Comedy review: Lewis Schaffer: Unopened Letters from My Mother

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: If Lewis Schaffer drank, there is a very real possibility that he would be Johnny Vegas.

Laughing Horse @ The Counting House (Venue 170)


As it is, audiences come for much the same visceral thrill that Vegas audiences used to seek: will Johnny throw up and fall over onstage tonight, will Lewis finally crack up and break down? Lewis says he is a chaos comic. If he is, then I dread to think what is happening on the other side of the world as he takes us for another shamble through his psyche. He breaks us in with a catch-up on how badly his life is going to date. Badly, as it happens. Needless to say his wife pops up in the narrative. Only Katrina has wrought more damage than this woman, according to Lewis, although when you hear his thoughts on sex you wonder they ever got past holding hands.

Schaffer plays in his own shit like that metaphorical pig. Although he is Jewish. He does mention that. When we get to the letter there is genuine jeopardy onstage. Each night he opens a missive from his mother that he received years ago but left unopened.

The letters are strange, written on all manner of materials, and they are frequently painful to read. She was sent to a psychiatric institution, where he – apart from the very occasional, very short visit – abandoned her. It is, he assures us, a much better institution than anything we have here. To be fair, she did try to run his father over at one point.

But it is hard for me not to let my rising rage at him as a person get in the way of a fair review. The show is extraordinary. It picks its audience up and carries them into a vortex of awfully funny and plain awful.

Until 27 August. Today 8:30pm.