Monday, August 20, 2012

Edinburgh Fringe 2012: Tony Law - Maximum Nonsense

I've read a lot of very lovely reviews of Tony Law's Maximum Nonsense (Stand One, 12:30pm) over the last couple of weeks, and in that time I've noticed that there's a little theme emerging. Not just that they're all positively overflowing with praise, that's to be expected (and hugely welcomed), but that the enthusiasm is coupled with something along the lines of: "Flipping heck; Tony's tight this year."

Some who are already Law fans might balk at this a little, but you've only got to look at the ever-impressive (and continuing) improvement-trajectory of David O'Doherty to see that - if it's done right - the most charmingly shambolic of comedians can tighten up the screws and not only avoid losing what made them great in the first place, but actually get better and better along the way. O'Doherty did it right - and so has Law.

Given this, it might be kinda surprising to hear that this year's show is actually more surreal than Go!. There's discussion of Vikrate (a martial art which combines his Viking and Pirate heritage), Pol Pot material, references to Marcus Aurelius and a magic dragon, a trip around Northern Europe using mainly accents, and a gorgeous set piece in which Tony attempts to emulate some of his favourite musical comics, like Demetri Martin. Trouble is - as he reveals in a mighty drip-feed of huge belly-laugh moments - he has no musical training to speak of, and a wandering comedy style that doesn't lend itself to being accompanied by that steel drum he's got casually slung around his neck.

But all of these wonderful, warped ramblings - gloriously funny in and of themselves - are this year wrapped up in a beautifully paced show that feels easy and really satisfying. Tight, you might say.

Not that Tony leaves off there. Having impressively ticked Structured Absurdism off the list, Maximum Nonsense also continues last year's trend of Law Saying Important Stuff. Stuff, for example, about gender politics - like how rape victims can be made to feel like the criminal. And about comedians - those he admires and those he resents (not always mutually exclusive), and about the nature of comedy itself. About father-and-son-hood. About roots. About being a good guy, or otherwise. And you know what, the Structured Absurdism helps shape the Saying Stuff, and vice versa. Now that's neat.

All of this is framed by Law's now-trademark self-analysis and running commentary, and culminates in a magical finale of real pathos, ridiculously catchy song - and lots of elephants. It's warm, smart, bonkers and genuinely insightful - no doubt about it, Tony's got some big ideas to match that booming delivery, and the laughs are as fulsome as ever. Put simply, Maximum Nonsense is a rather special show, carefully put together by a rather special performer.

No comments: