Edinburgh Fringe Review: BEASTS Present Mr Edinburgh 2016, Pleasance Dome

When you are as ancient as I am it is inevitable that you see new shows that remind you of old shows. With Beasts, however, you don’t have to look back too far. At times this sketch trio’s latest show is so redolent of great madcap threesome Pappy’s - they are even in the venue where the last Pappy’s show was staged - that one sometimes wonders why they don’t go the whole hog and bill themselves as a Pappy’s tribute act. 

Having said that though the latest show from Owen Roberts, James McNicholas and Ciarán Dowd - directed by none other than Pappy Tom Parry - is a high energy hoot from start to finish. The premise is pretty simple. They are all competing for the title of Mr Edinburgh, which is a cue for comedy leotards, tomato throwing and a series of punchy quickfire challenges that you never saw in Miss World.

Roberts is the compact, relatively straight man, the gawky, physical McNicholas could moonlight as an Alan Carr stunt double while Ciarán Dowd channels director Parry, ad libbing, wandering on in shoddy costumes and terrorising the audience in the nicest possible way. 

This is an ensemble who are clearly very clever but also not afraid of doing the most basic of gags, from flashing their buttocks to doing a sketch which confuses the word “desert” with the word “dessert”. Dowd’s highlight is a dildo gag (similar to one in a previous Pappy’s show) which brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “puppetry of the penis”. 

There is so much going on here that it is impossible to be bored. Beasts have that useful knack of feeling thrillingly spontaneous - the show apparently has different endings depending on the random competition results - even though they’ve probably toiled long and hard over their childish routines.

Despite the deja vu however, last night’s show, will go down in my memory for something I’ve never seen before onstage anywhere. During one quieter moment a huge spider came down on its web and hovered about Roberts’ head. It was so impeccably timed everyone in the audience assumed it was fake and planned. When Roberts saw it, looked horrified and almost ran offstage it was clear that it was not in the script. If there is an Edinburgh award for Best Cameo the spider would romp home.

Until Aug 29, tickets here

**** (for enjoyment rather than innovation)

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