Edinburgh Festival '98: Comedy - Funny but frank

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BEFORE HER show begins, Lynn Ferguson comes on stage, apologises for not being very good and then retreats, promising: "This isn't the beginning, the beginning will be better than this." As if she need worry. Ferguson is a natural - a comic who could, recite the bus timetable and have the audience eating out of her hands.

Ferguson spends much of her year as a compere, artfully stringing together other people's acts. Her deceptively laconic opening spiel is less false modesty than Ferguson playing warm-up act to her own show. Among the exquisitely observed types appearing on Ferguson's one woman bill are softly spoken Irish wit Michael O'Leary, stand-up virgin Jenny Park, ex- beauty consultant and airhead comedienne Anita Ross, student Rob McCuskell, Butlin boy Billy Murphy and American dyke Al Gore.

But Frank isn't just a wicked slice of character comedy - Ferguson's fictional jokers get to tell good gags too. After delivering some desultory dispatches from the sex war, O'Leary tells his audience "I want to die in my sleep like my father, not screaming like his passengers", while the dim-witted Anita Ross reflects on the lessons learnt in her previous career as beautician by noting that "fat people use more soap".

Ferguson glues these disparate acts together with her own conversational banter, and if there's one criticism of Ferguson's show, it's that she's perhaps too good a stand-up. Her impressions of Anita, Al and the rest are funny enough but it's when Ferguson is up on stage playing herself that she shines.

Gilded Balloon Studio Theatre, 7pm (0131 226 2151). To 31 Aug.

A version of this review appeared in some editions of yesterday's paper.