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Alan Francis: Fringe 2012

Note: This review is from 2012

Review by Marissa Burgess

It's relatively rare these days at the Fringe to see a simple show of stand-up minus any props, PowerPoint or characters. Yet Alan Francis deliveres a neat hour with only the help of the mic, a creaky stage and, very occasionally, speaking directly to the crowd. But then it's not surprising coming from a stand-up whose material laments a simpler age, an age when the telephone was revered as the height of technology.

His soft Scottish accent gives him away as being from Edinburgh though years of living in the East End of London have softened it further, but as a performer, Francis is certainly no stranger to the Fringe. He won the So You Think You're Funny competition back in 1991, so is one of the veterans who too can remember a time when you could do the Fringe with just a few notes and a linty humbug in your pocket.

In this year's show some of the observations aren't exactly original ones - beginning by drawing attention to the fact in encroaching middle age he's kept a fine head of hair but gained a bit of a Buddha belly. He goes on to grumble about missing buses, automatic toilets on trains and a pub brawl started by an egg-headed thug, but the descriptions are so evocative – the old lady’s hapless 'walnut face' as the door draws closed again, the bully in the pub his pint pot reduced to the size of a thimble in his massive mitt - you can picture them all.

Elsewhere too the topics are familiar but they take a different slant – the 72 virgins reward apparently waiting in heaven for Muslim suicide bombers takes the  virgin’s point of view. In covering the latest Indian call centre cold callers who fraudulently claim they are from Microsoft, Francis offers up a genuinely helpful as well as amusing way to mess about with them.

In addition to a pleasing turn of phrase there's a subtle theatrical delivery at play as he pushes his features into expressions that embellish the story.

But the grist of the polemic is Francis' lamentation of a post-war golden age heralded by his granny whose generation had fought in both the world wars laying the way for Francis' generation to enjoy those years of freedom and opportunity that were to follow. Francis senses those slipping away in favour of X Factor, smart phones and complacency – distracting us from direct action against injustice meted out by the government.

But it's not all disillusionment, after all while there are still people camped out for months outside St Paul’s to object to the City bankers' behaviour there's still hope.

Review date: 23 Aug 2012
Reviewed by: Marissa Burgess
Reviewed at: Gilded Balloon Teviot

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