FESTIVAL COMEDY | Reviews
NEW ART CLUB Emotional rollercoaster about image and health ●●●●●
Tom Roden and Pete Shenton have been merging their ‘choreographic minimalism’ and light comedy for 12 years now, but it’s unlikely they will have delivered quite so personal a show as this one. As the crowd gathers, we are given two separate warnings that Feel About Your Body contains full- frontal nudity (presumably as a reminder to those who have already purchased their tickets). When the flesh-unveiling does arrive, it’s amusing, non-
threatening (though those occupying the front row, directly in the line of fire might have a different opinion) and far from exploitative. The show is about our own body image when it’s wiped clean from any outside interpretation: crudely put, come to terms with your body and you will be a lot happier.
The opening segment features a few warm-up exercises (for everyone) while the pair ask us to rate the shape we’re in (on a scale of one to ten). There’s some minor audience embarrassment before we get to the hour’s meat (yes, both a terrible pun and a reference to one of the health concerns dealt with). Shenton has a harrowing (with funny bits) tale of his near-death experience, offering advice on what to do should you think you might be having a heart attack. The fact that his partner is heavily pregnant when his crisis looms gives the story an extra spin and puts into perspective Roden’s rather icky story about his own middle-of-the-night medical issue. They probably aren’t moving around as much as they did back in 2001 (though their impersonation of lightbulb-bothering moths has plenty of energy to it), but they have sharpened up their comic sensibility and storytelling to compensate. It makes for an entertaining and emotional hour. (Brian Donaldson) ■ Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 25 Aug (not 20), 6.45pm, £12–£14 (£11–13).
E N R O H T A L L U N E V E T S
N A K U S L D I
BIRTHDAY GIRLS Sketch absurdity and eccentricity in spades ●●●●● MARK THOMAS Entertaining and inclusive hour of dissension ●●●●●
NISH KUMAR Weighty subjects, quality delivery ●●●●●
Birthday Girls are three-fifths of sketchers Lady Garden: ringleader Rose, innocent-looking but not-so-secretly filthy Beattie, and Camille, who fills the trio’s ‘creepy idiot child’ role with aplomb. Their first show as a threesome has a lot going for it, particularly in the second half, when everything seems to gain a bit of pace and the weaker sketches are firmly out of the way. Set in 2053 – when sketch comedy has been
banned and a dangerous smog envelops the land – they’re performing a clandestine underground gig with occasional hazmat-clad forays outside. The best moments are in the sketches themselves, the ‘story’ bits often stagey and unnecessary. As well as speed and a sense of urgency, also on
the increase as the night goes on is eccentricity, and this is very much for the best. Birthday Girls have got absurdity in spades and will stop at nothing to get laughs: even if that does mean a little too much reliance on Camille’s absolute willingness to disgrace and degrade herself (think aggressive belly dancing and spaghetti eating) to make it happen. (Laura Ennor) ■ Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 26 Aug, 6pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7–£8).
44 THE LIST FESTIVAL 15–22 Aug 2013
Last year Mark Thomas was hoovering up five-star reviews left, right and centre for a moving study of the relationship he had with his father. This time round, however, he is back on much more familiar turf with his trademark combination of comedy, politics and activism. The premise of 100 Acts of Minor Dissent is that
Thomas has pledged to commit the eponymous deeds within a 12-month period which started in May of this year. In that sense this show is a genuine work-in-progress; an update, if you like, on what he has done so far. Some of the acts have been quite large-scale: invading an Apple store with a ceilidh band for instance would elude the organisational abilities of the average activist on the street. The real success is with the minor acts such as
‘book-heckling’, gloriously absurd in nature and small in scale; through these undertakings, he both entertains and inspires. More inclusive than some of his previous work, Thomas shows us how we can all join him in kicking back, even providing stickers to help get you started. (Gordon Eldrett) ■ The Stand III & IV, 558 7272, until 25 Aug, 7.30pm, £10.
Last year, Nish Kumar reflected on how his ‘ethnically ambiguous face’ led to him being mistaken (usually by racists) for having his roots in everywhere from Brazil to China and many more in between. More recently, a meme did the internet rounds with his face on it, entitled The Confused Muslim. Needless to say, Kumar is not a follower of Islam, but he’s happy to grab onto anything that gives him a way in to produce another excellent show about identity, offensiveness and bad behaviour on public transport. Apologising profusely for a 25-minute delay (of
the three potential hitches that could befall his technology, all of them happened tonight: plus a fourth problem), he gets swiftly into his stride, switching between cocky persona (excessive pride in exam results) and humble man who seems amazed he’s standing on stage with a microphone in his hand (he’s just a ‘nice boy doing his best’). Despite the weight of his subject matter, there
might not be enough beef to satisfy the whims of panel judges but if he can maintain this quality, he should be entertaining Edinburgh for years to come. (Brian Donaldson) ■ Underbelly, Bristo Square, 0844 545 8252, until 25 Aug, 8.10pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).