Feature: Taking a Stand

When I was a child and was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I had two answers; I either wanted to work in a Megabowl bowling alley so I could go bowling whenever I wanted, or at Blockbuster Video so that I could rent VHS tapes all the time. I don’t know what’s more tragic: my potential career choices or the fact that I’m old enough that I still remember when it was called Megabowl.

Given the eventual closure of both franchises, I was suddenly plunged into the harsh reality of broken childhood dreams, but after many years of maturing and gaining more of an idea of what I wanted to study at university, I realised I wanted to pursue something arts-related. My dad had spent many years in the theatre and he would always wow me with stories of his experiences: meeting Andrew Lloyd Webber, giving singing lessons to Charles Dance and, most importantly, “finding his people”. His theatre family meant something to him and he was always keen for me to find my people.

Unfortunately, standing in front of an audience and acting on a stage has always made me nervous, with my legs and voice beginning to tremble in most school plays, so I knew I wanted to be involved in a different element of the arts. As I grew into my teens, I found my niche: comedy. As well as various sitcoms like ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Friends’, I also enjoyed watching stand-up comedians earn real applause and laughter, not just from a laugh track. At school, one of the shows my friends and I all loved was ‘Mock the Week’, especially the ‘Scenes We’d Like To See’ round. Our favourite panellist was Scottish stand-up comedian Frankie Boyle who, at the time, was pushing a more shocking and vulgar brand of humour. We would quote his jokes regularly and have tons of laughs. However, for me, it was more than the punchline. I loved the shocking humour, but I also understood why, structurally, the jokes were funny. I understood about comic timing, speed of delivery and effective build-up, which was something I realised set me apart from my friends. When I tried to explain how these elements worked, they didn’t seem to share the same enthusiasm for my analysis and made it clear that they really only cared about Boyle’s punchlines.

I kept up my passion for stand-up comedy in the years after school. I would ask for stand-up DVDs every birthday and Christmas and learn as much as I could. I had everyone from Michael McIntyre to Lisa Lampinelli. If stuff was funny, I couldn’t get enough of it. If it wasn’t funny, I tried to work out why it wasn’t. My passion grew stronger with every new DVD and, after seeing Frankie Boyle perform live, I knew I wanted to pursue a potential career in this industry.

In 2014, at the age of 23, I came home from university for the summer break and decided that I wanted to work in the biggest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. As a Frankie Boyle superfan, I knew that he got his start at The Stand Comedy Club on York Place in Edinburgh, so I sent an email to them asking to be part of the Street Team for that year. I realised I had to start at the bottom if I wanted to get anywhere. I managed to bag myself an interview and arrived at The Stand scared out of my wits. I had passed this place many times knowing how important it was to the comedy industry, and now it was my chance to work there. I entered, ‘being myself’ as my mum had drilled into me beforehand. Hayley, Callum and Kirstin were the three people I had to impress with an impromptu pitch of Phil Jupitus’ show (which veered off into a pitch of Katherine Ryan’s show because that was the one I had prepared for). After a slightly shaky combination of pitches, my first thought was “Well maybe they’ll think about the diversity quota and hire me because I’m gay.” Fortunately, Hayley said I was a ray of sunshine and hired me right there. As I left, I skipped down the road with delight, unaware that everyone could see me out the window, something that was publicly brought to my attention on my first day.

Despite this, that summer was one of the best of my life. I learned a lot of life lessons and made a ton of new, some life-long, friends (Kirstin came with me to my university ball and Callum became my flatmate). As part of the Street Team, I was essentially one of the annoying people that comes up to you, attempts to shove a flyer in your hand and pitch you a show that starts in five minutes, also known as, those who you try to avoid at all costs. On my first day, I was happy, smiley and excited; I was myself. However, on my first attempt to stop somebody and engage in a conversation about a show, their response was “Fuck off, retard.” I stopped dead in my tracks. My smile faded, my lip began to tremble and I began to tear up. I ignored everyone on my way back to the manager’s office, genuinely wanting to quit there and then. There wasn’t a lot of sympathy coming my way and, in hindsight, I’m glad there wasn’t. “You can’t let one dickhead get to you.” Kirstin said, not taking her eyes off her computer screen. I didn’t need the violins, even though I would have killed for a concerto at the time. I had a small weep (one of many throughout August), got back on my feet and got back out there, and I’m so glad I did. My passion drove me forward and it was encouraged by all of the staff at The Stand. By the end of the Fringe, I had finished in the top three for most tickets sold throughout the run. I remember at the wrap party, Hayley took me aside and told me, with genuine sincerity, “You’re going to do well in this industry”

