thu 24/07/2014

Edinburgh Fringe: Marcel Lucont/ Primadoona/ Phil Nichol | Comedy reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe: Marcel Lucont/ Primadoona/ Phil Nichol

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Marcel Lucont: looks like the love child of Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg
Marcel Lucont: looks like the love child of Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg
Marcel Lucont, “France’s greatest misanthropic lover”, comes on stage looking like the love child of Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge Gainsbourg - in head-to-toe black, sporting manly stubble and clutching a bottle of vin rouge. Is he an ethnic stereotype, or is he the alter ego of Alexis Dubus from Buckinghamshire, who happens to speak perfect French?

Marcel Lucont, Underbelly ****

Whichever and whomever, it’s a beautifully observed and executed piece of character comedy, as Lucont eyes up the women in the front row and tells us that if we don’t like his show, it’s our problem, not his. He’s an ungracious host but there’s something about being insulted by a heavily accented “foreigner” that takes away the sting and makes it just very funny. Lucont manages to insult every nationality in the room - the British phrase “How can I help you?” is surely rhetorical, he tells us, and our national obsession with football is ridiculous: “Eleven men kicking a thing into a thing.”

There’s a lot of subtle, slow-burn humour, as when Lucont talks of his friend Didier’s obsession with the film American Pie: "He’s fucked more hot dinners than I have slept with women,” and some clever linguistic contortions of the English language as he explains the importance of getting the order of words right in a sentence - “I fucking love children.” He also gives couples in the audience relationship advice, which could be filed under the general heading: Don’t.

He reads some of his surprisingly well-written poetry, which is mostly about sex - and his autobiography, you will not be surprised to learn, is entitled “Moi”. Lucont reads from this as well: he grew up somewhere in the French countryside where tourists like his audience are clearly not welcome. Not once does the artifice jar or slip and this is an hour of very funny comedy that speeds by. Until 29 August Veronica Lee

Primadoona, Gilded Balloon ***

Whatever happened to Doon MacKichan, one of the stars of Channel 4’s Smack The Pony? After she established a high profile, things went quiet and in this energetic, emotional rollercoaster of a solo show we discover why. The angular actor opens on the phone to God; her father has died, her marriage has ended. What else can go wrong? Her son having leukaemia is the bleak answer.

MacKichan piles everything into this self-penned play (with dramaturgy by Bryony Lavery and direction by Simon Godwin), from drunken dancing to serious rumba as she replays the turbulent events, which, I’m glad to say, have a happy ending, as her son recovered after extensive chemotherapy. Although outwardly she appeared successful her private life was falling apart, and sometimes success did not pan out either. After Smack the Pony won two Emmys, Richard Curtis called, but not to offer a role in his next box-office smash - it was to invite her to appear on Comic Relief’s Fame Academy.

There is a huge dollop of self-indulgence in this project, but MacKichan strikes pre-emptively by quoting her ex-husband accusing her of vanity. On the plus side she is marvellous at laying bare her maternal pain. "My rage is boundless," she roars, recalling an incident that led to her being escorted from Waitrose in Banstead when she finally lost it during her son’s treatment. Funny, sad, and most of all a reminder of MacKichan's talent for knockabout clowning. Until 30 August Bruce Dessau

Phil Nichol, The Stand ***

Canadian comic Phil Nichol, who won the If.comeddie (formerly the Perrier) award in 2006, introduced his alter ego Bobby Spade, jazz poet and lover, at last year’s Fringe, and very good he was too - all preening ego and self-indulgent tossery in rhyming couplets. Spade returns in a show set in 1974 at a Baltimore jazz club, where he is reciting his epic poem “Welcome to Crazytown”, a paean to his lost love, Lady Tuesday, and a riveting evocation of wasted lives.

But whereas last year’s show was a droll study of pretension and self-obsession as Spade, beautifully suited and booted, spoke in reserved tones and barely acknowledged his audience, this new incarnation appears instantly incongruous. Spade frequently addresses the crowd and goes into rant mode - in  short, he’s the Phil Nichol we know of old, loud, energetic and shouty.

The workmanship is undeniable, and some of the lines are bang-on-the-money funny, but it’s difficult to understand why Nichol is appearing in this persona. Until 30 August Veronica Lee

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