Another year, another outing for Edinburgh's favourite Dadaist: the unmatchable, indescribable Mr Twonkey. You don't so much watch a Twonkey show as bob gently through it – adrift on a sea of surrealism, trying to maintain some semblance of your bearings through occasional glimpses of solid ground. But if that sounds a bit pretentious, think again. This is also a genuinely laugh-aloud show, a joyous experience shared between a pleasantly bemused audience and an immensely personable performer.
Mr Twonkey – real name Paul Vickers – is something of a Fringe institution these days, known for his flight-of-fancy stories and offbeat, nonsensical songs. If you're a fan of Vickers' past outings, then I'm delighted to confirm that the psychic sex-crazed ship's wheel does still feature – whereas, if you're a Twonkey virgin, that sentence will give you a reasonable idea of what lies in store. Compared to previous offerings however, Vickers has dialled down the surrealism just a tad; the universe he inhabits is still a bizarre one, but it's a little more accessible than before.
It's almost pointless to list the topics Twonkey's rambling journey visits (being sacked from Looney Tunes, getting into trouble in the Dordogne, and the undead roaming Skipton are just a few), but each song has an elusive sense of coherence, a feeling that it makes a kind of sense you can't quite put into words. Some are fairly straightforward, like the concluding number about "the drop" performers experience once they come off-stage; others are complex and multi-layered, and a few are performed by puppets. The only real link is the loveable personality of Mr Twonkey himself, who radiates a kind of affable shyness that would warm the stoniest of hearts.
There's less darkness to the stories than in previous years, and I confess I missed the undertone of pathos which have previously defined Mr Twonkey's tales. In its place, though, we got some low-key, slow-burn, but ultimately-hilarious physical comedy, built around the inherent entertainment value of a big man blundering around on a bijou stage. It's hard to know how much of this was scripted, and how much was down to genuine mistakes which he had the skill to run with; but either way, the result was an engaging hour-long visual gag, which saw Vickers get increasingly entangled with his costumes, props and microphone stand.
Search too hard for a meaning to Vickers' act, and you might leave deeply frustrated. But embrace it for what it is – charming, seductive nonsense – and it has the capacity to be one of the most memorable shows of your Fringe. At the end, I bobbed out onto the Grassmarket unsure of where I'd travelled – but knowing, above all else, that I'd enjoyed the ride.