sat 13/04/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Krystal Evans / William Thompson / Alison Spittle | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Krystal Evans / William Thompson / Alison Spittle

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Krystal Evans / William Thompson / Alison Spittle

Untimely death, overcoming disability, and soup du jour

Krystal Evans tells a shocking tale, but makes it shockingly funny

Krystal Evans, Monkey Barrel @The Hive 

American comic Krystal Evans (now living in the UK) tells us she has a “resting sarcastic voice” but after five minutes in her company you realise she’s just naturally, hootingly funny. Which is a good thing because Krystal Evans: The Hottest Girl at Burn Camp describes a horrific childhood incident in which her younger sister died, and  a less funny comic might not be able to pull it off.

Evans begins her tale by describing her chaotic upbringing. Her family lived in a mobile home in Washington State – “Nirvana, rain and heroin, just like Edinburgh” – but moved around a lot, her parents divorced when she was a baby, her mother remarried (to a man who hit her) and had a second daughter, Katie.

Some might call them trailer trash, says Evans, but the marker of true poverty in the US, Evans tells us,  is how many toes your cats have (her mother kept too many cats which interbred). It’s one of several nicely teed-up gags to ease us in before she talks about the fire and its devastating consequences.

Evans herself suffered severe burns –  the burn camp for survivors of fire injuries of the title is real – although she and her mother had to leave early due to the latter’s misbehaviour.

Much of the story is taken up with Evans’ relationship with her mother, who was later diagnosed as bipolar and whose attention-seeking Evans always forgave as a child, her emotionally distant father, and Evans’ need to flee the family home and find her own way.

It’s no misery memoir, far from it, but such is Evans’ command of her material and the room that the sad passages sit very well among the funny bits. And Evans can switch the mood in a sentence.

This is a very well crafted hour and, given the nub of the show, shockingly funny.

William Thompson, Pleasance Courtyard 

William Thompson is certainly memorable; he has a booming voice, a heavy East Belfast accent and a right hand that has a life of its own – the result of his cerebral palsy. It’s a subject he dives straight into in The Hand You’re Dealt, a wonderfully confident Fringe debut, but not before berating the English for not understanding Irish history. It’s a punchy start, and one that could go badly wrong depending on who’s in, so fair play.

Thompson has had a lot of sadness in his life; his mother, who fought to minimise the effect of his disabilities to protect him from school bullies, died when he was 18; flirting with cocaine to deal with his grief; and finding out in the most shocking way that his father dealt drugs.

He describes the last subject as “like I’m the son in Breaking Bad” (who also had cerebral palsy and a drug-dealing dad), but the excellent US drama had nothing on the fantastic anecdote Thompson has to tell. Like a lot of his material, it concerns masturbation, and it’s a cracker.

Along the way he talks about the Irish way with language, hidden disabilities, overcoming prejudice and his dislike of the royal family. Thompson delivers his material at breakneck speed and this is a very assured debut.

Alison Spittle, Monkey Barrel @The Hive 

Alison Spittle’s latest show is called Soup – a rather mundane subject, you might think. Well yes and no, as the Irish comic waxes lyrical about the liquid nourishment for the first section of the show, does some crowd work about being able to predict people’s personality types from their favourite liquid sustenance and then leaves the subject behind.

She introduces the meat and potatoes of the show as she discusses what’s been going on in her life recently; a diagnosis of CPTSD, why she’s scared of cats, the true nature of female friendship and – the highlight of the hour – her sister’s hen weekend, which Spittle organised.

Butlin’s may find its bookings increase after audiences hear about the fun the women had, much of it down to the appearance of Boylife, the combined remnants of Irish boy bands Boyzone and Westlife.

Spittle throws in a an occasional delicious turn of phrase; talking about her fondness for bath bombs, she tells of the time she threw a pile of them into her bath and watched them  fizz and foam: “I felt like Oppenheimer.”

It’s not tricksy or profound, but it is agreeable and relatable storytelling.

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