Edinburgh Festival Round-up 2012

While the rest of these reluctantly united isles have brayed through the spectacle of The Games Which Should Not Speak Their Name, the wonderful city of Edinburgh once again splays itself before the greatest arts festival ever to set foot into reality.

Curling into every available corner of Auld Reekie is the much cherished Fringe and this year’s highlights have redefined what constitutes excellence in comedy and theatre and the magical amalgam of the two.

At The Underbelly Doctor Brown’s divinely named Befrdfgth and Claudia O’Doherty’s The Telescope are certainly five-star shows.

The former’s astounding control of both himself and his awkwardly terrified audience is what the festival fringe is all about – absurdist, provocative and fearlessly confrontational comic terrorism.

In an ambitious and theatrical advance from his long-standing one-man tennis match performance, Brown subtly takes the clowning form and dismantles it into a recursive, self-replicating marvel which is at once disgusting, beautiful and deeply genuine.

Very rarely does a mute and smirkingly malevolent force of nature get away with literally and savagely kicking his audience up the arse and even less frequently does such an artist elicit elated hoots from 100 or so fringe-hardened punters so consistently and with such great economy.

To say that Befrdfgth is an awesome act of art crime would be an understatement. Keep an eye on this horrific bearded beauty.

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the truly magical The Indescribable Phenomenon (Greenside), a heartbreaking and wrong-footing exposition of the life of Anna Eva Fay, the first woman to be inducted into the Magic Circle.

Coupling casually magnificent magic with a true story of tragedy, humour and humanity, this show is a shrewdly put together powder keg of heart-wrenching power which will no doubt see its way onto the silver screen within a year or so.

Troubling the eminent Doctor Brown for the Fringe crown is Claudia O’Doherty, a secret genius with a sexy brass telescope which doubles as a portal through time and space.

O’Doherty’s experimental spectacular completely breaks the stand-up form and reshuffles the edges of paranoia.

Effortlessly spanning centuries of narrative, her upside-down approach is beyond refreshing, mixing freewheeling surrealism with a sophisticated structure which resembles a human brain undergoing a stroke.

Still reeling from last year’s Panel Prize – with sponsorship lamentably snatched away from the admittedly pretentious Perrier to the absurdly cheap Foster’s brand – are Max and Ivan.

Their Con Artists show at the Pleasance Courtyard is a technical step up from their acclaimed production of Sherlock And Watson and with it comes a sly nod to the arch criminal Jim Moriarty, in this instance a Cockney foil for a heist which tactically draws in every Bond caricature in a mercurial work of tremendous ferocity.

Also very much of note are The Yellow Show, a heartwarming spoken-word show from Rob Auton and The Magical Adventures Of Pete Heat.