Fringe 2020 would have been my seventh consecutive year working at this festival. It’s from my time at The Stand that I’ve since been able to connect with some of the biggest and most creative names in the industry. I’ve worked with various other companies in different roles and gained a wide array of practical experience, from reviewing to public relations. I’ve met collaborators and mentors who continue to help me in my ongoing creative career. I have found my people through The Stand Comedy Club and I’ll be forever grateful for that.

Venues such as The Stand are so important, not only to discover new talent and help nurture up and coming comedians, but to also help inexperienced people with a passion for performance like myself. These venues have helped shape me into a more confident person and really fuelled my drive to pursue a career which I genuinely enjoy.

I would encourage everyone who has taken the time to read this to check social media for anything they can do to help. The Stand is having their last live comedy show online on Saturday 29th August at 8:30pm. You have the chance to donate, as well as seeing a super line up of comedians. At 7pm, also on 29th, Monkey Barrel Comedy is also hosting a fundraiser with a great line up of very funny people, hosted by the wonderful George Fox and Amy Matthews (Amy also has written a powerful thread on Twitter about her own experiences and memories with Monkey Barrel which is well worth a read. Her handle is @AmyFMatthews)

It breaks my heart to think that a venue that has done so much for me and countless others could be on the brink of closure. Many live venues all over Scotland are under that same threat.

We always rely on comedy to get us through the worst of times. Now, in its time of need, comedy is desperately relying on us.

By James Macfarlane

You can support The Stand by donating here: https://www.thestand.co.uk/donate/




LAMBCO brings incredible LGBTQI+ line up to the TheSpace UK at Edinburgh Fringe

By James Macfarlane – Senior Writer

As the celebrations of the festive period become a distant memory, the arts industry begins to prepare for the annual Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August of this year. The next few months see comedians begin performing their new material in their first “work in progress” shows and theatre troupes put the final touches to their scripts. In one of the more exciting pieces of news for the 2020 Fringe, up and coming venue TheSpace UK teams up with LAMBCO Productions to produce six all new LGBTQI+ shows in their TripleX Studio on Nicholson Street.

Running back-to-back from 5 pm to midnight, these shows range from comedy to burlesque and everyone is sure to find something they love. The shows are all adult in nature and include modern day takes on themes such as relationships, desire and sexuality.

The comedy two-hander HAPPY ENDING teasingly explores the relationship between a gay masseur and one of his straight clients.

Next to tickle your fancy is TICKLE – THE MUSICAL – exploring the perils of quick cash in the soft porn industry.

Then we have BOY TOY. A queer reimagining of Coppélia. This modern ballet uses tequila slamming Soho sexiness, an all-male cast and stunning storytelling. Nominated for 3 Off West End Awards.

Hot on the heels of BoyToy is HAPPILY EVER POOFTER – the smash-hit Disney parody show in which a gay Fairytale Prince goes on a hilarious, heartwarming adventure to find his “one true love”

Next, we’re off to splash around in the soap suds of BATHHOUSE THE MUSICAL. High energy camp fun in this rib-tickling, toe-tapping, towel flicking musical.

To top all this, this late-night musical burlesque BOYS IN THE BUFF – in which Diana and her four gorgeous boys explore the nooks and crannies of their bodies and let it all hang out.

In relation to their partnership with LAMBCO, TheSpace UK say that they are “delighted”.

“Our programme challenges perceptions with diverse work & art created by and about queer & LGBT people, putting it in different contexts, whether familiar, new or unusual. We are hugely proud to be able to work with the LGBTQI+ community to offer the Edinburgh audience a selection of creative work at its very best.”

This is certainly a progressive step forward from TheSpace UK. ScotsGay will be looking forward to seeing the shows and keeping readers informed on our opinions.

