mon 15/07/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Afghanistan Is Not Funny / Yippee Ki Yay / Eh Up, Me Old Flowers! | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Afghanistan Is Not Funny / Yippee Ki Yay / Eh Up, Me Old Flowers!

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 reviews: Afghanistan Is Not Funny / Yippee Ki Yay / Eh Up, Me Old Flowers!

War as entertainment, Die Hard as an epic poem, and a potted biography

Henry Naylor is a great storytellerSteve Ullathorne
Afghanistan Is Not Funny, Gilded Balloon 

Henry Naylor’s Arabian Nightmares trilogy - about the West’s misadventures in Syria and Iraq and how we have learned nothing - were hits at previous festivals; now he presents this new show, which looks back at where his interest in the troubled part of the world began 20 years ago, when he visited Afghanistan with photographer Sam Maynard to research what become the  2003 Fringe show Finding Bin Laden.

Naylor is great storyteller, and he recounts how he and Maynard got into all sorts of scrapes, including when they were almost blown up by a land mine, were confronted by the Taliban and abducted by the Mujhahadeen. Maynard’s pictures are projected on to a large onstage screen to illustrate the tale.

Like the former comedian he is, Naylor can deliver funny lines among the serious stuff - “I know what it’s like to be hated,” he says drily about being a Westerner in Afghanistan and also about appearing on the raucous Late and Live at the Gilded Balloon in the 1980s. He also  has the self-awareness to reflect honestly on what now seems an act of hubris to go to a war zone. Riveting and thought-provoking.

Until 29 August


Yippee Ki Yay, Gilded Balloon 

What a lovely show this is, a romance told in epic poem-style, through the medium of Die Hard. Yes, the movie starring Bruce Willis as John McClane, the hardbitten New York cop who, singlehanded, saves a Los Angeles office block full of people (including his ex-wife)  from  the evil clutches of super-villain Hans Gruber and his henchmen.

It works a treat as writer and performer Richard Marsh, speaking in verse, moves between parodying scenes from the film and appearing as narrator in his own voice to give us context or to relate how his love of the movie led him to meeting his wife, their subsequent marriage and parenthood, and its travails.

You don’t have to have seen the movie to enjoy this, but there are some jokes you will appreciate more (and indeed, the title). The day I saw the show there were some technical gremlins but Marsh rose above them and  delivered a spirited performance. Marsh’s story is heartwarming and has a happy ending, but thankfully he goes easy on the schmaltz.

Until 29 August


Eh Up, Me Old Flowers!, Pleasance Courtyard 

Charlie Williams, born in Barnsley in 1927 to a Bajan father and a white local lass,  became a huge star in the 1970s on the television show The Comedians, which also made household names of Bernard Manning and Frank Carson, among others.

Chris England’s play (which he also directs) is an efficient run-through of the comic’s life and career. Before he became a comic, Williams (Tony Marshall, doing a decent impression) was one of very few black footballers in the UK, turning out for Doncaster Rovers, and his first brush with fame was not in comedy but when he was refused a visa to enter Australia as a football coach and the story hit the British press.

The play makes it abundantly clear that Williams faced racism and discrimination his entire life, but it also raises the uncomfortable question of how the comic dealt with that reality. His routines were filled with gags that reflected racism rather than confronted it - one of his most famous jokes, for example,  was: “Don’t give me any bother or I’ll come and live next door to you.”

Nick Read (playing multiple roles) impresses as the journalist who comes to interview  the by now retired Williams when he is nominated for an MBE. He’s unapologetic about his material, and points out that he paved the way for other black comics such as Lenny Henry and Gary Wilmot. The play doesn’t make any judgments but this is an interesting take on a vexed subject.

Until 29 August

Naylor recounts how he and Maynard got into all sorts of scrapes

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