Listen up: Mark Thomas's show is 'an amazing piece of work'
Ian ColeYorkMix’s man at the Edinburgh Festival Ian J Cole finds a comedian in thrilling form but is not impressed by parrot puppets


I woke up at 7.45am on day three after five and a quarter hours sleep by the sound of seagulls that are so bloody noisy that ear plugs need to be used. Luckily my first show is only 10 minutes’ walk from the hotel. This is one of my rule breakers as it’s a “bloke off the telly” but I’ve always liked Mark Thomas.

10am Mark Thomas: Bravo Figaro

I expected the usual stand-up routine, but this was one of those rare events where the performer really gives of himself. Mark had recorded conversations with members of his family and he played out those conversations with his dad, mum and his brother. It is haunting to hear his dying father talk to Mark about opera.

Over the course of the hour Mark tells us how he manages to put on an opera in a bungalow in Bournemouth just for his dad. Mark’s dad was a full-on rough, hard-grafting, hard fighting abusive working-class Methodist, Thatcherite builder from south London and Mark clearly has a difficult relationship with him.

The show blurb says ‘this powerful story was packed full of emotion, taking the audience on an incredible ride through the contradictory, complex feelings he had for this brusque character’ and for once this is correct, this is an amazing piece of work that had the audience both laughing and crying.

It is so powerful that at the end we all just sat there stunned. Brilliant theatre, and how Mark manages to give so much and be so honest about his father is unbelievable.

12pm What’s He Building in There?

What’s He Building in There? Is described as ‘a wonderfully absurd dark comedy about a carpenter’s affair … with a chair’.

It’s not very funny, not very good and not recommended. The actors show talent and this is more Franz Kafka than David Lynch and deeply flawed. I would have walked out were it not for the brilliant live soundscape score performed by a guitarist with half a dozen guitar pedals. He was amazing to watch and created some fantastic music. Had the venue had a CD on sale I would have bought it.

2pm Donkey and a Parrot

Sarah Hamilton’s one woman show – billed as ‘a family’s survival. A donkey’s pilgrimage. A parrot’s flight’ – was my first walkout of Fringe 2012. Having said that the person I went with loved it.

I lasted 15 minutes which I thought was long enough to see if this was any good. It didn’t start well with finger puppets and kids toys with voiceover sound effects from Hamilton. Maybe I just didn’t get the joke.

3.05pm Age of the Geek


This is one of those things that makes the Fringe so special. Hayden Cohen, who’s from Leeds, contacted me via Twitter trying to convince me to come to his show as I hadn’t shortlisted it in the Fringe programme.

I asked him for free tickets, he said NO! So I said I’d come anyway provided he started on time and didn’t overrun, as I had only 10 minutes either side of Hayden’s show to see other performances. However after walking out of Donkey and a Parrot I had bags of time prior to Hayden’s show.

This a daft, mildly amusing show that kept me entertained. I got all the geeky jokes (some which are funnier than others) but then I am at geek level 20. Hayden strikes me as a better poet then songwriter as I enjoyed his poems a lot more than his songs and I HATE poetry – so well done Hayden!

4.15pm Punk Rock by No Prophet Theatre Company

Punk Rock has nothing to do with the 1970s musical movement; the play follows the last few months of seven sixth-formers at a fee-paying grammar school in Stockport and begins with the arrival of the unusual Lilly Cahill.

We follow the tortuous winding down of their school careers, and the final vicious moments of the sex, intelligence, paranoia, boredom and violence that are peculiar to the school system.

This young cast look right for their roles – apart from the Doctor who is 20 years too young to play someone with a 17-year-old daughter – and are brilliant. I got the feeling I was seeing stars of the future. My only gripe with Punk Rock was that it was 20 minutes too long.

7.30pm Radio Forth On the Fringe


Rule five from my introduction to the Edinburgh Fringe blog was go see the Radio Forth On the Fringe which is billed as the ‘largest showcase of Fringe entertainment at this year’s festival’.

The line-up this year was very good and I’m holding myself to one sentence per act. But my big gripe is that the show is meant to be three hours long and this year it was just over two hours, so I got to go home early feeling a little bit cheated.

Anyway here is the rundown:
1. The Blanks – really good four part vocal harmony group, worth seeing.
2. Brendan Burns – Australian stand-up comedian, I didn’t find his joke funny.
3. Michael Winslow – The guy who does vocal noises from the old Police Academy film, he was brilliant.
4. Stephen K Amos – dodgy material, I won’t be buying a ticket.
5. Claire Sweeney & Matthew Kelly – came on to chat about Educating Rita, see day two blog.
6. Briefs – plate spinning by a bloke in his underpants with his mate doing a high ribbon act, what’s more to say.
7. Jarred Christmas – New Zealand stand-up comic who is funny but not enough for me to want to see more.
8. Nina Nesbit – pretty blonde solo guitarist singer touted as the next big thing so look out for her.
9. Jimeoin – more stand-up, quite funny.
10. Casus – circus floor skills which were well executed but not my thing.
11. Bob Downe – another aussie comedian who sang and wore a wig that made him look like Barbie’s Ken – had most of the audience joining in on a sing-a-long.
12. Danny Bhoy – brilliant, the star of the show who left me crying with laughter and wanting more.