Izzie Fernandes

EDFRINGE REVIEW

izziefernandesI don’t know how YOU review Fringe reviewers, but I do it like this: I make a document of all their reviews so far and go through it with a highlighter: yellow for things I would question, red for bits that I like. But the reviews of Izzie Fernandes were so streaked with yellow you might think they had jaundice.

Well, I say ‘reviews’ because we generally wait until we have two or three in order to get a sense of the reviewer’s style. But the one attempt so far by Fernandes is such a catastrophe that we thought we should attend to it immediately and mop it up like a breakage in the booze aisle, before something terrible happens.

Fernandes’ writing style, if that is what we’ll call it, consists of a stream of non-sequiturs linked with the Pritt Stick of some unfathomable idea. Adjectives are given jobs they don’t know how to do and nouns wander aimlessly around her prose as if looking for the exit. Paragraph breaks occur seemingly at random and could really be put anywhere; even the middle of a sentence would work as well. Flights of fancy stay airborne for about as long as a fat chicken can.

Some ludicrously of pantomime and simultaneously explicit content pervaded Ewins’ energetic performance. With raisins aptly revealed as the MILF’s of the grape world, there were some laughable gems. Ewins surpassed his own expectations and transformed a relatively inauthentic narrative into something more consistently comic and crowd-pleasing. His suggestion that he was merely ‘playing guess who with his career’ was unnecessarily harsh and if you have a spare evening and want to rest your legs in front of some lighthearted comedy with a beer or two, take Ewins up on the offer to let him share his Day Job with you.

If you imagine pooing your pants five times and then sitting down in it, that’s the sort of compacted mess we’re talking about here. The only thing you can learn about the comedy of Mat Ewins from this review is that it left Izzie Fernandes with thoughts she struggled to express. Especially when she writes things like: “Ewins delivered the set with an ease of performance allegedly more inappropriate than a time he performed a kid’s show with a boner”. How can an ease of performance be inappropriate? We need a noun to attach a value to. Especially when we’re talking about boners.

His own spiel about a pie factory (a favourite joke for what his website terms this ‘very hungry comedian’) was interrupted by his exclaiming “fucking hell I need to stop ad libbing”. Such casual interjection gave the stand up a fresh, rustic feel.

Gave it a frigging what, now?

Fernandes is done no favours by Edfringe Review’s practice of running a second review alongside the first, to give a second opinion. In this case you’re scanning the other one desperate for some clarity or pointers.

I could go on and on, but it’s really a bit too depressing. Fernandes wonders whether Matt Ewins’ Day Job really is his day job, but this certainly shouldn’t be hers. If English is her third language then I’m deeply sorry and I commend her to keep grappling with our difficult mother tongue. If it’s her second then she should maybe get some more lessons before carrying on. And if it’s her first then her school needs to be bulldozed as a matter of national urgency.

Billy Coconuts

Ben Shannon

THREE WEEKS

benshannonBen Shannon is a likeable presence whose relaxed hand on the tiller eases the audience into the situation, combining a light-hearted patter and confidence beyond his years. Don’t take my word for it, though. Because those were not my words. They were a reviewer’s words, back when Shannon was in Three Men and a Saucepan in 2013.

Now here’s an interesting thing. Back in 2004 Michael Legge was given a one-star review by a reviewer who was Probably Not Very Good (I know, I know) and who later decided to be a comedian. The fact that Michael Legge did not make him very welcome whenever the two should meet is one of those stories comedians now tell in the backs of cars.

And now Michael Legge has been reviewed yet again by someone determined to straddle the fence of arsery and artistry while only pissing on one side of it. This time he’s got a four, so there’ll be no stern talkings-to (probably) but you have to ask yourself: where do these people get off? Not just the fence but, you know, generally? How do you SIT THERE, assessing someone doing comedy, write that it wasn’t very good, or it was okay, or it was brilliant but then a bit MEH, and then go and do it yourself, fretting about whether there’s one of those cunt reviewers in?  It’s like Jack the Ripper moonlighting as a prostitute, and hoping he doesn’t end up going home with a wrong’un.

