Skip to content


Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2010
Jack Whitehall: Learning Difficulties
Published on Friday, 13 August 2010

4.5 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
Until 29 Aug, 7:15pm (8:10pm)
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

Jack Whitehall's had a busy time since his best-newcomer-nominated Fringe show last year.  As well as treading the well-worn route of TV talking heads, he's had a minor scandal on the front page of the News of the World to contend with.  Has he learnt anything from it though?

The short answer is yes.  I found a lot to like in Whitehall's 2009 act, and he improves on that already strong base.  Gone are the self-indulgent party pieces, and while he still lisps, minces and rants at length, it's integrated into a confident and self-assured delivery that makes a lie of his frequent self-deprecation.  He's further developed his narrative focus this year too, and while he stays centred on family ties, he also branches out into discussion of his peers through the set.  

He does this best when looking at his relationship with former school chum Robert Pattinson, star of the Twilight series of vampire movies.  Pattinson and Whitehall were classmates at the same drama school, and Jack is in no way bitter at Pattinson's wealth, success or adulation, attending Hollywood premieres while he 'does a gig in Sunderland'.  I'm no particular fan of Pattinson (Team Jacob all the way), and I especially loved Whitehall's claim that the future Edward Cullen was just as rubbish an actor at school as he appears to be in the tweeny dramas.  In a neat poke at the ludicrous trappings of fame, he quotes laugh-out-loud ridiculous passages from one the five Pattinson biographies currently found in HMV.

Whitehall himself is no stranger to the intrusive interests of modern media-driven celebrity-obsessed culture, and he gamely tackles his News of the World 'cocaine exposé' head-on.  In a frank look at his actions and their consequences, he is able to find the humour in the incident while also touchingly recounting the personal and parental pain at the heart of a minor tabloid storm, forgotten in a weekend.

The whole business is grist to the mill of Whitehall's detractors, and he does have them.  I'd concede that he's not at his best in the formulaic panel shows you may have seen him on; but I'd contend that he is at his best in an intimate environment like that offered by one of the Pleasance's mid-sized cupboards, up close and personal with the crowd.  Neither let the tabloid headlines deter you: rather than a coked-up posh kid, you'll find a great young comic who has found his voice, talking  with it in a charming, sophisticated and intelligent way.

<< Virtuous Flock   Secret Garden >>


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.

Edinburgh 2013

Coming to the Fringe this year?  We can help you make the most of your time.  Learn about Edinburgh's summer Festivals and plan your visit around the city's major events. 

Find out more >>