Theatre review: Boar, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

On one level, Lewis Doherty’s one-man show Boar is a simple slice of popular entertainment, a late-night, pints-in, see-what’s-on-the-blackboard-and-take-a-chance kind of a Fringe show.
Boar is a lo-fi recreation of a megabudget blockbusterBoar is a lo-fi recreation of a megabudget blockbuster
Boar is a lo-fi recreation of a megabudget blockbuster

Boar, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh * * * *

It swells with a popcorn-stuffed appreciation of screen pop culture, particularly the big-budget and somewhat melodramatic fantasy of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. The title character is a gravelly-voiced warrior who has been charged, along with a misfit band assembled around him, with rescuing the Princess of the land of Skadi from the evil dragon Gorn.

There are no doubt many who will be put off by that description alone; by the fact that the sequel to last year’s Wolf is a proud genre work which makes no secret of its love for swords and sorcery. Yet to ignore it would be to miss out on what’s surely one of the most distinctive and grippingly engaging performances across the Fringe, whether that’s under the category of comedy, theatre or spoken word.

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What Nottingham’s Doherty does is extraordinary, the entirely believable recreation of a big-budget Hollywood action film using just his facility for accents, a beatboxer’s ability to create a wide palette of audio special effects with only his voice, and a negligible number of props; in this case a low stool and two small red lights nestled in each of his palms. Amid the convincingly created swordplay, horseback chases and a truly shudder-inducing dragon, who is given realistic life through a darkened stage and the eerily lifelike ‘blink’ of Doherty’s palms, it’s also a very funny piece of work.

Such is his skill that he flits from character to character rapidly enough to engage them in real-time, back-and-forth combat, and each has their own uniquely-accented personality, even the bit-parts; the Irish fiddle players who have a continuing habit of being despatched by accidental arrows to the head, for example, or the King’s posh and outstandingly thick son. As entertainment it’s a good night out, but as an exercise in technical craft it’s a stunning piece of work.

Until 25 August (not 12, 19)