Underbelly Bristo Square

Wil Greenway: The Ocean After All

17/08/19

Underbelly Bristo Square (Dexter), Edinburgh

There are certain artists you see at the Fringe, who seem to define it so totally that the thought of not seeing them the following year is somehow unthinkable. Wil Greenway is just such an artist. Not only is he arguably the nicest chap you’d ever hope to meet (and a man with a constantly changing beard), he’s also kind of unique. Not exactly a comedian, not quite a storyteller, he inhabits a world somewhere in between these two disciplines.

The Ocean After All is another of his delightful shaggy-dog tales, a simple story about a man who drives off a jetty, lands in a boat and drifts across the ocean until he finally finds himself marooned on a tiny island with nothing but seagulls and bananas for company – except, of course, it’s not about that at all. His stories feel like richly embroidered tapestries, where what’s described in those lyrical, sumptuous lines of his aren’t necessarily what meets the eye. Somehow, he always manages to pull together the various strands of his narrative and tie them up in a gloriously satisfying bow.

This year, he’s without his familiar onstage musician Will Galloway, who always seems to be such an integral part of his act. Kathryn Langshaw is still there with some atmospheric recorded music, but I have to admit, I miss the duo’s live contribution. Nevertheless, this is a delightful and engaging performance, and the two friends we bring along with us to see Wil for the first time are suitably enchanted. I feel almost jealous of them, remembering back to 2016 and The Way the City Ate the Stars, my own introduction to the charms of this Australian dreamweaver.

I write nice things about Greenway every year in the certain knowledge that he’ll remain oblivious to them. He told me, the first time we spoke, that he never reads his reviews. But, if you’re reading this, do yourself a favour. Grab a ticket for one of Wil Greenway’s last few shows before he heads back to Oz.

You won’t regret it.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney 

Jon Long: Planet-Killing Machine

 

04/08/19

Underbelly Bristo Square (Clover), Edinburgh

We’re not sure what to expect from this: we’ve never seen Jon Long before. We’re heading into his comedy show because we like the poster, and because the environmental theme appeals to us. We’re glad we take the punt, because this young comedian is really very good.

I say ‘young’ because that’s how he seems. He tells us he’s thirty, but he exudes the charm of a diffident teenager; he has a gentle, appealing approach. It’s a pleasure to spend an hour in his company, being entertained by his songs and gags.

The show is loosely eco-focused – based on what he’s experienced working in a recycling centre, and his guilt at being the titular planet-eating machine – but there are lots of diversions and asides. It’s punctuated by witty, catchy songs, and we’re invited to join in. There are jibes at millennials, which might sound hack but work well here; there’s a self-deprecating tone to the mockery, which warms us to his ideas.

Long doesn’t look ravaged enough for his alcoholism material to be true, but I guess that angelic face masks what he’s been through. I’m just glad he’s in recovery, because this is one performer with a lot to say and a rather lovely way of saying it. Even when he’s singing about dildos.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield

 

Detour: A Show About Changing Your Mind

03/08/19

Underbelly Bristo Square (Buttercup), Edinburgh

Detour is Diana Dinerman’s account of how her life has taken unexpected turns: from dancer to historian to stand-up comedian. In this solo show, she charts the twists and turns of the path she’s trodden, using modern dance as an illustrative technique.

Dance – and its allegorical associations – is the strength of this show. The standout moment for me is when Dinerman performs the key features of three leading practitioners, a precise and economical demonstration that even non-dancers like me can understand. These ideas – of taking up space, contracting, separating out the limbs – are then interwoven into her story, physical metaphors for emotional discoveries. It’s a neat concept.

The opening third is very funny, with some wry witticisms and keen observations. From thereon in, there are fewer jokes, as Dinerman details a period of emotional distress and subsequent self-discovery. She speaks well, and the tale flows easily, but this section is a bit too self-help-manual for me. I admit, I’m not generally good with publicly-voiced introspection (I’m a “roll-your-eyes-and-call-it-naval-gazing” cynical kind of gal), so I’m really not the ideal audience member for this show. Certainly, as we left, the people behind us were most appreciative, enthusing about how insightful and thought-provoking they’d found it.

So, if you enjoy soul-searching with a dash of comedy, this could just be the show for you.

3 stars

Susan Singfield

Wil Greenway: Either Side of Everything

26/08/18

Underbelly Bristo Square, Edinburgh

Wil Greenway’s whimsical storytelling has been a Fringe highlight for us for the past few years, and his latest offering, Either Side of Everything, is just as beautifully crafted and delivered as his previous shows. Accompanied once again by folk musicians Kathryn Langshaw and Will Galloway, this is a gentle lullaby of a performance – but somehow it still manages to pack a punch.

The writing is lyrical and inventive; the delivery is charming. He’s such an appealing performer, all sparkling eyes and inclusivity, wrapping us up in his tales of love and loss. He lays his methods bare, shows us the mechanics: this is a metaphor; there will be four stories; you won’t understand how they connect until the end. We’re part of it – for an hour at least – our lives and his, this telling, this time. We’re all on the metaphorical boat together, not knowing where this fits in the narrative arcs of our own lives. But here, now, there is Greenway’s melodic prose, a gently strumming guitar, repeated refrains, and a surprising wealth of lol-moments.

There’s sadness in these accounts: dead dogs and grieving women, unspoken love and tender touch. But there’s humour too, and would-you-rathers, the silly stuff that keeps us all going. There’s real skill in the weaving of this show, and – somehow, as always – it leaves me with a profound sense of warmth and wellbeing. There is beauty in this world, even in the misery.

(I do miss his man-bun though. I don’t know why – but it’s true, I do.)

5 stars

Susan Singfield