Fringe Festival ’17: Weird

Rob Auton

Amongst our friends, Rob Auton has achieved cult status.

We saw him five years ago at the Edinburgh Fringe, performing his Yellow Show. He was wearing all yellow & sitting in a yellow paddling pool on the royal mile, handing out flyers. Last year, I saw his again at the fringe for the Sleep Show.

This year: the Hair Show.

I’ve tried describing Rob Auton to people, and explaining his shows. He’s weird – undeniably – and passionate about very odd things (this year, hair). He’s deeply professional. You get the impression that he was born to do this; that if he didn’t have an audience (say, he was performing to a bunch of sheep), he’d be just as vehement, and just as compelling.

As it was, he was sold out – this was the first year that he’d graduated from Free Fringe, and word has clearly got out. There were about fifty of us, waiting on his every (pre-pondered) word. He came out in a suit trailing hair to the floor; it had been sewn on to his jacket. Like, a lot of it. He also had a tie made out of hair, and had grown out his own hair & beard. He looked like someone you’d avoid on public transport – there was a joke about this in the show, and it was just so perfectly apt.

He talked about hair; his love it it, the impressions that other people take away from it, his mother’s opinion of his own (unfavourable) and all the little absurdities that go into having hair. Like eyebrows – seriously, when do they know when to stop?

He’s very funny. Very funny. Not always laugh out loud, but always thought-provoking. He’s rapid, too – you have to keep up with him. Its not completely easy watching, there’s engagement required: actual brain activity. In a fringe where hilarity is pushed in front of your face demanding a response, Rob Auton – with his weirdness, and his arresting, passionate style – is both a change and a relief.

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Jane & Rob – Jane is a serious Auton fan, and has followed him in 11 shows in 3 countries.  I love how this photo makes it look like Rob is Jane’s imaginary ghost friend.

Rachel Parris: Keynote

Rachel Parris is lovely. She gives off this vibe – the kind of person you want to be friends with, because she’s sweet and funny, and just caustic enough to be human – and overwhelmingly warm. She connects with her audience, and she puts you at ease.

And, she’s hilarious.

Like Rob Auton, this is the third time I’ve seen her. First in London, secondly at the fringe. The subject of this show was ‘keynote’ – themes and tropes of great speeches, and how absolutely far off the mark they can be. She’s very funny, in a self-deprecating kind of way, and makes beautifully wry observations. Best of all, she sings. She has a lovely voice, and there’s something about adding comedic lines to song that make it all that much more funny.

Show highlight for me – on the keynote stereotype of empowering yourself she sang a song about the desirability of being an empowered woman, whilst playing a compilation of music videos where women wearing tight-fitting & revealing camouflage gear gyrated next to weapons. There are a surprising number of these, and it was absolutely hilarious. Best line: ‘war is sexy’.

The show ended so damn beautifully. She sang a version of a song that she’d sung at the beginning – mocking the speeches of the ‘follow your dreams’ advice that’s at most speech-worthy occasions. This version, the end version, was softer – you won’t achieve all your dreams, but you’ll be okay. Unpredictable things will happen, bad things will happen – but you’ll be okay. It was sweetly funny, and overwhelmingly lovely.

I’m just immeasurably fond of Rachel Parris.

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Queuing to see her…

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…and an advertisement for another show, which I truly wish that I’d had time to see.

Rhiannon Vivian’s Office Meltdown

This was another foray into free fringe. It was classic: ‘we’re here, we have an hour spare, there’s a show five minutes away which starts in ten minutes time’. Quintessential fringe.

This was a one-woman comedy show; she impersonated all of the stereotypical characters you’d find in an office – from the oversharing janitor to the harrumphing manager. She also characterised inanimate objects; the printer was very funny, and worked very well – the ghost of a dead cake was more conceptual humour. I struggled with that one.

It was unpolished, but insightful and very amusing. Rhiannon herself has a Rachel Parris-esque air, and seems like such a genuinely nice person. That vibe.

It was a highly enjoyable hour – highlight for me were the impressions of the perpetual gym-goer: incessantly expostulating their sporting achievements, turning up to the office in gym gear and generally turning all conversation towards the athletic. So true! So funny!

Excellent day.

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