Enjoying a 22nd season with one of the most-established revue shows on the Fringe circuit, Mervyn Stutter at one point implores his audience to ‘pass the message on’ about his variety show, suggesting ‘We don’t get many reviews any more. Everyone knows what this show is all about.’ Perhaps this is true. Certainly Stutter’s show revels in a cult following - packing out the large Pleasance Beyond while much of the rest of the Festival is scrabbling around to get bodies in. Stutter is effortlessly brilliant in his control of the show, imparting his views on Scottish independence in a way that few Englishmen can - by keeping the large Scot element of his audience on side.
What the show lacks, simply, is more of its title character. There is certainly a great ‘variety’ on show - in terms of genre, quality and audience engagement - but almost too much for a crowd who operate on ‘Edinburgh time’ where, late night comedy stores apart, everything is supposed to last for one hour and one hour only.
This show has some great moments; Ivan Brackenbury typically holds the audience with a short rendition of his hospital radio show. The Soil, an a capella group from South Africa, are charming and offer quite beautiful harmonies; and the Bloody Ballad seems worth seeing on the evidence of one song performed in 1950s Yankee Doodle American style. Some other acts are quite watchable, others frankly a little odd. Still, seven different acts is a lot to take in over the lunchtime period.
Stutter is fabulous - not only through the execution of his own act and songs, which leave you crying out for more - but through his insightful questions to the acts which help bring their performances more to life. More please, Mr Stutter; his command of the stage is something that many of the acts he punctuates can only hope one day to achieve.