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Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Catherine Bohart / Matt Parker / Nigel Ng / Zoë Coombs Marr | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Catherine Bohart / Matt Parker / Nigel Ng / Zoë Coombs Marr

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Catherine Bohart / Matt Parker / Nigel Ng / Zoë Coombs Marr

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Catherine Bohart's new hour was inspired by the dissatisfaction of a woman who saw last year's show

Catherine Bohart Pleasance Courtyard ★★★★

Catherine Bohart has a most unusual starting point for her new show, Lemon. Last year at the Fringe, a woman was so appalled by the Irishwoman mentioning her sexuality – she’s bisexual – in her show Immaculate that she pronounced herself “disgusted” by its sexual content.

Except that there wasn’t anything other than a brief mention of Bohart’s girlfriend. We should thank the woman in the yellow jumper – not for her homophobia, obviously, or her lack of attention – but because it allows Bohart to riff amusingly on so many things that follow from that most revealing comment.

Bohart talks about straight people’s fascination with her sexuality, and – I hope just to piss off yellow-jumper woman – in this hour she talks at length about her relationship with her girlfriend. But four years in, it’s not all sex, sex, sex (despite what straight porn might suggest); they have busy lives so now they’re thinking of calendarising play dates. 

Along the way, there’s talk of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the roles gay couples can fall into - “I make her take the bins out; that’s science” - and her mother’s embarrassingly sex-positive attitudes. In a very well constructed show, Bohart expertly draws all these seemingly unconnected threads together,

There’s a more serious message underlining the comedy; even in 2019 being anything other than straight can be uncomfortable, even dangerous, but Bohart makes this a cheerily positive show with a lot of big laughs.

  • Until 26 August


Matt Parker Pleasance Dome ★★★★

You don’t have to be maths geek - or even particularly good with numbers - to enjoy this show. Matt Parker, a former maths teacher, has devised a fast-paced entertainment that delves into the magic of maths, and it’s funny as well as informative.

You may have heard of Parker’s campaign to have UK road signs changed to make them mathematically correct; well, one sort of sign at least – that for a sports stadium. The ball it depicts is not geometrically possible, and Parker has pointed this out to the relevant authorities. They knocked him back, but he’s still trying to get the signs changed.

He covers that story in Humble Pi, but also the significance of the number 256 in the computer age, the beauty of Venn diagrams, and the importance of checking data when corporates use numbers in advertising campaigns, as McDonald’s and Pepsi both found to their cost. 

There is the occasional jokes just for the geeks in the audience; Parker has included lasers because they make the show more coherent (look it up). A gem.

  • Until 26 August


Nigel Ng Pleasance Courtyard ★★★

For stan-ups from an immigrant background, culture-clash comedy is a gift. Incomers will always see the quirks and disconnects more readily than those who were born in a particular place, and Nigel Ng, a Malaysian who has lived in the UK  for a few years, mines some strong comedy from his observations.

In Culture Shocked he talks about scary women on trains drinking Prosecco, the kind of people who go to Butlin’s – “Wetherspoons in sandals” – and how British middle-class good manners often hide rudeness.  

Ng, a thoroughly likeable and smiley stage presence, relates a lot of this back to his home country; he explains why he has a “colonial” name, and that one of the things he loves about living in the UK is that he can drink the water without it poisoning him. He taunts his parents when he FaceTimes them by drinking straight from the tap.

There’s a lot of comic exaggeration, which for the most part is productive. The last section of the show, though, veers into stock comedy jokes about coffee shops and stereotypes about  Asian parents being strict, which any number of comics have done before.

  • Until 25 August


Zoë Coombs Marr Monkey Barrel Comedy ★★★★

For the past few years Zoë Coombs Marr has been appearing as sexist male comic Dave, a high-concept gig if ever there was one. But now, she says at the beginning of Bossy Bottom (a joke that only those familiar with gay parlance will understand), she is going to do a show with no narrative, no arc, no political message, no props – and definititely none of that meta stuff.

At first, that appears to be the case, as she comes on stage and delivers a clever straight-up gag – “What’s up, cunts? Cervixes, that's what” – but quickly we realise she's lying. It’s all of the above with, er, knobs on.

And  as the hour progresses we see what a skilfully crafted piece of performance art this is, as she layers one comedy trope upon another. 

Coombs Marr talks about the reception she had to Dave, the night she saw the chauvinist male comic who inspired him, and how she – a performer whose queer feminist credentials can’t be questioned  – was hilariously accused by some keyoard warrior for being “bi-phobic adjacent” after she misunderstood a joke.

Bossy Bottom is subtler than much of Coombs Marr’s previous work but still packs a punch as she takes aim at the male-dominated world of stand-up, and she's trying to find a new language for what she does.. 

She describes what happens between her and the audience as a sort of ongoing relationship. Yet even when taking us into new territory, she delivers some beautifully worked traditional comedy set-ups, distract and reveal or leading us to a punchline and then upending it.

Sometimes the slew of ideas feels like overload and the show slightly loses its focus in the last 10 minutes, but this is super-smart comedy, fizzing with invention.

We should thank the woman in the yellow jumper - not for her homophobia, obviously

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