Graeme Morrice


graememorriceFull marks to Graeme Morrice for being rambling, irrelevant and slightly offensive in the opening paragraph of his Lucy Beaumont review. “It’s a balmy Thursday night and there’s a mixed crowd packed into one of the smaller Pleasance Courtyard venues. Something’s needed to take our minds off the heat and luckily there’s a slightly ditzy Hull girl on hand to do just that.”

However, it would be wrong to say that Morrice is dismissive. He’s not that all. He’s usually just plain confusing. “If you are one of the brave then don’t worry about being ridiculed for something as simple as an ill chosen T-shirt, that would be far too easy for [Adam] Riches; he cares too much about the audience for that and therein lies the danger.” What exactly am I being warned about here? To wear an unmockable T-shirt? Or not to worry about the T-shirt? If I didn’t need to worry about my T-shirt, why have you mentioned it?

It gets worse: “In a ripsnorting opener we’re introduced to one of the UK’s best loved actors in entirely familiar surroundings, if the laughter isn’t surprising then fighting back tears for dying stage furniture is.” WHAT IS GOING ON? Surely the point of a reviewer is that they be our eyes on the ground. But Morrice is not that. Morrice is the huge fucker with the stupid big hair sat right in front of you in unraked seating. What’s worse is that he gave Riches four stars, and I am unfamiliar with his art, so I really do want to know what’s happening here. But I can’t. Morrice’s backside is parked splat in the middle of the action.

There’s similar confusion in his Oliver Meech review, where theres “a very impressive card trick that has everyone oohing and aahing loudly and a snack lover’s dream ending hinting at what could’ve been, if only we had all time travelled [sic] back to the start of the show for another go”. I was fine up until the oohing and aahing.

His review of Chris Turner is much better and gives a nice sense of the atmosphere: “The only breaks in an otherwise high tempo show are the occasional pauses to allow some of the jokes to sink in, listen out for the groans as pennies drop and try your best not to fill in the gaps for others.” Annoyingly this is part of one enormous paragraph that also commits the sin of set-listing: “posh school, worried parents, studying archeology, falling in love, minor deviations involving the periodic table and roman numerals”. If anyone in Edinburgh needs a random list of stuff they can stop a comedian and read the back of his hand.

In spite of all this Morrice has a snappy writing style and, when he makes sense, his prose rattles along quite agreeably. It’s just that, all too often, he doesn’t make much sense at all.

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Niki Boyle


nikiboyleExcuse me just a moment while I fact you with stats: so far this year Niki Boyle has reviewed eight shows, scattering so few stars between them that they average just above 2.6 apiece. This is slightly more than his average for 2012 (2.58), in which, of 17 shows, he only went as high as four stars once (Pete Firman, you da man).

Even if Boyle ends up enjoying himself as much as he did last year (21 shows, 61 stars) the mean score of 2.9 will put his overall Fringe experience at just below tolerable.

It seems unkind to go ahead with reviewing Boyle without first checking that he’s alright. I don’t want to tell a man who’s fallen off a ladder that he hasn’t cleaned the window very well. But I checked his Twitter and there’s lots of pictures of him smiling, and he seems to be chugging along with his life quite happily (isn’t modern life invasive? None of this should be possible). So satisfied, and with the terrified eggshell-stepping of Steve Bennett reviewing Kim Noble Will Die, we’ll proceed:

Boyle usually begins as he means to go on: “Before we start laying into Action To The Word’s gothic musical adaptation,” he begins his review of Dracula, making us guilty by association with the stake-stabbing to follow. Similarly: “The show title Scottish Comedian of the Year 2013 isn’t one that inspires a lot of hope in this comedy reviewer,” is his start on Larry Dean. He comments that the title has “no sense of ironic detachment”, unlike Stewart Lee’s 41st Best Stand-Up, forgetting perhaps that ironic titles are the luxury of those who already command a broad caucus of the plebeian. Or just don’t care.

None of this reflects upon Boyle’s prose, which is tight and (sometimes brutally) to the point. Amusingly, he seems to resent liking things, which becomes very complex when he likes Aurélie de Cazanove pretending to resent presenting her show to him in Antiquithon. “The audience are successfully roped into this world as performers,” he says. “We are the gormless punters, taking a break from our rational and civilised lives to gawp at the backward curiosities of the uncultured east.” He gives her just three stars (that’ll teach her to make him feel), but he still makes it sound really good.

He makes Matt Panesh’s 300 to 1 sound really good too: “his passion for both the poetry and the politics behind [the show] is sincere. His empathy for the combat veterans of today also strikes a chord”. For Awkward Conversations With Animals I’ve Fucked, Boyle ups his reviewing game from wearily dismissive to jovially dismissive, but, despite himself, makes that feel like a lot of fun too. It’s a massive shame that nobody reads three-star reviews.

I wonder whether Boyle was born and raised in Disneyland, that the Fringe carnival is so far below his expectations every year, or why he still bothers with a job that leaves him so flat.  Perhaps it’s normal for him. Perhaps his body doesn’t produce enough dopamine, causing him to live a perpetual 2.6-star existence.

