Tadiwa Mahlunge @ Pleasance Courtyard

Pairing an off-hand style with a thoughtful centre, Tadiwa Mahlunge delivers a confidently ambitious debut hour

Review by Yasmin Hackett | 08 Aug 2023
  • Tadiwa Mahlunge

In his hotly-tipped debut hour, Zimbabwe-born Tadiwa Mahlunge wants to dig into his sense of ambition and where it comes from. What transpires is an hour that’s enjoyable on two counts: its thoughtfulness in answering this question, and its ability to draw out proper belly laughs from a captivated audience.

The show thrives in the first half, where we learn about his beginnings in Cardiff after fleeing the threat of dictatorship in his home country. His mother is a prominent part of the show and seemingly a large source of his desire (or need, even) to succeed. Not to mention that his material around immigrant mothers will absolutely strike a chord, and a good laugh, with anyone who has grown up with one. 

Mahlunge has a brutal off-handedness that creates an atmosphere of giddiness. He has talent for flirting with taking a joke too far, but reeling it back in before it turns sour. For example, he’s very open about his willingness to work for, in his own words, ‘evil’ companies. But he’s also willing to share the ins and outs of their questionable training procedures, and is honest about why he works for them. It’s in this section that he really gets to the heart of his show and its theme – that possibly ‘ambition’ is really a need for validation. He then begins to question what the idea of failure, as a comedian but also in his personal life, means to him.

The material from here on out does feel a little weaker – a routine about a post-break up holiday, featuring airport security with a fleshlight in tow, doesn’t feel like it fits within the wider hour – but it’s something that with a little tweaking could shine as brightly as the rest of the show. Even so, after an impressively accomplished and infectiously funny debut hour, Tadiwa Mahlunge is a name you’ll want to watch out for.

Tadiwa Mahlunge: Inhibition Exhibition, Pleasance Courtyard (Bunker Two), until 27 Aug (not 14), 9.25pm, £9-10