Desiree Burch: This Is Evolution

desiree burch


Heroes @ Bob’s Blundabus (Venue212)

Aug 4-29



It took me 3 weeks of reviewing shows to find the funniest comedian I have ever seen in person.  She left me breathless with laughter for the first time this Fringe.

Desiree Burch is more than a comedian but that doesn’t detract from the fact she is a brilliant one.  She is also a Fag Hag, Writer, Actor and Teacher.

And she’s going to teach you.  You’re going to learn about how men who send dick pics and how they just need a hug and a muffin, how skinny white women compete at self-criticism, the fact that you’re going to shit your pants at some point in your life and if you’re lucky she might throw some quantum physics in the mix too.

She is hilarious, empowering, vivacious and uplifting.  Her tales of family dysfunction, what it’s like to just not want kids, racism as a hobby, dating the guy that is exactly like your dad, having the face that says “ask me directions immediately”, dating younger or older guys, all of it is told with such a sense of joy and acceptance of the diversity and ridiculousness of life.

There’s no sense of bitterness, only beauty and wonder at our shared experiences and eccentric differences as people.

I’m sitting on the top deck of a bus, listening to this gorgeous, witty, utterly fabulous and loving big black woman holding court, and I imagine Rosa Parks sitting beside me, both of us with our glasses steaming up with shared warmth and laughter.

Simply the best.  Oh, and her poster is a depiction of her made out of dicks. Double win.

Aaron Calvert: Mind Games

aaron calvert

Cabaret (Magic)

La Belle Angele (venue 301)

Aug 6-28 (not 17)



What do you do after studying for 5 years to become a doctor?  Become a hypnotist instead!  That’s what the delectable Aaron Calvert did, anyway.

With smouldering good looks, a stunning physique and a quicksilver wit, Calvert had a massive audience at La Belle Angele in the palm of his hand.

Looking dapper, his energy is high as he bounds around the stage from prop to prop, giving full explanation of each of the tricks.  He starts by engaging the entire audience in a game of rock, paper, scissors which then (geek delight) turns into rock, paper, scissors, spock, lizard on stage with a selected audience member.

He’s a psychological PT Barnum, never missing a trick (even when he seems to) and brings everything full circle.  He also takes a holistic approach to hypnosis, always taking time to advise caution or focus on the benefit of the process.  He promises not to embarrass or degrade any participants.

I had the privilege of being brought up on stage (don’t think because you’re sitting 12 rows back that you’re going to be safe!) to be hypnotised.  If you’ve never been hypnotised before, just think of it like subbing for the first time.  And what a top!  He had me totally at ease but also with tingles of excitement (I thought I was going to have a giggle fit on stage) and his voice and touch sent me into another place (ok, sub space) without hesitation.  I felt like I was floating in water and there was nothing I wouldn’t do if instructed (as with certain other activities, trust helps).

Suffice to say, it was a very enjoyable experience.  The audience were totally into what he was doing and there was an electricity in the room (and it’s a big room to fill).

Just a couple of niggling points.  The NLP trigger words were a little pronounced and a lot of the games are familiar as in I’ve seen very similar before .  But this is him at the start of his career and as he progresses I’ve no doubt he’ll grow his repertoire and become even more skilled.  Failing that he can always jump careers again and become a very accomplished Dom.

Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs (EIF)



EIF @ The Hub

Aug 6-27 (not 14,15,22)



We ascend the cobbles of the Royal Mile, up from the Old Town slums and tenements, the caves of Free Fringe venues far below us.  We walk into The Hub and we realise – this is not the Fringe any more.  Oh no, this is the Edinburgh International Festival.  This is cabaret at a country club.  We are as Gods as we are shown to our booth, an acolyte in a Hub t-shirt rushes to take our order, nothing is too much trouble.  This is the whitest, most middle-class thing we’ve ever been to.

Cumming kicks off his set with Annie Lennox’s “Why” and it’s stunning.  His native lilt and rolling rrrr is delicious and heartening.  He’s resplendent all in black, everything is polished and sexy (even the carbon fiber cello matches immaculately).

The set list almost borders on eclectic, though tends to flip between Sondheim (no complaints here) and Miley/Adele/Gaga/Katy Perry with a few more obscure musical numbers along the way and a jungle for a condom advert that he made with Ricki Lake .  It’s all a bit tongue in cheek and generally fabulous but to be honest I could have taken more sappy than this.  I wanted torch songs, something to leave me tearful with unrequited love and ennui.

