Every summer the Fringe festival takes over Edinburgh, bringing with it thousands of performers ready to take centre stage. Being the biggest arts festival in the world, you can safely say that there is much to see, but finding something you'll enjoy isn't always as simple. Selecting a show from the thousands on offer can be a confusing business, but with hundreds of posters lining the streets, I wanted to find out if I could indeed judge a show solely by it's poster? On my journey home from Edinburgh Waverly station, I noted down three posters that caught my eye; one impressionist, one ventriloquist and one very furry musical - but would these shows live up to their marketing?
The Only Way is Downton was my first pick, and was a definitely great way to start. I instantly thought it was a clever name and this was a show that certainly delivered what it said on the tin and more. Luke Kempner is the energizer bunny of impressionists, firing through one character after another for almost the full sixty minutes. In one moment he was seamlessly transitioning between about twenty characters from the hit TV show Downton Abbey, and throwing in a few other pop culture favourites on top. The script was very cleverly written and engaging, being funny to those who haven't even seen Downton. The show was fresh and Luke Kempner has come out fighting for his Fringe solo debut.
Second up was Paul Zerdin: No Strings, which I thought had a great poster promising a more adult kind of puppetry. Paul himself, has hugely engaging personality and certainly makes ventriloquism current. His various characters go through extremely funny scenarios that had the audience in stitches, with Sam being a particular crowd favourite. I loved the mind reading tricks but felt one the eldest of characters, Alfred, was a bit long in the tooth. Overall you could see this entertainer was a well seasoned professional and certainly a safe bet for those looking for a night of well-crafted comedy.
Avenue Q was my final pick, and chosen as the London production received rave reviews and I had also recently seen Robert Lopez's latest work, The Book of Mormon, so was sure there would a great score provided. Having produced two musicals at the Fringe before, I know the dangers of them giving off a high school production scent, due to set and show time constraints, and this certainly had a whiff. Connor Scully and Rebecca Hardcastle in the lead roles, showed great talent and very comfortably led the show through number after number of cleverly written ditties. Unfortunately for me the puppetry failed to connect with the action, and as mad as it sounds, I almost would have preferred they had left them out of it. You could see the cast had many talented people and their fluffy friends were not used in a way that added much to the show. This being said, the overall score has a great blueprint of songs, and certainly a very laugh-heavy two hour show.
So after making my three selections based on poster alone, did I dispel the myth about not being able to judge a book by its cover? I enjoyed my three picks and think they all delivered roughly what I had expected, with The Only Way is Downton even surpassing it. I enjoy the unexpected nature of shows at the Fringe, as with one walk up the Royal Mile and you could be sold on ten shows you had never even heard of before. The festival is a wonderful chance to take in all types of entertainment, so my advice is to take a chance on the unexpected, you never know what you might discover.