With some justification, many people are terrified of audience participation in comedy, not least as it means they can never relax.
Star rating: ****
Venue: Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61)
Steen Raskopoulos certainly comes out hard and fast, hollering for Edinburgh to “make some noise”, an energising, charismatic presence from the get-go. But he’s also attuned and sensitive, going to great lengths to reassure that his sketch-character-improv hybrid is not a humiliating arena, subverting the notion of involvement being intimidating. Standing tall and stern, his drill sergeant character establishes the mood, barking into people’s faces but with a message that’s far from Full Metal Jacket.
Happily, there’s a return for his most popular character, Timmy Zegamo, the heartbreaking schoolboy, selfless in his good deeds but desperate for maternal recognition as he competes in a dance contest. One of several episodic skits in the show, there’s perhaps not quite the payoff here that there was in Raskopoulos’ stunning 2014 debut. But the overlooked poppet establishes a baseline of pathos, with a confidence-shot surgeon ultimately consolidating the show’s abundant heart. Also back is Greek Orthodox priest and film reviewer Yianni Kostopopoulos, melodically incanting his thoughts on the latest Star Wars offering, his spiritually rarefied oratory at odds with his cynicism about the plot.
Throughout, Raskopoulos calls upon the audience to step up to make the show fly, from a hyped rapping contest, to the game participants in his guided tour of an art gallery, arranging themselves in increasingly silly poses. Although the Australian has a mischievous streak, apparently setting up a few marks to fail, these are all ultimately affirmative moments, with several people triumphantly nailing the challenge of making Raskopoulos himself double over in giggles.
Until 28 August. Today 7:40pm.