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Fringe benefits

Trudie Robinson looks back on the first week of Mancunian offerings at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Published on August 13th 2007.

Fringe benefits

The festival’s a week old and everyone’s still looking ruddy cheeked and eager for the bizarre treasures the fringe offers. There can’t be many places in the world where you find yourself chatting to Korean tourists over a cappuccino, you’re willing to sit in a tiny 38 degrees plus room wearing more than a towel or commit the fraud of signing autographs for the confused (no I hadn’t noticed my resemblance to Colleen McLoughlin before but hey ho…)

This year Manford has opted to do the unthinkable for a fringe comedian – he’s presenting an hour of unadulterated stand up, and it hasn’t even got a title.

Talking of signing autographs, the Manchester born, bred and twice mugged Jason Manford has become a bit of a celebrity since taking over Dave Spikey’s 8 Out of 10 Cats and is selling out most nights in his 150 seater venue in the Pleasance Courtyard.

Though he was nominated for the Perrier award for his 2005 themed show Urban Legends, this year Manford has opted to do the unthinkable for a fringe comedian – he’s presenting an hour of unadulterated stand up, and it hasn’t even got a title. Whatever the critics make of its unconventional nature, it’s a fine show full of Manford’s joyful observations on life and cheeky charm.

Ben Elton, former Manchester Uni student and retired bad man of comedy, has been spotted in Manford’s show. In fact he’s been seen wandering the courtyard a lot, checking out the acts with comedy svengali and Peter Kay’s agent Phil McIntyre.

Performing elsewhere in the Courtyard are two more Manchester residents Justin Moorhouse and John Bishop. Phoenix Nights’ Moorhouse’s show, is a touching tale of his relationship with his son Barney whose mum he’s separated from. Over the way from Moorhouse, Scouser John Bishop also talks frankly of the split with his wife and their subsequent make up in a funny, frank reworking of a topic that has already provided him with many anecdotes to tell on the circuit but now sees its Edinburgh debut.

In the Underbelly, Slaughterhouse Live, who have a residency in Manchester at the Comedy Store, are currently terrorising new audiences north of Rochdale. That said it’s their fifth year at the festival and they already have a faithful fan base so they’ve presented a Very Best of… show. Though the sketches are proving as funny second time round.

This year, though it’s still only in its third year, there are a record number of Free Fringe shows. By the law of averages then, it’s unsurprising that a fair few of the contributing acts are Manchester ones. The scene’s favourite manic redhead Andy Watson is in a room at the rather remote Hillside venue where he’s plying his hi-energy humour.

More central is Mike Wilkinson at the Canon’s Gait on the Royal Mile talking of ‘Life and Death’ and redubbed Northern porn.
The plaudits are coming in too for the freebie shows, Chris Brooker’s show Please Hold Chris Brooker Knows You Are Waiting earned a respectable three star review in the Scotsman and Ian Fox’s One Man Defective Story was described by comedian Karen Dunbar as unmissable on Radio Forth. Who knows what there may be to come. With Edinburgh you never can tell.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs from 5-27 August. For tickets and more information please visit www.edfringe.com

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