Horatio Gould @ Pleasance Courtyard

‘Viral sensation’ Horatio Gould proves an assured performer in an excellent Edinburgh Fringe debut

Review by Emma Sullivan | 07 Aug 2023
  • Horatio Gould

The phrase ‘viral sensation’ might prompt an ambivalent response, but do not fear, Horatio Gould’s Fringe debut is unequivocally excellent. Like fellow wunderkind Ania Magliano, whose debut last year was such a success, Gould is a very assured performer. The refrain of their generation might be ‘it's okay to not be okay’, but Gould ‘is okay with being okay’.

Gould’s got no issues with Gen Z values, though, and his credentials as an ally aren’t in doubt; he notices with approval and dry amusement the distance travelled from the terror of being thought gay to the terror of being thought homophobic. But he does mourn the disappearance of distinctive masculine personalities, verifiable ‘legends’. His dad for example, an East End wheeler-dealer who’s very comfortable (too comfortable?) with his body, and the recalcitrant old Polish man in court for self-exposure, who, while his family weep at the shame, chuckles with pride at a witness’ confounded description of his penis.

Unusually for a Gen-Z act, Gould’s show is listed as satire – and his relish of edgy topics has led to comparisons with Chris Morris (another verifiable legend). There’s the odd bit of material he doesn’t fully pull off (the bit on ‘ISIS bride’ Shamima Begum for instance), but the riffs on the Nazi sense of style (and the contemporary fascist’s lack thereof) and the melancholy of the Taliban member who has everything he wished for are very funny. Fascists and fundamentalists alike have gone downhill – a sure sign of cultural decay, and a sardonic reflection of Gould’s own ideas about the loss of certain forms of masculinity.

For Gould personally, whatever the state of contemporary manhood, being beta is fine with him, and his priority remains the ongoing effort to squeeze the word ‘absofruitly’ into as many random contexts as possible.

Horatio Gould: Sweet Prince, Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker Three), until 27 Aug (not 15), 8.30pm, £9-11