Princes Of Main | Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney
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Princes Of Main

Edinburgh Fringe comedy review by Paul Fleckney

The Edinburgh Fringe wouldn’t be the same without packs of ex-Cambridge Footlighters roaming the streets, competing for dominance with their sketch shows, a sort of Gangs of New York with less facial hair. 

The bar has been set high in recent years among the Footlights alumni, with Sheeps, The Pin and then Daphne producing some truly brilliant shows, of very different flavours. 

Princes of Main haven’t broken through in the same way, and their third show, New Year’s Eve, probably isn’t the one to change that, but it is a consistently funny offering of sketch comedy. 

Ben Pope, Alex MacKeith and Jamie Fraser have thrown us forward to New Year’s Eve 2017, where the trials of a difficult year – for the world, and for them personally – can be forgotten. It’s a canny theme: simple enough to anchor the show and hook in the audience, and loose enough to give the trio enough space to pretty much do what they like.

There are nice early sight gags that lampoon the tradition of remembering those who have died during the year, and on the infamous Oscars gaffe where the wrong film was named Best Picture. On several occasions they interact with audience members and show themselves to be comfortable with the unpredictability, rolling with whatever comes their way, not least when they demand somebody comes on stage and improvises an entire verse of Auld Lang Syne. 

The show nicely broadens out to include some mini narratives – will Ben get his first kiss? Will Jamie propose to his girlfriend? Will Alex get out of his debt problems? – which succeed in giving the whole thing some momentum. Something that struck me when going through my notes to the show is how much they packed in. They were able to get laughter from all sorts of angles, be it good writing, physical silliness, or funny ideas, and the pace never dipped. 

Having said that, there were a few wasted opportunities, such as Jamie’s running joke about learning new words throughout the show, and the much-anticipated game of ‘Hitlerball’ didn’t warrant the build-up. 

The Princes are jolly, informal hosts, and none of them dominate, though Pope does star in the stand-out moment of the show, playing the part of a lie detector who can only communicate his love for his master in beeps. And the in-built climax of the show – the countdown to midnight – and the narratives coming to a head mean the show finishes strongly.

Princes of Main are knocking on the door, certainly. Compared to other sketch groups though, ex-Footlights or not, they are lacking a certain something. Others have that extra gear, whether it's driven by an outstanding performer, ambitious concepts, or a very clear identity. I couldn’t really tell you what Princes of Main’s identity is, or where they’re going. They could be described as a less childish Pappy’s, but I can’t imagine other sketch groups being compared to Princes of Main, rather than the other way round.

So our Princes have an existential problem to mull over, but taken at face value, New Year’s Eve really is a joyful, funny show that will certainly win them new fans.

Review date: 5 Aug 2017
Reviewed by: Paul Fleckney

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