We might shrug if Ben Shannon wasn’t bothered about opinions and that it’s, if I may quote The Wire, “All in the game”. But he tells us very proudly that he got three stars from Three Weeks on the first day of performance back then. Presumably – to misquote Victor Kiam – he liked the review so much, he joined the company. And he provides a quote from that nice Marc Blake, who used to play Helmut the German. So opinions mean a lot to him, as they do to any new comedian. Here’s mine: choose a bloody side.

If he chooses to stick with reviewing he’s by no means bad at it. His sentences are well formed and nicely paced. More importantly he manages to get his passion across in a short space of words. He occasionally tails off into throwaways like “you won’t regret” going, or “Edinburgh will be seeing more” of someone, or, in the case of Ivo Graham, the rather verbose “it would be foolish to ignore the fact that he is one of the circuit’s truly talented wordsmiths, and his skills only continue to improve”. Three Weeks only prints slug reviews, yet you can’t help imagining Shannon’s eye is on the word count and his mind, no doubt, on how many stars he needs to dish out to avoid difficult confrontations with his comedy peers as he goes to new places and meets new people.

This is why moonlighting doesn’t work, and why Mister Kipper doesn’t allow us to give these subterfugees more than one pig. So suck on your single sausage, Mister Shannon, and next year come back as a baddie OR a good guy. You can’t be both at the same time. This isn’t The Wire.

Jemyma C. Noevil

* Note: Ben Shannon is performing with Mike Reed (not, we presume, the dead one who was married to Pat Butcher) at Moriarty’s (Venue 332) for the Free Festival at 4.15pm daily. It’s free. Please donate enough money at the end that he can leave reviewing behind him.

Louise Mason

MUMBLE COMEDY

louisemasonOh Mumble Comedy, must we play this game again? Oh fine. Here we go then.

Louise Mason is a real person who actually went to review things. The fact that she writes exactly like all the other Mumble Comedy reviewers, who in turn write exactly like Damo Bullen (and we know he exists because he sends us emails claiming to be Napoleon) is purely coincidental. Make no mistake: Louise Mason is a person and she went to see Juliet Meyers.

Mason (I feel dirty) was certainly not sitting there looking for themes or concepts. With Meyers, as with the other things she saw, she recorded what happened like a copper with a notepad. When she tells us that “In a dark, packed out and rather sweaty loft, Juliet Meyers ran through the corridor shouting and “welcome to the stage….Juliet Meyers!” … her baggy black t-shirt with stars, galaxies and orange writing reminded me of Back to the Future” you have to wonder what the internet has done to journalism. With no word limits the prose has become baggier than Ms Meyer’s T-shirt and more interminable than the cosmos depicted on it. Add to this Mason’s penchant for rhetorical questions (“Where will she take us?” “What would a show about being an outsider be without jokes about religion, race, politics and feminism?” “What can a counsellor do without having people to counsel?”) and you have the makings of tortuous reviews.

It’s not her fault, of course. Mason writes (of Nathan Cassidy) the sentence “Peppered with jokes about mid-life crises and his failed relationship, the audience are on his side.” Mason has no idea that she has told us the audience were peppered with jokes. It must be difficult, what with the ongoing headfuck of probably not existing, to keep in mind that a sentence must have a subject. Nor can Mason see the amusing ambiguity of telling us that Joe Rowntree has a “genius free show”. Statements come screaming out of the mist like civilians running from a bomb atrocity; missing verbs, articles, subjects, qualifiers, possessive apostrophes… The horror, the horror.

Mason turns out sentences the way Eastern Europe used to turn out cars: raw, unfinished, unsafe and liable to collapse under the force of a hard stare.

But fuck it, she’s had her free ticket. Well, someone has.

Billy Coconuts

Charlotte Ivers

BROADWAY BABY

charlotteiversThere was a point in Charlotte Ivers’ review of Mark Nelson where I wanted to invent the game Reviewer Bingo, in which the cards would have stock reviewing phrases instead of numbers.

“His delivery is confident and relaxed…” (Yes!) “Controversial enough to keep things interesting, but never oversteps the mark….” (Yes!) “His social observations are sharp, as are his musings on everyday life…” (Yes!) “He has a unique turn of phrase which transforms observations which would have been mundane into quick-fire jokes…” (Yes!) “He is highly likable…” (Yes!) “Refuses to take himself seriously…” (FULL HOUSE!)

