Clive Anderson’s show about Macbeth, ‘the greatest drama ever written’, offers us an hour of polished comedy loosely themed around the Scottish play. Shakespeare’s material is still topical, he says, ‘a clever Scot with a rampantly ambitious wife, like Michael Gove and Sarah Vine’. He prefers Macbeth to Hamlet which is ‘about some bloke who can’t make up his mind, like a three-and-a-half-hour interview with Jeremy Corbyn’. The act’s centrepiece is Anderson’s memory of his infamous encounter with the Bee Gees who stormed out of his TV chat show in 1996. He’d been encouraged to mock pop stars by Sting who enjoyed being teased about his stage name. ‘Sting is a minor skin-wound,’ Anderson told him. ‘So why Sting? Why not Scratch or Burn or Prick?’ But the Bee Gees took umbrage when they told Anderson that they used to perform as ‘Les Tosseurs’. ‘You’ll always be tossers to me,’ blurted Anderson. And off they went.
Girlfriend From Hell — The Bitch is Back is a small show with a huge range performed by Gabby Killick. She satirises the horrors of dating in the internet age by personifying the familiar demons of urban living. ‘Chardonnay’ is a chic, dependable good-time girl. ‘Twitter’ is a needy sponger with an addictive personality. Killick’s comedy has a strong theatrical flavour. She’s a great impersonator with a spontaneous love of words. I expect she has a play in her.
Bismillah! An Isis Tragicomedy is set in an Iraqi basement where a Yorkshire squaddie, Dean, has been captured and tied to a lap-dancing pole by terrorists. His guard, Danny, is a jihadi from London and the two Englishmen form an unlikely bond. The storyline is not hard to predict but the actors put the show across with bundles of charm and energy.
Monica: This Play Is Not About Monica Lewinsky portrays Bill Clinton’s former lover as a smart, gifted and charming young woman. Crucially it avoids putting Clinton on stage. In a series of subtle and witty dramatic snapshots, the play reveals her life before and after Bill. We’re left to fill in the gaps. At high school she loses her virginity to an obsessive nerd who wants to analyse their sexual encounter as if it were a soil-erosion graph. Years later, post-Bill, the nerd lands a book deal and tries to rekindle their romance in order to promote his career. The patchwork of scenes feels like part of something larger. A TV series offering a sympathetic version of Monica’s story told with humour and sensitivity could be a winner. The producers of this excellent play should create a three-minute sizzle-reel and start pitching it to the networks.
Pits is set on a council estate in Geordieland where a poor, ramshackle but affectionate family find themselves living next door to an unfriendly group of Syrian refugees. This is a hilarious and sometimes unsettling play which has a real rawness and truth to it. The characters are challenged by a covert lesbian affair and by the decision of the eldest daughter to turn the family’s story into a stand-up comedy routine. This is the kind of show London producers should be looking for.
Tricky Second Album by a troupe called In Bed With My Brother is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen in a theatre. Strobe lights and pounding music fill the sweaty venue. A video screen shows vintage clips of two young pop stars tossing banknotes on to a bonfire. A beautiful blonde appears on stage and slow-marches across the playing area. She’s topless and heavily pregnant. Two women swathed in black anoraks prance in from the wings. They fire water-pistols at the audience. Mugs of beer are thrown back. Everyone is getting soaked. The pregnant woman spends ten minutes disentangling a microphone and roams the venue quizzing individuals. The mike is snatched by one of her colleagues. ‘We’ve got the fucking Spectator in tonight,’ she yells. ‘Where the fuck is he?’ The three women scoured the auditorium interviewing punters, and trying to winkle me out, but they failed to find me. This crude, weird, chaotic and dementedly funny show is a punk-rock disquisition on the corruption of the music industry. Its key reference-point is the famous stunt by Jimmy Cauty and Bill Drummond (of KLF), who in 1994 filmed themselves burning a million pounds. Play-goers are warned to expect ‘nudity, fire and treason’ during this show. There’s more, however. The pregnant woman collapsed at one point and appeared to suffer a miscarriage while her colleagues rushed to her aid. But it was a joke. All just part of the fun. Some might call that ‘going too far’. Not me. Faking a miscarriage to get a laugh sets a new benchmark for comedy. Beat that, Edinburgh.
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