This show described itself as "extreme balloon modelling". I was expecting a quirky cabaret style show that would wow me with some amazing balloon-modelling skills. Instead a got a gentle, slightly disjointed love story in which balloons - mostly unmodelled- are used to act out some of the parts. And as for extreme balloon modelling, the only things we get to see modelled onstage are dogs (2 of them, followed by several more pre-modelled) and a bird. Hardly extreme! Also it describes itself as being suitable for all ages and indeed from the name one might think it's a great option for children - however it was so slow-paced, so lacking in any real balloon "action" and the story was so sensitive (basically about a couple dealing with their failure to have children) that I can't imagine many children would be very keen. There were a couple of clever bits and perhaps I would be less harsh if I had stumbled onto this by accident: the problem I had was much less to do with the show than with the description, which I found pretty misleading.
Joey Page - Eccentric Treasure of the Future
We went to see this comedian based on endorsements from Noel Fielding and Josie Long, two of our favourite comedians. And as we were leaving his show, my partner observed that Josie Long had probably endorsed him because she just likes everyone and everything anyway, and Noel Fielding had probably endorsed him because he actually created Joey Page in some bizarre cloning experiment. It's a fair cop as Joey Page seems to lifted his persona straight from the Vince Noir handbooks. His whimsical, surreal jokes and flights of fancy, his wardrobe, the shapes he pulls, even his voice and inflection are all uncannily similar to Noel Fielding. Now, if you are going to imitate someone, you could do a lot worse than the man himself. And this was a perfectly enjoyable show, with lots of laughs. In fact my partner also said he didn't notice any appreciable difference in quality between Joey Page and Noel Fielding (I felt Page was, unsurprisingly, a bit weaker). But at the end of the day it did all just feel a little too familiar and this is one comedian I won't be seeing again until I am convinced he has found his own feet and is not just trying on the diminuitive red cowboy boots of his genius predecessor.
Richard Herring - Hitler Moustache
Richard Herring is one of the very few Fringe stalwarts that we try to see every year. At his best, he is intelligent, uncomfortably close to the bone, thought provoking and hilarious. And this is one of his best shows, perhaps second only to Christ on a Bike. Raising fantastic points about racism but never sacrificing intelligence for humour, this must be one of the best comedy shows on the Fringe this year. Go, laugh, think.
Capoeira Knights: The Boys from Brazil
Wow! I love watching capoeira, all the more so when done by performers as skilled (and, it must be said, easy on the eye) as these. The moves were fantastic, the dancing was sexy, the music was brilliant and varied, the entire cast were gorgeous and I absolutely loved this. A couple of small complaints were that personally I would have been happier with even more capoeira and that the narration was difficult to understand and ultimately unnecessary. Also a lot of the seating is pretty poor - there are various pillars scattered around and the balcony seats are not very steeply raked so is quite difficult to see. We actually lucked out in getting there quite late as we were able to sit at the very back of the balcony and stand (and indeed dance)for most of the performance without fear of blocking anyone's view. And that would be my advice to anyone going to see this - either be at the front of the queue (people seated in front would have had a fantastic view of some amazing moves plus some audience interaction) or go for the back of the balcony. And provided you get decent seats, this is a fantastic high-energy show.
Controlled Falling Project
A funny little show, not sure what the narrative angle was all about and I don't think that aspect really added much apart from set dressing, but the feats of strength were pretty incredible. I don't think I breathed for about the first 15 minutes as I was absolutely convinced that there was going to be some terrible accident onstage, so dangerous did the stunts these guys were doing appear. This hour long show took in a huge variety of circus-style acts of balance, acrobatics, strength and skill, many of which I had never seen done before and some which I still can't believe are actually possible! Went to see the Caesar Twins a few years ago and found them hugely disappointing - amazing athletes but poor performers who spun 10-15 minutes of material into a cringe-worthy hours. This is what they should have been : a small group of charismatic and skilled gymnasts who carried the audience along on a relentless wave of energy and amazement from the moment they began until their final bows.
I have seen Des o'Connor (no,not THAT one) quite a lot over the last year or so - enough that I was a little worried I would have already heard much of the material here. However I was thrilled to find a wealth of new material, and the familiar stuff delivered with such verve that it was a joy to hear it again. Des was on absolutely top form at the opening night of his show and the audience was eating it up. I can highly recommend this to anyone who wants a top-notch musical cabaret show delivered with acid wit and consummate professionalism. One small word of warning however - this is listed in the programme as being a two hour show which is a printing mistake, it is only a one hour show. However if you want to make a full night of it, do what we did - book both this and High Tease, spent a pleasant half hour in the lush Voodoo Rooms bar in between shows and you will have spend £25 on over three hours of the most professional cabaret and burlesque you are likely to see on the Fringe.Absolutely top notch.
The Ministry of Burlesque's High Tease
High Tease events have long been a familiar fixture on the Fringe and during the year for burlesque savvy audiences and always signal a top class cabaret night with the best quality performers. But last night's opening 2009 festival show topped anything I have seen previously. Slick, polished and professional, every act was a naughty little treat. There was a great variety of talent on offer from classic striptease to cancan to stand-up comedy to hula hooping to music, and even the striptease ranged from the sultry (Gypsy Charms' tribute to Marlene Dietrich) to the silly (Impressive Johnson's "Streak") to the downright sleazy (Spencer Maybe - "show me yours, I'll show you mine" indeed!!!) And as the acts change every night, I will be going back as often as I can afford! But at £15 for a two hour show (plus dancing in the opulent Voodoo Rooms afterwards with top burlesque DJ Lord Holyrude) this represents some of the best value on the Fringe. All in all, I can't recommend this highly enough. Pound for pound the best thing I have seen this year. And as a little added perk, tickets to this (and Desmorphia, above) are available on the door so you can avoid the fringe box office behemoth which seems to be even worse than usual this year!