Dominic Frisby is an actor best known for voicing the booking.com adverts (‘Booking dot com, booking dot yeah’). Voiceover specialists can earn large fees for a morning’s work and they have endless time in which to ponder where their money ends up. Frisby is irked by the UK tax regime, whose code-book is four times longer than Chilcot. He argues persuasively that our sprawling system should be replaced with a land value tax. Set at the right level this would ensure the abolition of all other duties, and those of us who don’t own property would pay no council tax, no income tax, no VAT, and no duty on fuel, alcohol or inheritance. Ever again. An attractive scheme laid out in a funny, absorbing show full of historical insights. Louis XIV’s finance minister likened the ideal tax system to the efficient plucking of a goose. ‘The largest mass of plumage extracted with the least amount of hissing.’
In a cramped little room in a Cowgate hotel I saw Giacinto Palmieri deliver a talk entitled Nietzsche, Women and I. Every seat was taken and Palmieri read out some of the best-known quotes. They got big laughs. ‘Woman was God’s second mistake’ had everyone in fits. As did this line which Palmieri delivered with a nicely judged pause. ‘Women make the highs higher and the lows… [short silence] more frequent.’ The beauty of the pause was that it invited the audience to supply an imaginary punchline, ‘lower’, which made the pay-off, ‘more frequent’, even stronger. Fans of Nietzsche who know him only through reading are unlikely to realise how amusing he is when performed aloud. After this excellent opening our expert abandoned the German genius and proceeded to discuss the many womenfolk who have affected another titan of European thought, namely Giacinto Palmieri. He spent the remainder of the show regaling us with mirthless anecdotes about his bossy mother and his on-off girlfriend who, not surprisingly, elbowed him years ago.
Andrew Lawrence is superbly intelligent, highly articulate and deeply sour. His show, The Hate Speech Tour, makes a useful point about liberalism. As we become more obsessed with our sensitivities to race, gender, creed and so on, we corrode the bonds of the community and foster a mood of mistrust and even loathing. What’s refreshing about Lawrence is that he never censors himself. He told us about a female journalist who he disliked. When he heard that she’d lost her job he sent her a link to a fast-food recruitment site. Few laughs greeted that punchline. But his best gags are beautifully honed. His friends tease him about the age gap between himself and his young bride, and they like to remind him that when he was a 23-year-old graduate she was still at primary school. ‘I’m aware of that. It cost me a teaching job.’
David Mills recently accepted a role in his first movie, Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Hugh Grant. On the film lot he was befriended by fellow actor Rebecca Ferguson, who promised to give him every possible assistance. But in their scenes together he noticed that she fussed and fidgeted constantly. When he saw the final cut he discovered why. Her excessive stage ‘business’ was a ploy to draw the camera towards her and to leave him all but invisible. This is a polished account of Hollywood’s ego-wars.
Lembit Opik contributed to the video clips in a new musical satire, Rocking Your Vote! The actors take on a multitude of roles and although they give the pun-laden script everything they’ve got, the result is ill-focused and short of sophistication. Word of mouth seems to have hit the box-office. On the night I attended, the four thesps on stage outnumbered the crowd by two to one.
Doctor Ahmed offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life as a GP. Ahmed brilliantly skewers the bossy ignorance of NHS-users who expect their local clinic to be equipped with an MRI scanner. His impersonation of a doctor crossing the waiting room without making eye contact with his patients is sublime. The Doc claims to have performed his very first gig in February this year and yet he’s managed to sell out his Edinburgh debut. Astonishing. Most comedians toil for years before filling every seat at the fringe. My hunch is that the Doc is unaware how many supplementary talents he has. His manner on stage is natural, easy and authoritative. His voice is a deep, velvety baritone. Physically there’s a cat-like grace about him. His facial expressions are a treasure-box of treats. He’s an exceptionally gifted mime and he can respond instantly and amusingly to the unexpected. To cap it all he’s tall, dark and handsome. Frankly he’s the best thing I saw at the fringe.