Ed Fringe 2019: A Holy Show, Harriet Braine, Stewart Francis and Jamie Loftus
The true joy of the Edinburgh Fringe lies in its ability to take you by surprise. Today’s lineup reveals some of this year’s lesser-known hidden gems, as well as polishing off the jewels in the crown of a well-versed comedy veteran.
A Holy Show
What the Irish would call a “holy show”, we might call a shameful spectacle. But while it’s certainly a spectacle, Janet Moran’s production deserves nothing less than admiration. For one turbulent hour, the audience are taken as willing hostages in a two-handed reenactment of Aerlingus Flight 164, which was hijacked in 1981 by a defrocked Trappist monk from Australia (demanding to see the Pope, obviously). Of course, you couldn’t write a story like that, and Moran knows it. But by recognising the delightful absurdity of the 80s and injecting her own brand of heart and humour, she puts a truly imaginative spin on this nostalgic real-life adaptation.
None of this would be possible, however, without Caitriona Ennis and Patrick Moy, who breathe life into a whole planeful of eccentric passengers including sassy air hostesses, a newlywed (and newly disappointed) couple and two cooing elderly sisters. The characters are well-written, but they are sharpened further through actors’ playful and precise role changes, which showcase a remarkable versatility as they tease out both laughter and genuinely moving moments from the script. With the help of a few minimal props – three chairs and a couple of monitors – we are lifted up into the skies, and in spite of production limitations, the play reaches its comic peak in an ingenious vision from the Virgin Mary herself as she appears to three gawping Spanish children to reveal to us all her divine wisdom.
A Holy Show is at Pleasance Courtyard until 26th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the Edinburgh Fringe’s website here.
Harriet Braine: Les Admirables
The next act on our list, Harriet Braine, delves back far further in time into that lesser-documented part of history that we call “the lives of women”. Describing her show as a “historical feminist coming-of-age”, the musical comic and previous Funny Women award winner reveals to us a whole host of important female figures who we may – or more likely may not – have heard of, all through the medium of song. Each number is lovingly crafted, the characters portrayed with various truly inspired accents – though the highlight is an unexpected impression of physicist and TV phenomenon Brian Cox, which has us all in fits, and rightly so.
Braine’s vocals are wonderful: she hits the high notes with the ease, purity and emotion of a seasoned folk-singer. And like a folk singer, she is a captivating storyteller. Braine interweaves her famous subjects with autobiographical tales, comparing her wildly talented scientist grandmothers with her own stage upbringing. Though there could be some structural tightening between the two threads, the performer’s self-deprecation is endearing and an imagined song between her grandmothers is particularly fun. The linking of art and science – along with a hilariously naff powerpoint presentation – lend this show a unique warmth and appeal: it’s like spending an hour with your funniest friend.
Harriet Braine: Les Admirables is at the Gilded Balloon until 25th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the Edinburgh Fringe’s website here.
Stewart Francis: Into the Punset
If you’ve heard of Stewart Francis (Mock the Week, Live at the Apollo) you will know he deals almost exclusively in puns. And as one of the most well-loved one-liner comedians on the stand-up scene, whose jokes have previously been voted best in Fringe (“I saw a documentary on how ships are kept together. Riveting!”), he’d probably be justified in assuming we have. But still, he patiently and oh-so-politely enquires of an audience member who rolls their eyes, “you know this is what I do, right? You haven’t come to the wrong show?”. Sadly, though, if you weren’t aware of him, you’ve left it a little late. This is the comic’s last live tour, and he’s bowing out – no pun intended – with his Canadian charm, and reputation, intact.
It’s clear to see Francis has been on the circuit a long time; since moving to the UK he’s made his mark on the comedy world, and he interacts confidently with the crowd, explaining his wordplay in hilariously patronising fashion whilst still somehow retaining his disarming signature smile. And he’s not afraid to push the boundaries. Many of his jokes are edgy, to say the least, but the performer knows exactly where to find the balance, keeping the audience on the precipice with a cheeky grin here, a knowing look there. The king of callbacks, Francis brings back several punchlines with explosive timing, with particular commendation due to a tinnitus joke that knocks out the entire theatre.
Stewart Francis: Into the Punset is at the Assembly Rooms until 25th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the Edinburgh Fringe’s website here.
Jamie Loftus: Boss, Whom Is Girl
Journeying from the well-trodden ground of established acts to the open road of emerging talent, we next find ourselves at the mercy of LA comic Jamie Loftus. Luckily, we are in capable, well-moisturised hands. Loftus plays Girlboss Shell Gasonline-Sandwich, CEO of tech company PeePee Smartphones, who invites us into her motivational lecture and takes us through her guide to success, from her daily routine to her intense skincare regimen. But this is a TED talk with a twist – a very dark twist. This is a woman who uses a face-mask moistened with the sweat of her workers (all of whom are called Josh). She may or may not be responsible for genocide (we were given an NDA; my lips are sealed) and she has a Geppetto/Pinocchio-esque relationship with her repressed AI.
The show is a wonderfully clever satire of capitalism and faux-feminism – the type that dresses in a blouse and regurgitates the same old patriarchal, elitist values. The production sits firmly in the absurd, but the real mark of Loftus’s talent is that for all her surreal humour, she keeps her feet firmly in the room. The performer shines in audience interactions, which tease out her fast wit. If you want to see something a bit more experimental that will take you off guard in the best way, Loftus is truly the one to watch.
Jamie Loftus: Boss, Whom Is Girl is at the Pleasance Courtyard until 26th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the Edinburgh Fringe’s website here.
Read more reviews from our Ed Fringe 2019 coverage here.
For further information about Edinburgh Fringe 2019 visit the festival website here.