It seems arbitrary, if not foolish, to award a star rating to something like the
The whole night feels a little like you’ve crashed someone else’s party – but what a party to witness.
The awards are a riotous evening celebrating the true originals in comedy, the alternative and the offbeat, the risk takers and boundary pushing acts of the Fringe. The entire affair is held in memory of the late Malcolm Hardee, a performer famed for not playing by the rules and the “godfather” of alternative comedy.
The first award, presented by the much feared, much revered, Kate Copstick was The Award for Comic Originality. It was won by Candy Gigi, for her show I’m Not Lonely – a clown/comedy/cabaret spectacle. Candy took to the stage wearing a pig’s nose and gave her acceptance speech whilst spitting bits of apple into the crowd, which is immeasurably funnier than it sounds.
Next came The Cunning Stunt Award (for best Edinburgh Fringe publicity stunt). Malcolm Hardee himself was infamous for his outrageous and outlandish stunts both in and out of the Festival – including driving a tractor, naked, through the stage of a neighbouring show. The winner was Christian Talbot, who roped his little girl into wandering Cowgate looking lost, asking strangers “Have you seen my Daddy?” Talbot’s win celebrated the art of good flyering, something that no Fringe would be complete without. This award is particularly fascinating as it celebrates publicity stunts as an art form in and of themselves. The Fringe is a place where almost anything can happen, and the daring stunts are the things that really get people talking.
Finally the award for “Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid” went to Luisa Omielan, whose previous show, What Would Beyonce Do?! and this year’s Am I Right, Ladies? have been pulling in mega crowds.
Once the awards were out of the way, carnage reigned. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a woman in a gold sequin one piece set fire to famed blogger John Fleming’s head, but it’s not a sight you’re likely to forget in a hurry. Said glittery ensemble was worn by Miss Behave, who compered the evening alongside Janey Godley. The night included a variety of acts including cabaret, singers and magic plus a standout performance from the hilarious “tribute act to the man with no act”. Alongside these more formally introduced acts, a chaotic mix of things happened on stage – the point being to create as much ridiculousness as possible. I’d wager that this is the only place on the Fringe you’d see Janey Godley giving Lewis Shaffer a lap dance, or a high spirited game of impressions that ended with people standing up throughout the room and declaring “I am Lewis Shaffer” in Spartan chant.
The fact that the person sat behind me commented “who’s Lewis Shaffer?” is perhaps demonstrative of the fact that much of the evening was based around in-jokes that you had to have a fairly detailed knowledge of the Fringe’s major players to grasp. The show is definitely not aimed at your average audience member. The whole night feels a little like you’ve crashed someone else’s party – but what a party to witness. Sitting in the crowd watching the madness unfold, it feels like you’re witnessing something truly magical. The real spirit of the Fringe is present here.
As the night wound down, the “official Scottish national Russian Egg Roulette contest” was held, in which a variety of comics, including the hosts, Tim Fitzhigham and Richard Herring amongst others, smashed hard boiled and raw eggs into their heads, and managed to get a fair amount of raw egg on the front row. The whole joyous mess concluded with Tim Fitzhigham downing a pint of questionable alcohol and playing The Last Post on the Bugle as the audience stood to attention.
This awards ceremony is a joyous, utterly mad event that would only ever happen at the Fringe. It provides a glimpse into a world where the line between creative genius and nonsense is delightfully hard to spot.