The Girl with the Edinburgh Tattoo

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Archive for the tag “The White Horse”


The blurb for Ben Van der Velde’s show starts like this – ‘Thanks to Genghis Khan’s friskiness we’re all 8% barbarian’. The flyers and the poster have Ben suited-up and wielding an axe. So far so interesting.

To kick off there’s a quick scan of the audience with assumptions made. There’s a big bloke who must be tough; a wee woman who’s probably feisty and a couple who look as if they may be pot-heads. Tricky that last one – especially when said couple were asked how they enjoyed getting high and the guy replied ‘eating a lot of food and watching shit TV’. Back to the big bloke sitting with his mates at the back of the room who give a collective cheer when the question ‘is anyone Jewish?’ is asked. Ben looks momentarily stunned but recovers quickly with some neat ad-libs re the subversion of stereotypes.

This leads into the main part of the set which is about Ben and his being Jewish but he’s non practising and not religious at all. This brings a whoop of delight from an audience member who gets a bit of a counter-Dawkins/Hitchins put-down. But this part of the set is more about Ben with tales of doing a disastrous gig for kids at his local synagogue and whether he should get his son circumcised. Generally all good stuff – but I wasn’t sure about a throwaway line relating to FGM.

After this bit Ben tackles the thorny subject of Brexit – but not as I’ve seen a few comedians do it at this year’s Fringe: ‘What was that about, eh?’ and move swiftly on. He asks for a show of hands and of course being a ‘lefty liberal audience’ we all stick our mitts up to indicate we did ‘the right thing’. All except for one person at the back – what ensued was quite a confused/confusing exchange with Ben back-peddling a bit down the road of ‘some of my best friends are… ‘

The show ends with a story involving a backpack-carrying Muslim where the message is ‘don’t make assumptions’ but as there are so many confused assumptions already in the room the message gets a bit lost. It’s a shame as the whole idea of shared DNA suggests inclusiveness which is always good for coaxing an audience on board. As it was there was more of a pervading air of disengagement when we should have been getting gee’d up for the big finish. Ben is undoubtedly a very accomplished comedian and he proves he can think on his feet when a curveball is thrown at him. Maybe he shouldn’t invite too many to be thrown at him in the space of one show though.

(Review for 21 Aug)

A Class Act

InderGlad to say I had a bumper last day on the Fringe with one particular jewel in the crown. I hope Inder Manocha will forgive me for using the colonial reference but as his show White Man’s Burden doesn’t as much play with political correctness as give it a good smack around its sanctimonious chops I think he’ll be OK with it.

Inder is Anglo-Indian, he’s also middle-aged (46), middle-class, loves the theatre and Shakespeare but being brought up in 70s England – as well as having experienced direct, casual racism – he has an inner Bernard Manning giving him a running commentary on everything he does. As such he’s a bit crap at being politically correct. He gets a hard time from a young girl at a diversity training workshop for joking about the absurdly lengthy list of ethnic categories on offer and using the ‘P’ word. He feels alienation when his grandfather speaks of the corner shop family business or the traditions of the old country. He challenges a burka’d woman for making him feel uncomfortable and feels ashamed at his own feelings of prejudice against Americans. So nothing is clear cut, he’s a sum of many different parts and can’t be squeezed into a diversity-training tick-box.

The small and intimate space of The White Horse back-room suits Inder and his semi-confessional tone perfectly. As you would expect from such an accomplished actor the show is expertly performed; but as a gifted comedian – for every moving passage there is a satisfactory pay-off with some quality punch-lines. I’m still laughing at the concept of having ‘gay teeth’!

Another lovely aspect of the show is Inder’s actorly eye for detail – like a simple two-move hand gesture, borrowed from his granddad, that expresses a world of hope turning to despair. You’ll recognise it in an instant along with so many other things to do with life, love, family, identity…

That’s certainly the ‘message’ I took – no matter what your ethnicity is, you are still held hostage to a myriad of fears, paranoia and expectations from others. But the marvellous thing about Inder is that he never appears like a ‘messenger’. Enthralling, moving and very, very funny.

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