As my memories of the shows I saw fade into the dim half light of ‘I was in Edinburgh, wasn’t I?’ I’ll call this the last of my Fringe reviews for this year. Any more and I’d not be doing justice to the good stuff I saw as the buzz of entertainment or thought or feeling they left me with loses it’s gilt edge. But I’m finishing on a simple one which doesn’t take too much to do it justice I hope.
Dave Callan, an Irish comedian who’s apparently big in Australia but whom I’d never heard of until I was told ‘we’re going to see Dave Callan tonight’, has put together a grand Festival experience. Built around the idea of an A-Z (or rather Z to A) of dance styles it’s an exhausting enough show to watch never mind to perform so every laugh feels truly earned – and there are a lot of them. For an hour or so you can enjoy a sweaty middle aged bloke dance his way through the alphabet with a enthusiastic fervour which beats my entire lifetime reserve of energeticness by about 300%. Backed by four incredibly talented young dancers it’s a joke that could easily have worn thin after the first couple of dancing styles (and he covers an awful lot of them) but for the fact that it’s just so well done.
Rather than stretch out the obvious point of not being a professional dancer for comic effect Dave has, by the look of things, actually put a lot of effort into being good enough to make the bits where he looks bad funny. An impressive amount of work which really shines through as the whole thing never slips away from his control as he mixes brief shots of talk with manic interludes. So even as he twerks like he’s stuck in a Dulux paint mixer you can’t help but be impressed by the timing and skill rather than just laughing at the ridiculousness of it. Although with that said I was still laughing for the duration even with the applause at the end being as much for the craft of it as the entertainment. A definite hallmark of a quality show.
It also goes to show just how obvious a really skilled comic is when compared to those who aren’t. I did see shows, which I’m not bothered to review, where the comedy was built on chancing it more than anything. Individuals who may (or may not) have been funny had taken that basic level of talent and run with it, rather than building it into something that really bosses an audience and makes sure they’re with you every step of the way. Which is pretty much the dividing line between a decent evening and one which you can be bothered to sit down the next week and write about with the remnants of a smile on your face and some genuine enthusiasm for it.
There’s not much more to add really, I managed to get a half price ticket for his Fringe show but I’m guessing he’ll be touring somewhere sooner or later so keep an eye out for him. Plus it’d be no surprise to see him pop up on the usual array of panel shows, as he apparently already does in Australia which is almost a shame really. Not for him of course, because you can’t beat that pay day, but it’s never nice to see someone who can put together a show like that end up sat next to Jimmy Carr trying to force a laugh at that talentless gobshite’s latest stolen joke. But now he’s dancing carefree with those happy feet of his and well worth the effort to catch him.
You can follow Dave Callan on Twitter @DaveCallanWit.
You know how it is right? You’re walking around in a hungover fug, liver desperately trying to filter away the contents of Sainsbury’s drink section. Dull and bloodshot eyes looking for a corner to curl up and fall asleep in… and then all of a sudden you find yourself in a magical wonderland. Where an absurdist Chinese version of the cast of Glee are entrancing you with the heart touching story of an ageing couple looking back through the mists of time. Back to that time they got caught up with a gang of muggers-cum-insect cultists while out hunting for a magical butterfly. Sure, sometimes it feels like every Saturday morning just goes the same way eh?
No? Well, you’re all missing out then.
Around the World: My Journey Continued After You Left, running for I’ve no idea how much longer up at the Edinburgh Festival is a grand slice of the unpretentiously absurd in the middle of the city. Performed by what I’m guessing is a fairly prestigious group from China, it’s a perfectly staged, hour (or so) long hit of oddness which does all you need to qualify as happily strange without ever trying too hard.
Dialogue is eschewed in favour of a handful of random sounds which still manage to tell a story worth hearing. Mostly made up of (word free) song and dance numbers so polished that they’d probably really impress someone who knew more about those things than I do. As a layman though I certainly spent most of the show sitting there with an idiot grin on my face as beautifully poised dancers knocked out hyperactive songs without once thinking ‘this is getting on my nerves’. A miracle really given that I seldom manage that even when I’m sitting alone in an empty room.
I’m not going to go all that deeply into the plot. In part because I wouldn’t want to spoil it and in part because how you find yourself following it is a bit of a personal experience. Though I will say that the insect cult and the fat butterfly were personal high points for me, but then they might pass you by completely. And that’s the best bit about Around The World, the agenda free absurdism of it. Without trying to be odd or ‘zany’ it manages to create a properly immersive pallete of sounds, costumes and movement. One which you can sink into without once feeling that the creators have set out to be weird solely for the sake of it. And at the end you do find yourself being genuinely touched by the cast of monosyllabic, occasionally inept but always affectionate characters.
The only comparison I could really make for context would be to some of the efforts from Studio Ghibli but even then the medium is so different and the crowded simplicity so undemandingly giving that it isn’t one that stands to much. So perhaps I’d be better off saying what Around The World really isn’t despite what you might imagine it to be at a passing glance. For all the dressing up, enthusiasm and energy this is a million miles away from the sort of ‘aren’t we zany’ first year drama students attempt at surrealism. All of the magical wonder and indulgent immersion here is the product of a lot of work and talent which culminates in absurdism being done as it should – which is well – rather than as it so often is, which is as an easy cop out to building something complete.
Anyway, in summary, go see it if you get a chance. I managed to blag a free ticket but they were £12 otherwise and at that price I’d say it was well worth it. And now I’m off hunting for an overweight butterfly, hell, I may even sing as I go…