'at him' which is very similar to an old Stephen Merchant routine, but the rest of his act is very striking, though don't get me wrong, it’s not exactly Noel Fielding, it’s still very accessible. He can deliver a story really well and has an eye for a memorable phrase, calling crime-ridden Johannesburg “Gotham City without Batman”.

Beasts – Pleasance. I heard that there was a buzz about this sketch troupe so I went along and was not disappointed. Well, maybe a bit disappointed. At one point I thought I’d walked in on a really good Pappy’s tribute act. Now I love Pappy’s, so that’s not a bad thing, but one of the trio had a penchant for coming on in inappropriate random costumes that was uncannily like the sort of thing Pappy’s Tom Parry does. After the show I discovered that this show was directed by Parry – did he sense a kindred nutty spirit or has he moulded someone into a Parry clone? Either way this is a cleverly constructed, very silly sketch show with a twist that the trio is splitting up so all have to find a way of making their solo debuts within the same hour. You won’t see a better show that combines magic, cross-dressing burlesque and a Nelson Mandela impression in this or any year. 

Jeremy Paxman – Pleasance. Stop the presses, the Newsnight presenter isn't doing stand-up in the Cabaret Bar, he’s rattling through various anecdotes in his trademark assured yet, sardonic, occasionally grumpy style that I suspect would go down a storm on the corporate-speaking circuit. The choices of anecdote come from a big spinning wheel with the alphabet on it so each show should be different. The day I was in a lot of stories depended on extended clips of Paxman’s TV back catalogue. It’s always nice to see clips of thick University Challenge contestants, but it also felt a lot like padding. Jack Dee need not feel threatened.

Romesh Ranganathan – Pleasance. After 2013’s Best Newcomer nomination Ranganathan went up a gear and picked up a nomination on the Edinburgh Comedy Award shortlist for Rom Wasn’t Built In A Day. The former teacher has really come on in the last year and is pretty much set for mainstream success. His shtick is entry level moaning, but boy does he do it well, getting worked up over everything from selfies to e-cigarettes - or “tiny kettles” as he calls them. Some great material on the cultural clash between his Sri Lankan family and his wife’s Gein's Family Gift ShopEnglish family. I’d love to be invited to their combined Christmas lunch.

Sam Simmons – Underbelly. Australian absurdist picked up a Foster’s nomination for Death of A Sails-Man in which he plays a lone windsurfer stranded in the sea and slowly going mad – “sun on your back, sea breeze on your balls”. Imagine Redford’s All Is Lost crossed with The Mighty Boosh and Harry Hill. Actually this was a little too close to the Boosh for comfort for me. Simmons is a fantastically full-on performer, and deserves brownie points just for wearing a ridiculously tight surfing suit. Total commitment definitely – it’s sometimes hard to spot that Simmons’ character is going mad as he starts off pretty high up on the nutjob register.

Gein’s Family Gift Shop (pictured) – Pleasance. Along with Beasts GFGS is another sketch group that proves that the genre is in particularly rude health at the moment. And rude is the key word here – there’s a flash of gratuitous nudity that takes everyone by surprise. Elsewhere this trio - two men and a woman – has a particularly fresh take on comedy, full of unexpected nightmarish twists, turns and odd notions. It would be easy to call it dark comedy, but they struck me as the most distinctive sketch troupe since League of Gentlemen. Not the funniest – that’s Pappy’s – but the most distinctive, and that has to be a Good Thing.



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