While our English brothers and sisters get set, get ready and go to London Olympic glory (that’s how it works, right?), we here in Scotland are preparing our own celebration of home and world-grown talent. As August approaches, the city of Edinburgh is once again preparing itself for the largest cultural event in the country’s calendar; not Hogmanay, not Sean Connery’s birthday, but Auld Reekie’s very own Fringe Festival. The biggest arts festival on the planet, doncha know.
So, as a billion or so flyers are printed and hastily pasted to every surface in the wider Lothian area, as the city’s pubs cordon off their smallest, dingiest and least habitable rooms for the purposes of a woman dressed as an ant, and the world-class in eccentricity don their trench-coats, rent a megaphone and pump up the tires on their unicycles, Work In Prowess has endeavoured to pre-empt the highlights of this year’s festivities.
After all, prospective festival-goers will only have so many hours of sobriety, a limited number of dry socks and – if you’re me – a single fiver to spend on tips. As someone who has seen the best (a singing, saxophone playing vacuum cleaner), the worst (a years-too-late send-up of Facebook) and the weirdest (a grown man showing off his collection of cherished coat-hangers) the festival has to offer, I can promise that you’re going to need all of the help you can get.
#5 – Simon Amstell
I wasn’t originally going to include any big names on this list, I’m sure you’ve all heard of Jimmy Carr by now, but I was short one “traditional” comedian and if I’m going to make a concession it can only be for one man. Simon Amstell has gone from strength to notoriety and back to strength in recent years; on Never Mind The Buzzcocks his pointed, acerbic style racked up more memorable moments over four years than previous host Mark Lamarr managed in seventeen, while more recently he has turned homeless introvert for self-created sit-com Grandma’s House, to great critical success. At this year’s Fringe, you can find him at the Bongo Club performing his new show Numb which has earned him even more praise and acclaim over the last few months.
#4 – Voodoo Varieties With Mat Ricardo
Not only is award-winning vaudevillian Mat Ricardo’s “Voodoo Varieties” – the London smash-hit now en route to The Voodoo Rooms – a great night out in its own right, mixing excellent variety acts and archival footage with other improvised entertainment, but it’s also a great way to discover other acts through the one-off on-stage interviews held each night with a different performer. With previous guests including Graham Linehamm, Howard Read and Lenny Beige, you’re almost guaranteed to leave with a few more names noted in your itinerary.
#3 – WitTank
The stars of BBC3′s “Live at the Electric”, Naz Osmanoglu, Kieran Boyd and Mark Cooper-Jones, return to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with their customary collection of eccentric characters and side-splitting sketch-work. While WitTank entertains in the Pleasance Courtyard, a hub you can use to spot celebs, top-up your blood-alcohol level and maybe – if you’re really lucky – get a seat, you can also catch members Naz and Mark in their hotly tipped solo shows, “Ottoman Without An Empire” and “Geography Teacher” respectively.
#2 – The Axis of Awesome
Combining comedy and song to hilarious, chart-topping (sort of) effect, The Axis of Awesome hail from down under, where they initially made names for themselves lampooning the 2007 federal elections with a series of rap songs. With two albums, a DVD and considerable radio airplay boosting their reputation further, the musical comedy act is back in 2012 with new show “Cry Yourself A River”. Of happy tears, I’m sure.
#1 – Piff The Magic Dragon in…Jurassic Bark
Now, I saw Piff perform a few years ago as part of a comedy troupe in the suitably dungeon-like Cabaret Voltaire and I can safely say that I have never laughed harder at a Fringe act. Famed for his deadpan delivery, slightly sad-looking dragon costume and canine side-kick Mr. Piffles, a daredevil dog he heroically saved from the mean streets of Dundee (not to mention his unmatched magical prowess), Piff is a record-breaking festival favourite who has achieved critical acclaim, toured the world to sold-out venues and recently gone viral thanks to a well-received appearance on ITV’s “Penn and Tenner: Fool Us”.
Should you see something that takes your fancy (alas, I don’t think the chap with the coat-hangers is playing this year), you can book tickets to any of these events – and many more – on the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s official website.
Posted by Steven Neish
Steven is getting on a bit now. At 25, he is looking to add to his many accomplishments: a psychology degree, a poster quote and a folder full of mint(ish) condition Pokemon cards with a spot of blogging.