Dance, Physical Theatre & Circus review: Wereldband: Släpstick

Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Fans of Mikelangelo And the Black Sea Gentlemen might enjoy this Dutch troupe, whose Fringe debut offers a similar ­combination of ­musical virtuosity and ­anarchic spirit, although the humour is largely physical.

Assembly George Square ­Theatre (Venue 8)


Släpstick, on the surface, is a homage to a golden age of physical comedy – chairs collapse, musical instruments are made into weapons, and there are numerous direct references to Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy (who appear on film at one point as the cast mirror their dance moves). A Marx Brothers-style fairground huckster whose sales patter is virtually incomprehensible is an early highlight and develops into an inspired running joke, as the audience is invited to try and win prizes in increasingly outlandish ways.

It’s the music, though – all performed live by Wereldband, on an impressive variety of instruments – that ultimately ties it together, from a series of hilariously strange barbershop style, a cappella renditions of familiar songs (includingly, incongruously, Uptown Funk as you’ve certainly never heard it before, probably even in Holland) to a fantastic scene featuring various sizes of accordions. And there is unexpected, genuine poignancy in the moment when a frail old man with shaking hands, after several comical minutes of unsuccessfully trying to get to a microphone, finally manages to sing (some of) Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable.

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Wereldband deserve to find a wide audience. Children, in particular, will love them – my four-year-old spent half the show mesmerised, the other half hooting with laughter. A small warning to female audience ­members: if you don’t fancy being the focus of Wereldband’s ­attention for a considerable while, as they take turns ­attempting to seduce you for laughs, maybe don’t sit in the middle of the front row.

Until 27 August. Today 6pm.