‘Totally Plucked’, by Grandma Josephine

Review from: Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh Festival Fringe; 19th August 2019

Only appearing at the Fringe for ten nights, Simon Wright of Dummies Corp. is Grandma Josephine and – in a weird twist – also a sperm, an egg, a chicken and then finally… a chicken man?!? But we’ll get to all that in a moment!

In an exceptionally low ceiling venue, Underbelly on Cowgate promise to host a ‘twisted circus’ of ‘engaging comedy’. Clearly not enough to prepare everybody for what they were about to witness… Greeting us into the show is the delightful Grandma Josephine, she coos and pinches everyone as they take their seats. Her zimmer frame no hinderance to her as she mixes amongst the audience and then finally up onto the stage. Regaling us with stories of her wonderful grandson, and offering chocolate biscuits to everyone, she potters about the stage. Often getting herself stuck either on the floor or in various tangles, needing help from her ‘sweetie’ in the audience to come rescue her every time. However, after downing a bottle of whisky she suddenly becomes a lot more active, performing diabolo and hula hoop routines. There’s even some ping pong ball tricks thrown in to up the gross factor.

Sadly and hilariously… she passes away. But new life is formed on stage as a big balloon egg hatches to reveal Chicken. Chicken is also rather helpless on stage, but that doesn’t stop him from riding a six foot unicycle and juggling! The hot and sweaty climate on stage must have sped up evolution because soon Chicken rips off his little wings to reveal he was in fact Simon Wright all along! It’s all a bit of a whirlwind and so much has just happened that the audience don’t seem quite sure what make of it all. But it goes without saying what we have just seen was equal parts impressive and off putting.

Mixing his very large selection of circus skills with some very disgusting moments, Simon has created a Frankenstein’s monster of a circus show. Whilst many – myself included – delight at moments of mess, sweat and genuine mistakes, for some in the audience its all a bit too crazy. ‘My white jeans!’ goes a cry, mid comedy skit, as Grandma spits whisky across the crowd. There are concerned gasps as the Chicken wobbles, very very close to the ceiling on the unicycle, and then proceeds to introduce hula-hoops into the mix. Every time he turns on stage the front row are blessed with a sprinkling of sweat and/or feathers. These elements are most certainly what the Fringe is all about. Risk. Entertainment. And being so up close and personal with performers you get their sweat in your eye.

This show is notably different from the promo video advertising it on the website, so I imagine it is a much shortened version, or has been heavily adapted in the months since its filming. The circus skills you will see in the show are the same, but perhaps there are more characters we are yet to meet in Simon’s weird world.

The small room and unprepared aspects of the show tended to slow down the pace. At only forty-five minutes long it can feel like a glorified street show at times. But his characters and costumes really add to the show and leave you wondering if he even needs the circus skills at all? All in all the show is egg-cellent. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

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