What does a good comic do when he's been gigging for decades and wants to mix it up a bit, explore new creative territories, but within the confines of an Edinburgh hour? He turns to animation: or at least that’s what Markus Birdman did in the runup to this show.
A part-time artist too, Birdman was conjuring illustrations to lob into this year’s set, then decided to make them move, which proved much tougher than expected. He must have got it done in good time though as some notable comics add vocal support: Rhod Gilbert makes an early cameo, Tom Stade plays a Trump-like King, Phil Nichol is Rumpelstiltskin, Lou Sanders voices the young girl he tempts into a pact, and Birdman plays her father. He’s a court jester: quite a stretch.
The non-animated bits here are also about doing deals with the devil, and ambition generally – how this respected comic is relatively happy with his career, despite his daughter's protestations that if he were funnier, “I’d have a horse". She's the inspiration for Sanders' character in the cartoons, which are peppered throughout, and they work fine. He’s still a much better standup than he is a cartoon director though, so you can’t help but hanker for more of his devilishly good talky bits. Shorter bursts of animation might be more impactful.
Then again, this is what the Fringe should be, a platform for new concepts, and a standup show with added Rumpelstiltskin animation is definitely that. Aardman, Birdman: they all started somewhere.