First from the Fringe

Laura Clay returns to the Edinburgh Fringe this year, with her pick of the shows. Here, they start strong with Ginger Monologues, and The Shambles.

It’s sometimes said that ‘gingerism’ is the last acceptable prejudice, and my school memories were certainly full of my redhead friends enduring many hair-based insults. Now, at last, this thorny subject is tackled in Ginger Monologues by Marie-Anne McGrattan in a fun blend of stand-up and song.

The show opens with a mock charity appeal urging the audience to ‘sponsor a ginger’, then launches straight into our host’s defence of redheads, and learning to love her natural colour. The bulk of the material is drawn from personal experiences; from being the sassy kid at school to avoid bullying, to unfortunate hair dye incidents in Hong Kong in an attempt to hide from curious locals.

I especially enjoyed the Scottish cultural references, though they might have baffled the tourists somewhat!

McGrattan was bubbly and enthusiastic throughout, despite being slightly poorly from an early dose of ‘Fringe flu’. Fortunately, this didn’t affect her singing voice, which adapted well to genres as diverse as rap and synthpop. We were treated to everything from Marie’s first ginger icon Lulu (who, she’s informed by her backing singers, is blonde now), to Adele and Rick Astley. I was promised mashups I’d never heard before, and I wasn’t disappointed – who knew that Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics would go so well with Push It by Salt ‘n’Pepa? I won’t spoil the other one, but needless to say it has a distinctly Scottish theme.

Overall, I enjoyed myself and left feeling much more aware of the plight of the ‘carrot tops’.


theSpace @ Surgeon’s Hall, Aug 6-10, 20:15


Hailing from York, The Shambles bring their hectic, high-energy brand of improv comedy to the Fringe. As a big fan of both this genre and the city from which they take their name, this was a must-see for me. Improv tends to be very dependent on the enthusiasm and imagination of the audience, and fortunately for The Shambles they lucked out on the night I was there.

The venue was a little cosy, but everyone got into the spirit of things- perhaps a little too much in the case of one gentleman who was keen for every sketch to feature a gigolo!

What impressed me the most was the variety of the rounds, some of which I’d never seen in improv before. The ‘panning’, where three members would rotate left or right to perform three different scenarios, required a great deal of dexterity from everyone involved. Other rounds included the ‘good twin, bad twin’ with two polar opposite characters dealing with a traffic warden, 99 Red Balloons (where the jokes revolved around Britney Spears and drunk Sherlock Holmes), and teams guessing each other’s profession. Impressively, they did reach the correct answers of ‘vibrating peeler’ and ‘human skyscraper’ merchants…

Having the audience direct a never-before-seen DVD of NosferatHugh, featuring Hugh Grant as a psycho killer, was a particular highlight – they even ran with my suggestion to drop in references to vegan sausage rolls from their sponsor Greggs, to great effect. And while the many puns didn’t always get as many laughs, it certainly made me chuckle.

The Shambles provided a solid night’s entertainment, and I urge you to go and see them while you can.


theSpace on the Mile, Aug 6-10, 12-17, 19-24, 22:05

Laura is a fiction/creative non-fiction writer based in Edinburgh. Their work has been published by Scottish Book Trust, Monstrous Regiment and the Dangerous Women project.

Twitter: @uisgebeatha, Instagram: @lauraclayauthor

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