Fringe Comedy Reviews: Alienation and Relationships

Feature by Cara McNamara | 13 Aug 2015

Being a stranger in a strange land makes you fall back on your resources. Everyone loves seeing their lives reflected as if through a circus mirror. For example, Alex Edelman [★★★★☆], winner of best newcomer last year, still threads his experience in the UK from the viewpoint of his upbringing in an Orthodox Jewish household in Boston. Interestingly, what’s particularly refreshing about Edelman is that he also kicks the notion of ‘east coast Jewish comedian’ on its tuchas. Far from the 'oy vey' neurotic stereotype, Edelman is in love with everything: his girlfriend, his little brother’s wisecracks, his twin brother’s bodybuilding habit – even Greggs the baker. There’s no yarn he tells that’s not brimming with warmth and optimism, from gigging in Estonia (which, on paper, went rather horribly wrong) to eliciting secrets from strangers in America’s biggest airport terminal. A tale-teller moving up with the best of them.

And then there’s Angel in the Abattoir [★☆☆☆☆]. Billed as ‘humorous and dark’ and written by playright Dave Florez, this is a one-man show performed by Phil Nichol, about a Spanish boy growing up in Edinburgh and his stalker-like obsession with his first crush Lorna. Nichol’s accent is great and he looks convincingly swarthy. He doesn't fluff any of his lines. But that’s pretty much it. To start with, he talks for so long about what the play is not going to be that The Skinny is initially concerned we’re in for a Spanish-inflected hour of Waiting For Godot. This is neither surreal nor literary; it's sixth form studies stuff. It slides through every wet dream trope in the teenage boy’s canon, delivered with such wrath it makes the audience feel like they’re being berated.

From furtive fumbling at a party, to sexual abuse, to parental prostitution, to drugs and booze, to running away, to pregnancy, to infanticide – ending up with Nichol stripping off his shirt for a half-naked primal howl. Jesus. It also involves an unholy amount of pointing at his cock and thrusting which, considering this is a lunchtime play, is frankly excruciating.

It's the first time this writer has ever heard an audience clapping because something was over.

Alex Edelman, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug, 8.30pm, £9-12

Angel in the Abattoir, Gilded Balloon, until 31 Aug (not 18), 12pm, £10-12