The Counting House

Hari Sriskantha: Clown Atlas

19/08/17

The Counting House, Edinburgh

Every year at the Fringe you’ll encounter plenty of hopefuls with their gazes fixed on the glittering prize of a critically-acclaimed stand up show. Currently plying his trade every afternoon at the Counting House is likeable young comic, Hari Sriskantha, who tells us that his main ambitions are to get people to pronounce his name correctly and for them to stop confusing him with Romesh Ranganathan (which is puzzling, since the two men look nothing like each other). Sriskantha is a former physics graduate and a Chortle award finalist in 2012. He’s played short sets at the Fringe before but this is his debut full-length show. It’s basically about ‘Happiness’ which, let’s face it, makes a refreshing change from the usual misery and desolation.

Sriskantha has an appealing presence but still needs to develop a little more confidence in his material. At the moment, there’s a tendency for him to push the pace, hurrying on from a punchline before giving it enough time to properly strike home and that’s a pity, because there are some real zingers in there. A linking device he employs using musical accompaniment struggles to work here, mostly because he’s got too much competition in the form of a noisy band playing in a nearby courtyard – and I would have liked to see the printed cards he occasionally holds up incorporated into a PowerPoint display – but he’s definitely one to keep an eye out for in the future. The more he gigs, the more his confidence will grow and I certainly won’t be at all surprised to see him making a much bigger splash in 2018.

As ever with the ‘free’ Fringe, please ensure you take cash along to throw into the bucket at the show’s conclusion. Tomorrow’s greats need funding today if they are ever going to reach their intended destination. Sriskantha may not be there yet, but he’s certainly on the right road.

3.2 stars

Philip Caveney

Amy Howerska: Goddess… *Unless Tired or Hungry

 

16/08/17

The Counting House, Edinburgh

Amy Howerska has become a regular fixture for us at the Fringe and, this time, we are determined to slot her in to our schedule earlier than before. She’s in her usual confident form as she strides out onto the tiny stage at The Counting House and begins to chat up members of the audience – she can do more with a facial expression than most other comics can manage with their entire bodies, milking us for laughs with evident ease. Then she announces she’d better get on with the actual show…

Goddess takes a scattergun approach to a variety of topics and it quickly becomes apparent that this is less thematically assured than last year’s show, Smashcat. She covers some of the terrible jobs she’s had to endure before becoming a full- time comic; discusses her new boyfriend (who is Irish) and his weird family; outlines her hatred of ‘mansplaining’ and her thoughts on the possibilities of motherhood… she segues back and forth through the topics and, if they seem unconnected, it’s because they actually are.  Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of laughs to be had along the way, but there’s also the suspicion that she’s coasting a little here and maybe needs to put together a more focused hour, one that has a more cohesive theme. I have no doubt whatsoever that’s she’s entirely capable of doing that.

She ends with the usual plea to put some cash in a bucket (this is on the ‘free’ Fringe but, as she points out, it’s still costing her around two grand to be here, so please give generously), and then an assistant brings out an adorable puppy for her to hold (emotional blackmail?) and the show is over. Howerska is a gifted comic and, even if this isn’t her best show, it’s nonetheless a glorious way to spend an hour at the Fringe. Go and see it.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

The Free Association Presents: The Wunderkammer

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12/08/16

Gilded Balloon @ The Counting House, Edinburgh

The Wunderkammer by Do Not Adjust Your Stage is an improv show with a difference. Rather than responding to audience suggestions – a formula we’re surely all accustomed to by now – the eight-strong team relies instead on invited guests speakers to provide them with inspiration.

It’s an interesting strategy, adding another dimension to the show and unleashing the potential for ideas to fly in all directions.

First up today we have magician Kevin Quantum. His tale of a half finished PhD and a discussion on the ethics of magic are both fascinating, if somewhat overshadowed by the impressive magic trick he performs at the end (how did he do that?), and pave the way for the troupe to develop some outlandish improvisations. Next up is Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, knighted for his role in cloning Dolly the sheep, who talks about gene selection and designer babies. It’s a more serious topic, perhaps too serious for the improvisations it sparks, which inevitably trivialise the scientific work that inspire them. There are some laughs though, not least when Matthew Stevens steps in, in role, to question the validity of the pseudo-science being spouted.

It’s a neat idea, with the benefit of built-in callbacks to ideas from the speeches, and, if it’s a little ramshackle, it’s endearingly so. These young performers aren’t quite as fluent as improv veterans such as Stu Murphy or Garry Dobson, but they’re entertaining nonetheless, and show a lot of promise. If you’ve a spare hour at lunchtime, you could do a lot worse than spend it here.

3.5 stars

Susan Singfield