The Fringe in 2016 saw most of Scotland lamenting yet another Conservative majority at Westminster, celebrating the SNP’s near whitewash of Scottish seats at the general election, and awaiting the formality of Hillary Clinton becoming the next President of the United States. Twelve months later, and Edinburgh’s festivals are back in action in a world where nobody really knows what is going to come next. It has all gone just a bit balmy.
Fortunately for comedy lovers, this balminess is exactly the kind of thing that gives NewsRevue its material and allows it to thrive. The Guinness world record holder for the longest running comedy sketch show, NewsRevue defies its heritage by never feeling dated or predictable. Much as modern politics keeps you on your toes, you never know what is quite going to happen next when you see the Canal Café Theatre Company indulge themselves at the Fringe.
Experience shows in comedy. With the possible exception of a sketch about the new £1 coin (scraping the bottom of the gag barrel with that one), the talented performers never stop making you laugh with their perfect exercises in satire and some genius musical numbers. Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Donald Trump, Kim-Jong Un – they all make appearances as the audience is treated to a non-stop hour of political decadence. Events from even the last few days preceding the show appear. Expect the script to change drastically if anything big erupts this autumn.
The show also avoids the trap of making a mockery of the right wing and the right wing alone. Labour, the Liberal Democrats and even the humble Green Party get a thorough lashing by NewsRevue. UKIP do not even appear once – in the same way that they never really appeared once on ballot papers last June, come to think of it. In a political environment which seems increasingly characterised by ‘hard left’ or ‘hard right,’ perhaps satire and mockery are the new centre ground in politics.
Highlights have to include Boris Johnson singing about how he is a model foreign secretary, and an Irish dancing number from the DUP. Trump only gets one sketch of his own, instead opting to invade other characters’ moments without permission or courtesy. There is also a wonderfully vivid, almost dreamlike representation of Theresa May’s idea of fun…
NewsRevue are not afraid to test the murky waters that form the Scottish sense of humour, particularly with their voice over one-liners. These little asides plug the gap between some of the scenes, and border on the just plain offensive. The fact that they still make you laugh means that many people will go to bed that night sobbing at what horrible human beings they are. Between the fits of laughter that still take hold long after the show is over, of course.
The show is incredibly slick, with minimalist stage dressing and costume ensuring that a very fast pace is maintained throughout. Although the costume is basic, it is very easy to identify who everyone is. Everyone, that is, except Jeremy Corbyn, who perhaps could have done with a grey wig just to clearly mark him out. Without it, he looks like your typical left-leaning office accountant. Corbyn is coming to the Fringe, so maybe he could pop in and give some styling tips.
NewsRevue make the last year seem a lot more pleasurable and pleasant than it would otherwise seem. To turn what many would view as desperate times into comedy gold is a talent honed over many years and many performances. For 38 years they have graced Edinburgh with their presence. It would be hard to imagine a Fringe without them.
Until 28th August (not the 15th)
Image: Alex Brenner