As the only act I’ll happily return to every Fringe, going to see Phil Kay is like going out for a spin on a favourite bike. Come August his show is always an anticipated joy, like climbing on to a cherished vintage saddle for all its familiar sheen and comforting creak, knowing not where it will take you, but that we’d better hold on tight.
This time, in Boteco’s basement Kay enters like a one-man lost property stand, immediately availing himself of an umbrella in the front row which becomes a pretend-telescope for that night’s Perseid meteor shower. This added to his ‘scarf’ of a jumper from the preceding show’s audience of whom Kay is determined to ‘sniff out’ the owner. Why he is also carrying a spare pair of trousers he never quite explains, perhaps thankfully.
And we’re off; clinging on for Kay’s comedy joyride as it meanders through the memories of his previous year’s experiences. Pedalling hard, with uphill struggles then downhill at full pelt, headlong along b-roads with no visibility of what is around the next bend, over the next brow. Anecdotes old, new, borrowed and sometimes blue, rush by taking a different turn at each junction depending on the room’s response or whatever triggers Kay’s neurons next.
Having a healthy, if not entirely appreciative attitude to authority, Kay reports a recent low key skirmish with the local Lothian police. “Christ on a bike!” exclaims the Constable on duty on being disturbed by our hirsute narrator’s breach of both the peace, and admittedly the pavement. His own bicycle may not be the best getaway vehicle having only “gears 1, 2, …and 99!” but of course Kay manages to make good his escape to tell the tale.
As ubiquitous around Edinburgh in August as Kay’s bike is his guitar, also featuring in his other show at this year’s Fringe. Picking it up and plucking, “Anyone got any ailments?” he asks the audience. When ‘Alan’ in the front row responds that he “needs to go for a pish”, he is sympathetically encouraged to do so. No sooner has he left the room than Kay prompts us all to shuffle up our chairs obliterating the central aisle. On Alan’s return he has to fight back through a hysterical crowd to take his seat. “He’s like the opposite of Moses!”, all this lyrically delivered while never skipping a beat.
Kay journeys throughout Asia before returning via Guernsey and Crieff and takes us along for the ride. Oh to be inside his head, if only briefly; for it is always better to travel hopefully than to arrive. The show, like this regrettably conceived analogy, reaches the end of its road.