Magnus Betnér Live: Fringe Review

magnus-betner-live_24430Could Have Been Betnér


Magnus Betnér is not for the faint hearted. The two-time winner of Swedish comedian of the year is back in Edinburgh to present another hour of no-holds-barred comedy. As he announces that he did not promise an hour of laughs but instead an hour of interesting topics, his frankness and ability to analyse tabooed subjects in a different light provides justification for his steadily increasing popularity.

One could be quick to denounce Betnér due to the way he explores the ins and outs of a number of sensitive issues, however, much of what he says strikes a chord. He does not expound the problems of what he refers to as black AIDS in order to make a cheap joke, but instead to point out how ridiculous the West is for not doing more than it could to help. This method of taking delicate subjects and turning your preconceptions of them on their head is continued throughout.

However, the show definitely lacks structure and is presented as a collection of ideas rather than something with a clear beginning, middle and end. This is emphasised by the fact that he overran considerably and yet still didn’t finish on a clear ending. Perhaps it is due to his passion for social commentary that his style is presented as a succession of opinions rather than a choreographed production, yet it cannot be denied that with a bit more direction Betnér could be onto something special in the world of contentious comedy.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

Krapp’s Last Tape: Fringe Review


A Lasting Production


Tom Owen does well to capture the raw physicality of Beckett’s anti-hero in this new production of Krapp’s Last Tape. A dark play that focuses on one man during his 69th birthday, it sees the world-wearied individual take part in his yearly ritual of recording his reflections on a tape-recorder. Fragments of his life are pieced together through past recordings that are played out to the audience, painting a picture of a bitter writer who drinks too much and has a rather unusual penchant for bananas.
A play that is largely silent during the first half, Owen captivated the audience through his subtle facial expressions and ability to convey a wealth of information without saying a word. The wrinkled lines of his face, accentuated by makeup and disheveled clothing, gave the impression of a person reluctant to hold on to life, yet unable to do anything about it.

As he listens to a recording made when he was 39, he laughs at the fool he used to be. However, the irony comes when his 39-year-old self comments on the fool he was at 20, thus implying that, although he has changed, he remains unable to overcome an inherent foolishness. Flickers of recognition are seen in the eyes of Owen when he hears his younger self recounting a trip punting with a young woman. The pain he willingly endures at recalling the sensitive moment is beautifully realised in Owen’s performance.

Commendation has to be made for the use of space, as a tiny stage containing only a desk, chair, and overhead light proved sufficient for the production. An area hidden from view towards the corner of the room signified a storage cupboard where Krapp collected his boxes of spools and drams of alcohol. For such a destitute and sinister production, Owen did well to retain the audience’s interest despite disruptive noise from a performance next door.

Though some of the more comedic elements of the script appeared overly accentuated, Fiona Baddeley’s production of Krapp’s Last Tape is one that does justice to Beckett’s bleak script.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.

The Assembly Rooms The Very Best of the Fest: Fringe Review


Less Than the Sum of Their Parts


Despite claiming to encapsulate the very finest entertainment at the Fringe, this show is only average at best. Whilst you might expect an evening of variety delivered by the Festival’s best acts, in reality you get a selection of fine performers delivering material largely centred around sex gags.

Although a bit of coarse sexual referencing doesn’t go amiss in stand-up, when it becomes the theme for a variety show it becomes dull rather quickly. The fact that each act went on lengthy digressions into this territory was somewhat frustrating. Late night comedy is supposed to be racy, but the lack of intimacy at the Assembly Rooms’ Ballroom made this difficult to pull off. Heckles came across as awkward, stilting the acts and slowing the overall pace of the show. However, once this was out of the way, there were moments of very good comedy.

Compered by the Scottish icon Fred MacAulay, he aptly introduced each act and got the audience into a jovial mood. The comedians on this occasion included Richard Herring, Tom Stade, Martin Mor and Phil Nichol. Though they all seemed to spend a considerable length of time divulging the ins-and-outs of sex in lurid detail, it was only once they had moved on to their own, more individual material that the night was able to really get going.

A highly energetic set from Canadian comic Phil Nichol acted as a crescendo to the evening, performing a rendition of the much loved classic Eskimo by his old band Corky and the Juice Pigs. With the audience in stitches, it acted as a mask to what was an otherwise mediocre evening.

Taken from Broadway Baby, published Aug 2012.