Tickets can be purchased from Thursday 30th via the Edinburgh Fringe Website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=*%3A*


Nancy Clench, Scotland’s Biggest Drag Queen, has announced the first dates of her international tour. The 6ft 5 towering Diva from Fife, Scotland, is set to perform across Scotland, London and Berlin ahead of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. 

Following her five-star reviews for her 2014 and 2019 Edinburgh Fringe shows, Nancy Clench is taking the extended version of Nancy Clench: Agony Aunt on tour with several dates already confirmed.

The show, written and performed by Nathan Sparling, has received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike. In this extended version, you can expect powerhouse vocals, quick wit and many fun anecdotes as Nancy answers some of the world’s most common problems.

Commenting, Nancy Clench said: “This is probably the most fun I’ve ever had performing. This new show, that premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019, has brought a new lease of life to this Queen. It’s great that after 10 years of performing, I can bring something new and fresh to audiences across the UK and internationally.

“Among the jokes and laughs, there is some serious meaning in this show. Don’t miss it!”

ScotsGay Fringe said that “she is a master of the mic.”

Current confirmed dates for the Nancy Clench: Agony Aunt are:

  • 26th February – The Phoenix Arts Club, London
  • 21st March – TBC, Kirkcaldy
  • 27th March – Carmelite Hotel, Aberdeen
  • 18th June – Chantal’s House of Shame, Berlin
  • 26th September – Caol Community Centre, Fort William




Assembly Rooms – Drawing Room

August 1-25th – 11:00

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)

A figure sits on a chair. Her face is made of newspaper and where her mouth should be sits a
pink rose. The figure feels her face, as if for the first time. She begins to pick at the rose, trying
to claw it out of her mouth.
This is the opening image of Tales From the Garden, a one-woman show directed by Kathleen
Stephens and co-written by and starring Ameera Conrad. The play follows a traumatic
experience the speaker underwent three years ago and her struggle to heal from it. The first
thing that bears mentioning about Tales From the Garden is its design. The play is set in the
eponymous garden of the title, however, this garden is artificial, newspaper covering the entirety
of the set. This disjunction between the natural and the manufactured evokes a sense of
displacement that relates to the trauma at the centre of the piece. We as the audience are
invited into the speaker’s world, a world that she has constructed herself in the wake of what
happened to her.
The focus of the play, however, is Conrad herself, who manages to carry the play beautifully.
Conrad has a boat-load of charisma, which she effectively uses in engaging her audience,
whilst also having the emotional heft required when moving to the heavier sections of the play.
Conrad puts the audience in her shoes, so that when she comes to the events at the
the centrepiece of the play it is comprehensible, if not ever fully understandable.
It would be wrong to impose a direct reading onto Tales From the Garden. Part of it, I believe,
is about reconstructing identity in the wake of something that is unfathomable. The play
ends with the same image that it started with: a figure with a face made of newspaper and a
rose for a mouth. I don’t believe that Conrad and Stephens are saying that it’s possible to forget
traumatic events or ever return to a place before they happened. I believe they are saying that
it’s possible if we come to accept the things that have happened to us, that we might at some
point heal. And I believe they make that point in a very effective and affecting way.


William Byam Shaw




Pleasance Courtyard – Above

August 19-25th – 10:30pm

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)

As Andrew Doyle takes to the stage at the Pleasance Above venue, there seems to be a more serious tone to his demeanor. Wearing a smart suit jacket and shirt combo (although he promises this was a Debenhams outfit), he strides to the microphone with a purpose. Andrew Doyle has some things to say and, in some cases, to clarify.

The past few years have been controversial to say the least for this stand-up. His first Edinburgh show in two years, this break in the spotlight has seen him writing for internet sensation Jonathan Pie, founding a free-speech comedy night in London and creating Titania McGrath, a satirical Twitter account that mocks certain parts of the liberal left. However, tonight is Andrew Doyle as himself: unfiltered, straight talking and unapologetically honest.

