tue 05/03/2024

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Janine Harouni / Paddy Young / Ian Smith | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Janine Harouni / Paddy Young / Ian Smith

Edinburgh Fringe 2023 reviews: Janine Harouni / Paddy Young / Ian Smith

Family life, the perils of flatshares, and how to beat stress

Janine Harouni

Janine Harouni, Pleasance Courtyard 

Names and identity feature heavily in Janine Harouni’s new show, Man’oushe, itself titled about where her family nickname comes from. Heavily pregnant (the reason why she is ending the show’s Edinburgh run tonight), Harouni tells us her baby’s origin story, and it’s by turns moving and hilarious, as she brings us up to speed with her life since we last saw her at the Fringe in 2019, when she was nominated for best newcomer.

Harouni talks about her mixed feelings about becoming a mother, in part formed by her relationship with her parents. And, as an American of Irish and Lebanese heritage married to an Irishman, she does a deep dive into the tribes we belong to.

She is concerned, for example, that her son, about to be born in England, will sound just a little creepy, as all possessed children in Hollywood horror films speak with posh English accents, and ponders the life her beloved grandmother may have had if she had not started a family,

She playfully tells us about the cat-and-mouse game she and her boyfriend (now husband) played before his proposal – how did she know there was one in the offing? “I set him a deadline,” she says drily – and how they lucked out during the pandemic as it meant their big New York wedding was cancelled, so she didn’t have to have a big Catholic do with her Trump-loving relatives in attendance.

Interwoven with these stories about her family – delivered with a lot of snark, some terrific callbacks and a few nicely delayed payoffs – are two tender themes that make one swallow hard. But the show is never mawkish and, besides, Harouni adeptly moves from the serious stuff to a big laugh within the space of a sentence.

Man’oushe has been nominated for best show in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards, and deservedly so.

  • Until 25 August

Paddy Young, Pleasance Courtyard

Nominated for best newcomer in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards is “Northern boy” Paddy Young, with Hungry. Horny. Scared. Much of the hour is taken up with his living situation – he’s part of Generation Rent and doesn’t expect ever to own his own home, which irks him.

In a show that freewheels across various subjects, he relates his flat-sharing woes – with a food-stealing flatmate being his biggest bugbear, not to mention having a juggler in the house. In his strong crowd work, Young identifies the homeowners in the audience, and riffs on how lucky they are to have a kitchen so big it needs an island in the middle, and a living room for living in, as opposed to housing clothes-horses and bikes. There are some astute observations.

Young talks about his hometown, Scarborough, and being upstaged by a horny walrus on New Year’s Eve, and the weirdness of TikTok families – and there is a lot of material about Northern stereotypes, which Young addresses in his ironic semi-poetic interludes.

In his last one he ties up the show’s loose ends – and he very neatly includes some of the audience’s contributions too. This isn’t a stellar show, but Young is a talented performer making a confident debut. 

  • Until 27 August

Ian Smith, Monkey Barrel @Tron 

Unlike so many shows at the Fringe, there’s no high-concept narrative in Crushing (nominated for best show in the Edinburgh Comedy Awards), but Ian Smith delivers a lovely collection of jokes and anecdotes connected by his musings on stress and how he tries to deal with it. His stories take in flotation tanks, going to the dentist (teeth figure largely in the show), visiting Slovakia with his hairdresser and being patronised by Londoners who think Northern (he’s from Goole in Yorkshire) means being thick.

Before he starts the show proper, he tells us that last year’s Fringe hour was about getting engaged, and that this year he is no longer affianced. But this isn’t a break-up show, Smith is quick to reassure us as he launches into Crushing. There’s no misery here – although his evocative account of a trip to Blackpool may give you the ick.

Smith, a genial onstage presence, brings the audience along with him, even during the longer anecdotes, and peppers the laugh-heavy set with callbacks, visual gags and the occasional foray into the surreal, as when he talks about baby teeth – the only part of the body that “gets a practice run“, he says – and then imagines how that might play out for other body parts. No prizes for guessing where a male comic takes it, but Smith keeps it playful.

  • Until 27 August

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