wed 24/07/2024

Edinburgh Fringe: James Acaster/David Trent/Daniel Simonsen/Ben Target | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe: James Acaster/David Trent/Daniel Simonsen/Ben Target

Edinburgh Fringe: James Acaster/David Trent/Daniel Simonsen/Ben Target

Gentle whimsy; spontaneous laughs; Norwegian observations and a high-concept show

James Acaster: personable

James Acaster: Prompt, Pleasance Courtyard ***


James Acaster has certainly been studying his craft since he made his Fringe debut with an unmemorable show last year, and it shows in Prompt. Lots of comedy tropes are utilised, some of them to great effect, while others feel simply mechanical. He uses repetition, callbacks, audience participation in a show full of whimsy and the most surprising subjects for comedy.

The callbacks - lots of them – join seemingly unconnected stories, such as his study into different kinds of bread, taking one's partner to a club - “like taking an apple to an orchard” - and the weather-forecasting abilities of cows in different countries. And never has repetition been used so well to ram home his joke about Kettering Town FC's illogical chant, analysed, dissected and then performed ad nauseam until we get the point. For effort alone, he deserves applause.

He neatly ties up his last story with yet another callback and a really sweet bit of audience participation. Acaster is a very personable young comic and there are lots of gentle laughs in a well constructed set but this feels like the comedy equivalent of paint by numbers.

  • James Acaster is at Pleasance Courtyard until 26 August


David Trent: Spontaneous Comedian ***


David Trent is a primary-school teacher by day but this isn't a show for kiddies, having many dark and sexual moments. He starts by telling us, in a room where everything is labelled - including the front-of-door staff and a table - that “Stand-up is the only artform that can't be contrived” and then goes on to show just how much of a contrivance it is, as his set is pre-programmed on his computer in a show heavy on audio-visuals.

The X-Factor and television advertisements are an easy target, and Facebook - a subject done to death by comics – are given a some new spin here and these sections provide some of the show's biggest laughs.

There are occasional misfires, such as perving over a pretty young woman in the front row or the all-too predictable malfunction of his computer. A better comic would have done something new with the latter, as yes, we get the joke, but instead it leads to another gag we've seen coming over the hill, a major meltdown of both computer and comic. But Trent is a winning presence on stage and he performs with elan in a show that has lots of original ideas.

  • David Trent is at Pleasance Courtyard until 27 August


Daniel Simonsen: Champions, Pleasance Courtyard ***


Daniel Simonsen performs the first few minutes of his act from behind the curtain because, he says, that gets the awkward part of the show over, when people decide whether they like you or not. He shouldn't worry, as the young Norwegian, making his full-show debut, is very likeable.

It's his material that lets him down. It's workaday observational stuff, about being a fretful, nervous type who's not achieved a lot in his life - as if performing a show in a foreign language isn't an achievement in itself - and he talks about the terrible jobs he's had, such as dressing up as a giant tooth to flyer for a dentist.

There are glimpses of some stronger material, such as the modern manners involved in cleaning loos, or the mention of the Chilean father he never knew - but the later is merely a throwaway line. I hope that's the subject of next year's show because Simonsen has real promise as an observer of life.

  • Daniel Simonsen is at Pleasance Courtyard until 27 August


Discovering Ben Target, Underbelly **


Ben Target's debut full show, while performed with conviction, is high on concept and low on funnies. Presented as if it were a lecture to which we must pay full attention to “learn something beautiful” and what follows is a very knowing deconstruction of comedy tropes – audience interaction, flirting with the front row, the ingratiating comic.

Target jumps from one idea to the next, pulling out from his jacket, with its copious and capacious pockets, all manner of things – such as flowers, a candle, a huge sausage - as if he were a magician, only to make weak gags and spout pieces of faux wisdom about life.

Not once does the mask slip as Target creates a rather menacing character who, he says at the top of the show, makes people feel uncomfortable. There is much that is playful here - such as getting the audience to participate in mass game of beach ball - but a lot of tedium, including his ridiculously overlong ending to the show, where the reveal really isn't worth the effort.

  • Discovering Ben Target is at Underbelly until 26 August

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