Gauging the room in the form of a show of hands, he works out that about 50% are left wing, 30% are right wing (a scarily fast hand shot up in the front row directly in front of Doyle when asked) and the other 20% being centrists. Doyle is himself left-wing (often mistaken as a right-wing comic in the media), so it is nice to see his willingness to include everyone, no matter their political belief. After some interesting comments regarding a former Tory MP, there were a few people who decided the show wasn’t for them, a shame but also unsurprising. This didn’t seem to bother Doyle and in fact he recovered remarkably well, segueing directly to his next routine with absolute ease.

Andrew Doyle is funny throughout his show, and his frustrated and increasingly irate persona (in addition to his increasingly empty wine bottle) is a sight to behold. This is a man who is very open about the fact that he voted Leave and is happy to give reasons why. It’s powerful and somewhat refreshing to hear.

The show overall is an astute hour of political comedy – well written and with a focus on just how much ‘woke’ culture has an impact on mainstream culture. Are they now simply one and the same?

The show garnered a few exits, but also a standing ovation from several audience members. Certainly one of the more polarising shows of the Fringe, but one of the most enjoyable.


James Macfarlane

Twitter: Justjammy



Greenside @ Nicolson Square (Venue 209)

August 22nd-24th, 23.10

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)

It’s 23.10, and we’re entering the twilight hours of the Fringe. What does any good Festival goer need as a nightcap for this hour? How about a strong dose of murder… Throw in some dark humour, terrifying stage combat and a hint of madness, and you’ve got yourself a five star show in the shape of Murder Ballads.

The tone is instantly set, as we are welcomed and ushered to our seats by our four strong cast, transporting us to O’Malleys Bar, West Texas. Thomas Galashan and Laura Connelly expertly improvising witty remarks and throwaway lines based on the audience and their reaction – and we know from the get-go, we’ve got a fun night ahead.

Our narrator, Tom Wilson, begins the nights proceedings, and swiftly and deftly carries us through an hour of dark tales centred around ‘Stagger Lee’ and the many murders connected with him. We encounter many characters, all portrayed by Galashan and Connelly, with a change of costume or props – but with such clear characterisations, an audience could easily identify them in an identity parade.

The musical, adapted from the titular album by Nick Cave and the Seeds, has been cleverly created by Gerry Smyth, who also performs a beautiful simple role from the back of the stage, accompanying the cast throughout, with the occasional grunt, which has the audience in hysterics.  Although I was a stranger to the music entering the theatre, I left singing lines from various numbers – a testament to not only the music, but the ingenious adaptation.

It’s somewhat expected from a Fringe show, that a small cast will perform countless roles, as performers and stagehands, and even sometimes musicians. But this is part of the beauty of Murder Ballads – not only do our talented quartet cover a multitude of characters, they also accompany each other on various instruments, dress the set, dress each other. It’s a masterclass in staging and direction, and director Ellie Hurt has outdone herself in highlighting the cast’s skills.

Beware sitting in the front row, or splash zone, as it should be labelled – the wonderful cast are working particularly hard, so expect a little spray in this perfectly intimate venue. And don’t be put off by the slightly slower start to this high octane hour – the opening number is a necessity to the storytelling. Once it’s out of the way, the show kicks up a gear into a high octane, all guns blazing spectacle that should be seen by all audiences.

It’s difficult to highlight any one performer, with Galashan giving a stellar performance in his many roles, both hilarious and terrifying, but it’s Laura Connelly who (yet again!) has me bent over double with her magnificent character portrayals. From crazy bird lady, to deceivingly sweet little Lottie, her ability to embody a role and bring it to life is utterly mesmerising. Add in a stunning vocal performance and a whole heap of natural comedy, and Connelly is a shining beacon at this year’s Festival. Paired with Galashan, they are an unstoppable force in this musical.

With a little rebranding and a better time slot, I think Murder Ballads could be the number one show to see at the Fringe this year – it does everything right, and for an original stage adaption, I defy anyone not to have a killer time with this stupendous cast.

