Rich Hall ****
Pleasance Courtyard, Grand. 9.40pm
I’ve waited a very, very long time for this. I’ve suffered years of disappointment and heartache, wading through turgid, recycled humour from the likes of Stephen K Amos and Mark Watson, but I’ve finally reached the promised land.
I’ve seen a comedian in the Plesance Grand who was actually worth the money.
For those of you unfamiliar with the festival, let me appraise you of a depressing pattern which has emerged throughout all the Augusts past: when an act plays the biggest venues, that act is invariably rubbish. They’ve made it, we’ve already paid for our tickets… they don’t have to try anymore. The audience wants to be entertained? Fuck ‘em. They have can have some material Lenny Henry was doing word-for-word in 1986.
To Mr Rich Hall, I owe a debt of gratitude. Consider this an open letter.
You’ve broken my bad run, mate; smashed it, actually.
I had no real expectations for your show, but you started strong and deployed material that wasn’t simply fresh, but tailored specifically to Edinburgh. You still have the gift for delivering a wry, sadistically funny turn of phrase – a quality which was missing when I saw you last year – and you intertwined it with topical items about coalition politics, London Riots and Eton students killed by Polar Bears.
I enjoyed your celebration of all things Scottish – predictable, given my heritage – but was happy that it didn’t go too far and become a ‘sugar-blowing’ exercise. I was impressed by the natural, unfazed way in which you reacted to audience events (the mark of a true professional) and even if your ad libs are pre-worked, they don’t come across that way, which is a big plus.
Most of all, though, I enjoyed your decision to close with a ‘human shield’, making a momentary star of an otherwise ordinary man named John.
My seat was literally the most uncomfortable I have encountered all festival, but hey, I’m not blaming you for that. Maybe you could consider the Speigeltent next year, that’s all I’m saying.
In short, big names are almost obliged to disappoint. Rich Hall doesn’t give a toss for such sacred cows of tradition: instead, he puts on a good show and doesn’t leave us bitter about paying the big bucks. This is a banker, folks – and a good end to any night of Fringe revelry.