Edinburgh Round-up: Dan Antopolski <br/>Jerry Springer - The Opera <br/>Stitching <br/>Brendan Burns <br/>Men in Coats

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The Independent Culture

Dan Antopolski is a conundrum, not an anagram: he's won three Perrier nominations and he's clearly been to big school, so why doesn't he draw on these strengths to entertain the fee-paying public rather than give the appearance of wanting them to pay homage to his genius

Comedy: Dan Antopolski, Pleasance Cavern

By Mark Wilson

Dan Antopolski is a conundrum, not an anagram. He's won three Perrier nominations. He's clearly been to big school. His face is funny. He's a talented musician. So why doesn't he draw on these strengths to entertain the fee-paying public rather than give the appearance of wanting them to pay homage to his genius?

He's not unacquainted with that old imperative to make people laugh. He does a good line in surreal imagery and has engagingly nerdy Heath Robinsonesque props, but his stock-in-trade is to set up stories that play with the boundaries of taste, including blindness and leukaemia.

Then he pulls back from the brink. No challenging the audience's expectations, no thrilling in the taboos being broken, just a dismissive wave of the hands. Rambling bathetic stories that laugh in the face of punchlines aren't clever. They're not post-modern. They're lazy.

As a finale to 50 minutes of self-congratulation, he walks on playing the saxophone solo to George Michael's "Careless Whisper". As that most astute critic Bart Simpson put it: "I didn't know someone could suck and blow at the same time."

Venue 33: 21.50 (1hr), to 26 Aug (not 6 or 20). 0131-556 6550



Musical: Jerry Springer – The Opera, Assembly Rooms

By Damian Barr

Go Jerry! Go Jerry! Television's trashiest talk show has been transformed into an opera with spectacularly filthy and unexpectedly insightful results. The two-acter, complete with commercial breaks, takes us from Jerry's familiar studio to Hell and back.

Meet Zandra the slut-junkie who is sleeping with Dwight the fat hick who is engaged to the innocent Peaches but also bedding a chick with a dick with a heart. Marvel at their white-trash antics as Jerry plays the ringmaster, urging them on while the onstage audience screams, "Bring on the losers!"

The 21-strong cast hold their own, and the singing is generally very good. Zandra and Irene (Valda Aviks) and Peaches and Baby Jane (Loré Lixenberg) are audibly excellent. Jerry doesn't sing much but Rick Bland is nevertheless convincing in the part, and David Bedella's surprise transformation from sleazy Warm-Up Man to sexy Satan is thrilling.

Venue: 3: 14.35 (1hr). To 26 Aug. 0131-226 2428.

Comedy: Brendan Burns, The Thinking Man's Idiot, Pleasance Over The Road

By Steve Jelbert

For some, stand-up comedy is an opportunity to celebrate their ignorance, for opposing voices are at a disadvantage to sole holders of the microphone. Brendan Burns, a self-styled "highly intelligent man trapped inside the knowledge of an idiot", prefers to define his targets before setting about them.

The famously abrasive Australian is prepared to provoke a reaction at any cost. Luckily he's a damn good comic. The first half is terrific. Whether ranting about the illusory nature of celebrity, the humour bypass of Liverpudlians or the unfortunate case of the man caught fornicating with a goat in front of a trainload of passengers, he's just fabulous, taking things to extremes without losing his focus.

Older, possibly wiser, he even promises a donation for each swearword, allegedly "to the Tourette's Society". The second half sags in comparison, but things are never dull as this attention-seeker finds himself upstaged by a "bored" punter who takes a chair onstage to enjoy a cigarette. Burns is lost for words.

Venue 33: 23.00 (1hr). To 26 Aug (not 6). 0131 556 6550

Comedy: Men in Coats, Pleasance Above

By Steve Jelbert

Fancied for further recognition at the Fringe after winning the Best New Act award this year at the Hackney Empire, Maddy Sparhan's and Mike Dow's silent double-act is a sheer delight. Even those with a deep-rooted fear of more traditional clowns will find it hard to resist as the pair, clad in matching parkas, filter decades of cultural references into an endlessly inventive set of visual gags.

Making no attempt to conceal their techniques, preferring instead to let the audience take them on their own terms, they offer a dramatic reinterpretation of that old junkie phrase "scoring horse", pay tribute to Sylvester Stallone's Rocky, and appeal to the gross little boy in us all with a selection of gory amputation tricks.

Any doubts that such a fast-paced show might not sustain an hour's audience interest are dispelled when they take a slapstick tea break, and settle down to read something called The Snorkel, before recommencing. It's pure Chuck Jones, something they acknowledge with their closing "That's All Folks" tribute, but it's nigh on perfect, none the less. What other show offers an impression of a paternoster lift and a genuine addition to the magician's repertoire?

Venue 33: 21.45 (1hr), to 26 Aug (not 6 and 20). 0131 556 6550

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