Brain tumours are the largest killing cancer and the most underfunded, too. Scary isn’t it? Some of the worst words someone can hear is “you have cancer”, and the pain doesn’t stop with the patient. Their families are faced with appointments, dread, medication mood swings, hurt, surgeries, heartbreak and more often than not a hole in their lives at the end of the ordeal. I found myself in this position two years ago. My cousin was just 40 years old when he was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma Multiform. His brain was taken over by a growth the side of a tennis ball and he underwent two surgeries and months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It was utterly exhausting. One of the small comforts I received was knowing that I wasn’t alone and that people were not sitting idly by and allowing only 3 per cent of the yearly £500 million donated in the UK to cancer charities go to the biggest killing cancer. That comfort came to me in the form of The Brain Tumour Charity. The Charity have support groups for patients and families alike.
Underbelly’s Big Brain Tumour Benefit raises money and awareness for this heartbreaking, life-wrenching illness. The heartbreaking story of Underbelly founder Ed Bartinham’s young sons fight with a brain tumour has stirred myself, among many others, into doing more.
The Underbelly Benefit brings together comedians from all over the Fringe to perform for one night only together and raise money for the brilliant charity. Every single ticket goes towards The Brain Tumour charity. The show started with a videotape of some famous faces explaining the importance of the evening including John Bishop. This year the show introduced, in no particular order, John Harding, Iain Stirling, Jason Byrne, Danny Boy, Flo and Joan, Nina Conti and Russell Howard.
John Hastings, a Canadian comedian, as well as was the host, and brilliantly stirs the audience up and readies them for the evening ahead. His comedy is close to the bone, but still extremely entertaining, and yet he still keeps the serious tone of the evening up throughout his set as well as his introductions of the other comedians.
The comedians all performed brilliantly, of course, with Jason Byrne being an absolute riot in particular. His foul-mouthed comedy is both relatable and hilarious, he confronts annoyances in his life such as family and childhood.
Another favourite are the charismatic and hilarious Flo and Joan. The pair rose to stardom through their hilarious YouTube videos, criticising everything from climate change to terrible dates to the horrible political year which was 2016. They bring out a new song about going out and getting far too drunk – which of course everyone in the audience can relate to.
Another highlight is, of course, Scotland’s sweetheart Iain Stirling. His comedy speaks to the Scots in the audience in particular as he discusses home comforts and Edinburgh’s terrible weather. He speaks about his relationship too in a hilarious and charming manner, and seems truly humbled by the response to his stand up act.
All of the acts seem utterly honoured to be a part of such a meaningful evening and indeed all perform free of charge promoting their own shows throughout the fringe.
Ed Bartinham makes a final appearance at the end of the evening to announce how much money has been raised: Underbelly match every single penny made during the evening and thus raised a staggering £36,000 forinto the charity. Bartinham also shared the story of his son who has undergone all the treatment he can and will tragically lose his fight with cancer within the next year. His story shows the seriousness of brain tumours and hammers home how important the Brain Tumour Benefit is. With only 14 per cent of adults surviving more than five years after their diagnosis, the event is an evident reminder than more has to be done for people both living with and left behind after brain tumours.
The show is brilliantly uplifting and for a truly great cause. Tickets for next year’s event can be found prior to the Fringe on the Underbelly’s website below. Also below are website links to The Brain Tumour Charity’s donations page alongside their sign up for Edinburgh’s Twilight Walk.
Image: Hannah Knox