Playbill Pick: Ivo Graham at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe | Playbill

Playbill Goes Fringe Playbill Pick: Ivo Graham at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The popular comedian is performing two very different solo shows this year: the very funny Ivo Graham: Unorganised Fun and the emotional Graham in the Green.

Ivo Graham

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!

As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.

As anyone who watched Ivo Graham on the most recent series of Taskmaster can attest to, everything he does seems to start out with enthusiasm and the best of intentions and then somehow devolves into a hilarious mess. Case in point: Ivo Graham: Organised Fun. It was a brilliant hour of comedy. But also, it felt like some very unorganised fun. Not that I’m complaining—that’s so much more fun than the organised kind.

A quick primer on Ivo Graham for the uninitiated: he went to Eton College, an exclusive boarding school that educates the type of highbrow people who might one day be prime minister—or future comedians? He’s also the source of one of my favorite moments on the Off Menu podcast, when he inadvertently becomes “the victim of a prank” after accidentally announcing the hotel he’s staying at during a live stream.

So, what should you expect from Ivo Graham: Organised Fun? Well, it opens with a montage of Graham on Taskmaster—he knows what his fans want. Then comes a note asking an audience member or two to choose his outfit for the show from a rack of shirts and pants on the stage. Someone from the front row stands up, beating out another enthusiast from further back, and chooses quite possibly the most hideous combination possible—a striped, bright pink shirt and brown, patterned draw-string pants. Good intentions? Check. Insane result? Also check.

Things only get more chaotic from there. There is talk of Babybel cheese (those small rounds of cheese wrapped in red wax), a New Year’s Eve party game inspired by the television show The Traitors with Graham dressed as Claudia Winkleman (unfortunately no photos are shown), and then something called Top Trumps cards, which is apparently a very popular card game in the U.K. It turned out someone in the audience had a Scotland deck with her that she had just bought, and from there, well, I’m not entirely sure what happened... But it all ended with a bonkers game show featuring two audience members. Was I entertained? Very much so.

At the end of the show Graham announced that he had a few other shows at the Fringe—a live record of his Gig Pigs podcast that night, some comedian DJ battles he was organizing, and a more experimental show called Graham in the Green starting the next day that he assured us would have no audience participation. Wait, what was that last one? Another Ivo Graham solo show at the Fringe? And happening at a time on my last day at the Fringe when I happened to have an empty slot in my schedule? Yes, please. I was apparently not the only one to have missed the news that Graham was doing a second solo show at the Fringe, because while his run of Organised Comedy at the Pleasance Beyond is sold out, he posted a photo of himself playing a tiny violin because his other was not.

The next day I returned to the Pleasance Courtyard to look for The Green, which was the show’s venue—no, Graham in the Green does not have anything to do with the writer Graham Greene. It turned out to be a small, one-level structure in the KidZone area, right next to the Arts and Crafts tent. The previous shows on the schedule for the space were all children’s shows. What was I about to see? Well, the tiny violin post at least moved tickets, because the performance turned out to be sold out.

How to describe Graham in the Green... Work in progress? Therapy session? Some kind of emotional catharsis? I don’t know what other audience members made of it, but I found it to be a difficult, draining experience. It’s the only show this Fringe this year where after I walked out of the theatre and turned the corner, I just started sobbing.

The stage for Graham in the Green is bare except for a microphone stand, a stool, and some memorabilia from his life scattered around in front—things like ticket stubs, newspaper articles, or a school report. He reads the entire show from a small stack of white printed pages, speaking extremely fast, and rarely looking up from the page. He occasionally takes long pauses, and I’m not sure if that is for effect or to compose himself. Sometimes he awkwardly picks up one of the items from the front of the stage when it related to the script.

He talks about the death of his grandmother and a few friends, his mother having MS, the failure of his marriage. He also talks about the joy of having a daughter and training for and running a marathon. It’s an intense experience. Throughout, he refers to himself as ‘you’, as if this might have been a letter he wrote to himself.

He mentions that he made his main Fringe show this year (Unorganised Fun) extra silly, because of all the tough things he’s been through recently, and it makes me see that one in a new light. I have a crumpled Pret napkin in my pocket, and I need to use it to dry my eyes and running nose. This was not at all what I was expecting from an Ivo Graham show. He says he made sure to advertise this one in the theatre section of the listings instead of comedy, and made sure the people handing out flyers told people there would be no jokes. That makes sense now.

I don’t know if it was just massive rush of information that didn’t quite hit until I stepped back into the fresh air and daylight, but after I left the theatre and rushed past Graham, who was standing outside holding a bucket to collect money for MS research, I sobbed all the way to the theatre where my next show would be starting in a half hour. One good thing about crying on the streets of Edinburgh is that the people handing out show flyers tend to leave you alone. My next show was Gyles Brandreth doing some light comedy, and I was relieved to get some comic relief.

Graham in the Green is a show that on paper—a man standing in front of a microphone rushing through a script while rarely looking at the audience—seems like it shouldn’t work. I’m not entirely sure why it did for me. But it’s an experience that will stick with me for a long time.

If you’re a fan of Ivo Graham, and are looking for a good time, I would definitely recommend checking out Ivo Graham: Organised Fun. And if you enjoy that and want to know more about him, Graham in the Green is a worthwhile follow up. To quote Stephen Sondheim somewhat out of context, go for “tragedy tomorrow, comedy tonight.”

Ivo Graham: Organised Fun and Graham in the Green both run until August 27 at the Pleasance Courtyard. For tickets to Organised Fun, click here. For tickets to Graham in the Green, click hereFor recommendations on comedians to see at the Fringe, click here.

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