Paul Sinha in The Two Ages of Man (Stand 1, 5*) reveals himself to be a comedian at the very top of his game. Yes, there's material about his role as The Sinnerman on ITV’s The Chase but, as he reminds us, he’s the “fifth-ranked quizzer in the UK” before riffing with some brilliantly crafted material.
Discretion is the better part of valour, he contends, as he endlessly tours the living hell of corporate gigs. A very clever and self-deprecating guy, his gags feature Shakespeare, Plato, Edvard Munch — and Jeremy Hunt.
A master of the riposte, Sinha affectionately toys with his audience in a show that’s as funny as it is technically perfect.
Vladimir McTavish, in 25 Years of Stand-up (New Town Theatre, 4*), shows how after a quarter of a century he knows a thing or two about making audiences laugh. This year’s offering features the Wheel of Mirth, a suitably understated prop that generates a random feel and helps create a different show each night.
There’s a few of McTavish’s “greatest hits” from over the years that are well worth revisiting — look out Midge Ure, Frank MacAveety, Bertie Vogts and Lord Watson, plus some excellent tales from a few less successful gigs.
His stories of the Scottish stand-up scene’s early years remind us of the pivotal role McTavish has played in Scottish comedy over several decades and we all owe a debt of gratitude to him.
A deft proponent of the wonderfully surreal political allegory, Nick Revell in Broken Dreamcatcher (Stand 4, 4*), delivers two “true” stories.
The first features A-list celebrity and Revell’s accidental chum Gwyneth Paltrow in a post-gentrified north London finding out how difficult it is to find “cruelty-free sea salt.” That's quickly followed by Vladimir Putin’s Bottom Is Missing, where world leaders are forced to confront the impracticalities of a global economic system based upon constant growth within a finite world.
A masterclass of storytelling, with a lovely final rant.
Loki The Scottish Rapper: Poverty Safari (New Town Theatre, 5*) is a hot fringe ticket. In a breath-taking display of Scottish rap, poetry, polemic and contemporary class politics, right from the off McGarvey takes down his knockers and their ridiculous criticisms, with a brutal defence of his own cultural role.
Halfway through, he stops to explain what has just happened and deconstructs his own show for the benefit of the bemused middle class in the audience, whom he deftly derides. A costume change adds dramatic effect as Loki takes us beyond a few taboos and redundant limits in a disturbing, challenging and, ultimately, joyous finale.
Jamie Dalgleish was brought up in Glasgow’s Easterhouse — “where a balanced diet means mixed pakora” — and From Buckfast to Middle Class (Stand 4, 3*) has an engaging authenticity, with lots of material from his working-class upbringing.
Childhood holidays in caravans with his aunties, pizza delivery through the letterbox —one slice at a time — and a more graphic assessment of Teresa May’s abilities are highlights among numerous good one-liners.
“Middle-aged women and gay men are our target audience,” asserts JoJo Sutherland in Fannies @ 5 (Stand 2, 5*) but there’s plenty of young women laughing and joining in with her and Susan Morrison as these two grandes dames of Scottish comedy use their huge canon of material to lead a group chat in a brilliant and beautifully-structured hour of mayhem.
There’s real love in the packed room and a huge feeling that these two are “on our side.” Their advice to younger women in the finale is priceless but there are some serious messages among the “fannying around.”
If Eleanor Morton (pictured) didn’t exist, we’d almost certainly have to invent her. In Great Title, Glamorous Photo (Stand 4, 4*), she rails against the “confidence of mediocre men” while pitching her middle-class female detective sitcom to TV.
Morton uses an absurd “sexy and confident” alter ego to confront her own anxieties and agitate for a more women-friendly world but a friendly world of any description would surely suit Ireland’s John Lynn in Addiction Diction (New Town Theatre, 3*), with his engaging and whimsical stories of misadventures on his global travels.
The largely inaudible pre-recorded intro and finale took little away from the performance of comedy craftsman Gavin Webster in I Am Stand-up Comedy (Stand 2, 4*).
Webster probably does the only Rudolph Hess gags in the whole fringe festival and his “proper jokes,” including a memorable “tribute” to AC/DC’s Bryan Johnson and a fine rendition of how The Fall would have covered the Welsh national anthem, never miss.
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