Towards the end of this week’s edition of my increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club podcast with comedy critic Kate Copstick, she mentioned that, from mid-May to the start of August, her Shepherd’s Bush charity shop Mama Biashara is offering free space for performers to preview their Edinburgh Fringe shows. there will be no charge for this, but the shows have to be free for the audience with an encouragement, at the end, to donate money to Mama Biashara’s work in Africa.
In other words, a show similar to the Free Fringe shows in Edinburgh.
The reason the previews can only start in mid-May is that, tomorrow morning at 7.00pm, Copstick flies out to Kenya for her Mama Biashara work and does not return until 8th May. The next three Grouchy Club Podcasts will be Skype conversations between me in the UK and Copstick in Kenya.
Tonight, the first Edinburgh Fringe preview was held at Mama Biashara, performed by Mel Moon.
I blogged about Mel and her problems in February this year under the title
’SICK GIRL’ MEL MOON DICING WITH Dr DEATH FOR EDINBURGH FRINGE COMEDY SHOW
Her show tonight was the preview of a solo, autobiographical, parallel version of that show and, I have to say, looked to me like a 4-star show.
I always tell people that, by and large, I do not review shows in this blog but Mel’s show was interesting in that it was a comedy show about having an illness that could kill her at any instant. She could be in a train or performing on stage and drop down dead. She decided, at one recent point, to kill herself, which is how she became involved in Exit, who specialise in assisting suicides with advice.
This, obviously, is a difficult comedy show to pull off and, I have to say, Mel pulled it off with the audience, as it were, in only two modes throughout.
There was either total wrapt silence or laughter.
Not just silence but total and utter wrapt-attention silence. And she kept that audience control for an hour. No mean feat.
I told her that I thought, in Edinburgh, it would have got a 4-star review and possibly a 5-star. But 5-star reviews are, I think to quite an extent, a matter of luck and what the reviewer is feeling like/what other reviews he/she has done recently.
If a reviewer sees a good show on the first or second day of the Fringe, they cannot really give it a 5-star review because they have no comparative shows. What if they then, later in the Fringe, see 15 shows which are much, much better? There is no starry way to go.
And what if they see a show on the only day it worked, by a quirk?
I think, possibly, I have only seen one comedy show at the Fringe (and I have been seeing ‘em since around 1986) which HAD to get a 5-star review. It was so brilliant there was no alternative.
The irony is that I cannot remember the name of the show or the act.
It was a musical double act with two performers who had come up through the Soviet era circuses. They had probably been performing since they were 2 or 3 years old and now they were early-middle-aged.
Every pause, every breath, every word, every musical note was perfectly performed and perfectly placed. It was a perfect, machine-made comedy triumph. And I am sure, if I had seen their show every day for 28 days at the Fringe, it would have been the same perfect comedy triumph.
That is the exception, though, and that is why 5-star reviews are a matter of luck.
Almost all other shows – even the perfectly scripted ones – are going to vary slightly from performance to performance.
And that is why watching comedy is so interesting.