discuss in painful detail the British weather and, in a manic climax, enact a theme-based psychological nightmare he wishes to unleash upon B&B landladies. The term ‘mad genius’ has been chucked around willy nilly down the ages. It has surely found its rightful place stuck upon this man. (Brian Donaldson) Underbelly, 08445 458 252, until 30 Aug (not 17), 7.45pm, £6.50–£9.50 (£7.50–£8.50).

DANIEL SLOSS Teaching the older generation a thing or two ●●●●● There is little doubt whatsoever that Fife-raised lad Daniel Sloss will be a major joke writer and performer in the not too distant future. At the moment, his talent is merely deeply impressive indeed, albeit with a few understandable edges to be

smoothed over. Although his tender age (18, for pity’s sake) might have resulted in some alienating material for the decrepits in the crowd, and the teachers from his old school were especially tickled when one of their number was picked on in the act (ah,


the vengeful nature of the gifted schoolchild), his comedy is as universal as anyone could hope.

Yes, there were gags about teenage sperm sacks and maybe too many references to the backwardness of Fife and its endemic potential for incest, but the laugh count is high and gag construction pleasing. As long as his manager mum steers him away from his Xbox and keeps him filling the jokebook, future glory will be assured. (Brian Donaldson) Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 31 Aug (not 16, 24), 7pm, £9.50–£11 (£8–£9.50).

Online Booking Fringe www.edfringe.com International Festival www.eif.co.uk Book Festival www.edbookfest.co.uk Art Festival www.edinburghartfestival.org

Festival Comedy

PHILIP ESCOFFEY How to read and blow a crowd’s mind ●●●●●

‘I am not a psychic,’ declares Philip Escoffey empathically at the start of his show before stating, with a glint in his eye, ‘however I am the most psychic person in the world.’ It’s a lofty claim but one you would be hard pressed to argue with at the end of an hour in his company. To give specifics away would spoil things somewhat for the potential viewer, but suffice to say it’s the same combination of suggestion, body language and sleight of hand, all delivered with wit and earnestness, that has worked to such great effect for Derren Brown.

The audience went from being amused, to amazed, to borderline perturbation at some of the tricks. Of the many hundreds of shows taking place over the next month, some will make you laugh and some cry (and quite often not for the right reasons) but, outside of the children’s shows, you are unlikely to find someone who can create such a palpable sense of wonder in the way that Philip Escoffey does. (Gordon Eldrett) Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, until 31 Aug (not 18), 6.45pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9).

PAUL FOOT What a comedic meltdown looks a lot like ●●●●●

There would have undoubtedly been some audience members in this performance of By the Yard trooping from the auditorium, praying that somehow they could claw back their lost hour and head off for Denise van Outen or some puppet show instead. But others will realise that Paul Foot’s latest staged meltdown is revolutionary character comedy at its most brutally hilarious. At least, I hope to hell that this is character comedy.

Never quite fitting his skin, clothes or hair (he looks like the Roxy Music-era Brian Eno having just been dressed by his blind, possibly demented auntie), Foot shambles on and takes an age to get round to anything. When he does, it’s to over-analyse why a stool happens to be on the stage, to

ALUN COCHRANE The weaver of dreams hits top form again ●●●●● Alun Cochrane first came to the Fringe, only a few years ago, as a fully-fledged comedy concern. His debut show was the complete package insightful, endearing, and bloody funny and after a few visits back trying (and not quite managing) to recapture that momentum, he’s taken his own wandering mind and general lack of ambition, and spun it into glorious comedy gold once again. Cochrane is, by his own admission, a daydreamer, out of place in the cut and thrust 21st century. This is no problem though, as he’s completely comfortable in own skin. Far from being a slacker, Cochrane crams the most he can into his 60 effortless minutes. Assured and flowing, he paints a picture in somewhat self-deprecating terms of how he has come to terms with his place in the world. He acknowledges his compulsion to prevaricate, to

literally waste days pondering the state of the world, on everything from evolution’s seeming need for a septum or the benefit of a levy on the homeless; simple enough observations, maybe, yet they are very, very funny indeed.

When he picks up on a subject, no matter how obvious or tame, Cochrane resists the cynical route. And those moments when he sets off on occasional surreal Ross Noble-like tangents might suggest chaos, but this is tightly rehearsed stuff; there’s no scattergun, loquacious improv here. His set is controlled but never contrived, a testament to his exquisite timing and filled with prime laugh-out-loud stupid moments, delivered with deadpan surety which only a scathing Glasgow- born, Yorkshire-bred man could. Dreamy. (Mark Robertson) The Stand, 558 7272, until 30 Aug, 10.50pm, £9 (£8).