|Evolution / All The Planet's Wonders|
|Written by Craig Thomson|
|Published on Sunday, 03 August 2008|
The Fringe previews are an odd beast. Festival-goers might see them as a chance to get in to the expensive venue chains and see some middling-to-big names on the cheap; but for performers, the previews are very much a chance to test out routines on audiences before the main event begins. The reason you’re only paying a fiver instead of £12.50 is because the show isn’t quite finished yet: some punchlines fall flat, some material is a little under-written, and some bits haven’t been properly memorized.
On that basis, it would be unfair for reviewers to start reviewing in earnest until performers have started performing in earnest. But there was still enough on display in previews for two charming female comedians at the Pleasance Courtyard last night to recommend them.
Following up last year’s Complete and Utter Conti, ventriloquist Nina Conti pairs up again with her long-time sidekick, the foul-mouthed Monkey, in Evolution. Flitting from the origin of the species to the nature of Nina and Monkey’s relationship, via Sir Sean Connery’s dalliances in south-east Asia and more costume changes than you’d think possible in an hour-long show, the appeal rests on the contrast between Conti’s butter-wouldn’t-melt appearance and the boorish behaviour of her simian sock-puppet – whose frequent ‘did he really say that?’ outbursts had the audience floored. Some of the segues felt a little laboured, and once or twice left the crowd wondering if the show was over. And a couple of dolls in the supporting cast felt a little redundant... but these issues will certainly be smoothed out in the full run. Catch her if you can, to enjoy some old-school vaudeville talents given new relevance – and watch out for a surprise cameo by a familiar name.
While Conti took us back in time with Evolution, Josie Long sends us out to space with All of the Planet’s Wonders. Astronomy is just one of the branches of human thought she ponders, however, as she attempts to inject more scientific rigour into her life. Long (for whom the epithet ‘sweet’ must be nearly as well-worn as ‘plate-faced’ is for Jimmy Carr) won the Fringe newcomer award in 2006, and will be a familiar face to those of a certain age from her guest-star and writing spots on the achingly youthful C4 hit Skins. I managed to catch her excellent set last year – although it seems The Guardian disagreed with my assessment, as Josie tells it – and her Fringe 2008 routine is more of her trademark enthusiastic repartee and recollections, a smarter and less nasty breed of stand-up than you normally find in Edinburgh. If you’ve seen her before, this may feel a little like more of the same – but you’re allowed more if it’s good for you. And if you haven’t, then you simply must, making sure you sit stage right on the front row.
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FROM OUR ARCHIVES
These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2008. We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.