It would be unthinkable for Scotland’s pre-eminent comedy club not to have a strong presence in its own backyard come August; and thankfully, in a random and crazy year where all bets appear to be off, The Stand returns with a packed program to remind us that some things remain mercifully constant. The venue may have jettisoned its patronage of the Assembly Rooms this year, but retains six venues spread around York Place, as well as St Andrew Square Gardens and the Famous Spiegeltent.
A magnet for big names, The Stand offers work-in-progress shows from Stewart Lee, Daniel Kitson, Katherine Ryan, Stephen K Amos, and Josie Long. The allocations for these may already be snapped up as this is written; but worry not, there is a giddy wealth of talent to savour.
Veterans of last year will be delighted to see the return of the engagingly acidic Fern Brady with new show Male Comedienne. Also making a hugely welcome homecoming is the wonderful ‘poster girl for awkward’ Eleanor Morton. Her 2015 show, Allotted Mucking Around Time, was a personal highlight, so new effort Happy Birthday Katie Lewis! was one of the first entered into an increasingly complex Excel Fringe planner (it has macros and everything!). Another that was among the first pencilled in was Seymour Mace with Shit Title. Mace seemed to have the comedian’s vote last year, receiving the most effusive praise from every gag-merchant one spoke to; and who would we be to argue?
Other performers leaping from the venue’s beautifully-presented little black number of a brochure are TV staple Jo Caulfield, who is Pretending to Care; 30-year Fringe fixture Simon Munnery claims to be Standing Still (unlikely given his entrance last year); one half of the venerable Bugle podcast Andy Zaltzman presents the potentially apocalyptic Plan Z; and Shappi Khorsandi goes in search of her adopted homeland’s quintessence in Oh My Country! From Morris Dancing to Morrissey.
Those in search of a little unscripted chaos should seek out The Stand’s own improv-savants Stu and Garry. A Sunday lunchtime institution, the pair have the chummily antagonistic patter and comedic understanding of the other that can only come through twenty years of working together. Stu can also be found taking the 2016 landscape to task (fish in a barrel, surely?) in Topical Storm, along with Keir McAllister, Vladimir McTavish and Mark Nelson.
Over in George Square join Susan Morrison for Walking Dead, Famous and Funny, a comedy walking tour taking in Scotland’s oddball history. Once limbered up go and see Funny for a Grrrl, a daily showcase of four of the Fringe’s funniest females. One could argue that with the strength and depth of female comedy you’ll find throughout the festival, such a show is somewhat reductive, but this is sure to be a taster of some fantastic work you may otherwise miss. Another anthology show is LOLympics Live, in which comedian’s from all over the world compete for gold medals. Martin Mor and Bronston Jones are on hosting duty.
The Spiegeltent is the place to be for music, cabaret and variety. There are stagings of Bugsy Malone, Les Miserables, Oliver!, and Sunshine on Leith for musical lovers, while those with a Francophile bent will be entranced by Isabelle Georges and her show Oh La La, as she interprets the music of Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf, among others.
As usual, a heady mix of the familiar and the new at The Stand; a consummate Fringe venue.