Alan Sharp reviews the show
The Pleasance Above is one of fourteen playing spaces gathered around the Pleasance Courtyard, one of the liveliest venues on the Edinburgh Fringe circuit. They all have names like Above, Below, Loft, Cellar, Upstairs, Downstairs etc etc, and range from professional looking theatre spaces to small rooms with a few chairs thrown in. The Above is one of the larger spaces, a fair sized hall with temporary raised seating installed to seat around a hundred and fifty or so.
As the programme, given away free on entry, explains, this is the twentieth Edinburgh Fringe show Richard Herring has been involved in, either on his own or as a double act with his former partner Stewart Lee. To most he is probably best remembered for this partnership and their TV shows Fist of Fun and This Morning With Richard Not Judy.
Herring’s last two shows in the Fringe have been huge critical successes. His 2002 show, Talking Cock, a riposte to the Vagina Monologues, was so successful it has since been translated into various languages and exported around the world by other performers. Last year’s show, The Twelve Tasks of Hercules Terrace, was single handedly responsible for reviving the pastime of Consecutive Number Plate Spotting and was one of the big hits of the year. So this year he was always going to have a lot to live up to.
For this year’s show he has returned to a straight stand-up format rather than the themed shows of previous years. It is also, I would say, not as successful, but still an enjoyable way to pass an hour in the company of a very funny man. The show breaks down into a series of five rambling sections, and in each of the five once he gets into his stride he draws the audience along and produces a good few belly laughs. It’s in the transitions between subjects that he seems to fall down. On top of this, the fourth of the five sections, in which he discusses the implications of the Pope’s death, seems a little like material which was topical at the time, but which he has been unwilling to let go of and which feels a bit out of place this far after the event.
The show’s title derives from the fifth, and without doubt the funniest section, in which Herring gives a masterclass in taking a seemingly everyday incident and running with it to squeeze out every last drop of humour. For around twenty minutes he rants about the injustice of the supermarket checkout woman seeing nine yoghurts in his basket and remarking “someone likes yoghurt.”
Compared to many of the stand-ups who populate the Edinburgh Fringe, this show feels a bit more scripted and has less audience interaction, and indeed at a few points as he prowled the stage disturbances, from people getting up to go to the toilet or once from his microphone becoming unplugged, seemed to throw him off track and make his performance go dead for a moment or two. Last year I would have had no hesitation in recommending Herring’s show as one of the very best on the Fringe. This year I would still be happy to recommend it, but I’m sure I’m going to see much better things over the coming weeks.