Josie Long, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Trevor Noah, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh
Alan Davies, Venue 150 @ EICC, Edinburgh
Jessie Cave, Underbelly, Edinburgh
Back to School, Pleasance at Braidwood Centre, Edinburgh

Stand-up is getting a little bit political again. And we've the unlikely Ms Long to thank for it

To use a bit of Cowellian parlance, Josie Long has been on quite a journey in recent years. I mean, who knew that an act once marginally twee-er than a Bagpuss tea cosy would be the one to rescue political stand-up from its New Labour-era doldrums? However, her latest show, Romance and Adventure, begins with a less metaphorical, more muscle-exerting trip: a mountain climb in Kenya that left her troubled by her penchant for "super aristocratic" pursuits. It's the cue for a vexed life appraisal, fuelled by turning 30, in which feelings of political and personal inadequacy elide. Why, she wonders, does she continue to shop at her corporate bête noire, Tesco? And, as a bona fide leftie, is she destined to "be born, live, fight and die" on the losing team in any case?

Well, no, is the Long and short of it, as her familiar optimism returns via renegade touring, Alasdair Gray quotes, and naming her toilet "Michael Gove". Indeed, though the show may be predicated on insecurity, her smiley subversive shtick is more self-assured than ever. She's always been a wonderfully conversational performer, but here there are great set-pieces, too: you'd have to scour Edinburgh far and wide to find a single skit funnier than her transformation of Ed Miliband into a roughneck revolutionary. And where she's previously apologised for her principled fury, now she gives it gloriously free rein. "If you haven't done anything for charity by the time you're 29," she snaps, "then what you could do is jump off a building – and, by all means, get sponsorship." A slightly pat – and, yes, twee – sign-off leaves a few too many questions hanging. But the main one is: how long can the Foster's Comedy Award continue to escape her now?

As for the newcomers category, buzz would suggest that the South African Trevor Noah is a strong bet. The mixed-race comic's identity angst is the cornerstone of this Edinburgh debut: a substantial topic, given that he was "born as a crime" to an illegally partnered white Swiss father and black Xhosa mother during the apartheid era. The salve, though, is that it has afforded the boyish 28-year-old a privileged perspective on the absurdities of racial demarcations and assumptions in his home country and beyond. His show, The Racist, spins off from an eye-opening trip to the US, where, hoping to be embraced as black, he instead encounters whole new strains of prejudice – for example, the way mixed-race celebrities are recategorised as soon as they become successful. Similar observational jewels stud an hour that benefits from the quiet authority of Noah's deceptively soft-spoken delivery – and whether mimicking Obama or a casually bigoted Kentucky fan, he makes for a deft impressionist to boot.

The doomy title of Alan Davies's new show is Life is Pain, although "Life is a Pain" would better sum up its desultory disgruntlement. Back on stage for the first time in a decade, the fortysomething star uses his return to bore on about the developments of the intervening years. So we get wide-eyed bafflement at social networking, smartphones and internet porn, and misty-eyed nostalgia for student japes, dial phones and the lingerie section of the Freemans catalogue.

At one point, he even, bafflingly, makes a meal out of Facebook poking, an activity and comedic subject that one's maiden aunt would likely consider passé. Suffice to say, it's a plodding, superficial hour, with occasional lurches into crudeness that smack of showboating desperation. There's one good passage, in which Davies imagines the thoughts of his crying baby; it's just a shame that his own psyche remains elusive by comparison.

Allow me to regress a little. Representing Hollywood this year, albeit tangentially, is Jessie Cave, a 25-year-old actress who starred in the Harry Potter franchise. Riffing off her association with childhood fantasy, Bookworm sees Cave hosting the inaugural session of her new book club amid a Play School-style set complete with cardboard Wendy house. However, as she obsesses over The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and freaks out over Fifty Shades of Grey, it becomes clear that literature is providing unhealthy amounts of escapism for this mildly deranged woman-child. It's a curious, compelling fiction, with something of the warped whimsy of a Wes Anderson movie, and its scattily charismatic star is certainly one to watch – as is her teenage sister Bebe, playing the most delightfully gormless comic sidekick since Dame Edna's Madge.

Sillier still is Back to School, an immersive production that transforms a community centre, an outpost of the Pleasance, into the shambolic secondary St Dumbiedykes and provides us, its pupils, with a whistle-stop bad education. The press blurb's claim that the piece is a response to the "psychological experiments of Milgram and Zimbardo" seems a fanciful way to dress up an hour and a half of jolly nostalgia kicks. But, in that respect, it works admirably, with the committedly eccentric performances of the teaching staff provoking committed mischievousness from the student body in return. Though, split into different "forms" as we were, I was sad to have missed out on the sex education class.

Please, sir, can I have some more?

Jessie Cave and "Back to School" to 26 Aug, Josie Long and Trevor Noah to 27 Aug ( all 0131-226 000); Alan Davies begins a UK tour at Venue Cymru, Llandudno, on 5 Sep (0844 844 0444)

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Minchin portrait
For a no-holds-barred performer who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, Tim Minchin is surprisingly gentle
Arts and Entertainment
Clara takes the lead in 'Flatline' while the Doctor remains in the Tardis
tvReview: The 'Impossible Girl' earns some companion stripes... but she’s still annoying in 'Dr Who, Flatline'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Harris in 'The Goob' film photocall, at the Venice International Film Festival 2014
filmThe Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Streisand is his true inspiration
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor contestant Fleur East
tvReview: Some lacklustre performances - but the usual frontrunners continue to excel
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Tuttle's installation in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern
artAs two major London galleries put textiles in the spotlight, the poor relation of the creative world is getting recognition it deserves
Arts and Entertainment
Hunger Games actress Jena Malone has been rumoured to be playing a female Robin in Batman v Superman
Arts and Entertainment
On top of the world: Actress Cate Blanchett and author Richard Flanagan
artsRichard Flanagan's Man Booker win has put paid to the myth that antipodean artists lack culture
Arts and Entertainment
The Everyman, revamped by Haworth Tompkins
architectureIt beats strong shortlist that included the Shard, the Library of Birmingham, and the London Aquatics Centre
Arts and Entertainment
Justice is served: Robert Downey Jr, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jeremy Strong and Robert Duvall in ‘The Judge’


Arts and Entertainment
Clive Owen (centre) in 'The Knick'


Arts and Entertainment
J.K. Simmons , left, and Miles Teller in a scene from


Arts and Entertainment
Team Tenacity pitch their fetching solar powered, mobile phone charging, heated, flashy jacket
tvReview: No one was safe as Lord Sugar shook things up
Owen said he finds films boring but Tom Hanks managed to hold his attention in Forrest Gump
Arts and Entertainment
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
Music Album is set to enter UK top 40 at lowest chart position in 30 years
Arts and Entertainment
The Michael McIntyre Chat Show airs its first episode on Monday 10 March 2014
Arts and Entertainment


These heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
books'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' sees the writer become the third Australian to win the accolade
Arts and Entertainment
New diva of drama: Kristin Scott Thomas as Electra
Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Daenerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke, faces new problems

Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).

Arts and Entertainment
Polly Morgan

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album