Healing King Herod @ Underbelly Cowgate

Riss Obolensky captivates in a side-splitting, hard-hitting parody of self-help

Review by Isabella Thompson | 22 Aug 2023
  • Healing King Herod

With a host of tricks up their sleeves, Riss Obolensky and Eloïse Poulton’s Healing King Herod is a bonkers hour of masterful parody, whimsy and mischief. From the moment the show begins, the audience is in fits of laughter as Obolensky marches onto the stage as the tempestuous Herod, addressing the audience as Roman soldiers and inciting us to murder. Their physicality and wild facial expressions are absolutely priceless, and they command the space like a pro.

As the performance transitions and Herod begins to reflect on his violent past, Obolensky magnificently parodies the utterly smarmy male life coach: an archetype that has reared its head as of late. Their choices are both scarily accurate and hilariously absurd, and continue to take the audience by surprise, eliciting laugh after laugh. You never know what Obolensky is going to do next, be it prancing around the stage, interpretive dance, or killing a baby, and this keeps the audience utterly hypnotised by their immense stage presence and charisma. 

Obolensky’s physicality is superbly farcical, embodying the swagger of an overly-confident yet deeply traumatised man, whose torturous past rears its head at unpredictable intervals. We all know the type, and Obolensky fearlessly brings him to the stage with no inhibitions. The performance is well-supported by a wealth of production elements: monastic chant, dramatic lighting, and a slideshow that parodies those used by motivational speakers and the like. Towards the end of the show, some of these don’t quite land with the audience, which would most likely be improved with some structural changes. The direction is incredibly strong for the majority of the show, and any shortcomings pale in comparison to the overall majesty of this production. That being said, some additional tweaks would finesse the show and produce an even more polished piece of theatre. As an audience member however, I have never laughed this hard, and I sincerely believe that Obolensky is without a doubt one of the funniest performers at the Fringe this year.

Healing King Herod is an unmissable production. The talent is a force to be reckoned with and you can be certain to howl with laughter throughout. Insightful and inspired, Poulton and Obolensky are geniuses.

Healing King Herod, Underbelly Cowgate (Iron Belly), until 27 Aug, 9.40pm, £9.50-11.50