FESTIVAL COMEDY | Reviews
JOHN LLOYD Expert raconteur wields his massive brain ●●●●●
The veteran writer, director, performer, producer and founder of classic television comedy including Not the Nine O’Clock News, Blackadder, Spitting Image and QI looks back over the highlights of his extremely impressive career. Alongside Douglas Adams, John Lloyd also co-authored The Meaning of Liff, the wonderfully nonsensical dictionary of words that don’t exist yet (all of which are inspired by real place names), and is appearing at the Fringe to promote volume two, Afterliff. Appropriately enough, then, Lloyd bookends his show with
quotes from both and ends it with a signing session. It’s during these segments that we learn, for example, that a ‘sheppey’ is a ‘measure of distance (equal to approximately seven eighths of a mile), defined as the closest distance at which sheep remain picturesque’. Curiously, Lloyd opts not to disclose the definition of ‘liff’ which, other than being a village outside Dundee, is ‘a book, the contents of which are totally belied by its cover’.
As you’d expect from someone who’s been in the business for this long, Lloyd’s performance is impeccable. His segues from one amusing anecdote to another are seamless, while his marshalling of fascinating funny facts is encyclopaedic. Whether he’s recalling attempts to get some seriously offensive satirical material written for Spitting Image past the woolly old boys in the top office or explaining why 95% of the universe has disappeared in the last 50 years, his delivery is never less than enthralling. And at the end, you are left with the vivid impression that Lloyd has barely touched upon everything he knows. (Miles Fielder) ■ Underbelly, Bristo Square, 0844 545 8252, until 24 Aug, 4.40pm, £11–£13 (£10–£12).
SHIT-FACED SHAKESPEARE You’re Bard!!! ●●●●● KATIE GOODMAN Conscience-nudging musical comedy ●●●●●
Of all the comedy twists the works of the Bard have been given over the years, this inspired one is a potentially perfect fit for a late night at the Fringe. The idea is simple: a Shakespeare play is staged in an entirely serious manner by the cast, with the exception of one actor who is totally plastered. There’s potential for a raucous night’s entertainment that’s in keeping with the bawdier aspects of Elizabethan drama, but there’s also the risk that things could go wrong in a way that’s not especially conducive to a good night out. This year, the cast of drinking chums perform the mid-period Shakespeare comedy Much Ado About Nothing, and on this particular night (the actors take turns getting sloshed for the show) our pissed performer is playing Benedick, the witty would-be lover of Beatrice who has elsewhere been played by such notable thesps as Sir Henry Irving, Kenneth Branagh and David Tennant.
The performance strikes a good balance and enjoyable contrast between robustly delivered and cackhandedly mangled drama. It’s a one-joke show but, one suspects, even Shakespeare purists will get a kick out it. (Miles Fielder) ■ C, 0845 260 1234, until 26 Aug, 11.20pm, £9.50–£11.50 (£7.50–£9.50).
40 THE LIST FESTIVAL 15–26 Aug 2013
Political satire is tricky. Is New York musical act Katie Goodman’s purpose to convert audiences to her way of thinking (tame liberalism) or to play to like-minded folks in an affirmative show of solidarity (or, of course, to sell tickets)? A skilled singer, she demonstrates this in styles
ranging from piano-led balladeering to hip hop. There are two standout moments in the hour – one tackling midlife crises and one discussing the incompatibility of liberal and conservative political stances – but these are tempered by an irony-free number about MILFs that ignores feminist criticism of the acronym. For a generation used to The Daily Show and Sarah Silverman, performing songs about homophobia, being a working mother and the anti-taxation stance of the Tea Party movement, while dropping a few c-bombs, is far from shocking.
However, the decision of Goodman (and her co-writer husband) to shy away from anything particularly radical may be a ruse. If her intention is to draw a crowd not already conversant in or comfortable with political activism rather than preaching to the converted, she may end up stimulating a few synapses. (Suzanne Black) ■ Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, until 25 Aug, 4.30pm, £9–£10 (£7–£8).
RONNY CHIENG Law graduate fails to make the comedy grade ●●●●●
‘I have the memory of a goldfish,’ explains Ronny Chieng, and he’s not kidding. Throughout an uncoordinated set he frequently loses his train of thought, tripped up by his own asides and faltering audience interaction. He asks the crowd to get him back on track so many times that after a while it becomes audibly wearisome.
The lion’s share of this Malaysian comedian’s focus is on race. He identifies himself as ethnically Chinese and spends significant time examining his place in the world, exhibiting pride in his home nation’s achievements. Yet there’s so much thrown into the mix that most of his anecdotes come across as filler. And he seems genuinely oblivious to the audience’s clear astonishment when, after mistaking a Korean audience member for Chinese, he dismissively remarks, ‘close enough.’
Bantering with the crowd is not Chieng’s forte and he would be advised instead to focus on the job in hand. He continually reminds us about his dazzling success as a law graduate, so at least in the event that the comedy route doesn’t work out, he’ll have something to fall back on. (Murray Robertson) ■ Underbelly, Cowgate, 0844 545 8252, until 25 Aug, 7.50pm, £10–£12 (£9–£11).