thu 18/08/2022

Edinburgh Fringe: DeAnne Smith/ A Slow Air/ Dregs | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe: DeAnne Smith/ A Slow Air/ Dregs

Edinburgh Fringe: DeAnne Smith/ A Slow Air/ Dregs

A not-so-fey comic, David Harrower's new play, and a sketch duo

DeAnne Smith: dark and edgy material among the observational angst

DeAnne Smith, Gilded Balloon ****

 

Don’t be fooled by DeAnne Smith’s gamine appearance of boyish clothing and Bieberesque hairstyle. And don’t be fooled either by the way her act begins with a riff on existential angst - prompted by an Australian waiter saying “No worries” when he took her order - which turns into a song (one of a few in the set) accompanied by a ukulele. Don’t be fooled because you’ll realise there’s a lot of much edgier and darker material that she gets away with because she looks and sounds so sweet.

Don’t be fooled by DeAnne Smith’s gamine appearance of boyish clothing and Bieberesque hairstyle. And don’t be fooled either by the way her act begins with a riff on existential angst - prompted by an Australian waiter saying “No worries” when he took her order - which turns into a song (one of a few in the set) accompanied by a ukulele. Don’t be fooled because you’ll realise there’s a lot of much edgier and darker material that she gets away with because she looks and sounds so sweet.

The Canadian-American is making her Edinburgh Fringe debut with The Best DeAnne Smith DeAnne Smith Can Be and her brand of observational comedy soon wanders away from the fey. Her subjects range from racist grandmothers to intelligent design, and from babies to girlfriends who don’t feel as horny as she does. Smith says she was once a nanny, but any “ahs” should stay on hold as the show’s spikiest material is about wee ones. There’s a hilarious pay-off about why she had to leave the profession; let’s just say it involved taking the nursing element too far.

Smith is a slow-burn comic with a lot of gags that meander to their conclusion after cleverly wrongfooting the audience, but her act, with one or two weak spots, is worth paying attention to. She sometimes deconstructs her work, which can be tiresome with some comics, but she does it with great dexterity and with the purpose of making another funny. After she tells a joke about a street person in Edinburgh, she says there’s a comedy rule in which, “You can balance out a callous reference to the homeless with a mention of a Unesco World Heritage site.”

Smith has “six minutes of bonus hilarity” in the middle of her hour, in which she engages with the audience and throws them Kinder eggs or cans of tuna if they play along, but on the night I saw her this met with a wall of silence that she was unable to fill (to be fair, I hear that on other nights this segment has been a great hit). She was rescued by a chatty man and was just getting into her stride when the segment was over. That’s a shame as her improvisational skills had kicked in and in those few minutes it was easy to see why she was nominated for the prestigious Barry Award at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival. Until 29 August

A Slow Air, Traverse ****

 

slowScottish playwright David Harrower’s new play works on a lot of levels. He describes it as a memory play, but it can also be described as a domestic or a state-of-the-nation drama. Not bad for a 70-minute two-hander in which the set consists of two chairs.

The play is clearly about words then, and about how we use them to explain and mollify but also to obfuscate and hurt. Athol and Morna are middle-aged siblings who grew up in Edinburgh (as did Harrower); Athol has a tiling business near Glasgow, in the same village where the Glasgow bombers were living, while Morna cleans houses for Edinburgh’s well-to-do. Their lives have diverged not just financially, but also emotionally as they have not spoken in 14 years.

Slowly, as the siblings deliver a series of monologues but never make eye contact, we see the things that caused the family rift and also how differently Athol and Morna have reacted to political events - such as immigration and terrorism - in Scotland. But we also very powerfully see how readily we fool ourselves as well as those closest to us by selectively remembering our past.

The language is beautiful, the imagery evocative and the acting, by real-life siblings Kathryn and Lewis Howden, is superb. My one criticism is that this is a family drama and the larger political point Harrower (who also directs) is making doesn’t add to the play. Until 21 August

Dregs, Underbelly ***

 

Dregs1new1 medium1Max Dickins and Mark Smith perform a sketch show with occasional help/interruptions from out-of-work actor John Dredge, who hands out his very thin CV as the audience enters. His purpose in the show is explained by a neat gag at the end, which has a visually rewarding pay-off thanks to a video screen and Photoshop.

The duo’s dynamic when they chat to the audience between sketches is that Max (pictured above, on the right) is sweet and Mark likes to be in control. Their sketches show some originality and a liking for the slightly surreal - a chap selling a zoo to an uninterested customer; a Brontë-esque Jurassic Park; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer mixing up two computer screens with the Budget on one and Football Manager 2011 on the other, with dire consequences. They also have a recurring sketch in which they play seminar hosts and which relies rather too heavily on one of their characters being in love with the other.

Dickins and Smith are good actors and work well together, but their material could be sharper - although I laughed hardest at an elaborate gag about space travel, they were brave enough to end not with a bang but with a throwaway gag. Until 28 August

Share this article

Add comment

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters