Review – High Jinks with the Hamiltons! Udderbelly’s Pasture, Edinburgh Fringe

Saturday 27 August 2011

Forgive us this one and indulge Phil for a moment.

Among the many double acts who have trodden the fringe stages this year – Paul and Debbie, Dan and Jeff and Andrew and Phil – there is one pairing that Phil’s curiosity would not allow him to overlook.

Whatever you may feel about Neil and Christine Hamilton you cannot deny a suspicion of interest. In High Jinks with the Hamiltons we find them ploughing the overdone Fringe chat show format although in fairness they have been doing it here for several years.

Not that you’d know it from Mr H’s performance which – despite his credentials as an writer, actor, broadcaster, entertainer and disgraced MP – left Phil with the impression that this was the first time he’d been allowed out in public.

It is left to his wife, resplendent in orange slacks, pink jacket and feather boa strutting the stage like the bastard progeny of a bird of paradise and a slightly scary drag queen, to hold this lunchtime “fandango of fun and frolics” together. But the credits of the first woman to take the role of Narrator in the Rocky Horror Show also include “Bossy Fairy Battleaxe” in Jack & the Beanstalk and the first ‘Face of British Sausage Week’, and this old banger has clearly learnt something along the way.

While Neil sat fiddling with his fingers, occasionally interjecting awkward comments, Christine managed some rapport with a decent line up of guests: Liz Merendino who we have previously trumpeted, a stand up Meryl O’ Rourke (no relation to Josie), Charlie Baker and Eric Lampaert a gawkily endearing stand-up who draped himself across Madam Hamilton’s lap for his entire interview. What on earth could prompted him to utter the “C” word?

No subject was off limits: the law suits, the Hamilton’s alleged rape farrago, plenty of gloating over the demise of the News of the World and their disappointment that no one had bothered to hack their phones. We were also treated to the cost of their Edinburgh apartment for the month: £3,000. Astonishingly, judging by the state of Christine’s jacket, £3,000 doesn’t get you a flat with an iron.

But someone is wise to the irony of it all. You enter and leave to projections of images of the Hamiltons over the years including Christine in the Sharon Stone Basic Instinct pose. And the interviews are played out under a photographs of them stuffing a turkey.

At the end of the show the audience is invited to stand and wave flags (plenty of Union Jacks of course – all collected back from the audience afterwards; ah, the economics of the fringe) and sing “Land of Hope and Glory”. Phil passed a flag to the gloriously demi-turbaned Mrs Julian Fellowes (great-great-niece of the 1st Earl Kitchener) who was seated next to him, and this she passed to her Oscar-winning husband (Julian Alexander Kitchener-Fellowes, Baron Fellowes of West Stafford) who eschewed it too (did these Kitcheners feel their country doesn’t need them?). Phil wafted his sheepishly,  musing that waving brown envelopes might have been more fun; his curiosity was more than sated.

As an interviewer Christine just about kept things bubbling along but one thing still played on Phil’s mind: just how much cash-for-questions were these two receiving?


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