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I like comedy. lIell, I’m even prepared to sound a little fruity when talking about it. For me, being a Perrier judge was truly lush; jokes stretching as far as the stomach could take and the opportunity to discuss just what, where and how is ‘funny’. Indeed: whither laughter?

But goddam it, isn’t a girl allowed to whinge when she has had to sit though The Fascinating Art of llandshadows at one o’clock in the morning? You know the drill: rabbit, giraffe, giraffe, rabbit. And er . . . that’s it.

That was the low point. It wasn’t easy seeing 37 shows in fourteen days, especially when you have to remember them. The cold light of day does no favours to a string of lousy Mellor jokes. Sure, I started out magnanimous, ready to laugh at any old gag about female condoms. But by the third night I was stony laced in an audience roaring with laughter. Soon I was anaesthetising myself with lager during performances. My dreams were monologues of observational humour. I didn’t find them funny.

But hey, I learned to laugh again. It was the breakthrough night I saw John Shuttleworth’s Guide to Stardom. Suddenly I appreciated quality and here it was, the act I had been looking for. It even had an electric organ in it. I went four times. But triumph was not

John Shuttleworth: a favourite of competition- winner Grace llodge for last year's Perrier Award

to be his, despite hours of wrangling round the judges’ table. They fight dirty, those critics.

And thou shalt not bunk off, nor walk out. (Reader, I fell - after a glove puppet told me enema jokes). A tour of duty for the Perrier Award may be slow death by comedy, but it’s also lig of the year and makes for a manic fortnight. Be warned: it’s not for you if you think handshadows are the future of comedy. They haunt me still, those rabbits and giraffes. (Grace Hodge) See Competition Page for your chance to join the Perrier Award Panel on this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

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The Gate Theatre's celebrated Juno and

the Paycock

‘People look on June and the Paycock as a wee bit leprechauny and sometimes productions can play on that,’ the Dublin Bate Theatre’s Michael Colgan told The List when his theatre’s production of Sean D’Dasey’s tragi-comedy was invited to the Edinburgh Festival in 1987. Six years later the fact that the production is still on the road and still reaping the plaudits is ample confirmation that avoiding sentimentality was a shrewd move. llo less a journalist than Frank Rich, the all-powerful, make-or-break critic of The law York Times, hailed it as, ‘one of the most exciting

productions of the decade’, and it has been similarly acclaimed everywhere from Dublin to Jerusalem via london. At a time when the majority of playwrights concerned themselves only with the upper-classes in their civilised drawing-rooms, Sean D’Casey broke away from tradition to portray a working-class life of poverty in Dublin’s tenements. Written in 1924, Juno and the Paycock is an accomplished mixture of comedy and tragedy set after the Irish Civil War where a woman - Juno - has to cope with the murder of her son, the pregnancy of her unmarried daughter and the pretentions and procrastinations of her chancer of a husband - the ‘Paycock’. Dreams and idealism clash with the reality of poverty, as relationships swing from tenderness to tension, all the time laced with D’Casey’s caustic humour. Described as a definitive production, Joe Dowling’s staging of the play is said to do justice both to the boisterous character comedy and to the crushing drama of these hard- edged characters. Played naturalistically with much attention to daily details, the production underlines the poverty and the pretence of the Boyle family, painting the ‘Paycock’, played by lliall Buggy, as an unforgivably nasty character rather than a loveable rogue. In this context it is the women characters who emerge as the one hope to overturn the tide of religious, nationalist and political extremism. (Mark Fisher) Juno and the Paycock, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 21 «Sat 26 Jun.

mm- Up to tricks

Magic Bob on how to be professional Unless you're a regular on the variety club circuit the opportunities to see magic performances are limited to Paul Daniels on the telly or hoping that Jerry Sadowitz will turn up on the Edinburgh Fringe. Yet the enthusiasm of those in the magic business for their craft is immense and the fact that one dealer alone stocks l8.()()() books sharing the tricks of the trade suggests a level of interest that belies a relatively low profile.

On Sunday 20 June the place to be for anyone with an interest in the fine an of illusion is Edinburgh‘s Stepping Stones (the old home of the Traverse Theatre) where Paul Brignall of the neighbouring Score Commotions shop has put together his Third Annual Convention of Close-up and Comedy Magic. Welcoming over I25 magicians. the convention consists of a series of specialist lectures and demonstrations during the day. followed in the evening by a mixed bill of magic. comedy and circus aimed at the general public. Speakers include Juan Tamariz. a major name in his native Spain and in Southern America and the USA. as well as the author of several books on psychology. the tireless Magic Bob who‘ll be talking about the professional side of the business. and Peter Lamont who won the Edinburgh Magic Circle title ofClose-Up Magician ofthe Year with his disappearing biscuits routine.

‘You'd be amazed. there's so many people from plumbers to doctors who are into magic.‘ says Brignall who sidelines in giving magic advice to the theatre. TV and film industry when he's not in his shop. ‘Although the plumber might not want to sit next to the doctor on the bus, when they get to the magic club it's a different situation.‘

Critical ofthe number of ‘terrible' amateur magic shows around. Brignall has ensured that everyone performing at the convention is a seasoned professional. ‘Anyone who happens to think “oh I’ve done a few tricks" would be very pleased with what they see.‘ he says. ‘although a lot ofthe stuff— Tamariz and David Carre for instance '— will be very advanced.‘ (Mark Fisher) The Third Annual Convmlion of Close- Up Comedy Magic. Stepping Stones.

Edinburgh. Sun 20 Jun. evening show 8pm. £3.50.

46 The List 18 June—I July 1993