EDINBURGH FRINGE – GRAHAM DICKSON IS THE NARCISSIST

Graham Dickson is a talented performer, who has an abundance of charisma. He seems to be an actor capable of great range as well, as evidenced by some of the scenes in ‘The Narcissist.’ But this show was advertised as a comedy, and I did not laugh once.
It is obviously a labour of love, taking influence from pretentious and buffoonish thespians and works of Russian literature, but nothing ever really landed for me. It is a show that tries to do many things, but arguably never really accomplishes any of them. Part of the show takes the form of a farce, as Graham and his director Hamish argue about different approaches the show should take. It then starts to delve into character comedy, Graham playing a Russian man who self-absorbedly looks back throughout his life to give us a taste of his formative years. The lead character, Grigoriy Alexeivich Dhukov takes us on a journey through his life, detailing the life of shit that he’s led up to this point, the experiences that led up to him writing his magnum opus.
With the exception of two cringe inducing American characters that play on tired archetypes, the play mostly follows this Russian protagonist and Graham himself as he breaks character to bicker with the director. The main problem is that while a lot of the writing has the cadence of a joke that invites you to laugh, it’s not actually funny enough to force one out. The story is okay, it might even be pretty interesting if it wasn’t littered with jokes that make you want to crawl out of your skin and out the exit. The show jumps around pretty frantically and Graham does a good job with some of the physical comedy, but neither the characters nor the humor in ‘The Narcissist’ make any impact. It’s not mean or cruel enough to be truly narcissistic, instead it is a lame, ill-conceived concept. It presents itself as a vehicle for character comedy, but nothing about the characters or the writing is particularly amusing.

Last year I worked for a publication that did not publish negative reviews, so I haven’t written one in a while. It does pain me a little to write this, because while the guy although hasn’t written something I could connect with, the audience I was in there with did enjoy it. But still, there were times where the laughs felt forced from the people sitting next to me. I was impressed with Dickson’s acting ability, and he does have the potential to be a great comedic actor. The writing though, needs to be funnier all round. I was almost going to give it a second chance halfway through if they didn’t do a joke about everyone’s least favourite president, but near the climax they blew it with a joke that had no place in a show dealing with a 1930’s playwright. It might have been an out of character moment for Dickson, but it was still a cheap joke in final few minutes. I do wish Dickson all the best though – it’s hard to be objective when something really doesn’t connect with you on such a wide ranging art form such as comedy. I despise most improv troupes that I’ve ever seen on the festival because of each members need to outperform each other. I understand Dickson comes from an improv background and this does feel like a play that was scripted by a good improviser. Perhaps my fault with the show of is just the incompatibility with the styles of comedy we draw influence from.

✮✮✰✰✰

Graham Dickson is The Narcissist is on at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) ​
20:10, Aug 17-27

EDINBURGH FRINGE – NEIL DELAMERE : BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE PENSIONER

I’m not usually a fan of crowd work at comedy gigs, because it’s a mixed bag. There can be too many loose ends and jokes that fall flat, wasting the precious time you have to make the audience like you and your material. However, Neil Delamere has mastered the art of crowd work to the point that it’s flawlessly woven into his fringe show. It’s not often that you’ll get someone that comes out to do the fringe that has so much fun joking with the audience, their actual fringe material becomes barely distinguishable amongst the improvisation.

The show is framed around a story about helping his father deliver meals on wheels to pensioners in Ireland, who at this point is an 82 year old man himself. Whilst telling us about the weirdos and ultra-religious people he delivers food to, he is able to jump around and go off on tangents without going on too long, without straying far from the structure of the show. He enjoys riffing on the audience’s reactions and their flustered answers to his questions, and because you can see his delight it makes the experience a lot more comfortable. He slides into this free-spirited approach on riffing by telling everyone not to be worried if he talks to them, “we’re only having the craic”. I can get behind this method, having spent too many nights cringing in the back of a comedy club when the comic chats up the audience.