Chris O’Mara

Twitter @aramoc

Review: Anaïs Mitchell in Concert ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Anaïs Mitchell in Concert

Queen’s Hall

20:00 (20th August)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (5 stars)

This concert was far from what I had originally expected. Firstly, I did not expect there to be an opening act which in this case was a young musician called Carsie Blanton, whose music I enjoyed very much. All of the songs were different in either subject or energy and it was frankly amazing how many sounds she managed to get out of her guitar. The songs seemed to reflect her own personality and it would be hard to sum up any of them in one word. At one point during her song, ‘Fat and Happy,’ she asked the audience to sing along and took out a kazoo and played it over the top of her guitar. During, ‘Jacket’ she stopped the intro in order to explain what a Swiffer is (a type of mop). It was moments like these that connected her to the audience and made her very likeable and approachable. Blanton managed to link her set list with anecdotes and by being herself which let you appreciate her music within the context that she had written it. Her songs were clever and often had a ‘stream of consciousness’ feel to them, but you can tell that they were written from the heart, and because they are so varied, you are just constantly amazed. A song that is worth mentioning is one called, ‘So Long New Orleans’. This song manages to encapsulate the feeling of homesickness and everyone who has ever left something behind will be touched by this it. ‘American Kid’ is one of the most honest and depressing songs I have ever heard even though it is very upbeat. It describes the American political situation perfectly and is truly a testament of how music can not only be about anything but also how powerful it can be. Carsie Blanton described New Orleans ‘creepy and inspiring’, and you can tell how much the city has informed her music because if anything Blanton’s music is the New Orleans of modern music, in the very best sense. It is beautifully eclectic, and her performance was very fun to watch.

Anaïs Mitchell’s music is also unique in its own way and contrasted nicely to Carsie Blanton’s. Mitchell’s music is perhaps more noticeably folk, and makes you feel like you should be watching a black and white film at the same time. The songs perhaps tell more of a story and it seems like they are part of a larger story. The tuning between songs did mean that it ran less smoothly than Blanton’s set, and when it took too long you could tell that maybe there was perhaps a little panic as Mitchell tried to talk simultaneously. There were a couple of songs from Hadestown – her Tony award winning musical – but the setlist was mostly taken from her work independent from the musical, with the theme of nature running through many of them. It was a little less clear what the songs were about at times, but felt quite eerie and supernatural in the way that they sounded, but in that case you have to wonder whether it’s more important that you understand what is being said or how they made you feel.

The pair stayed away from love songs, and whilst there were a couple, they were different and original to the point where they were almost unrecognisable as such. Each had something new to say and said in a way that was incredibly interesting. They had a unique style which complimented each other whilst simultaneously contrasting. Both used acoustic

guitars but since Anaïs Mitchell had an extra guitar player with her, it allowed her music to occasionally have a bit more depth which suited the performance in the same way that Carsie Blanton’s worked perfectly with just her singing along to her guitar. It was political without being noticeably political, but they did hold a candle to the situation in America and did it so tactfully and logically like that even the most right-wing audience member would not be able to disagree with them. The last song that they sang together was called ‘Deportees’, a protest song about Mexican immigrants fleeing a plane crash in the 1940s and was incredibly moving to the point where there was a hush in the auditorium, and I doubt that there was a dry eye.

This isn’t the type of music that you dance to, you have to sit and let it wash over you. It’s about how it makes you feel more than anything else, and your mind could wander without missing any of the music. The songs encourage feeling and allow your imagination to run away from you.

Katerina Partolina Schwartz (Twitter: @katpschwartz)

Review: Kate Lucas is Selling Herself ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Kate Lucas is Selling Herself

Just the Tonic at the Tron

18:20 (ends 25th)

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)

The place where Kate Lucas was performing was nice – it was cosy, more relaxed and intimate. Whilst I try not to take into account performance spaces – especially during the Fringe – this one really suited her show. Her performance contained original, funny songs interspersed with anecdotes about her experience of ‘selling herself’ online, mostly in her personal life. Like many comedy routines there was an underlying message. This time it was about what the internet has done to us as a society and how reliable we are on it, but it is relevant none the less. It was a lesson in self-worth and confidence and would make a very good ‘how-to’ guide for those who aren’t completely sure of themselves.

Kate Lucas came off as very friendly, bubbly and overall charming; she got the audience eating out of the palm of her hand very quickly and easily. As this was a show full of audience participation, this is of course key. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of interactive shows and purposefully sit as far away as possible, even I found myself singing along to one of her songs when she asked.

