sun 23/09/2018

Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Luisa Omielan/ Brennan Reece/ Olga Koch | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Luisa Omielan/ Brennan Reece/ Olga Koch

Edinburgh Fringe 2018: Luisa Omielan/ Brennan Reece/ Olga Koch

More from the world's biggest and best arts festival

Luisa Omielan has made the personal political in her new show, which was prompted by her mother's deathKarla Gowlett

Luisa Omielan ★★★★

Luisa Omiela, a confirmed party girl, is the first to admit she used to hate politics, and had difficulty in working out the difference between Conservative and Labour (well, that goes for most people these days, but we'll let that pass). Then a big life event occurred and it made her dive deep into how political decisions affect our everyday lives, however we vote, or even if we don't vote. And so Politics For Bitches was born.

The arguments around politics are like a massive penis knocking us in the face all the time, she says, so she wants to break down the big issues for anybody in the audience who, like her, doesn't understand them, inviting them to shout out subjects which she can then address.

Omielan has some terrific takedowns of really complicated issues, such as the terrible leaders we're saddled with, and her explanation of Brexit – through the analogy of a great night versus a shit one – is inspired.

Two-thirds of the show is spent with statistics and pie charts and graphs that show how privileged some people will always be our society, whether through wealth, education or family. That will come as no news to many, but on the night I saw Omielan there were audible gasps at some of the facts she presented. But later in the hour, the mood shifts from quirky to sombre when Omielan makes the political personal in talking about her mother's death from cancer last year. From diagnosis to death took just seven weeks, and Omielan's pain is palpable. She describes some heartbreaking details and rails against the rules surrounding end-of-life care and the shortcomings of the NHS. 

Omielan makes the point that we should be more interested, more questioning, more demanding of our politicians, and no one can argue with that. But whether her extrapolations are fair, informed or relevant will, I suspect, inform many a debate. This is not the funniest show at the Fringe, but it's one worth seeing.

  • Gilded Balloon until 26 August

Brennan Reece ★★★★

There are lots of boy-meets-girl shows at the Fringe, but I suspect none done as smartly as Brennan Reece’s Evermore, delivered in his sweet-and-sour storytelling style. He takes as his starting point the romcoms he loves, and the stage is decorated with fairylights to set the scene. He even has an onstage band to provide the soundtrack.

That’s not to say it’s at all gooey, as this hour has more than its fair share of knob gags. Reece recounts his teenage obsession with putting his penis in any household object to, er, hand – you thought lads might stop at vacuum cleaner parts or pastries à la American Pie? Nah: among many other things around his home that he lusted after, Reece made novel use of the carpet strip on the letter box…

He doesn't spare himself in charting his romantic misdeeds; despite being an incurable romantic he's rather choosey, but when “the one” came along he fell for her in a big way. How it pans out leads to an unexpected change of gear and a poignant ending to the show.

Reece is a charming and talented storyteller, who can move from sincerity to bombast in the space of a sentence. The laugh quotient is high and the hour races by.

  • Pleasance Courtyard until 27 August

Olga Koch ★★★★

Not many Fringe debutants have the gift of material that Olga Koch – Russian-born with a German surname, and US-educated – can claim for Fight. Her father, whom this show is about, was variously a small-town mayor, deputy prime minister in post-glasnost Russia, a television gameshow host and more latterly a political refugee.

As she takes us on a journey through her family history (complete with a PowerPoint demonstration of hilarious old family photographs and videos) Koch warns us that she, like all Russians who lived through the Soviet era, or were born to Soviet parents, is an inveterate, unashamed liar. The government lied to the Russian people, so they learned not to be too bothered by the truth themselves, she says. But there’s a lot of cold, hard proof of her story, as we find out.

The tale of how and why her dad came to escape in the middle of the night to Germany is well told, and filled with good gags. The abundant laughs of the first part of the show makes the tonal shift that comes towards the end of the hour all the more jarring, as we realise how easily misfits, or those who kick against the regime, are written out of history.

The central premise is stretched a little thin, but Koch can write good gags and she is an immensely likeable stage presence. This is a very promising debut.

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