Edinburgh Fringe Review: Luke Toulson, The Stand

Luke Toulson

****

A few years ago comedian Dan Tetsell did an Edinburgh show about the discovery that his grandfather was a German soldier in WW2. Maybe Luke Toulson should form an double act with Tetsell. Despite the title of Grandpa, Hitler and Me is also about his father’s wartime experiences, albeit on the right side.

There are no great skeletons in the closet here then, apart from the fact that Royal Engineer Stanley did seem to drink a lot when overseas. The story is based around a huge pile of letters to his wife Kate that Toulson recently discovered. He painstakingly went through them and pieced together Stanley’s story. Pictures of them reveal a glamorous couple who – spoiler alert – had a long and happy life togther.

Highlights of the letters come up onscreen during the set revealing Stanley’s enduring, distinctly British and proper love for his wife and his thoughts on the war. It is worth noting that when he was writing in the early 1940s he had no idea when the war would end, but kept thinking a corner had been turned. 

He also got up to a far bit of mischief, including climbing a Pyramid after a heavy session in Egypt. His letters regularly talk about copious alcohol consumption, suggesting that being posted abroad was one long party interrupted by occasional combat. Fashions may have changed, but human nature doesn't.

Toulson is an experienced stand-up but this show is something of a departure from previous Edinburgh sets that have grown out of his stand-up club routines. It’s a very funny show which had a particular resonance the day I saw it as there was a budding teenage soldier in the audience with his anxious family. It goes without saying that it would make a good book, though then you might lose some of the nice onstage comic asides and sparky banter with the audience. 

While the subject matter sounds slightly specialist and slightly dusty this is a show for everyone really brought to life by both Toulson’s storytelling skills and perhaps, most of all, by the evocative letters. Toulson’s late grandpa should definitely get a co-writing credit. 

Until Aug 31. Tickets here.

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