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Edinburgh Fringe 2014: Rhys James at Pleasance Courtyard and 'Confirmation' at King's Hall

Rhys James is a cut above his humdrum peers. 'Confirmation' takes steps in the far-right direction

Rhys James at Pleasance Courtyard

“I’m just another haircut comic,” Rhys James says by way of introduction. The phrase is used in the industry to describe any number of middle-class twentysomething stand-ups with nothing more than a bunch of lame gags and a distinctive coiffure; the newcomer certainly looks the part – sporting a sub-Harry Styles barnet – but he’s so much more than that.

He’s a poet for one thing, interspersing his jokes with rhymes that would do a rapper proud, proving that he’s a clever wordsmith with great timing. He also uses the delayed reveal to great effect in multilayered jokes, such as: “Fun fact: HIV is Roman for high five. Pass it on. Or rather, don’t.”

He’s a poet for one thing, interspersing his jokes with rhymes that would do a rapper proud

He has real stage presence,  and a confidence that endears and carries him through the odd weak gag. He’s also a fine performer, and the show started with a nicely knowing 10-minute film guying every cliché about marketing an Edinburgh show.

I could have done with less about James being unlucky in love – I’m not sure I believed it and it really is haircut comedy – but this is an accomplished debut from a talented performer.

By Veronica Lee

To 24 Aug (0131 556 6550)

Confirmation at King's Hall

At the dawn of the 21st  century, says writer and lone performer Chris Thorpe, our survival is less dependent on the survival of the group than ever.

This “convinces us we’re more right than we are”, and allows confirmation bias – the subliminal favouring of information which confirms what we already believe – to thrive. It’s why a typical “leftist” like Thorpe can barely bring himself to admit that he believes the thrust of Donald Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns” speech, that what we fear are the things we don’t know we don’t know, was not idiocy but deeply profound.

Chris Thorpe in 'Confirmation'

It’s also why Thorpe finds it so jarring that Glen, the pseudonymous but real creator of a white supremacist website whom he contacted and gives voice to (alongside script-reading members of the audience) within this piece, shares many relatable traits amidst the unpalatable. His wife died in their youth.

He believes multiculturalism is a Zionist plot. He’s a socialist and a localist who champions small businesses and campaigns against Atos and government cuts. He believes Breivik was right. He lives in a nice cottage in a pleasant English village.

As deftly as he dissects the various readings of Minor Threat’s punk classic “Guilty of Being White”, Thorpe and director Rachel Chavkin energetically take a liberal Fringe audience to the edge of the abyss of belief and hang them over the side in a conversation for our times.

By David Pollock

To 23 Aug (0131 477 6630)