Fringe Comedy Reviews: Super Brains & Superheroes
With a cast comprising a New York neuroscientist and a Canadian freestyle rapper, Off the Top [★★★★☆] falls comfortably into the 'miscellaneous' category of the Fringe programme. Taking the basic elements of a university seminar, complete with graphs, on-the-spot experiments and a mouthy teaching assistant who keeps adding his thoughts to the topic at hand, this hour-long foray into the human brain mixes comfortable quips from our teacher Dr Heather Berlin and a few swift rhymes from her husband Baba Brinkman. Their relationship forms part of the show as much as the relationship between her science and his freestyling – he was interested in her for her mind, and she in him for the potential of scanning his brain mid-flow. It is through cross-disciplinary shows such as this that we can discover the answer to those critical questions: what happens to your brain when you're rapping? Can you solve equations and freestyle simultaneously? Just watch out for the audience interaction – this is science, after all, so we need a control test subject who doesn't have the same experience in freestyle science rap that MC Brinkman does.
If your inner nerd needs a little more escapism, head over to the Pleasance Courtyard to help write the greatest Batman film ever made with a wildly, fanatically talented Bat-Fan [★★★★☆]. With a background in musical theatre and a passion for comic books, the titular superfan is James Wilson-Taylor. Taking us through a brief history of the Dark Knight, he is in his element showing off the results of many an hour in the Batcave researching his subject. Fellow fans will enjoy his dedication to the theme: a sustained disdain of certain cataclysmic directors and highly critical nature of the bulk of the material. Self-contradictory and enthusiastic to a fault, Bat-Fan and his trusty techie sidekick take on all the main controversies of the Bat-canon with clever comedic songs that punctuate the hour, and add texture to an otherwise quite shouty show.
For a taste of how our comic book heroes can slink their way into the everyday, Elf Lyons' Being Barbarella [★★★★☆] offers a discussion of sexual awakenings and liberations, confidence and idealism. A stand-out Fringe show from a vibrant and energetic performer, Lyons selects 60s comic book hero Barbarella as her idol and takes us on an emotional, sexual journery through the expectations levelled at both genders in the quest to grow up without anyone thinking you're too weird. In her closely packed venue, Lyons can stare each one of us in the eye while practicing the art of seduction, and is increasingly unafraid of doing so. An hour packed full of sexiness, nerdiness and amusingly awful attempts at different accents – furthermore, we are also treated to a real-life story of back-handed compliments and how they can leave your confidence in tatters. More importantly, this is an hour of acceptance and of considering sex as something for your own pleasure, with an excellent astronaut striptease.
Off the Top, Canon's Gait, until 30 Aug (not 18), 12:10pm, free
Bat-Fan, Pleasance Courtyard, until 30 Aug (not 17), 3:30pm, £8-12
Elf Lyons: Being Barbarella, The Voodoo Rooms, until 30 Aug (not 24), 7:50pm, free