Edinburgh Fringe – Gail Bishop and the Backseat Encounters

Another thing I’ve learnt about Edinburgh Fringe: after breakfast, there’s no such thing as mealtimes. You grab food whenever you have a long enough break, so lunch can end up being any time between 11am and 4pm – ish. I have totally lost track of what day it is.

My first show of the day was excellent. 6 audience, 6 actors, 3 cars, 15 minutes in the backseat of each. This Time Tomorrow throws you straight into the ordinary lives of 3 pairs of people, all having a conversation in the front seat of their car. While these are 3 standalone scenes with no bearing on each other, there is great clarity and it is immediately obvious who each character is in relation to their counterpart, and what’s happened in the lead up to this moment. There is tension, humour and pathos, exploring everything from stroppy teenagers to the first indications of Alzheimers. A real joy to watch.

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Improvisation has become one of the essentials of Edinburgh Fringe, so my first pick was Upstairs Downton. With suggestions from the audience, they’ll improvise an hour of early 20th century Downton-esque drama. While very funny, I was expecting a few more references to the actual TV series (and so it seemed, was everyone else).

I then had 2 autobiographical shows back to back: The Eulogy of Toby Peach covers Toby’s dalliance with The Cancer Club, a tricky one-man show in which the realities of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma are demystified, but we’re often so caught up in the narrative, that we miss the punchline and our cue to laugh/applaud. Then onto Whiskey Tango Foxtrot which charts the highs and lows of being a woman in the Royal Air Force. Rebecca Crookshank is an accomplished storyteller, making use of multiple characterisations, physicality, voice and media in her richly engaging show (and one of those characters tears the head off a toy penguin).

I finished up with some stand up comedy, Ivo Graham whose post-Eton ambition seems to stretch as far as not splitting up with his girlfriend, Nish Kumar who articulately fixates on the frustrating infighting of left-wing politics, and Bronston Jones whose show God Bless ‘Merica is an hour of exploring everything that’s wrong with the USA from a homegrown perspective. He is proof that comedy doesn’t have to be laugh-out-loud funny all the time: sometimes audiences are quite content to just sit and listen.

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