Saturday, August 11, 2007

Kirsten O'Brien

Way off at the other end of the Edinburgh Festival spectrum, long-serving kids TV presenter Kirsten O'Brien is doing a hour in the Pleasance in the early afternoon, reminiscing about her career in children's TV. She can't possibly be making any money off this - the Pleasance Cellar can't seat more than about 75 people at a push - so either she really likes the idea of spending a month at the Fringe at her own expense, or she's trying to reposition herself as an adult performer. The programme certainly goes out of its way to stress that you shouldn't bring the kids, essentially because she's going to talk honestly about her career, and they probably wouldn't like that.

A curious feature of the Fringe is that it requires stand-up comedians to do hour long sets, which are much longer than a normal club set, but shorter than a normal solo touring show might be. This tends to result in a lot of slightly questionable themes used as a shaky peg to hang an hour's stand-up together, and in recent years it's led to a Fringe speciality: the one-man-and-his-Powerpoint-presentation show. (Dave Gorman's Are You Dave Gorman set started off as one of these.)

That's basically what we have here - it's a mixture of anecdotes about the TV industry, honest acknowledgement that doing signing sessions in backwater holiday camps isn't the best way of spending a weekend, and a certain degree of padding. With the best will in the world, since she obviously has enough material from her career to fill the slot, she could easily stand to trim some of the anecdotes from her childhood.

But she's a likeable, chatty performer and she's good with people. She's not the world's best stand-up comedian, but she does have some genuinely interesting stories to share. And she's put more effort into staging her show than most people in that slot. It's enough to show that she has something to offer the world beyond children's TV, which I suspect was the point.