Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy reviews round-up: Lara Ricote | John Hastings | Jamie D'Souza | Tehran Von Ghasri | Sami Abu Wardeh
Lara Ricote’s “wickedly black sense of humour” is the standout for Jay Richardson among his latest round-up of comedy reviews, also including looks at John Hastings, Jamie D'Souza, Tehran Von Ghasri and Sami Abu Wardeh.
Lara Ricote: GRL/LATNX/DEF ****
Monkey Barrel Comedy (The Hive) (Hive 2) (Venue 313), until 28 August
Lara Ricote makes out that she was at an intersectional crossroads as to what her debut Fringe hour should be about. But climate change activism is really hard. And in reality this was always going to be her “minority show”, because that's really “in” right now. Despite being able to pass for white and able-bodied, the Netherlands-based stand-up is Mexican and hard of hearing. The latter characteristic has bestowed upon her Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids and a child-like, lisping voice, reinforcing her youthful, 25-year-old appearance and late blooming personality, sexually at least. All of which Ricote manipulates to her advantage for some pretty dark routines, culminating in, but by no means restricted to, cross-continental stalking and organ trafficking. Almost in tandem with her burgeoning sexuality, her move to Holland prompted an internal readjustment to being perceived as a person of colour. As with her disability, there could be some pretty heavy debate as to who gets to choose Ricote's identity, particularly when she's caught in a misdemeanour and has to face the music. Yet she dances round the subject so lightly and so mischievously that it's a never less than entertaining ride. Reading her press release, it comes as no surprise to learn that she's developing a sitcom based on her family relationships, as she renders them so vividly in this show: the equally deaf older sister, so gorgeous no-one can accept she's disabled; the stupid younger sister; the anti-vaxxer Venezuelan father and Mayan religion embracing mother who retarded her sexual education. Into the mix, Ricote also throws a running parallel universe commune with her self from another dimension, a deliberately clunky environmental crisis metaphor, emphasising her superficiality and self-absorption. With a wickedly black sense of humour, it'll be fascinating to see where Ricote goes now after introducing herself.
John Hastings: Do You Have Any Ointment My John Hastings ***
Monkey Barrel Comedy (Carnivore) (Carnivore 1) (Venue 180), until 28 August
By any measure, John Hastings has had a rough year, the tale of his annus horribilis opening with an account of inadvertent defecation. That's lighter fare to ease the audience in though, through a period in which he's got divorced, almost died in a bike accident and buried his friend, this show's director. Adjuncts to the main stories are his PTSD, opioid addiction and twice being persecuted by bed bugs. The Los Angeles-based Canadian is a front foot comic and was never not going to process his experiences through stand-up, delivering a consistently funny howl of pain. From the regular, negative descriptions of his physical form, dysfunctional family background, failures of education and sheer bad luck, Hastings has internalised misfit status and his life plays out like an almost inevitable series of disasters. Thankfully, he's adroit at finding the humorous silver lining in even the bleakest episodes, a charismatic storyteller who's adept at wrangling a voluble crowd when they threaten to derail a show that comes at you loud, fast and slightly haphazardly anyway, like trauma. Furious at himself for welling up in recollection, the account of Hastings delivering an impromptu eulogy at the funeral is raw, moving and defiantly upbeat.
Jamie D'Souza: Stop Drawing Willies on My Poster ***
Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Below) (Venue 33), until 29 August
Jamie D'Souza's show title tells you plenty about the arrested development his Fringe debut is built upon. A beta male to his very core, wary of revealing too much and hiding behind an instinctive need to process negative emotions with jokes, he's an amiable young performer of undoubted promise, unwilling to dig too deep into himself. That may seem surprising given his hour focuses on a love story with the goth girl he pined after at school, with a subplot about getting kicked out of his terrible punk pop band by the group's jealous singer. Yet despite some recorded evidence of the latter, it's never clear in D'Souza's account what's true and what isn't, with seemingly honest admissions suddenly flipped onto their backsides and turned into gags. That's fine, he's genial and a decent writer, mining his youthful callowness, Swiss-Indian background and ardent, romantic longing for all it's worth. Yet you long for a more nuanced, sophisticated approach to storytelling to really grip and sustain your interest. It seems no coincidence that he rather races through his material, betraying the level of devotion his adolescent self once felt.
Tehran Von Ghasri: GONNA GET CANCELLED ***
Gilded Balloon Teviot (Nightclub) (Venue 14), until 23 August
A US comic of Persian and African descent, named after the Iranian capital, it's fair to say that Tehran Von Ghasri is tension-aware and has a few axes to grind. Coming out hard and fast with his crowd enquiries, he works loose, offering a splenetic, largely improvised set of strongly held convictions. Superficially thoughtful and articulate, if a little scattergun in his delivery, he's unfortunately hooked on his own supposed edginess, “I said what I said” a repeated refrain after several would-be truth bombs. His US cultural bias is acknowledged. And he more than offsets it with his insight into the Middle East. But a truly creaky Princess Diana gag is evidence of someone unwilling to engage too deeply with the nation currently hosting him and he deals in sweeping gender, sexuality and class generalisations, selling them hard despite the frequent lack of profundity. Von Ghasri's concerted effort to explain the Donald Trump phenomenon is reasoned and compelling. But his abiding message that the news manipulates us is not news. A closing account premised on his Iranian father's diffidence at Magic Johnson's birthday party is rendered ridiculous with the roll call of the A-list stars present, and sounds suspiciously like a humblebrag. It's harder to get cancelled if you're generally provoking indifference.
Sami Abu Wardeh: Bedu ***
Underbelly, Cowgate (Iron Belly) (Venue 61), until 28 August
Blessed with electric physical clowning skills and an amorphous ethnicity, Palestinian comic Sami Abu Wardeh inventively channels the migrant experience of Brexit Britain into showcasing a range of charismatic, often fiercely intense characters on a cruise ship, never truly disclosing his real identity and playing meta-theatrical games as he shapeshifts. Initially presenting as what one assumes is a naif-ish, true-ish version of himself, an immigrant cleaner and sometime vegetable picker enchanted by Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson, he encourages the crowd to ping cherry tomatoes into his mouth and bangs away on a drum, pure joie de vivre. An Italian dance teacher who amusingly improvises a performance piece around audience suggestions of a film, he's suddenly a German (?) martial arts instructor for children, failing to suppress his own bullied past. As “himself”, a stand-up, he endearingly roasts the front rows in the lightest possible terms before appearing to drop the entire act for a re-framing glimpse behind the performance curtain. Just when you think you're starting to get a bead on him though, he's performing interpretative dance of Biblical narratives in the semi-buff, and playing a grizzled Mediterranean troubadour, growling entertainingly, if for a little too long, through barely comprehensible songs. Deliriously goofy stuff.