(The Original)

Amateur Scribe

Beyond the Fringe (continued)

Talk Radio

An eagerly anticipated play, this, directed by professional cynic Stewart Lee (who I’ve always thought precariously balances on that very fine line between sarcastic genius and smug git) and set in the murky, depressing world of a late-night radio phone-in show in Cleveland, Ohio. Frasier, it ain’t. The protagonist is Barry Champlain (Phil Nicol) – part shock jock, part raging bundle of insecurity. The rest of the cast play the multiple callers to the show as it descends into dark chaos and Champlain questions the sanity of those who put their life decisions in his divisive hands.

The whole play is strangely depressing and straight and again hamstrung by an average lead, only this time the supporting cast is not as strong, despite the work of Whose Line is it Anyway? stalwart Mike McShane

Another minor point of interest was the presence of a female “comic” I last saw hosting a gig in the King’s Head in Tooting Bec, where Lee himself was headlining. Sadly, she was quite possibly the worst stand-up I’ve ever seen. Nice tits, though, my mate acknowledged generously – Lee must have concurred, as I can’t conceive of any other earthly reason why he’d put her in his show…

Doug Stanhope

We left this to the end, having heard nothing but praise for this sicko with a death wish, and were initially disappointed when a reasonably clean-cut, well coiffed guy in an orange shirt strode onto the stage with a couple of bottles of beer and a shiny white grin. He looked like a lame all-American insurance salesman from Milwaukee about to hit the Vegas blackjack tables. It must be tiresome being lumbered with the “next Bill Hicks” tag, but I suppose it’s inescapable given Stanhope’s near the knuckle delivery and rambling diatribes.

For an hour the audience sat in hushed, appalled awe peppered frequently with gasps of uncontrollable guilty hysteria. Not only does he talk freely on taboo topics, he does so with jaw-dropping insensitivity and astonishingly candid revelations. How he can be entertaining when so clearly gripped by paranoia, alcoholism and suicidal tendencies is a mystery. For most, the excesses and anecdotes wheeled out during gigs are an act – for Stanhope, his stories are matter-of-fact – cathartic, even.

I suppose you can do humour without depression, self-loathing, smut and filthy language, but they don’t half make it easier.

tim brooke taylo

Piece de resistance though would have to be at the outdoor University campus thrash after the Stanhope show which we wandered into by accident. We were just lamenting the fact that everyone there was a clear ten years younger than us when who should we spot heading to the bar but Mr Tim Brooke-Taylor himself. Goody goody gumdrops, indeed.

Anyway – the Fringe comes highly recommended. Don’t expect much sleep and give your liver plenty of advance warning. Bring your sense of humour. And your wallet. And even if you don’t spot Slattery bothering the vagrants, there’ll be plenty in Edinburgh to make you smile.

Mine's a pint of lager, Tim

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