The one part that I didn’t quite understand is when she started bidding off parts of her body. Whilst this fits with the overall theme of ‘selling herself’, considering that most of the routine was about the internet and social media, it just seemed a little out of place. Although it did restore my faith in humanity that nobody was willing to bid on Kate’s privacy and that it was almost like an unspoken rule that violating someone’s privacy is a line that any decent person won’t cross.

Honestly, this show was far from what I expected considering the way it was described and the title itself, but it was a lot of fun. Kate Lucas took an aspect of everyday life and managed to make you think about your own experiences and you became more aware of how you present yourself on social media. This was a new spin on a very well discussed and important topic, and frankly, you can never hear about how Mark Zuckerberg is an awful human being one too many times.

Katerina Partolina Schwartz (Twitter: @katpschwartz)

Review: The Words are There  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)


The Words are There 

The Space at Surgeons Hall 21.10 

⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4 stars)

To observe the narrative behind the story of Mick (represented by Ronan Dempsey) and girlfriend Trish (represented in mop form) is to be privy to the display of emotional abuse that ensues throughout their relationship. Not only this, but it is to recognise the subversion of relationship dynamics. It displays the very fragile and crucial boundaries that exist between romantic connections and matters of manipulation, overseen by the slippery slope of control.

A solo show is no easy feat, and Dempsey does the job well. Perhaps, due to the natural complications of its subject matter, the words are nowhere to be found. From the stylised movements within this performance to the spooked allure of Dempsey, and through the Theatre of Objects medium that this show comes to be signified, perhaps it is best for words to never be uttered and exposed. For such words, in ritual stage acts, become dispersed in air. Such acts cannot be fully realised and must be destroyed.

This is where the allure of the performance resides – in what is not said and cannot be said. What is bestowed to what cannot speak. After all, silence is the centrepiece of this performance. Indeed, the kernels of value arrive through symbology. I am left to succumb to my own thoughts. The hierarchy of importance given to “things” over “characterisation” leaves me to think of the value of everything. The constant music; lighting modifications; shifting sound designs – what do these objects, without life, truly mean in the play? What do I think their purpose are? I may be right or wrong in my deductions. And what of the sun, the stars? Government? Buildings? Technology? What is their importance to humanity? To me? What of control? I cannot know the answer! There are no words in these symbolic structures. All thought must be destroyed?

Yet, I digress. But The Words are There does make you think. The noise within silence grows louder in these current times. The chaos within the taciturn spirit becomes more violent. Culture must participate in the expulsion of repression to fully realise the extent of its messy situation. The Words are There tries to play its part in doing just that.

By Joshua Kaye





Assembly George Square – George Aikmain Theatre

August 24-26th – 19:30, 23:30 (24th)

⭐⭐ (2 stars)

Throughout his latest special Ultrasound, David O’Doherty constantly refers to his show as a
reprieve. O’Doherty sees his show as a means of escape from the political and social turmoil of
2019, using the medium of stand-up to distract his audience from the horrors of the outside
world. However, his set is neither funny or interesting enough to fully immerse an audience and
it is difficult to derive what, if anything, O’Doherty is trying to say.

Ultrasound is a self-professed rambly show and there is never a clear sense of where it’s going
or what it’s about. O’Doherty moves through a variety of topics, including goose-riding monkeys
and an admittedly hilarious segment on ‘mouse-juice’, with a real lack of direction. The music,
while enjoyable, doesn’t seem very necessary, O’Doherty’s simple piano chords serving no
purpose other than to mildly entertain. And in many ways that seems to be the show’s whole
MO: to mildly entertain. While David O’Doherty is enjoyable for the hour that you spend
listening to him, he leaves no lasting impression and the minute you leave the theatre you would
be hard-pressed to describe what his show is actually about.

However, while I didn’t completely enjoy O’Doherty’s set, it’s clear that the audience did,
seeming to be thoroughly engaged throughout. O’Doherty has a specific brand of comedy and
that evidently works for him. So while Ultrasound wasn’t my cup of tea, if you have enjoyed
O’Doherty’s humour in the past then this will probably be up your street.


William Shaw