Great was the excitement on the festival’s opening weekend when Phoebe Waller-Bridge – the go-to recent example of a fringe-made megastar – photo opp’d her way around town. But there’s another Edinburgh success story just as close to hand, who’s actually performing here this year. Step forward Rose Matafeo, creator and star of global hit Starstruck – and mere ensemble member of Snort, a collective of Kiwi improvisers making stuff up nightly.
It’s a lovely way to encounter Matafeo back on the fringe, suggesting as it does humility and general good egg-ness in the face of stardom. She both hosts and participates in tonight’s show (it has a rotating cast; she’s not always in it), which finds these eight New Zealanders playing hobbits, Elvis impersonators, and chimney sweeps who charge 20% extra for cockney charm. These scenes are prompted by three off-the-cuff monologues improvised by three guest performers (tonight: Heidi Regan and both halves of sketch duo BriTANick), prompted in turn by random words volunteered by the audience.
It’s a small stage, a short running time, and a big cast: not all of them can shine, and neither can the show dig deeply or develop much story in the time allotted to each keyword. We get the occasional neat plot development or choice callback, but the main pleasures here are the individual sketches, be they the awkward romance that develops between two dads, a hobbit (Nic Sampson) and a human (Joseph Moore), or the travails of a man whose hired “crew” go crazy every time he mentions his wife.
There are several better punchlines than we have any right to expect – it must help having eight funny minds to contribute them. And watching these friends tune in and work generously together is part of the pleasure. Sampson and Eli Matthewson seize more of the spotlight this time around, with Matafeo prominent too in her roles as the film director Baz Luhrmann, a hiking book-club member and a homeowner needing her chimney cleaned. There’s accomplished improv all over town this month, of which Snort is a merry example – with a dash of bona fide fringe celebrity (sometimes) thrown in.