thu 25/05/2017

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Richard Gadd/ Kieran Hodgson/ Nazeem Hussain | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Richard Gadd/ Kieran Hodgson/ Nazeem Hussain

Edinburgh Fringe 2016: Richard Gadd/ Kieran Hodgson/ Nazeem Hussain

Another batch of comedy highlights from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Richard Gadd show is deeply personal and highly original

Richard Gadd, The Banshee Labyrinth ★★★★★

Richard Gadd wryly tells us at the end of Monkey See Monkey Do that he thought it was a good idea to put this thought-provoking show, with its deep seam of theatricality and emotion, in the comedy section of the Fringe brochure. And in truth it could sit easily as a theatre show, albeit one with frequent laughs. But at its heart is a deeply personal and highly revelatory story about an incident in Gadd's life that caused him to re-evaluate who he is both as a person and as a man.

It starts amiably enough with a Trainspotting-esque chase through streets as Gadd tries to escape a gorilla (the first neat visual gag of the hour, as it represents the monkey the comic feels he has on his shoulder). What follows is a high-energy (not least for Gadd, who spends most of the show on a running machine), high-concept multimedia show in which he interacts with pre-recorded inserts to expose his anxieties. Only gradually – with the help of recordings of his therapy sessions – do we work out what caused the crisis in his life, but when we do, it comes like a punch to the gut.

It's an often unsettling hour, but one with lots of laugh-out-loud moments. It's also a thoughtful and highly original examination of masculinity.

Until 28 August

 

Kieran Hodgson, Voodoo Rooms ★★★★

After his Edinburgh Comedy Award nomination for Lance at last year's Fringe, Kieran Hodgson has come up with another original hour of comedy with Maestro, which charts not only his love affair with Mahler, but also his mostly (as he presents them) less than stellar real-life love affairs.

At 13, a teacher introduced him to Mahler's music. Hodgson, always a hugely likeable performer, doesn't spare himself when describing the geeky, nervous teacher's pet that he was, all awkward body language and oh-so-clever retorts. The school bus rap he performed to his horrified classmates is a precious moment, and there are lots of delicious throwaway lines, too. Describing the year he spent in Besançon while doing his French degree, Hodgson describes it as a place “whose main claim to fame doesn't exist.”

Hodgson is an accomplished violinist and plays the odd passage from the symphony he has written, while explaining how he came to write it and the significant others who acted as his muses. Along the way he plays all the characters who populate his story, including his musical hero, but voiced variously by David Tennant, Christoph Waltz and Morrissey (all tip-top impersonations). It's a playful hour about English middle-class awkwardness and how finding love is never easy, but one that ends with a sincere “ah” moment.

Until 28 August

 

Nazeem Hussain, Assembly Festival ★★★★

Nazeem Hussain is one half (with Aamer Rahman) of Fear of a Brown Planet, an Australian duo who riff on being Muslims in a predominantly white country. I must say I'm not a great fan of their work, but as a solo performer Hussain is much more appealing.

Much of the material in Legally Brown, his debut solo hour at the Fringe, covers the same territory, of being the son of Sri Lankan immigrants, a Muslim, a non-drinker in a country where liking alcohol is a given. “If you tell another Australian that you have never had a drink it's like you’re pressing control, alt, delete in their brain.”

He talks at length about being on Australia's security services' suspect list, and of being routinely stopped whenever he goes to the United States. He unearths some nuggets – such as the Florida gun store that offered a $25 discount to anyone using the codeword “Muslim”.

There's some repetition in the hour and one or two anecdotes that outstay their welcome, but Hussain has some interesting things to say and has found interesting ways to say them.

Until 28 August

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