The final week of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe is here and we have to make hard decisions about which of the multitude of shows will be squeezed in and which will miss the cut.

One of the staple shows thast I always try to make time for at The Fringe is the ever reliable Rory O’Hanlon. This year’s show is Rory O’Hanlon “Getting Serious” taking place at Opium in the heart of Edinburgh’s Cowgate.

From the first minute he’s on stage, O’Hanl0n’s story telling and quick wit with people in the audience hold your attention. Riffing on everything from being a teetotal Irishman to the ‘Kingdom of Fife’ amongst many things, O’Hanlon’s show flew by – his shows never disappoint, and 2017’s iteration was no exception. When 2018 comes around, Rory O’Hanlon will be on my list of “must see” shows and he should be on yours as well.

From there, I was just too far away from the venue I planned on visiting so decided to skip that show and grab some much needed food, so plodded along the road to the Free Sisters and picked up some mac and cheese. Highly recommended, especially with the haggis sprinkled through it.

I had some time to kill, amazingly, before the next show I wanted to see – so I hung around the Free Sisters for a bit, caught up with Darius Davies to see how his show was going and have a natter, before we both headed off to see shows.

I scuttled off to Underbelly Cowgate, one of my favourite Fringe venues to visit. It’s a labyrinth of staircases, cubbyholes, bars and stages and it has a great vibe with excellent staff year after year. I always try and see at least one show at Underbelly as they routinely put on a great lineup, and this year, I saw one of the Fringe’s regular fixtures, John Robertson’s “The Dark Room.

Your host/tormentor while you are in The Dark Room

The Dark Room is something I always plan to see but never quite manage. This year, I made it and I’m left asking myself why I waited so long? Of all the shows I’ve seen at the Fringe in the past few years, I have to say this is perhaps the best I’ve seen. In fact, no perhaps needed – it is.

It’s aimed squarely at geeks like me, who remember what Robertson’s opening spiel accurately describes as the pain and suffering of being a gamer that grew up in the 80s. The concept is a text based adventure game, and is fiendishly simple – options appear on the screen, the player chosen from the crowd selects one and the game unfolds.

It’s more in line with the old Choose Your Own Adventure books, and it’s absolutely incredible. Yes, you will hear the opening gambit of “YOU AWAKE TO FIND YOURSELF IN A DARK ROOM!” more often than anything else but it becomes a joyous catchphrase that the entire audience revels in.

As good as the game is, the obvious delight of the show is Robertson himself. A lot of the show is from a script, with it being based on options chosen in the game, but the best and funniest lines are from his improvised moments with the crowd, and reacting to the players chosen. In the case of the show I saw, that included children aged six, eight and eleven – who were then pitted against each other, because what else would you do?

Escape The Dark Room, and win £1000. Die? Win an object from the table of wonders that ranged from a flamboyant potato to a inflatable banana. People have raved over The Dark Room to me for years and I finally understand it. It’s an incredible piece of entertainment and whenever it comes near you, I implore you to go and see it.

A flamboyant potato

I’d decided to pull an all nighter and grab a ticket for Late N’ Live again, so I grabbed a little something to eat and headed off to meet a friend for a sit down and catch up – incidentally, catch up with his views on The Fringe HERE – before I headed off into the rain and wandered off to The Gilded Balloon.

Late N’ Live is a great idea in a great venue. The lineup is fluid, and varies from night to night – on this night, we were hosted by Scott Gibson, who was superb and kept the night going right up until the last comic left the stage and the band began to play to take us through to 5am.

The comics? Well, as I say – it’s a mixed bag. There were a couple of rough moments where some stuff kind of fell flat, but starting a show after 1am, you have to expect that sometimes. I’ll just briefly mention the comics I enjoyed the most here, rather than an in depth look at everyone.

Troy Hawke’s retro shtick was fantastic, something I must try and track down next year if he returns to Edinburgh; same for singing group The Noise Next Door – their high energy, all improvised act was much needed by the time they came on, and they were quick, sharp and hilarious; and Leo Kearse is a guy I’ve seen before and was as good as I expected – he’s one of the guys I look forward to seeing and he didn’t disappoint.

As 5am rolled around and I regretted my choice of staying out – or rather my feet did – I headed off to Waverley station to drink all the coffee in the world, wait for the first train home and get back to my wonderful bed at 8am. The Fringe does weird things to your sleep pattern if you let it…

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