Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Witty and satirical look at the decline and fall of our railway system.
The massed ranks of the rail pass brigade (Senior Section) are out by the carriage load down at The Stand Comedy Club to hear veteran train traveller and stand-up comic Steve Gribbin wax lyrical about the UK’s creaking train set. As he says, the three most difficult words in the English language are not “I love you” but “bus replacement service”.
Britain’s railways have always been an easy target for stand-up humourists. In the “good old days” when British Railways was a by-word for delays, cancellations and worse, they really did employ people to weld the crusts onto the meat pies that were served in the restaurant cars for lunch.
Things have moved on a bit since then with passenger numbers now running at record levels and strikes a thing of the past (unless you’re one of those unfortunate enough to rely on Southern). But have you ever tried to get a seat at peak times? It’s also worth noting that rail fares seem to have risen faster than house prices over the past twenty years.
And if you are foolish enough to want to travel “on demand”, you’ll need to re-mortgage the house as the politicians seek to eliminate subsidies whilst at the same time forsaking basic infrastructure refurbishment in favour of the vanity project that is HS2. Do we really need to get to Birmingham or Manchester twenty minutes faster than we can now – if the trains ran to timetable, of course?
Part tirade against those running the train set for profit rather than for passengers, part a plea for common courtesy for the travelling public, this was a well-researched and written bit of comedy, interspersed with witty songs and amusing poetry. And Gribbin did a good job in revealing some of those amusing paradoxes in a system held together with bits of string and the goodwill of those on the front line trying to get people to their destinations somewhere close to the advertised time.
Given, then, that the railways are a by-word for punctuality, it was entirely appropriate that this show started six minutes late. And, just as the audience were reaching for their “delay repay” forms, technical issues resulted in some fairly random sound effects being let loose. These diversions from the advertised route only added to the enjoyment of what was a very well staged hour of comedy with a sting in its tail (and tale). Well worth a ticket, first class of course! Just don’t forget to take your rail card with you.