After winning the Edinburgh Comedy Award last year for his show Spaghetti for Breakfast, there's inevitable expectation for Sam Simmons' follow up. But if any act can deal with that, it's him.
It's a Friday night crowd, packed out and with two stag dos no less. But there's not going to be any heckling here. Who's going to argue with a shouty Australian who looks like the slightly unhinged neighbour in an Aussie soap whose wife has left him?
Simmons has more sass than a Glaswegian hen party as he sashays his way through the wonderful series of absurdities in his latest show, Not a People Person (four stars). Not a people pleaser either – he likes to do his own thing but audiences love it regardless. And if you weren't entirely sure what was going on, which is distinctly possible, he handily points out the running motifs and jokes: the sad bit is signposted, gags are deconstructed for our ease. Then there's an encouraging, “aaaw c'mon!”, if a joke doesn't get the response it deserves. It's as random as random gets and is still utterly wonderful. Surreal images that flash past at breakneck speed will haunt for some time after. There are kangaroo hands, The Beach Boys, badly used roller skates. There's also a smattering of human observations as a variety of characters whizz by – a loud Australian impressed with his prawns on holiday embarrasses his posh table neighbours.
Simmons invests it with such energy and chutzpah, and weirdly inherent humour, that it just somehow works. That said, you can't really go wrong with an overweight man with a bald pate and full moustache wiggling his arse in just his pants, can you?
Approaching comedy in a similar vein is Lou Sanders, who has found something of an appropriate title for her show this year – What's That Lady Doing? (four stars). It's a title that derives from an audience member's question of her companion when Sanders donned a dragon suit for no apparent reason in a previous show. It's a question you ask yourself along with, 'Why am I finding it so damn funny?' But that's what's so refreshing about Sanders.
Like Simmons you're never quite sure where she will lead you. Often it's not clear she knows herself. On stage there are props— blow up seagulls, mannequin heads—all of which suggest some kind of forward planning, but the result is exhilaratingly unexpected all the same.
Any one Sanders gig will be different from another, partly due to the audience reaction. Like many of the best innovators in comedy she can split a room – some almost rupturing an organ laughing while others look on bemused. But that's the glory of Sanders. She notes that she's often called mad and it's easy to see why. But it's a dismissive, lazy description. In actual fact she's creative, running with the eclectic collection of thoughts in her head.
Here her set veers from inane tips for life read from her notebook, a turn from "genderless Michael", and tales of a nine year old's ill-judged party thrown on a 50p budget. It won't necessarily all work but that doesn't matter. She pauses to berate her tech. Is it because it's early in the run? Probably not, she'll probably still be doing that later on too. There are touches of poignancy along the way too – the young Sanders' excessively peach, OCD bedroom hints at childhood anxiety. A breathless adventure.
BEASTS have created another riot of a show, and good god is it fun. They've produced a fair few shows at the Fringe now, many of which seemed to slip under the radar. This year though they've been given the spacious Queen Dome – they might finally be getting the attention they deserve.
They still describe themselves, rather ironically, as a sketch group. But for the last few years, including this one, they've written a comedic play usually based around as tenuous a premise as they can pen.
This year the trio, Owen Roberts, James McNicholas and Ciarán Dowd, are competing for the Mr Edinburgh (four stars) contest – it's a sheer coincidence, of course that of all the men in the room it's they who are the finalists. Inevitably the competition between the three guys gets way out of hand.
They each take their role: "James" is the slightly dim one, "Owen", the exasperated almost straight man, and "Ciarán", the unruly one. They're a tight ship. Neatly choreographed routines emerge from the chaos of the mismatched trio – Roberts' perfect execution, McNicholas all loose-limbed and gangly and Dowd easily distracted by a pretty face in the crowd.
Much of the humour derives from a simple physicality – after all who knew eating a tomato would be so funny? There's classic slapstick too, at one point in the form of a loose swan chase. Plus there are plenty of basic, visual gags. Anyone who is familiar with their work will be reassured that Dowd exposes himself in some fashion throughout the show and Roberts looks ridiculous in a tutu. Guaranteed to place a very big grin on your face.