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Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Nick Helm/ Just These Please/ Anna Drezen | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Nick Helm/ Just These Please/ Anna Drezen

Edinburgh Fringe 2019 reviews: Nick Helm/ Just These Please/ Anna Drezen

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Nick Helm, back at the Fringe after six years

Nick Helm Pleasance Dome ****

What a pleasure it is that Nick Helm has returned to the Fringe after six years away after appearing in television comedies Uncle and The Reluctant Landlord.

That’s the straightforward reason he has been a stranger to Edinburgh, but doesn’t explain his 18 months away from standup, or why the show is called Phoenix From the Flames. He tells us it’s because he was finally getting to grips with the depression he has suffered from all his life (he’s now 38).

That sounds like a bummer way to start a comedy show, but this is Nick Helm, so of course it starts with a big musical number, during which he strips off his feathery phoenix wings, performing the rest of the gig in golden sneakers and brief - very brief - gold lame shorts.

He was the first to talk about mental health before all the other comics started copying him, he says with heavy irony. It was only after a relationship break-up and the realisation his behaviour was affecting his loved ones that Helm finally decided to take anti-depressants. But they had a most unfortunate effect on him, which he manages to mine some excellent gags from.

While much of his sweaty, sweary, full-on delivery with songs belted out at 11 on the dial will be familiar to his old fans, there’s also a noticeable change in his performance - and not just that he admits he has discovered the joys of going to the gym and has flirted with the idea of becoming a vegan. Helm now makes more use of repetition - “I can do this till you laugh” - and  frequently upends our expectations as to where an anecdote is going.

He ends with a homily about how he sees life differently now, and his finale, a story about appearing on Comic Relief, goes in a most unexpected direction. It’s good to have him back.

Until 24 August


Just These PleaseJust These Please Gilded Balloon *****

Just These Please is a British-Irish foursome of Georgie Jones, Will Sebag-Montefiore, Philippa Carson and Tom Dickson. The last mentioned has a proper job as a lawyer, so performing in his place at the Fringe is Jack Mosedale. They really are a quite superb lineup of writing and performing talent.

Sketch comedy is often a hit-and-miss affair, but Just These Please have an astonishingly high hit rate in their 20-odd sketches. Among strikingly diverse subject matter, they rewrite the ending of the film Titanic, cover the social mores of people hogging plugs in cafes and middle-class orgies (not at the same time), imagine a scene between Michelangelo and a pissed-off David, and describe people with “gif syndrome”.

The running gag about not knowing the theme tune of Friends is a delight and, while Just These Please like a decent pun, they also offer a touch of the surreal in their sketch about grapes and raisins.

The troupe know when to end a gag, and no sketch outstays its welcome or goes in an obvious direction. Highly recommended.

Until 26 August


Anna DrezenAnna Drezen Pleasance Courtyard ****

Saturday Night Live writer Anna Drezen is making her Fringe debut with Okay Get Home Safe!, which uses as its starting point news footage of serial killer Ted Bundy’s trial. We see how some women were mesmerised by him, and Drezen allows us to draw the conclusion that you never can tell...

Drezen talks about seemingly random things -  about her mother, who has the habit of sending her gruesome news reports of women who look like her who have been murdered, or her days at Rada, where she did a summer course in “remedial Shakespeare for Americans” and learned how to sword fight, and why she gave up drinking. She also has the best owl joke on the Fringe.

Drezen is a likeable presence on stage and has a nicely self-deprecating air  as she details her love of true-crime stories and what it says about her character that she is so engrossed in murder and mayhem.

The show could be tighter and judicious editing would mean Drezen could give more air to the memorable conclusion of the show, when the randomness of the structure finally makes sense. The finale has a wickedly good callback and deserves more time to be taken in fully by the audience.

Until 25 August


Helm is a three star really. Two of the songs are incredible but the stories at the core are just him coasting and not hilarious.

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