Nigel Ng @ Pleasance Courtyard

Culture Shocked is a crowd-pleasing Fringe debut from Nigel Ng, but could afford a little more creativity

Review by Rob Young | 07 Aug 2019
  • Nigel Ng

It seems fitting that this show – detailing how Malaysian Nigel Ng has adopted to British culture – contains so many references to fish, because it is the Fringe equivalent of shooting our piscine friends in a barrel. For what better way to entertain your largely British audience than with a show full of broad UK stereotypes and mildly amusing foreigner observations about the idiosyncrasies of our sceptered isle? 

Like, isn’t it weird how Boots sells sushi? Aren’t British people funny if you put fish in the microwave at work? And why don’t we like eating a whole fish (with head) in Asian restaurants? These are all perfectly reasonable observations, but they rarely get beyond being shallow and lazy; of course, the guffawing masses lap it up like the dregs of a rendang curry that they don’t even know isn’t Malaysian. It is a shame, because Ng is clearly a talented performer with a cheeky persona and slick audience patter. 

There are, however, assured flashes of depth here, as in Ng’s recurring wonder that he can drink British tap water without suffering aqueous defecation, or his mother’s disbelief at our tiny packets of rice: in Malaysia, the smallest you can buy is 5kg, apparently. Generally, his work on how Asians are perceived by westerners – for example, the casual racism of the American phrase ‘legal alien’ – has more bite and is therefore more successful. It's unfortunate that so much time is spent bashing the Brits, particularly in a sour takedown of the shaven-headed Butlins brigade. 

Ng is a crowd-pleaser, and very television-friendly, but Culture Shocked is ultimately a limiting hour, often failing to spark into originality. 

Nigel Ng: Culture ShockedPleasance Courtyard (Bunker Two), until 25 Aug (not 12), 6.45pm, £6.50-10