The problem is that none of these statements refer to anything you don’t expect of any reasonably adept comedian. Yes, it’s good to see them done well but this is a four-star review that has no lift to it; not one stand-out moment. Like most of Ivers’ reviews it has a desperate shortage of proper nouns, so that no image is left to linger in our souls once we finish reading. It’s just a train of platitudes that ends with “You could do a lot worse with your time and money”.

Well of course we could. We could pay a Broadway Baby reviewer to throw Pom Bears at our genitals while they talk about their dissertation. If the best you can say of a four-star act is that a person can do far worse with their time and money, screw your review up and start again.  For Christian O’Connell she says “You could do a lot better with your time and money”. Wow.

Everything is one thing without being the other thing: Whereas Nelson is controversial without overstepping the mark, Paul McCaffrey is “sentimental without being mawkish” James Loveridge is “shameless, without the sense that he is playing the shock factor for laughs”. I think Ivers needs to become competent without being formulaic.

Ivers is ready and willing to pin stars to most things; she gives a fair few fours and fives. So it’s interesting that Ivers’ best review so far is the one where she only gives Fred MacAulay three stars; perhaps it was the challenge of naysaying such a monolith of the BBC that forced her to come up with something slightly different. “At the risk of damning Fred McAuley with faint praise, this is an extremely competent set,” she begins, damning him with a misspelt name. Similarly Paul McCaffrey becomes ‘McCaffery’ throughout except at the end where Paul McAffery wanders in; Paul Chowdhry is rendered Chowdry.

Ivers is either lazy or just not very good. If anyone was going to hire her as a proper journalist I would say: “Wait! There are better ways you can spend your time and money!”

Jemyma C Noevil

 

Dan Lentell

FRINGEREVIEW

danlentell Dan Lentell has several obstacles to overcome if he wants to be taken seriously as a reviewer.

First he must differentiate clearly between his objective description of the event he’s watching and the nebulous PR-spracht of the performer’s flyer. Or maybe it’s just what tumbled, unsorted, from Lentell’s head. In any case, paragraphs like this one describing Amanda Kelleher don’t really help us:

“Her personal narrative is a weave of sharply satirical anecdotes set against the transformation of Irish cultural life. Her own early childhood migration, from country to town, is potent metaphor for a national divesting itself of entrenched taboos – where the norm is becoming more normal.”

He adds that “Mischievously delight [sic] floods her features as she snatches each aching belly laugh with both hands.” I’m not sure how you snatch a belly laugh at a gig where the reviewer “constituted 100% of the audience”. But having mentioned that the act was performing ONLY to the reviewer, Lentell opts not to mention it again. Is this a strength, or is it just weird? I think it would be a strength if Lentell acknowledged that he wasn’t going to acknowledge it, and then proceeded with the review making it clear that all conclusions were his, and borne of his rather odd appraisal situation, not those of an audience.

Incidentally, nobody likes having to insert [sic] into someone else’s sentence, but if we were to quote much of Lentell’s prose we’d be sic-ing all over the place. The use of an adverb instead of an adjective is something Lentell does more than once; in fact his writing is all over the place. He needs a sub-editor like Amanda Kelleher needed an audience. Sometimes it goes distinctly Stanley Unwin: “No smarty pants artistic director has insisted that the morning schedule be filled only with acts bright and chirpy,” he asserts.

He gives very little away about The Art of Falling Apart except that it’s “a frenetic, frenzied diatribe against the bankruptcy of our ‘post ideas society’.” Again I’m not sure if this is Lentell’s view or just what it said on the flyer. Either way, his review gives you no idea of what to expect. And how can he ‘highly recommend’ a show that “sags around the middle” to the point that he “started to lose hope”? Dan Lentell’s work poses so, so many questions. A big one is prompted after reading elsewhere that he is “an Edinburgh-based corporate comms guru and is the Edinburgh Editor for FringeReview”. He’s the EDITOR? Really? I suppose that’s two questions.

Worst of all, Lentell tells us that the one-to-one morning show he saw was too boisterous for him and his ‘terminal hangover’. If you’re not professional enough to go to an early show with a clear head that’s entirely your business, Lentell. Don’t share it like it’s something you’re proud of.

Business Leopard