Imran Yusuf @ Espionage
Here we are at the end of the Fringe, and there are so many acts I meant to see but didn't. I have a 'would like to see' list the length of the Mile. Then a couple of days ago, Imran Yusuf graduated from this list to the 'must see' list. He was nominated for an Edinburgh Comedy Award.
My head is not usually so easily turned; there have been some truly dreadful winners of what was the Perrier, in its various incarnations. But Yusuf is special in that he is the first winner from the ever-growing free Fringe scene, placing it more firmly on the map than ever.
The place is packed to the rafters, with as many turned away. Whilst desperately wanting such a fantastic success story to come out of the incredible amount of hard work and dedication the that is the Free Festival, I am naturally swayed to distrust such hype and so the bar is set high. As far as I am concerned, he needs to prove himself. Not prove that he is a good free act; prove that is he a good act.
He is a bloody good act. He is so good I want to cry a little at the end. Taking in themes of race, culture and identity, he pleas for peace and tolerance. He would be broadly described as 'political comedy', but he in fact comes across not as political but as deeply human. It is his very rejection of such boxes that make him so remarkable. Add to this a tremendous physicality and a joyful glint in his eye, and it's easy to see why I came out of the show somewhat in love with him.
What simultaneously makes him brilliant, but hinders this from being a 5 star review, is his potential to be better. He has his weak moments. These may pass in poorer performers as strong moments, but they undermine my expectations which, by the end, are still high - not because of the hype, but because of what I have seen him do.
I hope he wins the best newcomer. It would be not only an amazing achievement for the free Fringe Festival movement, but one that is well deserved.