When performers shake a bucket in your direction after a show at the Free Fringe, this is normally so they can go towards making a living for themselves as whatever it is they have come to Edinburgh to do. In the case of PGSD: Post Graduate Stress Disorder, however, it goes not to the performers, but to two charities. The first is Mind, who support all those who struggle with mental health difficulties and strive to give them the support that they need across the country. The second is Combat Stress, a mental health charity focusing specifically on military veterans.
PGSD is, therefore, a comedy show with purpose, but nobody could accuse the team of up-and-coming comedians of merely superficial support for these charities. The reason for the show is embedded in each of the four comic’s routines, all broadly focusing on themes such as stress and well-being. Some of them tie their own experiences to their university years – all the performers are recent graduates. Hearing about how these comedians overcome the likes of personal insecurity, family tragedies, and their own mental health is quite humbling for other university-goers, who they make a point of picking out of the crowd.
You feel part of the conversation as the room where the show takes place is very small and intimate. It is dimly lit, with no snazzy backdrops or special effects – even the simple microphone stand keeps failing on compère Sam Arrowsmith. This very basic setup allows undisturbed, un-manipulated communication between the performer and the audience. When they talk, you listen.
While PGSD does not hide its focus on, and awareness of mental health, it does not dwell on it too much. After all, these are wannabe funny people so it would be pretty rubbish if they didn’t make you laugh. And they do, all in different ways as well. Some of them go down a route of more relatable comedy: family issues, picking up on peculiar (and stereotypically British) habits and funny anecdotes. Other times they go down a more shocking “they can’t say that” route. It never strides confidently towards Boris Johnson levels of insensitivity, but nonetheless the show is not afraid to test the audience. One such example is a very funny recalling of the feud between the dyslexics and the dyspraxics at secondary school, the latter group claiming that dyslexic children steal their limelight. It is brave, but never becomes overly offensive. It is a joke judged almost perfectly.
PGSD offers a good helping of variety to suit all kinds of tastes in stand-up. Motivated by commendable aims that share the limelight without stealing it, the format allows the comedians to just do what they do best: lighting up the faces in a whole room. There may well be funnier acts at the Fringe this year, but few invite you in so warmly nor leave you unnoticed by the stars of the show. A witty and charming gathering of comics with honest intentions and obvious talent, this is a fantastic way to take a breather from a hectic August and revel in some good old fashioned stand-up in the name of a good cause.
PGSD: Post Graduate Stress Disorder
Tolbooth Market – Room 6 (Venue 98)
Photo Credit: PGSD
Part of the PBH Free Fringe