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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2011 arrow Joe Wilkinson: My Mum's Called Stella and My Dad's Called Brian
Joe Wilkinson: My Mum's Called Stella and My Dad's Called Brian
Published on Wednesday, 10 August 2011

4 stars

Pleasance Courtyard (venue website)
3-9, 11-16, 18-23, 25-28 Aug, 5:45pm-6:45pm
Reviewed by Mathilda Gregory

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

My Mum’s called Stella and my Dad’s called Brian is Joe Wilkinson’s first Edinburgh solo show, and its simple principle is a deconstruction of what such shows are. This isn’t a brand-new idea – he’s not the first or the last stand-up to decide to reveal what’s behind the curtain.  However, Wilkinson has more than enough charm to break down any cynicism.

There was a small amount of secret eye-rolling on my part when Wilkinson explained that in debut shows the idea is to talk about the comic's life so far, and that the show itself consists of his failed attempts to do just that.  But from the moment he leaps across the room, hugging audience members and muttering asides about the inadequacies of the space, he has everyone in his corner.

Everything he’s done in his life, so far, turns out to be a tricky topic for Wilkinson – because, he explains, he hasn’t actually done anything. He goes on to scrabble for a list of things he’s done, and quickly points out how he hasn’t even done those properly. Of course, this a massive conceit; Wilkinson is a stand-up comic and successful actor, and so the idea that all he’s ever done in his life is sit around failing to give up smoking is obviously ludicrous. But he sells us the idea so convincingly that we don’t even notice the contradiction, and happily buy him as the hopeless, hapless fool he insists that he is.

This is a show about failure: Wilkinson’s failure to own a hammer and, more widely, his failure to understand how to be a man in the modern world. Unsurprisingly, a trip to a lapdancing club is a shameful shambles.

But it is Wilkinson’s charisma that wins the day. And it’s the equation of better than average material, plus a fun easy-to-watch performance, that adds up to a winning show. While convincing us he’s a failure, he's actually a success in every way – and we can’t even see the join.

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