Comedy review: Billy The Mime, Just The Tonic at The Caves (Venue 88), Edinburgh

IN ONE of the bleakest Fringe debuts I’ve witnessed, “Billy the Mime” takes the wordless artform to genuinely shocking places.

Billy The Mime

Just the Tonic at The Caves (Venue 88)

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Star rating: * * *

Re-enacting the final moments of Whitney Houston, Anne Frank, Osama bin Laden and Michael Jackson, to name but a few, his mute performance is rendered all the more disturbing for its technical mastery. His first scene lays down a marker for his exceptional skills, an intricate romance contrived by using nothing bar his hands. Whether transforming himself into a wartime dive-bomber, Prince Charles calmly receiving the news of Diana’s demise or a priest abusing an altar boy, it’s rarely an easy watch.

Indeed, at times it becomes too much. The Aids-ridden demise of a promiscuous gay man is brutal, lacking any redeeming qualities save for the grim effectiveness of the performance. When Billy does leaven the horror, it’s a relief and a delight; the economy of movement with which he portrays Michelangelo’s David in a piece entitled “The History of Art” outstanding in its nuance,
the grace with which he woos
a woman to an up-tempo soundtrack, charming. More
light would increase appreciation of his shade.

• Until 26 August. Today 6:15pm.