Graham Dickson @ Underbelly Cowgate

From Russia with self-love in the new show from Austentatious alumni Graham Dickson

Review by Stu Black | 09 Aug 2017
  • Graham Dickson

This is a dazzlingly clever descent into the mad mind of an actor grappling with a show he’s trying to put together about a louche Russian surrealist writer he may or may not have invented.

Austentatious alumni Graham Dickson is at full pelt here, playing not just another clichéd nutty performer, but a diseased mind losing his grip on reality as he grapples with his subject Grigoriy Alexeivich Dhukov, a kindred spirit working in Moscow around the time of Gogol and Dostoevsky.

Comparisons to Matryoshka dolls and mirrored rabbit holes abound as the subject’s short stories collapse into each other and blur with the performer’s struggle to bring them to life on stage – with unhelpful assistance from his hapless director Hamish. It’s very funny, non-stop and wonderfully unpredictable. Dickson throws out more ideas about art and arse than you can wrestle with during the running time, but that’s OK, you can enjoy putting the Rubik’s cube together afterwards. 

The stories themselves are as sharp as shots of Slivovitz and evoke a Russian life riddled with nihilistic neurosis. Things start badly with the tale of a nervous child asking his sneering father to check his spelling, and they reach peak madness with a sketch about a cricket interviewing spontaneously-combusting writers about why they write. Dickson is a magnetic performer who has something of the young Jeremy Irons about him. This is sophisticated and nightmarish stuff, exquisitely rendered.

Graham Dickson is The Narcissist, Underbelly Cowgate (Iron Belly), until 27 Aug (not 15), 8.10pm, £9-11