Pick of the Fringe - My Top 5 5-stars to date

The show I’m in at Pleasance One (daily at 4.30 pm with an extra show next Friday at 6.00 pm) is called Break a leg! and it’s inspired by a collection of theatre stories and quotations compiled by my wife, Michèle Brown.  Michèle’s book (published by Notting Hill Editions) has received some lovely reviews – and so has my show.  We’re both grateful. 

The great Mel Brooks was asked about critics.  ‘They’re very noisy at night,’ he said.  ‘You can’t sleep in the country because of them.’   ‘No,’ said the interviewer, ‘critics not crickets.’  ‘Oh, critics!’ said Mel.  ‘What good are they?  They can’t make music with their hind legs.’

I’m no critic, but I know what I like and of the shows I’ve seen so far this Edinburgh Fringe these are the five I’ve liked best:

TOM HOUGHTON – the show’s called ‘The Honourable’ and it’s a skilful hour of posh-boy stand-up delivered with great charm, energy and theatricality by the son of the former Chief of the Defence Staff who is now Constable of the Tower of London . . .  Tom exploits his family background to hilarious (and touching) effect.  It’s brilliant, bravura stuff and, having met his dad and having had a son and a son-in-law who were both in the army, I was held from start to finish, hugely impressed, vastly amused and generally bowled over.  5 stars at the Jack Dome in the Pleasance Dome.  https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/tom-houghton-the-honourable

MR SWALLOW AND THE VANISHING ELEPHANT – this is a comedy magic show and you may think “comedy magic isn’t my thing”, but somehow this is different . . .  Actually, it’s unique.  Nick Mohammed is a Yorkshire genius (a geophysicist with a First from Durham and an MPhil from Cambridge) who is actor, comedian, stand-up, master magician and incredible memory-man all rolled into one.  It’s very funny and his final turn (remembering row upon row of the audience members’ names) is mind-blowing.  We also share a dressing-room and he’s a really nice guy – with an ace assistant called Steve.  5 stars at Pleasance One in the Pleasance Courtyard.  https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/mr-swallow-and-the-vanishing-elephant

JO CAULFIELD – the show’s called ‘Killing Time’, not quite sure why, and you’ll certainly not feel you’re killing time here: time flies past as the effortlessly fluent and witty and caustic Ms Caulfield races through an hour of beautifully observed material.  This is one of those shows that has the females in the audience hooting with laughter and squealing with delight, while the males squirm gently and laugh nervously so as to be seen as good sports.  She’s completely brilliant.  5 stars at The Stand 3.  https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/jo-caulfield-killing-time

PETER STRAKER SINGS BREL!  This is a virtuoso cabaret artist at the height of his powers giving a glorious, high-octane, spine-tingling display of what a lifetime can teach about how to put over a number.  The material is Jacques Brel.  The meister-singer is Peter Straker.  The venue is the Cabaret Bar at the Pleasance Courtyard.  I think he finishes on Sunday, but this is a MUST SEE must-see, so go, go, GO!  5 stars plus plus. https://www.pleasance.co.uk/event/peter-straker-sings-brel#overview

BENET BRANDRETH: A HERO FOR OUR TIMES – this is my son doing his ‘thing’ and it’s hilarious.  Nicholas Parsons describes it as ‘intellectual comedy’ – ‘it makes you think you’re as brilliant as he is’.  It is dazzling stuff, heroic story-telling – by turns funny, clever, pointed, surreal – with an audience interactive element that takes my breath away every time I see it working . . .  Of course, I’m biased.  I’m married to the star’s mother.  I’m hoping I’m his father.  If so, I’ve every reason to be very proud.  The show is your pre-lunch treat, every morning in the Sportsman’s Bar at the Gilded Balloon.  It’s not properly advertised outside the building, so just go in and the box office will sort you out.  5 stars.  https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/benet-brandreth-a-hero-for-our-times

More to come.  Watch this space.  And if you’re a veggie, David Bann really is the best.

Gyles Brandreth