Edinburgh Festival Review – Paul Foot

In his umpteenth Edinburgh show, Paul Foot proves he is still a master of unpredictable, surreal storytelling, and even manages to get away with brandishing a toy golliwog as well, writes Paul Fleckney.

paul_foot1In London is Funny’s world-beatinglistings section (“Accurate, easy-to-use, thorough. Five stars” – Time Out), Paul Foot is invariably introduced as “you’ll either love him or hate him”.

Perhaps it’s the comedy-savvy, open-minded Edinburgh audiences or perhaps Foot is getting better all the time, but tonight, pretty much everybody loves Paul Foot.

As ever, it’s 60 minutes of raving storytelling with erratic bursts of fury and tangents taken seemingly at random, as he gambols about the stage like an agitated pony. Very occasionally you get an observational joke (there are sly digs at Ugg boots and local radio stations, briefly grounding matters), but on the whole you find yourself spinning into a world that Foot is utterly immersed in.

It’s about as unpredictable as comedy gets – an off-hand quip about the Epsom derby made during one story is seized upon by Foot, who spews venom towards the utterer; during a short play, an imagined phone call to a missing cat line leads to about three minutes of silence as Foot pretends he can’t get a word in edgeways, contorting his body to communicate his frustration. This bizarre thread is then brilliantly developed to get the audience in on the act.

Having opened with some toying with the convention of applauding a comic onto the stage, he launches into the best of tonight’s monologues about the decline of shirehorses. It’s vintage Foot, beginning with a contextless detail, before layering and layering until it becomes a heaving Hogarthian tableau of characters, with imperceptible dynamics between them. All delivered in the “and then that happens, and then you have a right old laugh” tense, as if it’s standard observational comedy. It isn’t quite peak Foot, but it’s not far off.

Not many comics can get away with brandishing a toy golliwog. But that’s how far from the real world Foot can take you. Introduced as a sneak preview of his Edinburgh 2011 show, the golliwog is dressed as a miniature Foot, right down to the padlock on the belt. As ridiculous or offensive as that must sound, it gets a lot of laughter.

His final story, set on the Isle of the Dead, includes musings on the constituent parts of a trifle and some indiscriminate berating of a girl in the front row. It has its moments of wonky genius but by that point the room seems rather exhausted by it all.

Four stars
Paul Foot – Ash in the Attic is on at 7.40pm at Underbelly, click h

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