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A refreshing and lively British production which lingers in the memory
This is a rumbustious, rollicking, Altmanesque view of Edinburgh Festival and the comedy fringe. It has a great cast of newer faces but also a fine performance from that old hand, Clive Russell. Skillfully written and directed by Annie Griffin, it is a welcome change from the Hollywood gloss.
Filmed at and around the 2004 Festival it beautifully creates the atmosphere with street shots and sounds from the real Festival interspersed with acts from the main characters. Also there as a judge and awarder of the comedy prize is Sean Sullivan, a comedian who has already made it big and sneers at those who haven't. Played by Stephen Mangan in a character he reprised in Green Wing he is universally loved by the fans and hated by those with whom he comes into contact, particularly his downtrodden PA (Raquel Cassidy). The almost inhuman joke he plays at the award ceremony was repeated in Green Wing in different guise. This is current, British, cringe-making comedy at its most extreme. There are some hilarious scenes, with self-centred comedians / comediennes unable to think about anything but their comedy act (even when performing sex acts) and lots of one liners which guarantee plenty of laughs and an overall cheery feeling despite the underlying despair. As Sullivan puts it "we are engulfed by comedy" The no-hope performances include a one-woman Dorothy Wordsworth act complete with daffodils,(Lyndsey Marshal), the inevitable, rarely sober, Irishman (Chris O'Dowd), the paedophile priest (Clive Russell), and the Canadian troupe lodged in an upmarket mansion occupied by a disconnected wealthy couple totally fazed by the birth of their first child.
The action rapidly shifts across and between these characters, linked by the BBC Scotland art critic, beautifully played by Daniela Nardini, who reports on the scene, interviews the performers and has a place on the panel selecting the prize winner. She pleases no one and beds the Irish comedian in the full knowledge that he is only seeking her support on the prize panel.
The feel can best be described as Gaelic - set in Scotland but with lost of Irish accents and enhanced by background music which is atmospheric rather than intrusive. For anyone who liked Book Club, Green Wing, Nighty night or The Office, this will be a treat