Anna and Helen review – self-care klutzes conjure comedic bliss

Self-help and motivational speaking have provided rich pickings for comedy over the years, and do so again in Anna & Helen’s debut Stuck in a Rat. Mind you, these two could joke about practically anything, I’d guess, and make it funny. It’s the way they tell ’em – with a delectable clownish touch and an expert deployment of the straight woman/funny woman dynamic.

Once fellow members of Footlights, it’s the first time Anna O’Grady and Helen Cripps have performed as a duo, a decade or more into their acting careers. I hope it won’t be the last. I loved their faux self-care seminar, inviting us to “hop aboard the rejuvenation train” and haul ourselves out of our rat – or should that be rut, or some undiscovered word in-between? The show considers various means of doing so – travel, exercise, love – in direct address, video and song. (The pair are adroit multi-instrumentalists and singers-in-harmony.)

The joke is that Anna and Helen are klutzes, ill-equipped to fix their own lives, far less anyone else’s. They bump into one another; they try to speak in sync, and fail. Anna is the worst offender; Helen is forever pulling her back into line. And O’Grady plays the fool – wide-eyed, always puzzled by why things aren’t quite working as they should – with a lovely light touch.

Quick guide

Edinburgh festival 2019: the shows we recommend

Afternoon shows

#HonestAmy
Pleasance Dome, 12pm, until 26 August. Read the review.

Sea Sick
Canada Hub @ Kings Hall, 12.30pm, until 25 August

Algorithms
Pleasance Courtyard, 12.45pm, until 26 August

F Off
Underbelly Cowgate, 12.50pm, until 25 August. Read the review.

Fishbowl
Pleasance Courtyard, 1pm, until 26 August. Read the review

The Accident Did Not Take Place
Pleasance Courtyard, 1pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Vigil
Summerhall, 1pm, until 25 August.

Beach Body Ready
Pleasance Courtyard, 1.10pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Collapsible
Assembly Roxy, 1.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

For All I Care
Summerhall, 1.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

I’ll Take You to Mrs Cole!
Pleasance Courtyard 1.45pm until 26 August

Art Heist
Underbelly, 1.55pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Like Animals
Summerhall, 2.15pm, until 25 August

The Happiness Project
Army @ the Fringe, 2.20pm, until 25 August

Beat
Pleasance Dome, 2pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Spray
Assembly Roxy, 2.35pm, until 26 August

Ada Campe and the Psychic Duck
The Stand’s New Town theatre, 2.50pm, until 25 August

Anguis
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3pm, until 26 August. Read the review

All of Me
Summerhall, 3.10pm, until 25 August. Read the review

George Fouracres
Pleasance Courtyard, 3.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

If You’re Feeling Sinister
Gilded Balloon, 3.45pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Scottee
Assembly Roxy, 4.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Lola and Jo
Assembly George Square, 4.15pm, until 25 August

First Time
Summerhall, 4.15pm, until 25 August

The Incident Room
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.30pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Typical
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.30pm, until 25 August

Everything I Do
Summerhall, 4.30pm, until 25 August

The Last of the Pelican Daughters
Pleasance Courtyard, 4.40pm, until 25 August. Read the review

The Chosen
Dance Base, 5pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Daniel Kitson
Stand Comedy Club, 5pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Scream Phone
Gilded Balloon Patter Hoose, 5pm, until 26 August

Four Woke Baes
Underbelly Cowgate, 5.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Parakeet
Roundabout @ Summerhall, 5.05pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Superstar
Underbelly Cowgate, 5.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Janine Harouni
Pleasance Courtyard, 5.45pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Daddy Drag
Summerhall, 5.45pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Snare
Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Tom Parry – “Parryoke!”
Pleasance Courtyard, 6pm, until 26 August. Read the review

Evening shows

Who Cares
Summerhall, 6.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Tom Rosenthal
Pleasance Courtyard, 6.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Pops
Assembly Roxy, 6.35pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Toyko Rose
Underbelly, 6.55pm, until 25 August

Kai Samra
Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Sophie Duker
Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Jack Rooke
Assembly George Square Gardens, 7.30pm, until 24 August. Read the review

The Afflicted
Summerhall, 7.30pm, until 25 August

The Wild Unfeeling World
Pleasance Courtyard, 7.30pm, until 25 August

John Robins
Pleasance Courtyard, 7.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Zoë Coombs Marr
Monkey Barrel Comedy, 7.30pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Lucy McCormick
Pleasance Courtyard, 8pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Traumboy
Summerhall, 8.10pm, until 25 August. Read the review

London Hughes
Pleasance Courtyard, 8.15pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Huge Davies
Pleasance Courtyard, 8.15pm, until 25 August

Josie Long
Stand Comedy Club, 8.20pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Camille O’Sullivan Sings Cave
Pleasance Courtyard, 9.15pm, until 25 August

Simon Brodkin
Pleasance Courtyard, 9.30pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Musik
Assembly Rooms, 9.40pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Courtney Pauroso
Underbelly Cowgate, 9.40pm, until 25 August. Read the review

Jamie Loftus
Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm, until 26 August

Catherine Cohen
Pleasance Courtyard, 10.45pm, until 24 August. Read the review

Diane Chorley
Assembly, 11.00pm, until 25 August

Spank!
Underbelly Cowgate, 11.55pm, until 25 August

Thank you for your feedback.

I could watch their “glass half full” routine over and over again. Then there’s the moment when Helen, having played a word association game with the audience, asks daydreamy Anna if she’s noted down the responses. The pause – and her expression! – as she weighs up how to answer (shameful truth or out-on-a-limb white lie?) is comic bliss.

Not everything flies: once the gag behind their “best woman speech” skit is revealed, it’s got nowhere to go. But there’s so much to enjoy here, as they peer behind the cheery veneer of the world’s happiest animals, interact time-warpingly with their screen selves (shades of The Pin here) and deliver a hilariously petulant song about losing friends to parenthood. It’s taken a while for Anna and Helen to double up, but it was worth the wait.

Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh, until August 26.
Read all our Edinburgh festival reviews.

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