The anecdotes in between numbers get better and juicier as the show goes on.  Tidbits and insights into his time on The Good Wife, flashbacks to performing on the Fringe years ago – and then the best…a Liza story.  Gasp!  My little gay heart fluttered as he dished the ultimate dish.

Everything is simply wonderful.  Except when it isn’t.  Cumming talks at one point about connection and people connecting with each other.  However there are a couple of very uncomfortable connections with the audience.  On this night there is a person in the front row who is laughing incessantly and Cumming tells her to get herself together or go.  The really awkward one comes with his 3rd jibe at latecomers (let’s face it, it’s up to the venue staff to admit latecomers, so take it up with them, Alan).  What he couldn’t see from the stage and due to the lights was this last latecomer had entered in a wheelchair and was walking very slowly and carefully with the aid of two walking sticks.  But most of us in the audience did see that. Very hashtag awkward.

There was also the option to spend another tenner on Club Cumming tickets where he would stay and DJ, sing and hang out with the audience until 3am.  What a bargain!  If you were prepared for it, had childcare organised, weren’t getting home by public transport or had the energy.  It would have been lovely to be told ahead of time by the Hub.

All in all an enchanting evening, it feels almost like visiting some faerie prince in his castle. But you’re trailing mortal mud on your shoes and he is casting an elven level of shade at you for it.


Scarlet SoHandsome & Fiends



Just The Tonic @ The Mash House (Venue 288)

Aug 4-28 (not 9,14,15,16,23)



It is a very unfortunate reality at the Fringe that despite best efforts there will sometimes be an evening’s performance that fate does not smile kindly upon and numbers areinexplicably  low. This is not the fault of the act per se  and is usually excluded from any review.

I think if a performer can walk into a room, see less than a handful of people and still go on to entertain, they get points for being a fucking pro. Scarlet Sohandsome is such a pro that when faced with 4 people as an audience on this fateful evening, 50% of whom are her parents, she still marches straight ahead.

What follows is a top-class on-point example of a drag stand-up comedian. Phased by nothing, she gets to know her audience by name (at least the two she’s not the genetic product of). She then asks probing questions. “Zander, what are you passionate about?” to which I reply “anal”. “Well it’s going to be hard to top that!” comes the immediate retort.

Nothing phases her. She’s from Salford. With a healthy mix of caring and cunty she personifies that drag ability to question societal norms and expectations with a razor-sharp serpent’s tongue. She keeps us laughing hard and often, from sheer delight and there’s no awkwardness to it. Her observational humour is on a par with her character material and she is a dark delight.

There are two guest spots for visiting acts and they’re passable on this night but seem out of keeping with Scarlet. I want acts of the same class and calibre, queer caustic and cutting. I want to need to see their show, not be quietly grateful when their 10 minutes are over. The lads in t-shirts telling pub puns are no doubt lovely people but they are so out of their depth here, especially with a panel of 4 audience members.

Chatting to her afterward, Scarlet tells us this is run is effectively a workshop for a solo show next year. I’ll be on the lookout for that, because that show is one I really want to see. Does that convey how good she is? I’m genuinely going to be chomping at the bit to see her in 2017.  But the show overall as it is, rates a 3.

Go see her while she’s here, get a taste for her. And she’ll be glad of the company.

Mawaan Rizwan: Gender Neutral Concubine Pirate



LaughingHorse@DropKickMurphys (Venue 289)

5-28 Aug (not 15)



Deep under the streets of Edinburgh, in a cavern obscured by the rotting vegetation of a fortnight’s flyers there is a gender neutral concubine pirate treasure. They are precious, multi-faceted and sparkling in a cave just waiting to be discovered by the passersby above.

Maawan is mesmerising and enchanting, exotic, playful and sexy. They begin with the line “It’s Free Fringe, time to lower your expectations” but unnecessarily. Their antics and energy transcend this hidden cellar and like Peter Pan they take our hand and lead us to somewhere magical, where we can all be gender neutral concubine pirates together if we want.

