Postcard from Edinburgh Fringe Festival: The shows you need to see – from Tom Ward and Vir Das to Jack Harris

There’s still time to see some epic shows (Picture: Garry Carbon/Matt Crockett/Gabriel Michael/James Barber)

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is soon drawing to a close – but there’s still time to see some of the shows that are taking the festival by storm.

The iconic festival has seen legendary comics perform throughout the years, and this year is no different.

Throughout August, fans have been flocking to Scotland’s capital to see some of the best comics around, as well as some hidden gems.

So, if you’re in need of something to watch, here are our picks.

Michael Akadiri – No Scrubs (3 stars)

Pleasance Courtyard

Michael is supremely talented and likeable (Picture: Garry Carbon)

Who is Michael Akadiri without his scrubs? Certainly not someone you would think can perform CPR when he’s out and about in his tracksuit, he reckons, based on the number of times he gets regarded with caution.

But junior doctor Akadiri wears his scrubs with pride – no mean feat when he’s faced with impossible in-at-the-deep-end scenarios (ie, just two days defense training for a stint on the volatile psychiatric ward) and time in court with not enough support – a sadly common theme among doctors who tickle the funny bone.

‘It’s not the best system but it’s still a system based on need rather than what you can afford to pay and we should be very proud of it,’ he says, despite all that. When it’s propped up by people like the supremely talented and likeable Akadiri, it’s impossible not to be.

Tom Ward – Anthem (4 stars)

Monkey Barrel

If you’re looking for something to hit the millennial sweet spot… (Picture: Matt Crockett)

If millennials really are defined by disillusionment and underachievement, then they will have plenty to relate to in this bleakly compelling show from Gallagher-haired talent Tom Ward.

Shell-suited, cynical and short of cash (‘My friend owns a house, heard of them?) this is a show that is shot through with a 90s playlist of Oasis and Radiohead from a man ‘gentrified’ by successive exes. Its retro vibe is wholly immersive, and Ward deserves kudos for being in command enough of his material to allow some moments to teeter on a knife edge.

If you’re looking for something to hit the millennial sweet spot, this Anthem for doomed youth is hitting all the right notes.

Will Mars – My Life In One Liners (4 stars)

Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose

Will Mars is on a different planet to the Tim Vines of this world (Picture: Gabriel Michael)

If you like your pun merchants to come with daft outfits and silly props, then turn away now – Mars is on a different planet to the Tim Vines of this world.

An opening joke about funerals sets the tone – the following 300-odd jokes paint a picture of loneliness, rejection, death and divorce that have blighted the gentle, self-deprecating Mars ever since his poor working class upbringing.

‘I told my dad a joke about my crappy childhood and he didn’t get it – I suppose you have to be there,’ he intones, his staging as spare as his exquisitely crafted gags. It’s bleak, but also bleakly transfixing – particularly as he turns the autobiographical screws towards the end. Thankfully, thanks to his love life dramas, there’s light relief too – and a little of that goes a long way. Strange and unusual, Mars is well worth exploring.  

Vir Das – Wanted (4 stars)

Pleasance Courtyard

Vir is a superstar with five Netflix specials under his belt (Picture: Walt Disney Television via Getty)

Vir Das is a superstar – huge in the US and India, and with five Netflix specials under his belt – but in 2001 it nearly all went wrong. That year his ‘two Indias’ speech at the JFK Centre, in which he spoke of the societal failings in his home country, went viral.

This show is framed around his flight home from the International Emmys to face the fallout – a flight that he thought would see him met at the airport with a jail sentence.

Suffice to say, he wasn’t, and thus Das has some galvanising and vital things to say about the right to free speech. But Das is a slick mastercraftsman too, and knows how to change up the pace – thus this is also peppered with some cheerful globe-trotting tales and more gentle autobiography that cleverly strikes a chord with his Indian fanbase while keeping half an eye on his Western one.

Mostly though, there are some sage lessons here for anyone who goes from hero to zero in today’s more toxic society – after all, as he puts it so sublimely, ‘the floor is where you find the jokes’.

Jack Harris – Teaching Teachers How To Teach (5 stars)

Just The Tonic at The Mash House

Jack Harris is ‘training’ people in his wisdom’ (Picture: James Barber

A month-long Edinburgh run must be a picnic for Jack Harris – in a former life he was a secondary school physics teacher, trying to to enthuse young minds with a subject ‘no kid wanted to retain the minute they left the door’, in an environment in which you might as well be a leisure centre life guard (‘no-one respects you, no one listens to you’).

Now he’s ‘training’ people in his wisdom – and there are no prizes for guessing that this spoof course runs riot with the peculiarities of the profession, from tiny chairs to weird green paper towels, to baffling photocopiers and the different types of raised hand (if you’re a teacher, you KNOW).

If this show is anything to go by, Harris would be a boon in any classroom, because his hour is both spiky and hilarious – full of brilliant power-point diversions, diagrams, inventions and subliminal messages alluding to his daydreaming obsession with the postal industry.

Oh, and if you ever wondered how sex education and Flash Gordon intersect on the Venn Diagram of ridiculousness, there’s that too. In the midst of the worst teaching crisis in a decade, this jam-packed course earns an A*.

For more info and tickets see edfringe.com.

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