Boyle concludes one of his two-star critiques with “No, you’ll find nothing especially wrong with Foil, Arms and Hog. But this is the Fringe, people – there’s a whole lot more rightness elsewhere.” It sounds like something said out of hope rather than conviction. Sort of like when Anne Frank wrote “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart”. One day, Boyle will find his rightness.

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Note: this is actually 2.625 pigs but the stuffed toy who makes the pigs wouldn’t make me a special one. As an incentive, we will adjust Boyle’s score to reflect his own review average at the end of the Fringe.


Laura Ennor


lauraennorI’m fairly sure there must be narrative accounts of the Rwandan genocide that are bubblier than Laura Ennor’s comedy reviews. I’m sure that some of the confessions extracted at Guantanamo read in a bouncier, more upbeat style.

I’m not doing her down on skills; she is clearly a capable journalist who knows her mind. In fact it’s telling that acts who are do-no-wrong favourites with most other reviewers score low with Ennor.

One of these, Craig Hill, “either is your bag or he isn’t,” she states. “If you’re laughing uproariously at the mere implication of the word bum (as a verb), then you’re in the former camp. If not, things aren’t going to get better.” I quite like the cut and thrust of Ennor’s writing. It is sharp and quite devastating at times. But taking the broader view, she makes clear that this is your ‘bag’ or not. And Ennor is a critic with form; she knew, before she went, that it wasn’t. So I’m wondering yet again why so many reviewers pick up bags that are not meant for them. As Hill’s review grinds on, it does stray somewhat into the “bitchiness” for which Hill himself is castigated.

To pick one word for Ennor, it would have to be ‘ungenerous’. Gary Delaney “will make you laugh when you don’t even want to”. And even then it’s a “groan”. Josie Long’s show is “scarcely as revolutionary as she makes out”. She even turns praise into a stick to beat her reviewee: “An unscripted exchange … gets some of the biggest laughs of the evening, suggesting [Stephen] Carlin’s forte is in more of a chatty, compere-style area of comedy”. Ennor, Fringe audiences often only laugh at the unscripted bits. That’s because, by week three, they’re utterly dead inside. You should know that.

The effect of all this is that, when you read something Ennor claims to have genuinely enjoyed, it doesn’t quite gel. Would Be Nice Though… is “simply a lot of fun, with tiny details to leave you grinning”. But by this point I just couldn’t imagine Ennor having something as simple and undeconstructed as ‘fun’, still less of her ‘grinning’. Unless it’s in the unnerving, manic way of someone who has seen too much.

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Malcolm Jack


malcolmjackMalcolm Jack isn’t impressed by much, and he wants us to know it. His adjectives all flow from the seen-it-all, done-it-all, yadda-yadda school of journalism.  Of Gemma Whelan’s Chastity Butterworth & The Spanish Hamster he writes that something like this turns up at the Fringe “pretty much every year in one form or another”. Gareth Morinan is ‘tired’ and ‘exhausted’.

‘Hackneyed’ and ‘weak’ similarly litter reviews which have, in essence, been written a thousand times before by other reviewers who wanted to convey the sense that they have much better things to do.

This is but one of several ironies. Of Paul Foot, he writes: “Lord, is it hard work constantly being frantically entreated to laugh not at the actual material but the fact of Foot having the crackpot gall and enthusiasm to deliver jokes he perfectly well knows are not logically funny.” What was Paul’s show called again, Malcolm? Words. If you criticise how he uses them, try not to do it in a sentence that starts as a question, then splits an infinitive, then begins an unfinished clause before vanishing up your own gaping rectum.

I mean, I understand you’re probably really bored and want to move on to something else. But you write mainly for Fest, so it’s not as if there’s a sub-editor, or a proof-reader, or anyone else who’ll turn that dog’s dinner of a sentence into a tasty literary treat. So just pull your sodding finger out.

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George Howard


georgehowardI don’t know what year George Howard thinks he’s living in, but he writes like it’s 1870 and he’s reviewing bawdy entertainment for the Cheeky Hellfire Club.  “I would not say that either are necessarily the most outstanding visual performers I have had the pleasure of watching, but this is made up for with oodles of wit,” he says of Thunderbards. When he offers advice like “…as an audience member, paying complete attention to what this duo is saying is absolutely key to the enjoyment of the show” he sounds convinced that he’s the first person in the British Empire to see such a thing.

None of this is bad, in fact it’s rather nice. And when he’s not coming over all Moriarty, Howard gives pretty straight down-the-line reviews. His short, abrupt sentences are usually very effective but occasionally read as if he hasn’t bothered to turn his notes into a coherent argument and so is just banging out bullet points. Of David Baddiel he writes: “A truthful, witty and charming insight into the shut off world of celebrity through his own eyes. His performance is calm and collected, he is understated and does not play up to his punters – too much. He looks absolutely at home, and has opened up the door for his audience.”

It’s a little odd, even sometimes sounding as if the reviewer is disconnected with what he’s seeing. But his conclusions are clear enough, and it’s by no means unpleasant to read.

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