Comedy review: Steen Raskopoulos – The Coolest Kid in Competitive Chess

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Though his show ends with the cliché of the desperate lover dashing to the airport to try to win back his beloved, there’s nothing remotely predictable about Steen Raskopoulos’s latest hour, save for the bellylaughs it elicits with his tried and tested but unique brand of audience participation.

Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61)

****

Once again featuring the strapping Australian contorting his body to play poor, neglected schoolboy Timmy Zagamo, the sad little poppet is joined by other eccentric characters such as a moonlighting driving instructor, a grieving horse and a human resources officer, whose medium for processing confessions of abhorrent behaviour is interpretive dance.

Yet opening with a Cold War-style stand-off at the World Chess Championships, Raskopoulos is no longer content to simply let his sketches stand alone, weaving them into an overarching narrative that draws all the disparate elements together by the close.

That’s some achievement given that Raskopoulos is only ever the director and co-star of his show, compelling the marks he plucks from his crowd to go with the outlandish scenarios he drops them into.

With the scene already underway by the time they arrive, they invariably flourish, with one such amateur forced to mime an extended drunken orgy of bad behaviour at an office Christmas party.

Despite the ad-libbing, Raskopoulos keeps a steady hand on the tiller, with apparently innocuous little linking scenes giving the audience a chance to catch their breath. Ultimately, he gives his volunteers the limelight and there are some lovely moments along the way.