Crimes Against Comedy

All around Edinburgh sprawl pop-up theatres, ordinary theatres, churches, even Quaker meeting halls. Hundreds of venues mean your audience may be listening to you in the most obscure of settings. However, I discovered the most obscure and strange of places the other day. Walking down a flight of darkened steps, and having a photo taken with a savage-looking axe before I could enter, this venue seemed the weirdest of them all.

The Edinburgh Dungeons are always available to visit throughout the year, 10-6pm every day. However during the month of August, they have extended the excitement and created a tour incorporating comedy for children and adults alike.

Upon entering, the group was met by the Black Jester; a man with a superbly strong Scottish accent dressed in period clothes, his character acted almost like a theatrical safety blanket, popping up at all the right moments during the tour when perhaps the guests began to feel a little unnerved, cracking one terrible joke after another.

Indeed, comedy proved central to this potentially harrowing attraction. Whilst it is based predominantly on children’s humour this in itself was perfect, given that 80% of the demographic were kids. The original gag about toilet malfunctions had the 8-10 year olds doubled over in hysterics. Parents, I will warn you now, there is audience participation, and if you don’t want to be mock-murdered in front of your child, this is not the thing for you!

There were seven sections to this experience. Beginning in a court of law under the terrifying eye of a 17th-century judge, the tour proceeded through a number of dissection rooms, to the promise of mutilation in torture chambers, to a boat ride which could scare even the least lily-livered adult. Pace was maintained as one is met by character after character throughout each scene, and each one performed their role perfectly, remaining entirely within character even as they explained various safety regulations to do with boat rides and pregnancy.

However, despite such accomplished bombast, dramatics and humour, it was the subtle details of fear that were allowed to creep into the atmosphere that truly made this such a treat. While sitting down in the deepest darkest rooms, you were convinced you felt something below the wooden seat; you were sure of the threats above your head.

At a perfectly-timed fifty minutes, this is a vibrant and exciting way to see the dungeons, and is the perfect mix of terrifying and terrific. Take your children, and enjoy the ride.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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Performances

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Nobody tells stories like we do: exciting, scary and bloody funny. A unique and immersive journey through a thousand years of Scotland's murky history. Now better, bolder, funnier. Visit the website for details of special Fringe events.

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