What with the keyboard-playing apes, hip-hop chess and promoters shouting "Punching Mice" at passers-by, sometimes it feels as though the Edinburgh Fringe needs a voice of sanity.
Benet Brandreth is not that voice. What he is, as he embarks on a flight of fancy that takes in Thucydides, burlesque dancers and Jilly Cooper, is a master raconteur. "He sounds just like his dad," comes a whisper from behind, and indeed he does. But where father Gyles is famous for his awful pullovers, Benet is awfully dapper, dressed in black tie that instantly marks him out from the suit-and-open-neck stand-up crowd. The material in his debut show, The Brandreth Papers, too, is high class, as he tells how he has come to save the nation from a Frankensteinian monstrosity. It is clever (lesbian semiotics in the Dick and Jane children's books), self-deprecatory (his knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons), conceptual (particularly regarding art) and an all-round delight. A barrister by day, Brandreth is a confident performer, and he deserves an audience beyond the mainly 50-plus crowd clearly drawn by his surname.
Seann Walsh is a very different proposition. Shaggy-haired and a tad unkempt, he is a whirlwind of observational comedy to the extent that the oft-quotidian nature of his subject matter acquires a hysterical momentum. The nominal theme around which Ying and Young is based is how things have changed during the 25-year-old's lifetime, taking in topics as diverse as M&S appearing on garage forecourts and phones replacing watches. The highlight, however, is his acting out of a cookery programme fronted by a drunk man, giving instruction on how to make sausage rolls. To describe his act, however, cannot do justice to the energy being sweated out on stage. Walsh is well on his way to becoming a star attraction, and it won't be long before we're talking of him in the same regard as an Andrew Maxwell.
It says much for the reputation of Maxwell himself that his show, The Lights Are On, feels a little bit of a let-down despite ultimately being accomplished – to the extent that he was nominated for the Fringe's Foster's Comedy Awards. It may be because the lukewarm crowd makes this particular evening a bit lacklustre, but for once, Maxwell fails to take over the room with the exuberance of his personality.
What's more, while the core of his gig offers some good cracks about the recent riots, it is undermined by the odd flat note. For example, his gag that the range of people involved in the lawlessness stopped it being talked about in purely racial terms – "Black kids in the south, Asians in the Midlands, white kids in the north; it was a scumbag rainbow" – loses its magic as soon as he follows up with a predictable quip about the Olympic torch making its way through Tottenham. But wisecracks about the "Nazi Pope" and that old stand-by, sectarianism, have him back on track, while his extraordinary paean to the love that junkie couples have for each other offers a reminder of why he sells out huge arenas.
Rob Deering is a one-man band – with none of the pejorative associations that might suggest. Using a foot-pedal to loop riffs and vocals, he re-creates songs such as the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" with unerring accuracy. Though half the fun comes in working out which song he is putting together as he lays down beats, he's not short of a few gags, from a daft but deft recurring joke that stems from George Michael's "Faith" to an interpretation of Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" as the chronicle of a drunken evening. That The Rob Deering Experience ends in a singalong is no surprise; that every audience member joins in without a hint of embarrassment is testament to Deering's convivial charisma. He is a talented musician and an evening in his company is nothing less than a joy.
After being nominated for the festival's Best Newcomer accolade in 2006 and the overall if.comedy award the following year (not to mention an appearance on Michael McIntyre's Comedy Roadshow on the Beeb), it comes as some surprise that Andrew Lawrence has named his routine The Best Kept Secret in Comedy. But, then, he does enjoy a bit of self-flagellation, be it about his ginger pate or his lack of a glamorous life. Though he has softened the caustic rants that propelled his breakthrough, he continues to unleash impressively dense harangues about the state of the world. Yet he indulges in rather more audience interaction than the results deserve and occasionally treads dangerously along clichéd lines, most notably about train announcements and Ginsters pies. It is a solid, rather than spectacular show – and you can't help longing for one of those stinging diatribes of yesteryear.