Best of Fest presents five acts (and one emcee) crowned with four-or five-star reviews by the Scotsman newspaper. Not only are they critical darlings, they prove genuine crowd-pleasers as well. There wasn’t a weak link amongst them and based on their ten-minute tasters, all were deserving of their high ratings. Australian comic Damien Clark acted as host and performed the requisite crowd-warming with gusto. All the entertainers introduced by Clark were comedians in one way or another, although a poet and a magician added a little variety to a group of stand-ups. Most played it pretty safe and several jokes went over familiar ground - following an ex on social media, mocking the Scots or riffing on generation gaps. For a cross-section of the Fringe’s best, the selection was also disappointingly homogenous: all middle-class men of a certain age. Yet delivery was invariably excellent and I enjoyed every minute. Despite the format and the inevitable plugs for the full-length shows, the afternoon never felt like the shadow of greater things.
Kicking off proceedings were New Art Club, an idiosyncratic duo with a message about loving your body and a gift for both audience participation and charmingly innocent lewdness. The event was pitched as suitable for all ages but most of the performers chafed a little against the constraint. It might have been better to impose an age limit and let the acts swear and make as many sexual jokes as they felt necessary. One man who ignored the guideline entirely (and was admittedly hilarious for it) was Luke Wright. A comic poet from Essex, he spun rib-tickling rhymes about lion-spotting in the English countryside and an unfortunate encounter with a posh plumber. Rarely has a poetic interlude been more warmly received by an unsuspecting Fringe audience. Another crowd favourite was Matt Riccardo, a classic showman who combined magic with comedy and did a very good job of it too.
The Scotsman has put together a feelgood feast of Fringe talent. Anyone who wants to see some excellent comedy but is reluctant to spend on a random show,would do well to investigate next week’s Best of Fest. It promises a solid afternoon’s entertainment and will leave you with an informed idea of what to see next.