Edinburgh Festival Fringe: In recent years, Pierre Novellie has evinced a growing scepticism about the conventions of Edinburgh Fringe hours, the narrative arcs and thematic rigours, explaining that his theme this year is simply that these are “my thoughts, I thought them”.
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Dressed in a velvet jacket and bow tie, he’s offering an authoritative, unfussy throwback to solid stand-up, with his show the less critically pregnable for being so straightforward.
Stand-up can be about literally anything he maintains, from the relatably spoofable Encore Tricolore books that taught the British their French in secondary school, to the specific nightmare of the Budgie the Helicopter child’s ride in the Isle of Man’s airport, its repetitive soundtrack grating on Novellie’s nerves as he sits waiting for a delayed flight projected into some very funny, existential despair on the part of the machine. Relatable for anyone who’s ever felt themselves trapped in hell perhaps.
The South African’s mixed feelings about comedy are expanded on in the war analogies ascribed to a show he once hosted at a school for the performing arts. His bloodied warrior of the entertainment industry, wearied from the conflict pities the fresh-faced new recruits, with little idea of the hardships ahead of them. All the while though, he knows he wields the means to crush them with the truth, the sense of power intoxicating.
Novellie’s strongest routines tend to be his anecdotes, his peculiarly anxious relationships with food and small-talk ratcheting up the perils of dating, while an account from his time as a teenage caricaturist, faced with the task of depicting a woman with Down’s Syndrome, is hilarious in the racing thoughts of social awkwardness he dredges back up in a cold sweat.
Until 27 August. Today 9:25pm.