ER at the Fringe: The Mess
Late night Fringe shows are a prime slot for all-out weirdness and cheap entertainment of questionable taste, but The Mess takes the cake. Produced by sword-swallower Miss Behave (of La Soirée), this rough revue of oddball miscreants and rambling rabble-rousers is guaranteed to surprise even the most jaded Edinburgh veterans.
The show is so unpredictable you can’t even take the host for granted: coming down with a sudden case of meningitis early in the run, Miss Behave remains absent from all subsequent bills (one must wonder in what state she’s been keeping that sword of hers). Coming to her rescue is fellow La Soirée member Mooky Cornish, assisted by physical comic Tom Flanagan. Previously a clown with Cirque du Soleil and a regular at La Rêve, Cornish sure has come a long way to perform at a bleachers-and-sawdust makeshift ring on George Square. These aren’t the times to be picky, apparently.
Between acts like Simon Munnery’s baffling comedy-poetry and Phil Kay’s inappropriate naked singing, spectators are further engaged with by silly games like throwing balls at a bucket to compete for a single badge. That the game gets out of hand and becomes an orgy of balls aimed at everything but the bucket is a testimony to a vital part of the show’s uncouth profile: the public it attracts. Expect inebriated parties of every age jumping at every cue to yell, jump and join the proceedings. All the piss-drunk hen dos and City louts who’ve ever caused trouble in London’s more civilized variety shows should be rounded up and bused to every engagement of The Mess. It’s the one place where their input will actually prove constructive.
Saying anything can happen here is not an empty cliché, but an accurate assessment. The nudity in particular can get quite contagious, with the hosts themselves following an uninhibited legion with the likes of The Two Wrongies, already famous for the splits and high kicks from their naked synchronized swimming number (to the tune of Bohemian Rhapsody). Their bizarre routine is so endearingly unapologetic it borders on cuteness.
The same cannot be said, though, of comedy crooner Frank Sanazi. His spot-on comedy relies on Sinatra parodies like Strangers in my Flight and Mein Way on a Steinway, all filled with the inappropriate puns and dictator references you could expect of a man dressed like Hitler. Joking about everything from Islamic extremism to the Holocaust, Sanazi goose-steps on thin ice with such flair it is disarming. Both his throaty singing and sharp German outbursts, on the other hand, resemble the real thing so thoroughly it is unsettling.
A show this messy could hardly have a better headliner than Patti Plinko’s The Maddening. Seldom does a band make so much noise with acoustic instruments. A foursome of two guitars, violin and vocals (and the occasional tom-tom drum), the band performs Plinko’s signature mix of folk and Slavic music with relentless energy. Leave early if you don’t feel like jumping along, because their floor-stomping grooves are hard to resist.
Though not for everyone, Miss Behave’s motley is the ideal show to shake things up when the evening seems dull beyond redemption. The Mess is blunt, demented chaos from start to finish. If you’ve been sifting through variety listings looking for something edgier than pasties and ukuleles, this may be the one you were waiting for. If not, you’ve been warned.
The Mess. Produced by Miss Behave. Assembly George Square, Edinburgh. 3-28 August (except 15 and 22), 23:47. £4.99. www.stillmisbehaving.com
Photo credits: Sin Bozkurt (Frank Sanazi), other courtesy of the performers