Veteran visitors to free Fringe shows may have noticed certain conventions becoming ingrained over the years, as if everyone enrolled at the same comedy evening class. Most acts actively do the awkward money speech just before their big finish now, for maximum impact, and will often tell you how much they think the show is worth. Which is nice of them.
Martha McBrier clearly didn’t attend that class, as she was busy teaching more important stuff—“lecturing in do-gooding”, as she puts it—while dabbling in comedy on the side. Trying to advise this diminutive Glaswegian how to run a show would be a thankless, and possibly frightening, task anyway, in truth. As she demonstrates during one memorable story, even Glaswegian kindness can be spectacularly intimidating.
Pigeon Puncher is a pretension-free series of anecdotes, occasionally bird-related, ranging from a tremendous tale about some doomed budgies, to a more recent reminiscence about searching for Kate Bush tickets – which comes with an unexpected emotional punch due to a troubling revelation about McBrier’s long-term health.
The moonlighting comic is a naturally charismatic storyteller, although these really are stories rather than routines; after eliciting laughs aplenty they often fizzle toward the end, as if McBrier were a dinner party guest concerned about hogging the conversation. With a few minor tweaks this could be up there with the best Fringe shows, although the room is packed every afternoon anyway, apparently. Make them part with a few extra pennies, Martha: you’re worth it.