Fast Fringe

The line-up of this comedy showcase changes daily, making each viewing unique. The performance that I attended took place on ‘Black Wednesday,’ compere Ray Peacock was quick to inform us: the first day when Fringe tickets lose their 2-for-1 deals and crowds thin dramatically. Indeed it was a patchy crowd, spread mainly over the right-hand side of the spacious venue, something Peacock vainly attempted to correct by shaming the more distantly seated to come up front. “Haven’t you ever been an audience before?” he enquired indignantly.

To mirror the unevenness of the audience we were presented with a patchwork of stand-up comedians and cabaret acts whose quality varied from average to excellent.

To mirror the unevenness of the audience we were presented with a patchwork of stand-up comedians and cabaret acts whose quality varied from average to excellent. This is about the best crowds ought to expect from this hit-and-not-quite-miss hour. (Apparently they can also expect a male-dominated line-up: only four of thirteen acts involved women on this occasion).

The concept behind Fast Fringe is rather a cruel one for the performers, who are given a uniform three minutes to impress the crowd, whatever the rhythm of their performance style. The acts who did best here were the ones who didn’t rush, letting their sets flow easily. Fin Taylor deserves special mention for his dry, casual wit, which crackled pleasingly; Markus Birdman was delightfully crude; Lily La Scala performed a sultry take on Radiohead’s Creep. Boris & Sergey’s surreal puppetry act, meanwhile, was absolutely intriguing.

Timing is definitely the main issue with the show. Each of its performers had probably prepared a taut three-minute version of their set, but in some cases it felt as though nerves had muddled the prepared material, forcing them instead to try and fit in as much as possible, adding an extra joke if 30 seconds remained. It was obvious that the ticking clock really distracted several of the more nervous acts.

Other performers ignored the clock, overstaying their three-minute welcome. After a few introductory jokes, the matronly Barbara Nice had us all performing a bizarre dance together which ran into a fourth minute. Credit to her for managing to rouse the apathetic crowd to its feet, but as a showcase for her full set it felt like a waste of her limited time. Another stand-up (purposefully unnamed here) failed to notice the ‘stop’ signal – a red light – being waved at them for over two minutes. As the audience laughed at this, rather than the stand-up’s routine, the performer grew more and more confident in their material and actually brought the laughs back onside, before eventually realising that their time was up. This revealed the real problem with the format: the performers can never really hit their stride and build a decent rapport with the audience in such a short space of time.

Fast Fringe is mainly worth seeing for the exposure it provides to a really broad range of talent. Audiences are bound to learn the names of a few new favourites, making it a valuable showcase despite its self-imposed limitations.

Reviews by Larry Bartleet

Underbelly, Cowgate

Jessie Cave: I Loved Her

★★★★★
Summerhall

Abacus

★★★★
Summerhall

Confirmation

★★★★
Pleasance Dome

Neil Henry's Magical Mindsquirm

★★★★
Laughing Horse @ Finnegan's Wake

Martha McBrier: Pigeon Puncher

★★★★

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 £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Twelve top comedy and variety acts perform ridiculously short sets in one furiously fast-paced showcase. There’s a different line-up every day, selected by leading comedy website Chortle, so check www.chortle.co.uk for today’s listings. Previous acts have included Mark Watson, Pappy's, Brendon Burns, Simon Evans, Rubberbandits, Richard Herring, Showstoppers, Tony Law... and literally hundreds more. A hugely entertaining way to sample the best of the festival, all held together by the best compères in the business. 'A brilliant concept … for variety and value for money [it’s] a no-brainer' **** (BroadwayBaby.com).

Most Popular See More

Mamma Mia!

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Lion King

From £45.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Come From Away

From £25.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £29.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

From £13.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Wicked

From £31.00

More Info

Find Tickets