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Thursday, 15 August 2013 00:00

Comedy act stretches central tenets of theatre, protest and art

by Jack Carr

Every Fringe has its own subtle flavour. Last year was tinged with whimsy and abstraction, epitomised by Doctor Brown's pipping of the Foster's Award for his stunning malevolent buffoonery. But this time around, more cynicism has crept in. 

Three Weeks' leader was bitter indictment from a Fringe-weary comic, and pints nudged themselves up to four quid a pop.

Common themes naturally emerge from any pressurised cauldron such as the Fringe, but I was not prepared for the repeated references to shatterproof rulers and Big Momma's House, which cropped up in no less than three shows.

Nonetheless, a few artists struggled on and, as I write at the end of press week, appear to be winning the battle against apathy, bankruptcy and creative defeat.

The Horne Section is a masterful mash-up which brings the unflappable charm of bandleader Alex Horne together with a quintet of world-class jazzers and nightly guests to form a show which leaves me wondering why I hadn't thought of it myself.

Music and comedy are dangerous bedfellows, but Horne and friends manage to scotch this prejudice.

Disciplined and relentless sketch trio Jigsaw offer an hour of confident and razor-sharp sketch comedy whose brilliance is mildly tempered by a suggestion of sycophancy to Auntie Beeb. Hopefully the trio of Craine, Antopolski and Luurtsema will recognise that they are worth much more than attending to the tastes of an audience titillated by the familiarity of Wonga.com and Greggs pastry tedium.

The most baffling recommendation of the Fringe came from Gecko Theatre's arch composer Dave Price, who pointed me toward the Ballad Of The Burning Star, a drag act which deals with "Israel, Palestine, the Holocaust, everything," all framed by a deliberately clumsy and excessively choreographed hour of cabaret based around a Palestinian family's indiscriminate persecution at the hands of Israeli authorities.

The jarring setting of vaudeville and systematic abuse works to unsettle in a powerful way that even days after the final bow poses unanswerable questions about the central tenets of theatre, protest and art.

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