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Carole Jahme is Bio-Diverse!
Published on Friday, 27 August 2010

3.5 stars

Zoo Southside (venue website)
6 - 30 Aug, 7:45pm (8:40pm)
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

Carole Jahme is Biodiverse is a thought-provoking comedy seminar on the importance of conservation, delivered by a woman in a cocktail dress and set of monkey ears.  How's that for a hook?

Jahme is a science blogger (for the Guardian), and has taken her Biodiverse show to the Fringe as part of the International Year of Biodiversity.  She's even received funding from the European Commission to do so.  So there will be learning involved, but don't worry – it's all in good fun.

She starts with a history of hominid evolution which, with my degree in Archaeology and Anthropology, I found interesting – and if you don't know your Australopithicus afarensis from your elbow, then you might as well.  But it didn't seem that anyone else in the room was much into it, and the laughs were initially a bit lacking.

This changes when, a little way into the show, the most astonishing thing happens: we're joined by two guests from another time, the product of man-as-God and his tinkering with DNA, a pair of proto-humans.  In reality, it's just two kids in monkey suits, but their costume and mannerisms are very effective.  They also offer an opportunity for things to get silly, and an audience which is up for it will have a great time imitating chimpanzee mating calls and dancing along to Dr Doolittle's signature tune.

But back to Jahme's ears.  They're not just a cute decoration, they're part of a central conceit of the act: that Caroline Jahme is half-human, half-chimpanzee (a humanzee).  It does allow some amusing home-video style clips with her "dad", but I wasn't really sure about its effectiveness overall.  I'm not clear what it added, and I think it may have been better if the role of the entertainer/educator was played a bit straighter.

As well as the laughs, there is a serious message about biodiversity and the loss of species.  Jahme shows us several primate species which are on the verge of extinction, but also cheers us with a success story which shows that we can make a difference.  I'm probably pre-disposed to be receptive to such a message, having worked at a zoo and with a current day job on climate change, but I'm pleased that Caroline Jahme is Biodiverse brings this discussion to the Fringe in such an informative and entertaining way.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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