Their obscure bizarre impressions are charming and then as they weave them together into a burlesque dance, we catch a glimpse that this is the most astute of non-binary jesters. We are being led exactly where they want us to go and regardless of the distractions of baby wipes, dad-heckling or even R Kelly’s Ignition Remix (or even the horror of the original), the magic will happen and the wooden panels on the concave ceiling becomes the upside-down hull of our fantasy gender neutral concubine pirate ship, as our Captain engages in their final alluring dance.

I absolutely loved this. I knew it was going to be special as I’d seen Mawaan guest spot at Pollyanna. Some others in the audience seemed to expect something more mainstream. It felt like a cold start but Mawaan soon had them on side. I did find myself thinking where the hell are our people, why aren’t they rushing to see this comedic queer shaman?

A few little production values would have helped to create even more of a structured atmosphere and increased bucket takings. One thing that I was increasingly frustrated with was 3 members of the venue’s staff talking at the end of the bar for the entire performance. Very  rude and disrespectful.

Nothing phased Maawan though and I have immense respect and affection for this act. Go see it yourselves and get in on one of the best secrets of this year’s Fringe.

Zach & Viggo: Thunderflop



Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)

Aug 4-28 (not 15)



This is physical comedy with more homoeroticism than the original Batman TV series. The entire hour is like if two of your hot but goofy mates made a parody of those Bel Ami porn films. At some point you find yourself wanting to scream “Just fuck him already!”.

For anyone offended by such sexual frankness in a review, why are you reading this site? And furthermore I must advise that sitting watching 2 men play in lycra costumes, one of whom seems to have an aversion to supportive underwear and a clearly circumcised penis, may not then be your best bet.

They are hilarious, adorable and having the time of their lives. What’s not to love? But they are more than just a couple of cute guys in spandex. They are superheroes of clowning.

They take small everyday objects, fantastical notions and a playful attitude to craft real joyful entertainment. They also happen to be two of the nicest lads you’ll ever meet.

Their skills are fantastic, easily drawing their audience into a hidden world of adolescent wonder and fantasy where everything is anthropomorphised, with its own set of motives and desires.

This was almost a 5 star review. There’s a niggle for me about the pace and timing on the opening skit, I’d have cut it in half. But their cheeky pleasure in everything they do, including chasing after latecomers and the positive energy they pump out into the room is phenomenal. There’s something really special about these boys. They’ve got a show here that is both childlike and subversive.

A surefire feelgood comedy hour that just happens to be a creepy uncle’s wet dream.

David Mills: Shame


Underbelly, George Square (Venue 300)

Aug 3-28 (not 15)



David Mills has survived the closet, the AIDS crisis, The Sugababes and John Barrowman so this year’s Edinburgh Fringe show isn’t going to finish him off! He’s back with his smooth style of storytelling standup, ready to teach the kids about Cher (“a creature from American folklore, half-mermaid, half-drag queen) and offer the insights of a 48 year old undomestic gay man, who identifies as single, although is cohabitating with his boyfriend.

The feel to his one-hour one-man show is less stand-up, more sit-down. Admittedly that’s hard in a black box of a venue in George Square on a blisteringly hot day. There’s a restless atmosphere in the room.

Mills is engaging, witty and catty when the situation calls for it. This feels like “An Audience With” or the evenings Quentin Crisp would sit and answer questions on a stage.  He recommends seeing three shows a day at the Fringe; one Established Act, one Emerging Artist and one Car Crash.

His favourite cringeworthy  is a (fictional) High School revival of The Wiz, “You’ve seen Glee? This is Despair”. He hearkens back to an age when gay men were the arbitors of taste, when (marginally) older members of the community taught others what was bona and what was naff.

I saw David at this show and then later the same night at Dive’s C U Next Tuesday at Summerhall. He was fine in his own show at Underbelly but came alive on a well lit stage as part of a high energy event. What a difference! He really came alive during the later show, much more vibrant and happy.

Overall his show is well worth seeing but I can’t help but picture him as Master of Ceremonies for a wild variety night. His pithy sardonic wit sparkles like a dark jewel in the right light and frankly I think he’s missing a trick.

Jonathan Pie:Live

Jonathan Pie


Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)

Aug 3-28 (not 15)



Jonathan Pie is very angry. His barely contained rage and frustration at a world (and ex-wife) that seems determined to screw him over is tangible.

The premise is that he is presenting one of those cringeworthy Children In Need regional segments, growing increasingly more frustrated at his role in the proceedings. “I’m watching Judith Chalmers wipe beans off her tits” he laments.

