ince early August over a thousand comedians have been performing daily at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with arguably one single thought on many minds. Will they be the act that wins the prestigious Edinburgh Comedy Award sponsored by TV channel Dave?
The wait is nearly over, with the winner announced at noon this Saturday. So who will follow in the glittering clown shoes of Steve Coogan, Lee Evans and Frank Skinner? Out of the 10 shows nominated on Wednesday, Colin Hoult’s The Death of Anna Mann must have a strong chance.
The Times critic Dominic Maxwell called it “one of the funniest comedy shows I’ve seen”. Anyone fancying a flutter might should note that Maxwell is on the judging panel.
Comedian and actor Hoult, who recently appeared in the Ricky Gervais hit After Life as a flamboyant amateur dramatics veteran, plays Mann, a fictional stage veteran reflecting on her ups and downs – mostly downs – and dishing the dirt on her lovers and co-stars.
Hoult’s multi-married Mann goes gloriously over the top, bitching about everybody under the sun. Some of the names are real, but all of the stories are comically fictional. Mann claims to have been in the same hand gestures class as Helen Mirren back in her student days and later played numerous corpses in Holby.
As she looks back on her career we get to hear about some of her less lauded moments in a gag-filled monologue. A stage flop here, Predator The Musical, a video nasty there, Cannibal Bagpipes. It all paints a picture of someone who saw their contemporaries rise to the top while she barely got past regional rep.
And finally here she finds herself, after the scandals, infidelities and Z-list movies, coming to the end of her career and possibly her life. But not before a few more swipes at her contemporaries and paramours: “You could say love killed him… that, and immense old age.” Character comedy is rarely this immaculately observed.
Will Anna Mann have one final triumph at tomorrow’s awards ceremony? Hoult’s main real-life rivals are musical comedian Jordan Gray, who could be the first transgender performer to bag the prize. And Liz Kingsman, whose Fleabag-skewering debut, One-Woman Show, has already had an acclaimed five-star London run.
And then there is Seann Walsh, whose candid confessional tackles the emotional fallout after becoming a Strictly ‘love rat’ in 2018. There is no clear favourite, but one thing is certain. Come lunchtime on Saturday one very happy comedian will be dancing on air.