Phil Ellis: Au Revoir, Heroes @ The Hive, Edinburgh * * * * *
He’s also a ‘name’ – who has been on some famous TV comedians’ shows as a guest and has lots of interest from industry types. So it’s odd to see him down on his luck, in the smelliest venue on the Fringe, with buckets literally collecting water running through the roof. Ellis is the first to admit everything has gone tits up. He’s decided to quit comedy and this will be his last ever show. But as a last hurrah he has decided to tell the whole truth about himself, his history and his comedy – revealing more of himself than he has ever revealed on stage before.
He’s also pulled in some favours from other Fringe comics – one to perform an opening dance number, another to impersonate wide eyed schoolboy Phil in the nostalgic childhood flashback bits. Despite the setting this is a show with theatrical ambitions.
Ellis opening speech is clearly inspired by Hannah Gadsby – who famously said she was planning to quit comedy before having the biggest hit of her career. To begin with Ellis seems to be coming out with the same kind of toxic whining that a lot of male comedians expressed in the wake of Gadsby’s success. Social media was full of frustrated men complaining that there was a ‘formula’ to having a winning Fringe show – and that all you had to do was moan about mental illness to win awards.
In fact Au Revoir is a brilliant send up of the supposed winning formula for an Edinburgh show – which also sends up the people who believe there is a formula.
Ellis does a stunningly convincing turn as an embittered failing comic who cynically crowbars his personal history into an emotional button pushing perfect hour. His failures and childhood traumas are exploited to the max until the whole spectacle becomes utterly absurd. It’s an astonishing performance which is both simultaneously believable and yet utterly fake. Ellis, as a character, is both completely likeable and absolutely appalling.
It is a show full of in jokes, self referential, self indulgent and ludicrous. It is a show all about Edinburgh, which could only happen in Edinburgh.
As Phil Ellis reveals one terrible dark secret after another you will find yourself helpless with horrified irreverent laughter.
Until 25 August