Preview: Edinburgh's Returning Heroes

umbilical brothers

The Edinburgh Fringe is not all about young kids flying straight out of the womb and onto the stage. There are plenty of more, how shall we put it, experienced performers who have been around the block a bit and seen a bit of life. As well as the ubiquitous Stewart Lee, Simon Munnery and Richard Herring, who are rapidly ascending to Arthur Smith-style long service medal/eminence gris status, there are number of old favourites bouncing back after some time away.

And when it comes to bouncing back they don't bounce much more than The Umbilical Brothers, who are at the Gilded Balloon from August 1 - 16. The Australian duo of Shane Dundas and David Collins, who picked up a Perrier nomination in 1995, have been busy taking their particularly springy brand of grown-up physical comedy all around the world and this is their first run in Edinburgh for nine years. They are fast, furious and constantly inventive – you’ve never seen a man go down an imaginary escalator until you’ve seen the Umbilicals do it.

Another Australian cult also returns to Edinburgh after a long absence. Bob Downe was a character comic before the term character comedy became common currency. He was kitsch before kitsch was cool. And he wore synthetic fabrics with more style than anyone has done before or since. He is also infleuntial in unlikely places. If you read David Walliams’ autobiography Camp David Downe gets a mention there – he was one of the first comedians to inspire Walliams, who saw him at the Festival in 1990. So maybe without Downe we may not have had Little Britain? And Simon Cowell might be short of a judge. He is at the Famous Siegeltent from August 12 - 25.

An interesting addition to the Edinburgh Fringe this year is Andy De La Tour, who really is one for the alternative comedy archivists. De La Andy De La TourTour was part of the original Comedy Store brigade in 1979. His career peaked when he opened for Rik Mayall and co on tour. He then decided to quit comedy, but dipped his toes back in the water a few years ago in New York. He recently wrote an intriguing book about his experiences then and now and will no doubt be talking about them in the show named after the book, Stand-Up Or Die In New York at the Gilded Balloon from July 30 - August 25.

Some of the older generation have never been away though. Fascinating Aida, Perrier nominees in 1984, have had something of a commercial resurgence thanks to the internet. Their wonderfully witty comic songs such as the one about a cheap airline we dare not mention have gone viral – or is it fungal? – and they have a formidable Facebook presence. You can come face-to-face with them yourselves at the Underbelly from July 31 - August 25. 

And then there is Barry Cryer. What can be said of Cryer that has not already been said by critics having their arm twisted behind their back? Cryer is one of the few performers who is older than the Edinburgh Festival itself and is back this year alongside Colin Sell at the Gilded Balloon from August 1 - 9. It’s a short run, but then at his age he might need the rest of August to get his breath back.


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