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My Favourites of the Fringe

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So what were my finds of the Fringe this year? Reviewing for The List and sitting on the panel of the Amused Moose Laughter Award has highlighted plenty of acts I might not have seen otherwise.

A particular favourite was Al Lubel, who won the Moose award in the end. Not that he's entirely undiscovered. He's been around on the US circuit for years but turned out to be something of a find at the Fringe. The night I was in there seemed to be more industry folk than actual punters. Lubel is an afro-haired Jewish man in baggy t-shirt and trousers who delivers his hour off mic.

It's a show that encapsulates the art of stand up in one hour. He begins with a joyously self-involved ten minutes of playing around with his own name then moves on to explore his suffocating relationship with his overbearing mother who hisses at him, 'Alan, you are my only reason for living...' , ending the show in a state that looks akin to an on-stage minor breakdown. It's both compelling and intelligent stuff whilst also very, very funny.

Runner up in the Laughter Award was John Luke Roberts. The former member of the Behemoth duo has certainly been honing his off the wall style; his show, full of daft props and drawings, is immensely inventive. His wonderful mime to Johnny Cash's version of Hurt somehow manages to be funny, disturbing and poignant in equal measure.

The Moose's People's Choice winner Danny Ward was a new act to me, but it's easy to see why his show appeals. Pressure Point sees Ward increasingly annoyed about being accused of being too stressed - it's tight on gags and tongue twisting set pieces.

Elsewhere on the short listed ten was Dr George Ryegold. I first saw the inappropriate GP character a few years ago - think a young Harold Shipman - he was intriguing but somehow not quite there. This year the show feels like it's really come together and includes some audacious routines many of them worrying ones about children...

Milo McCabe's show this year was a big favourite of mine on the Moose short list. It's a wonderful piece of self reflexive work. This year, we don't just get a series of characters from McCabe but also short films in between where he sits around a table with his own characters deconstructing them and trying to decide whether they work or not.

Also short-listed was Luke Toulson who delivers a solid hour of stand up with a routine inspired by his kids, it's deliciously mean in places and a treat to be found on the Free Fringe.

Elsewhere on the Free Fringe, having reviewed Paul F Taylor's fun but a bit patchy show last year I was very pleased to see things come together for him this year. His show at the Dram House was another fun spectacle, it's incredibly random but the gags hit home every time. I've certainly never seen an impression of a caterpillar queueing before.

Canadian act Gavin Crawford was a bit of a find. Only doing part of the festival for his début at the Fringe, it's a cabaret style show with some unexpected, rather niche impressions such as Rufus Wainwright.

Diane Spencer manages to be filthy as well as beautifully crafted a little like her predecessor and first woman to win the Comedy Award Jenny Éclair who was performing in the same building and whose hour was equally as potty mouthed but well written.

Back home on the Manchester circuit Phil Ellis is well known for his rather ad hoc performance style, it was intriguing wondering how he would approach his first Fringe show. An 'anti-show' as it turned out - basically anything that could go wrong did - and surely one that deserved a newcomer nomination.

And while we're at it, he should have been nominated for the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for paying flyerers to flyer for an ursine show that doesn't even exist.
For my thoughts on some great shows from the other acts on the Manchester circuit go to Northern Soul.