Between these mock live links he berates his producer, the audience, Ainsley Harriott fair enough) and gives the hilarious and poignant view behind the camera and the slick production of news media and political spin.

This is more than just a slash and stab at the banality of pop culture. It is an insight into the mind of a man whose inner animal has just felt the jaws of the trap break his ankle and is howling in pain.

“How can you not look at the concept of homelessness and not be disgusted by the idea that this exists in a supposedly civilised country?” he bays at his pack. He is their alpha male, they echo and juxtapose  his cries with their laughter.

The frenzy in the room speaks of those who vote in unanticipated ways “just to shake things up”. As the hour deepens so does his rage at the political system and about 40 minutes in they’d follow him anywhere.

It’s only as the hour draws to a close that the cracks in his psyche really become apparent and the smarter betas begin to doubt. Still the majority seem oblivious to his inevitible psychological downfall and follow him off the cliff of madness.

Truly cleverly representative of current and recent politics. Co-written by Andrew Doyle, this is a must-see, especially for fans of the youtube videos.

Go see.



Andrew Doyle: Future Tense


The stand Comedy Club (Venue 319)

Aug 4-28 (not 15)



With his latest show Doyle once again sees just how far he can push an audience, how far outside their comfort zone he can nudge them and what degree of sexual attention they can take. It is a masterclass in pushing buttons, perfectly executed by a stage persona who doesn’t seem to give a fuck.

There’s no cute gay campery here, nor gimmickery really. Just ideas about our identity and tribalism, those markers that signal to us of sameness and otherness.

He works his way through the room and asks the audience to own up to the most heinous of acts (bestiality, voting Leave, liking Theresa May), demanding they account for their views and actions. This is an underground revival for transparency and directness, cutting through the bullshit and unveiling the things that divide us.

He is fiercely political, impassioned and quick-witted. Hecklers beware! He seems fearless on stage and I have to wonder how many times he’s wondered if he’s taken something too far.

Doyle has never had the sunniest demeanour and as we watch him try to be positive and upbeat about the current state of the UK there’s a sense that we’re well and truly screwed. Perhaps his method of alienating the audience reflects the way that society merrily seeks targets to tear apart as austerity tightens its grip.

Regardless of his motives, he shows us he’s still a vital anarchic voice in political comedy and satire. He’s often at his best just snarking back at his audience. Even his point about the cringeworthy prize for best Fringe joke (a worry I share, as there’s absolutely no need to go around encouraging the likes of Tim Vine) and his determination to win this year feels like a commentary on the patronising face of the media and entertainment industry.

Still entertaining, bitter and funny after all these years.

Jayde Adams: 31



Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68)


Aug 6-28 (not 17)


Jayde Adams has been building a following at the Fringe over the past few years, starting in the traditional manner, sharing a bill with a gradually smaller number of others, until this year she presents her solo show, Jayde 31, with its iconic bum-painted-on-chin poster.

The show is consistently sold out at the Voodoo Rooms, I have to flirt outrageously with a bouncer to get the last standing space (oh, the things I do for the arts) but I’m determined. Jayde was also in Edinburgh as part of Scottee’s Camp (as Christmas) for Edinburgh’s Christmas, so I know I’m onto a good thing.

Well, she certainly doesn’t disappoint. She leads her adoring audience on a nostalgic trip back to her teenage years, losing her virginity to a boy with curtains, the heady scent of Lynx Africa, Leonardo DiCaprio fantasy sex scenes, dance competitions with her sister, school sports when you’re the fat kid and how her more popular sister even got asthma better than her.

She gives her all with physical comedy, refusing to be shamed for her stature, taking up space and being the sexiest funniest girl you ever met. Her lip-synched phone call with her Mum about gypsies is devastatingly hilarious and her audience participation is on point

At almost the end of the set, Adams flips the mood completely. She shares more from her own story, of intense tragedy but also how she’s been guided by wild transvestites since she emerged as one of Bristol’s greatest exports (asides from the slave trade). Her tears are genuine and real, her transparency tender and challenging.

While she’s holding her donations bucket at the end I shout over to find out what she’s drinking (white wine, to save you time when you go) because I just think “fuck, that girl needs a drink right now”. We have a quick chat upstairs and she’s just as lovely and gracious as I could hope.

An unmissable Fringe gem, uncut, sparkling and precious.