Liquid Rooms Annexe

Sofie Hagen: Shimmer Shatter

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28/08/16

Liquid Rooms Annexe, Edinburgh

Last year, Sofie Hagen picked up the gong for best newcomer at the Edinburgh Fringe, so you might have expected her to go for a bigger venue this time around – but no, she’s back on the Free Fringe at the Liquid Rooms again, and she’s at the door to greet us as we go in, a nice touch. Tonight is her last show of the festival, so she gives away a couple of tartan blankets, telling us that she won’t be needing them again.

She launches into her set. This year, it’s mostly about her difficult ‘friendship’ with her father, her problems with relationships, and her uncanny ability to suck the life out of any party she attends, mostly because her idea of small talk is to discuss the life of the serial killer, Ed Gein.

It’s interesting material, but Hagen’s real appeal is as a feminist icon, somebody who refuses to kowtow to the popular conceptions of what a woman ought to be. I find myself laughing along throughout the set and occasionally applauding when she makes a particularly telling point. All right, she might not yet have the power and pertinence of somebody like Sarah Kendall, but she’s still only young and has plenty of time to develop as a performer. Meanwhile, the quaintly titled Shimmer Shatter will do nicely.

As we leave, she’s at the door with the collection bucket and a box of badges, still smiling – and no doubt pleased to have made it through another three weeks of Festival madness in one piece.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

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JJ Whitehead: Fool Disclosure

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16/08/16

Liquid Room Annexe, Edinburgh

We’ve already seen JJ as an actor in the brilliant Blind Date Project, so we thought we should catch him in his more regular role as a stand-up. He’s on the free fringe this year so when we take our seats, he’s busily moving furniture around and assuring us that ‘the show hasn’t started yet,’ something that seems to be a recurring motif this year – though in this case, it’s actually true.

He launches confidently into his routine and his lazy, Canadian-inflected drawl immediately draws the crowd into his stories and what he likes to call his ‘Jokey Jokes.’ He’s a likeable presence on the stage with a wide-ranging selection of topics to draw on. I particularly liked a routine in which a stupid friend (now an ex-friend) keeps repeatedly electrocuting him in the shower, while his observations about Edinburgh and the Scottish people benefit from the fresh perspective of the outsider’s eye. Some of the routine is sexual in content (be warned, this is listed as a 16 plus event). JJ makes a remark about ‘knowing your audience,’ but his description of Axl Rose’s comments to a pole dancer at an after-show party are, for my money, one of the few misfires in this set. Other people seemed to love it though, so maybe he does know his audience, after all.

At one point in the proceedings, a young woman in the audience suffers from a sudden bout of coughing, which throws him off his stride a bit. When he inquires if she’s okay, her friend advises him to ‘stop making her laugh!’ Which, when you think about it, is priceless. JJ dubs today as ‘Dry Cough Monday.’

He soon recovers his equilibrium and comes back with an amusing true story about the television in his hotel room. Like all gigs on the free fringe, the audience are invited to throw money into a bucket at the end, but unlike some others comics, JJ is giving something back – a USB card featuring some rarely seen footage.

This is good stuff, well worth checking out. If you want a seat near the front, get there early!

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

Stuart Goldsmith: Compared To What?

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13/06/16

Liquid Rooms Annexe, Edinburgh

We’re familiar with Stuart Goldsmith’s name mostly through his Comedian’s Comedian podcasts, where he interrogates a whole host of comics at every level of their game, something he’s clearly very good at. But the inevitable question is, does he cut it as a stand-up himself?

Well, on this showing, yes, very much so. He’s appearing on the Free Fringe at the Liquid Room Annexe and it’s a good job we arrive early because by the time the lengthy queue has shuffled inside, it’s standing room only. Goldsmith has a lively and attractive personality and he’s written some excellent gags for this show. The content is broadly observational, much of it centring on his new role as a parent. In his worldview, having a child is pretty much synonymous with the end of any enjoyment in life and I can’t help hoping he’s exaggerating for comic effect. There are some terrific one-liners. ‘We’ve lost some great rock items this year. Lemmy, Prince, David Bowie. Sting… hopefully.’ He also bangs on about having to leave London and move to ‘the country,’ as though there’s no such thing as life outside the capital. We beg to differ!

There are plenty of laughs to be had here and, as is customary at all gigs on the ‘free fringe,’ you pay what you think the show is worth. Our ultimate verdict? Worth queuing for.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Brendon Burns: Dumb White Guy

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07/08/16

Liquid Room Annexe, Edinburgh

Brendon Burns strolls on to the stage to the tune of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire, mostly because, he tells us, he couldn’t think of a better song to illustrate the theme of ‘Dumb White Guy.’ This live show is an extension of his popular podcasts, which are numerous and varied, and available on iTunes. He then launches in to his routine and it quickly becomes apparent that maybe ‘Funny White Guy’ would have been a more accurate title. Burns is what you might call a provocateur. He talks a little bit about Brexit and a lot about being a white Australian and he explains how he trialled a version of tonight’s show at a comedy festival in Adelaide where he got pretty hostile reactions to most of what he said. He tells us he can’t get over the freedom of the Fringe, how you can say pretty much anything you like and get away with it.

His style is undoubtedly abrasive and liberally peppered with four letter words, but there’s clearly a reasoned political mind behind many of his jibes and I found myself pretty much in agreement with his views. Like a lot of comedians at the festival, he seems to be under the impression that most of his audience this afternoon are actually Scottish, when I’d wager we’ve come from all over the world, but it matters not, because wherever we’ve come from, we’re all laughing uproariously. Some high points of this set for me are his comments on the differences between Australian and English drivers, the genocide of the aboriginal people and his largely doomed attempts to put on a show for indigenous Australians in Australia.

There’s a surprise towards the end of the show but he makes us all promise not to reveal what it is. So I won’t. But I will say that amidst the plethora of comedians at the free fringe, Burns is definitely a name to look out for. If you require a heady mix of intelligence and hilarity, this would be a very good place to start.

4 stars

Philip Caveney