Neil is your stereotypical fast talking Irishman, but it’s probably cause of his quick wit trying pushing out the jokes as fast he can. The jokes come so rapidly at some points I didn’t think I would be able to catch up with him. As the show goes on, Neil divulges more about his life in Ireland and about his childhood where the threat of the IRA could be quashed by getting your dad to join Al Qaeda. His main story about his delivery journey doesn’t seem to be anything more than a comedy vehicle, until in the end he ties it all together in a rewarding finale. It’s a performance that heavily relies on but also benefits from the use of improv, using it as a buffer to make his own jokes sound unbelievable. It’s also a show about getting older and dealing with how you cope with the inevitable – your parents getting too old to deliver meals to other old people.

Neil Delamere: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Pensioner is a great show because it doesn’t feel rigid at all. It’s a show that has the promise of something fresh and original each night along with his prepared fringe material. The guy is genuinely affable, but funny too – he’s not pandering to anyone, you can see that the act is what it is, a hysterical hour with a hilarious comedian.

★★★★✩

Neil Delamere is on at Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64)​, 21:00
Aug 11-14, 16-27

Fuck you, Theresa May

I think it might be pretty clear from this video that i don’t like Theresa May. I don’t, nor do i like any of the English Tories, but this was only meant to be a joke. I had this footage of the leaders of the political parties on a table football game, and started to think “oh i could do a short funny thing with these and then the punchline would be theresa may fucked up in calling this election” but as i started to write the song it started to get less silly and more angsty. I did a couple rewrites of the lyrics while sitting on the toilet, and that’s where i do my angriest writing. It turned out kind of funny to me, because she seems like such a laughable, fragile figure who also is a dangerous reactionary. The problem with conservatives is that their views on what the right thing to do for society or the country rarely hold up under the pressure of real life situations. I thought the dumbest thing she said in her campaign was about the terror attacks “Enough is enough.” I had this image of all these radicalised terrorists putting their guns and knives away and shrugging because this woman told them to. The reasons for terror attacks are not always clear, but to then blame something huge and free as the internet for the rise in attacks is ridiculous. The current government doesn’t understand the internet, it scares them. But if you were to schedule it like a drug, you’re only going to put everyone at further risk.

I can’t talk about them for too much because i just get angry. I was happy to see Corbyn finally given the praise he has always deserved and overcome the stabs in the back that the Blairites gave him. It’s why labour has made a comeback in Scotland, they don’t support Scottish labour, because they all seem like a bunch of entitled cunts that can’t be told ‘no’, it’s people like Corbyn they like, somebody who isn’t a stuffy little prick looking down at their constituents.

(Isn’t it weird though how specifically scottish labour are more unlikable than the regular brand? Why did it evolve like that? Just before the election nadia met a bunch of them using a conference room at work and they were treating people like they were on the caste system)

Tim Farron, who cares really. He brought Lib Dem back from the brink, and Clegg got ejected. They fucked up though. They really fucked it with that coalition.

Nicola Sturgeon, we love you. I mean, you’re the best. Whenever somebody criticizes the SNP, they are just mad jealous. I think.

The weird one in the bunch is Ruth Davidson, leader of Scottish Conservative. She always seemed like a walking paradox to me, proud LGBT, remain supporter, – is constantly getting these things dangled in front of her like keys. She doesn’t seem bad, but i still don’t get what to be a scottish conservative is about. It means you like the UK, sure. You don’t like independence, okay. But that was their entire platform this election – just “FUCK THE SNP”. I like the SNP, a lot. Sure they’re maybe a little slow on some things, but you can’t blame them, they’re Scottish. They’re just a bunch of dirty urchin children who grew into those suits.

Ruth Davidson doesn’t really have anything that annoys me, but i feel bad for her. It’s like she seems a little powerless through all this and you don’t really ever get to see what she cares about, why she got into it all. She’s the one tory that i still got sympathy for. but at the same time, i don’t understand how anyone can like the Tories without being an insufferable cunt. I’ve still to meet somebody that was conservative that wasn’t deeply unpleasant to be around.